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When quality goes (horribly) wrong over and over and over again

Buying a vehicle is one of the largest purchases most of us make. Because of this, it generally involves research, debating about the product and features, consideration of the reputation of the company, and so on. We recently bought a new vehicle and chose one with a strong brand name associated with making a quality product. Our experience is detailed below. To protect the guilty, I won’t share details about the make and model of the vehicle.

In all respects but one, the vehicle is great. It handles well, gets good mpg, has creature comforts like lane assist, heated seats, and more. The problems with the vehicle begin and end with the entertainment system.

Strike 1 - Quality of product

Shortly after purchasing the vehicle, we began having issues with the entertainment system losing connection, freezing, and staying on after the vehicle was turned off. On a family trip, the system failed at the beginning of our return trip home resulting in driving 3 hours without a functioning GPS or music from the entertainment system. We later had to remove the fuse for the entertainment system to allow the system to reboot and correct itself.

Strike 2 - Quality of service

We brought the vehicle into the dealership and explained the problems we were having with the entertainment system. The dealership checked out the vehicle, looked up any bulletins that may be related, and shared with us they couldn't find anything wrong with the vehicle. They then proceeded to tell us it could be related to our phone (even though it happened with multiple phones) or our phone cables (even though it happened with multiple phone cables). They then instructed us to bring it back the next time it was happening (even though the problem was intermittent, reset itself at random frequencies, and our home is 45 minutes from the dealership).

Strike 3 - You're out, except I'm stuck with you because of the sunk cost of the vehicle purchase - Quality of service (again)

Fast forward a few months and continuing to deal with the problem, we became frustrated and brought it into the dealership multiple times for them to complete troubleshooting. Their troubleshooting was unsuccessful and their calls to the manufacturer's engineering team produced nothing of value. They told us to wait a few months as it was being worked on and a patch would eventually be available.

Strike 4 - Quality of service (again)

A few months came and went and the problem didn't go away. We brought the vehicle back into the dealership and were given the run around once again. This time, I was told they were "as frustrated as you are." I can assure you, they were not. They didn't have to deal with the constant battles with the entertainment system nor did they have to drive 45 minutes each direction to bring the vehicle into the dealership only to leave with no resolution. Now I know why all spouses react the way they day when told to "calm down."

Strike 5 and 6 - Quality of service (again) + Quality of product (again)

The dealership provided me the contact information for the manufacturer's corporate claims office and suggested I reach out to them for help. The dealership didn't assist in the process at all. They simply gave me the number of the person to call. I did so and talked through the issue with the agent. He told me I needed to bring the vehicle into the dealership (which I had already done multiple times) and if there were no codes present in the system there was nothing they could do (their poorly engineered system didn't log fault codes for the recurring issue we were having.) In essence, he told me to pound sand.

Strike 7 - Quality of service (again)

Recently, I received a notification on my phone via the company's app about a software update related to our issue. Finally, something tangible that may resolve my issue! Sadly, I received no phone call or outreach from the dealership or the claim agent regarding my issue. No human touch point for a significant issue impacting a customer.

Strike 8 - Quality of product (again)

Even after the program update, we still occasionally have issues with the entertainment system. Albeit, they're different issues than those we previously experienced.

Strike 0.5 - Quality of testing

This strike is out of place for a specific reason. It wasn't clear to me from the beginning, but there was a complete failure in the testing process for the entertainment system before it was released to the public in this vehicle. After researching the issue online, there were a multitude of forum posts talking about the same issue and some dealerships threw parts at the problem while others did nothing to resolve the issue. If the appropriate upfront testing had been completed, none of this would have been necessary. The issue was related to the software itself and was not detected until thousands of vehicles were in the driveways of consumers.

I share this story to make a few points:

First, technology is incredible and can do some amazing things. However, it can also fail miserably and make it not worth the trouble.

Second, there is no substitute for good customer service. If the customer service side of this issue were handled in a positive manner at both the dealership and corporate level, I may have considered purchasing from this manufacturer again. However, that's not a possibility based on my experience. There is no excuse for poor service and effectively blaming the consumer for a problem with the product design and testing.

Third, quality, or lack thereof, was woven throughout the story in obvious and not so obvious ways. The most obvious quality issue was the poor functionality of the vehicle's entertainment system. However, consider the following failures related to quality.

  1. The quality of product testing was poor as it didn't identify the issue until the product was in the field.

  2. The ability to determine root cause of the entertainment system failure and implement a rapid resolution by the manufacturer's engineering team was a failure.

  3. The dealership's customer service failed to resolve the issue multiple times and provide a satisfactory experience.

  4. The claim agent failed to take care of us as a customer and provide a satisfactory experience. In addition, they never followed up with me again to ensure the problem was resolved to my liking.

When quality is poor in any aspect of a business, it has the potential to turn a customer away. But when multiple touch points have poor quality, expect to lose customers to higher quality brands. In my case, they lost a customer for life.

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