BMW dealership courtesy cars - a shady business practice or not?


UPDATE:  The saga continues. Although head office of BMW Germany and BMW Canada have admitted that there are issues with the way Maranello BMW operates its courtesy car program with respect to repairs and charging customers for those repairs, they have done absolutely nothing from my perspective to resolve the situation. According to head office, they spoke with the dealer about their concerns. However, head office maintains that they are a separate entity from their dealers and take no responsibility for the way their dealers choose to operate, regardless of whether their practice seems unscrupulous.
BMW head office has seen the receipts for the repairs I received from Maranello BMW that clearly show they were issued about 10 days after my Visa card was charged. So, it seems highly unlikely the vehicle was repaired prior to charging my card, contrary to what I was told. Visa finally paid my claim for damages, although they did say that they do not typically pay for damages to courtesy cars and will not cover any damages if it happens again.

I recently took my car in to Maranello BMW for a service and paid for one of their BMW "loaner" / "courtesy" cars overnight. When I returned the car, there were two small scratches - not at all deep - one I knew about on the tire rim (a curb got in my way when parking - just a slight scratch) and the other may have happened when I parked in a parking lot, or perhaps when I dropped it off in the drop-off bay at BMW where other people were walking about - I have no idea. It's even possible it was there before I took the car - but I'm not denying it might have happened while in my care - I just was not aware of it at all.

I booked the courtesy car about three weeks in advance for $20/day. I could have booked a rental car through them for $35/day and saved myself a lot of grief. Most rental "cars" from "rental agencies" are covered unless they are worth more than a certain dollar figure (there are a lot of exclusions if you read the fine print). I learned later in the process that typically, "rental car insurance" provided by Visa and other cards do not consider courtesy cars as rentals and, therefore, do not cover any damages to them. It's in the fine print of credit card agreements.

 When I was signing for the courtesy car the day of my service, I asked where to decline the Collision Loss Waiver or the Damage Loss Waiver since I was going to rely on my credit card insurance to cover any damage, and insurance requires you do that. Maranello said that they do not provide insurance so there was no such clause to decline - I would have to use my own insurance to pay for any damages. Maranello never mentioned that credit card insurance does not typically cover courtesy cars, even though I had just told them that's what I was relying on; Maranello BMW almost certainly knows this from past experience.

I asked Maranello BMW how much it would be to repair and how they spread the cost over various customers when there is more than one scratch on the portion of car being repaired. I thought that surely they would set aside a car as a loaner for 6 months or a year before fixing them up for sale. Maranello said they charge everyone the full price since they repair it right away so the car is always ready to be sold every day. If one customer scratches the door, they paint the whole door and charge them the full price. If the next day another customer scratches the same door, they paint the same door all over again and charge that customer the full price too.

It seemed odd since there were a few existing scratches when I took the car and the car already had 5,000 km on it, and it still had not been sold. I remarked that it sounded like a great way to generate business for themselves and make lots of money. Their answer, which I later found out was not entirely truthful, was that they outsourced the repairs to third-party companies and they only charged customers what they were charged, so they were not making any money on it.

 I asked Maranello to send me a quote for the repairs so I could put it through Visa insurance. The rim repair was quoted at $169, and the little scratch which they claimed could not be buffed out was $979 - because they had to paint the whole rear quarter panel! The latter quote was from European Auto Body in Woodbridge. Nowhere was it disclosed that the Remo Ferri Group that owns Maranello BMW, also owns European Auto Body. The GM of Maranello also admitted that European Auto Body is one of the more expensive shops.

TO SUM IT ALL UP, a dealer owned by the Remo Ferri Group was claiming that they weren't making any money from a body shop owned by the Remo Ferri Group, even though they were charging the same retail rates to repair the courtesy cars that they would to repair non-Maranello-owned-cars; i.e. they must have been making profit on it. In my mind that is the Remo Ferri Group making money over and over again on the same repair of the same body part on the same car, without any warning whatsoever to their customers, who were paying daily rates to rent Maranello's "courtesy" cars, that this was their practice.

 To put a cherry on top, even though I had told Maranello BMW that Visa insurance was waiting for final receipts from them for the repairs to process my claim, and that Visa insurance was going to pay the dealer directly, and not to charge my credit card for the repair, Maranello went ahead and charged my card in any case without telling me. It took five weeks and several requests before Maranello finally emailed the receipts to me for the repairs. Maranello was ensuring they got paid, but they did not seem to care that I was waiting on Maranello to be reimbursed by insurance.

I spoke with BMW head office in Canada and with Remo Ferri himself - the owner of the dealership - and the GM of the Maranello. They claimed that this is standard operating procedure and they would not reverse the charges on my credit card and they would not wait for my insurance to pay. 

Do you think this is shady? Would you expect this from BMW?


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