Social media sites reveal top luxury car dealerships in South Florida have some of the lowest customer ratings in the industry for their Service Department operations. Reports of unethical practices, over-billing and poor quality control are leaving local car owners asking questions and looking for alternatives.
For the past decade, South Florida has ranked third behind New York and Los Angeles for total volume of luxury car sales. But it holds the number one spot when calculated on a per-capita basis. Despite the economic downturn, South Florida remains a bling-centric market, with over 30,000 new luxury cars – priced $40,000 and up – sold per year, according to Miami Today.
With historic low-interest auto loans and the now famous “Sign and Drive” promotions offered by many local dealerships for entry-level models, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi brands are no longer just for the one percent.
While new vehicles are under manufacturer warranty – usually for the first four years or the first 50,000 miles – maintaining them is not much of a concern. The service centers of large dealerships will repair most mechanical malfunctions free of charge; sometimes even including scheduled oil service and tire rotation gratis.
But once these luxury vehicles pass the manufacturer’s warranty threshold, repair and maintenance can be a very costly endeavor. Large dealerships across Miami-Dade and Broward typically charge between $120 and $160 per hour for the diagnostics, service and repair of car brands including BMW, Mini, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. For higher-end “exotic” brands like Porsche, Maserati, Bentley and Rolls-Royce that hourly rate can be as high as $180.
You would expect these large franchise dealerships to have the most experience and deliver the best service but that is not always the case. Consumer rating sites like Yelp.com and Google Reviews reveal that many car owners are frustrated with the high rates and poor service they are receiving. Recently the Miami New Times reported the scathing allegations of a former service advisor of one of South Florida’s largest BMW dealerships; adding more questions to the integrity of local dealer service centers.
“For many dealers, it’s a numbers game,” says Tony, a Miami resident who owns two BMWs. “Service advisors keep customers from interacting with the technician actually working on the vehicle and you never really know if your car needs the high-priced repairs they want to bill you for.”
The alternative to dealer service is an independent mechanic. However, most modern European automobiles run on complex electronic systems and require costly computer equipment to diagnose and program them using up-to-date software from individual car brands.
“An independent repair facility could be a good alternative,” assures Ronald Norat , owner and master mechanic of MasterClass Automotive. “But there are a few things to look out for,” he adds. “First, make sure they are certified and specialize in the particular car brand you own. Second, go online and check the review of previous customers. Third, ask to speak directly with the technician to make sure they are knowledgeable and have the equipment they need to properly diagnose the vehicle. And lastly, be sure to ask for a written estimate prior to any work beginning.”
ABOUT MASTERCLASS AUTOMOTIVE: MasterClass Automotive is a leading auto repair facility specializing in high-line, European vehicles. Its master technicians are factory-trained and certified with BMW, Mini, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley among others. Located at 1721 NW 23rd Street in the Allapattah neighborhood of Downtown Miami, MasterClass Automotive is setting a higher standard for personal service and quality workmanship. For more information, visit http://masterclassauto.com or call (305) 351-2012.