Dealing with dealerships

The dealership was very prompt with their service, extremely accommodating with my schedule, and generally nice to deal with. I definitely appreciated it, because they have something of a captive customer base when it comes to hybrid issues. Online I’ve seen a couple hybrid servicing shops pop up in the states, but nothing around Ottawa. It may have even been the same day that they got back to me. At first, all they said was “your battery needs to be replaced”. I was extremely not that satisfied with that as an answer. I followed up to ask what exactly the issue was, but the person I was speaking with didn’t really know, he only had the report that had been passed to him, and the quote for the “fix”. I’ll get to that part though…

Although reluctant, the person I was dealing with wasn’t actively unhelpful. They charged me an hour’s labor, 119$ + tax, to apparently plug their computer into the car and press *go*. I expected more than “it’s broken”. Why does it have to be a pain to get information? Are they afraid I would take what they tell me to an independent mechanic? So far as I know, nobody does that sort of work anywhere around here. I don’t understand why they have to be secretive about it. I asked for the actual diagnostic report from the techs, as apparently there wasn’t an appropriate person to convey that information to a paying customer. This is what I got:

DiagnosticIf you recall my post on diagnostics, that’s literally exactly what I had come upon on my own. So… thanks dealership. 119$ + tax for me to drag out of them in a round about way exactly the information I had brought them to begin with. Now, I know I’m no mechanic, and I certainly don’t know that much about electronics, but that certainly does not feel like a great way to spend that money. I know professionals hate it when clueless customers tell them how to do their job, but really, if you’re going to be better and smarter than me – prove it by providing me more information than I came with or some meaningful insight that a clueless customer couldn’t arrive at themselves! I think it’s abundantly clear when customers just want to come in and pay money, and when customers want to be more involved in the process. So that certainly didn’t really make me love this dealership interaction. Then I got the quote…Estimate

The only option available to me was a total battery replacement… 3500$ into a 2004 Prius that has had more than its fair share of abuse. That’s INCLUDING the credit applied by giving the old battery back to Toyota. Literally the only option. The dealership gave no reconditioning options, no battery rebuilding option. Just buy a brand new one.

Excuse me while I digress, but this is a 2004 Prius. The first Prius was 1997. A decade and a half the cars have been on the road. The corrosion on the battery terminals of the first generation is a well known phenomenon (among people who care to know), and the rating for the second generation is 10 years. So this battery is basically exactly on schedule. Toyota has done absolutely nothing to address this. Nobody wants to put 3500$ into a 10 year old vehicle. There is virtually no knowledge at the mechanic level on how to service the batteries. At this point I’d only done a couple hours of reading, but it was clear that there was no one at the dealership that was made available to have a meaningful discussion with, with respect to alternatives. How can you have a product line up out for almost 20 years and not have a servicing plan! In my mind, it’s almost line saying “looks like it’s time to change the oil. We have no way to do that, so we’ll just replace the whole engine”.

So that would be an aggressive no on my part. From what I can see, there’s a dead module or two.  Surely someone should be able to fix that. And for much less than 3500. After loving the Prius so far, and finding it extremely reliable and cheap to maintain, this would be a giant black mark on the record of Toyota in my eyes. I would be thrilled to pay 500$ and have their battery service team replace the faulty cell at a giant mark-up and be on my way. I don’t understand how it is different than every other part of the car that you need tools and experience to fix correctly. Really puts me off hybrids in general if there is no servicing plan and it makes you entirely dependent on the dealer.

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