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


I recently took in my car to Maranello BMW to get it serviced 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 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 and they require you do that. They said Maranello BMW doesn't provide insurance so there was none to decline and I would have to use my own insurance to pay for any damages. They 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, and 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. They said they charge everyone the full price since they repair it right away so it 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 the customer the full price.

I said it seemed odd since there were a few existing scratches from before I took the car and the car already had 5,000 km on it, and it still had not been sold. I said that 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 $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 admitted that European Auto Body is one of the more expensive shops.

So, just to sum it all up, a dealer owned by Remo Ferri Group was claiming that they weren't making any money from a body shop owned by Remo Ferri Group, even though they were charging the same retail rates they would to third-party owned cars - there was no special discount. I my mind that is 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 customers of the "courtesy" cars they pay to rent that this is their practice.

To put a cherry on top, while I was waiting for the final receipts from Maranello BMW for the repairs (they could not understand why I wanted receipts rather than just the quotes), even though they were aware Visa was waiting for these documents to process my claim, and I had told them to not charge my credit card for the repair, they went ahead and charged my card in any case without telling me. 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 all claimed that his 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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