Dollar/Thrifty's Unwritten Rule For Mechanics To "Find" Problems Covered By Warranty And Bill The Manufacturer

An unverified reader report has an interesting claim that should grab the attention of every auto-maker. Dudes, Dollar/Thrifty Group car rental is totally ripping you off.

Dollar/Thrifty Group has an “unwritten/kinda-written” mandate that each mechanic who is employed by a store must earn at least $5.25 per car in warranty claims per month. This means that even if a car isn’t in need of any repairs, the company is forcing the mechanic to “find” something wrong with it. Each of the other rental car companies apparently have similar requirements. Basically they have a corporate mandate to stick it to the big three…

More, inside…

I have been around the automotive repair industry for many years and there are a few things that are pretty much a given when you take your car into a dealer for work. The mechanic will always repair your warranty related issue, but more times than not, he will “find” some other problem that was covered under warranty. Sometimes the problem is legitimate, other times it’s not. Warranty “finds” are then billed back to the manufacturer for reimbursement. The problem arises though, when many times, the warranty repair is claimed, a part is ordered, but the work never happened. The mechanic gets to charge more billable hours and earn more pay. This is pretty much standard operating procedure in the industry. It really doesn’t hurt the consumer directly, but I’m sure that through a trickle down effect from the factory, they feel the financial pinch somewhere down the line.

Now each of the mechanics is working on commission, and any decision concerning a warranty “find” is generally left to the discretion and conscience of the mechanic. Some play by the book, others push the limits, and yet others blatantly cross the line. But it’s always a personal decision by each mechanic. There is (as far as I have heard) no overriding directive from upper management to “find” warranty issues. When asked about that by mechanics who are in the know, the response has been “Wouldn’t that be illegal?”

Now on the other side of things we come to the Dollar/Thrifty Group. Like many rental car companies such as Hertz (Ford), DTG has special dealer like relationships with manufacturers (Daimler/Chrysler) where they are classified as dealerships and the staff at their individual stores is approved to perform work on their fleet of cars. This gives them the privilege of being able to claim warranty repairs directly back to the manufacturer rather than taking the car to a standard classic authorized dealer. Depending on the staffing level of each store they choose what level of repair can be performed in-house and what must be sent away to a dealer. Some just do minor repairs, others do full engine rebuilds. Recently, DTG has seen the warranty work as a profit center, and has sent “unwritten/written” mandates that each store must pull in a certain dollar amount per car in warranty repairs. The numbers we had heard were about $5.00+ per car. Some stores have small fleets, others have large fleets of 1500+ cars. What this has done is force the employee’s to “find” problems with the cars. If the cars don’t have problems, the employees are still required to “find” something to make their quota or risk being written up in reviews with the possibility of losing their job for under performing. This corporate policy forces employees to lie and borders on or goes way beyond fraud.

The mandate isn’t actually written into any job descriptions, but it does show up in emails passed back and forth from high up to down below, and in performance reviews that are documented.

The thing that sticks in my craw, is when management is asked if they want the mechanic to “make stuff up” they say absolutely not, but by forcing a quota for earnings from warranty work on vehicles that may or may not have problems is essentially forcing them to “make stuff up”.

I would imagine that this tactic is use by other corporate entities around the work to boost profits, but I would like to think they they could be a little smarter about how they went about it.

Like the man says, somewhere down the line this alleged practice might trickle down to the consumers, like in the form of higher car prices. — BEN POPKEN

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