I know that my switch from the BMW camp to the Porsche camp seems rather sudden, and truth be told, I loved my M3, but the ordeal that I experienced in getting the dealer that totaled my car during their joyriding to do the right thing, and BMWNA's usual lack of customer service attitude really made me rethink what I thought was going to be an easy decision of simply ordering another M3.
Here's how it all happened:
I custom ordered my M3 with SMG and Xenon only. It was Carbon Black, it had no moon roof, and had the cloth seats instead of leather. I simply did not want options I did not need and wanted a unique car. As some of you who have custom ordered your cars might recall, it takes about 3 months from 111 status to picking up the car at the dealership.
Part I, The Customer is Unreasonable:
On 7/28, I brought my 30K mile 02 M3 with SMG to Savage BMW for a routine oil change. They put me in an E46 330Xi loaner, and sent me on my merry way. The next day, 7/29, my service advisor (SA) called me and left a message with the office receptionist informing me that my car was ready for pick up. I did not get the message until almost the end of the day, so I called my SA back the next morning (7/30) and told him that I'd be there after work to pick up my car.
At 3:42PM on 7/30, my SA called and informed me that my car was crashed by their test driver while out on an unauthorized test drive. How do I know that it was unauthorized? Well, my SA admitted it, saying that the car was already QC'ed on 7/29, which was why he called that day to inform me that the car was ready for pick up. In fact, the test driver, in his early twenties, did not even have a tech sheet with him. He apparently wanted to see what an M3 could do. I was told by my SA that I should come by the next morning to check out my car and meet with the owner, Peter Savage, to discuss a solution to the situation.
So I called Raffi, who’s a lawyer, told him what happened, and asked him to come with me to the dealership. I brushed off that nagging negative feeling of not getting a call from the owner of the dealership for something this major, and I thought that based on my previous experience with Savage BMW, that Peter Savage would make it right. Up to this point, Savage BMW had been a great dealership in service, always providing me with loaners and taking good care of my car. They were always able to fix whatever issues I have with my car, and were always pleasant to deal with. On top of that, I have never met another SA as upstanding as Eric Hall. Based on that, I thought that I'd show up, they'd apologize, and if the car were badly damaged, we’d work out something reasonable.
The next morning, 7/31, Raffi showed up at 6 in the morning, and we drove over to Savage BMW. My SA greeted us and led us to the car for us to inspect the carnage.
As best as I was able to determine, the test driver lost control of my car turning right. The car went into a very fast oversteer, the driver could not correct it and the driver-side rear wheel hit the concrete curb so hard, it broke off. The rear control arm snapped off and the impact caused the panel behind the driver door to be pulled in by the frame, breaking the welds. The momentum then carried the car along the concrete curb and rashed the front wheel, damaged the front suspension and twisted the front bumper. In the process, both the driver side door and head airbags deployed.
Upon further inspection, we discovered that the driver side front quarter panel rivets securing it to the engine bay were knocked out of alignment by a good 5mm. Furthermore, the driver side partitioning wall near the strut tower was torn all the way down, and the rear driver quarter panel was gouged by the trunk lid hitting the panel, all due to the sheer force of the impact. None of the panels in the car (doors, trunk, hood) were correctly aligned anymore, all from a “QC test drive.” The rear half of the car was twisted upwards and towards the passenger side a good half inch.
Does that sound like a BMW prescribed QC test drive?
So at around 8 o'clock, we met with Bill Smith, the service manager. After seeing the condition of my car, I told him flat out that I didn't want the car back, as it was obviously totalled and would never be the same. He labeled my request as totally unreasonable and even countered by asking "If you get into an accident on the track, do you automatically get a new car?" The service manager then figured out pretty quickly that Raffi was a lawyer, and advised us that we would have to speak to the owner, Peter Savage himself, and ended the meeting.
So after an hour, we were finally able to meet with Mr. Savage. However, upon learning that I had a lawyer with me, Peter Savage was not even going to meet with me, unless Raffi was not present in the meeting. It was clear to me he was trying to take advantage of his business skills, and get me to agree to whatever he put on the table. After some stern words from Raffi, Mr. Savage finally agreed to meet with us. In the meeting, I told him that all I wanted was to have them buy my car back at Blue Book retail, and give me a new M3 at invoice, and something to drive in the mean time. They could then deal with my old car as they wished. I was obviously going to absorb the difference between the used car blue book and the new car invoice, since after all, my car was not brand new. Mr. Savage, who looked very uncomfortable by now, thought that I was being unreasonable, and retorted with irrelevant questions, such as: "Let me ask you this, if you had crashed my loaner, do I automatically get a new one from you? and "I know that Andy takes this car to the track, and that he did not exactly baby the car" and, best of all, "I heard from the service guys that the tires were bald" (to which we have photographic evidence showing otherwise). Mr. Savage refused to even acknowledge liability for the joyride incident, and brushed the problem off by telling us to deal with his insurance company. Only after Raffi brought up the issue did Mr. Savage at least allow me to keep the 330xi loaner until their insurance company found us a suitable rental. He told us to pick up a copy of their insurance card from Bill Smith to file the claim, then sent us on our way and ended the meeting.
Now what would you do if you were not fortunate enough to have a lawyer friend like Raffi who also happened to be a car nut? I would be left to deal with insurance companies which, as we know, are not exactly the quickest to pay and would try to drag this matter on forever until I gave up and accepted a lowball offer. This alone is the reason why even though we settled the property damage claim in October, I feel compelled to share my story with you all.
Part II, We'll Fix Your Car:
Before we left Savage, I decided to chat with their on-site body shop. The estimator told me that based on visual inspection, the car had sustained about $20K in damage. Unfortunately for him, I have clients in the body shop business, and I also happen to be very familiar with both Ultramate and Pathways, the estimating programs for body shops. The car was totaled, without question, a tweaked front, wheel broken off, airbags, torn off bumper, and miscellaneous other damage, and he thought there was only $20K in damage?
We then left the dealership, feeling "savaged." At 2:31 PM, I got on the phone with Sania at BMW NA customer service, and told her what had happened. Sania apologized, took my complaint and filed it under my VIN number, fed us the same line of "we can't do anything because the dealer is an independent company" and ended the phone conversation. I was looking for some help and guidance from BMW NA and all I got was a bland apology.
I then called my SA and requested that the car be towed to Marco's Universal City body shop for a neutral third party estimate. Savage BMW seemed reluctant to relinquish the car, so I had to call again on 8/1 and finally the car was towed to Marcos in Universal City. I had to be firm and insist that the car be fixed elsewhere, so that there would not be any possible influence by Savage.
After 3 months of back and forth with the insurance carrier for Savage, the car was finally totalled. What would have happened to me if I didn’t know anyhing about the body shop business? I would have allowed them to fix the car for $20K and gotten a car that is basically worthless because it is now tweaked on both the front and the rear, with a severely affected resale value. To this day, however, Savage BMW and its insurance carrier insist that this was just an accident, not the result of a joyride. Now, again, if the car was ready for pick up on 7/29, how could my M3 be wrecked while the QC tech was on a "scheduled test drive" on 7/30, one day after the car was already ready for pick up? Why would my SA admit that it was a joyride? And if I didn't retain a lawyer, and didn't have any knowledge of the body shop business, I am sure that I would have been suckered into getting my car fixed, which would have taken several months, and would have ended up with a 30K mile E46 M3 with a severely tweaked frame that was allegedly "good as new."