Karol Zwolinski wasn’t thrilled when he got the recall notice that his Ford Focus RS needed to have its head gasket replaced, but at least Ford was taking care of the potential problem, even though Karol had experienced no trouble. Still, he only had until the end of May to take care of it, so on April 9 he took his Focus RS into Hawk Ford of Oak Lawn, Illinois. Based on a urge that he got after reading about a joyridden Mustang at another dealership, Karol put a dashcam in his car, just in case. That turned out to be a very good idea, as he found out when he reviewed the footage to find that his car had been turned into an unauthorized school for learning how to drive stick.
Just to avoid any unnecessary suspense, here’s the video feed of what went on in Karol’s car. You can decide if this feels like one employee teaching another employee how to drive a manual transmission on a customer’s car:
Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty much exactly what that feels like.
One employee is very clearly attempting to explain how to use the clutch, how to shift gears, how to master that delicate dance between throttle and clutch—all the things you’d do if you were teaching someone how to drive stick, which, again, very clearly seems to be what’s going on here.
Now, of course, I’m all for as many people as possible learning how to drive a manual transmission, but, as anyone who has either learned stick or taught someone to drive stick, the process isn’t exactly easy on a car or its components.
I’ve seen a friend completely burn out the clutch on an Audi TT while trying to learn to drive stick. I remember stalling out and slipping the clutch and grinding gears and all sorts of other painful things while learning myself. And I see those same sorts of things happening here.
All of these are reasons why there is no way in hell any person would want dealer service technicians using their personal car—especially their still pretty new (only around 3,000 miles) performance car—as a teaching aid to school a manual newbie on, especially without express permission. Permission that Karol very clearly did not grant.
Also, I’m not sure the teacher was all that great, either. Rev it up to 4,000 RPM and then pop it in first for a regular start? That’s, uh, maybe not ideal.
Here’s how Karol describes his experience:
“...I pick the car up after 5pm on 4/12/2019 they had it for 4 days, service writer Paul Stassin assures me there was no issues everything went smooth. Then I get the sheet with the repair history and it has the same in and out mileage and I was like nice they didn’t drive my car that much.
Finally my car pulls up I get in and see it’s been driven for 10 miles and right then I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I review the video make a copy and drop it off at the dealership, showed them a little bit of it and Dave Brealy said shut it off I don’t need to see more.
This was on a Saturday 4/27/2019 yes I was dreading watching the video because I knew what I was going to find on there. He said he will review the video with his boss and update me the following Monday. I left voicemails and emails and nobody ever called me back so I decided to post it on YouTube after a week of waiting...This is very unprofessional and untrustworthy, they assure you everything will be great and than do whatever they feel like with a $50,000 car that doesn’t even belong to them. If I didn’t have a dashcam I would have never known what really happened.”
I reached out to Hawk Ford to get their side of the story, and while I haven’t heard anything back as of this writing, Karol did tell me that, mysteriously, after my call to the dealership, they reached out to Karol to offer some free maintenance services, the first time in over a week that they’ve returned any of Karol’s calls or emails.
In general, Hawk Ford has been quite bad at responding to Karol; he stated that he’s been mostly ignored since he first brought the video to their attention on April 27.
It’s worth noting that the little class did redline or near-redline the car at least once, and throughout the lesson it certainly didn’t sound like the clutch was being properly used all the time, likely causing excess wear.
I’ll be curious to see how the dealership chooses to make this right with Karol. Since it was a recall fix, it’s not like there’s any costs they can refund him, since he was never on the hook for repair costs in the first place. Perhaps a pre-emptive clutch replacement would be a good place to start?
I know service techs sometimes need to take cars for test drives to make sure everything is working as promised; there’s nothing wrong with that. Using customer cars for personal errands or joyriding in customer cars absolutely crosses a line of trust, and I think using a customer car to teach someone how to drive stick is just as bad as joyriding a car hard, with as much potential for excess wear and tear and damage. This isn’t exactly rocket science.
Are the employees being disciplined in some manner? If we hear anything back from the dealership, we’ll be sure to update the story.