I think it’s telling that all of us here at Jalopnik were going back-and-forth about whether or not to write up this story of a dealership speeding in a customer’s car, mostly because we’ve seen so many worse videos of dealership abuse. But that’s just us being jaded. Really, it’s worth calling out all these examples of dealers joyriding in customer’s cars, because maybe then they’ll stop. Maybe.
The car in this case was Jon Martin’s 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z06, which had to go to his dealership, Tyler Chevrolet in Niles, Michigan, for an airbag recall issue. Here’s how GM described the issue and the required fix:
GM Recall #:
Sep 08, 2016
Frontal Airbag And Pretensioner Non Deploy
General Motors has decided that a defect which relates to motor vehicle safety exists in certain 2014-2017 model year Chevrolet Silverado LD, GMC Sierra LD, Buick Encore, ChevroletTrax, Chevrolet Caprice Police, and Chevrolet Corvette vehicles, 2014-2016 model year Buick Lacrosse, Chevrolet Spark EV, and Chevrolet SS vehicles and 2015-2017 model year Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, Cadillac Escalade Cadillac Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Suburban, and Chevrolet Tahoe vehicles. The sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) in these vehicles, which controls airbag and pretensioner deployment, contains a software defect which may prevent the deployment of frontal airbags and pretensioners in certain rare circumstances. If the frontal airbags and seatbelt pretensioners do not deploy when required, there is an increased risk of injury to occupants in a crash.
Safety Risk Description:
If the frontal airbags and seatbelt pretensioners do not deploy when required, there is an increased risk of injury to occupants in a crash.
Reprogram the SDM with new software that eliminates this defect. In vehicles with any previous deployment events recorded in the SDM, the dealers will replace the existing SDM with a new SDM containing the latest software.
Okay, so it’s a pretty straightforward and easy fix: just reflash the SDM computer with some new software. There’s no mechanical fix required at all, it’s just software. Martin informed us that the car had no check engine lights on or any other mechanical issues.
One thing the car did have was a Valet Mode that uses a front-mounted camera to record when the car is being driven, and superimposes other data on the video stream, like speed, RPMs, and G-force. It’s a fun way to make track videos, and also a good way to find out, say, if a service tech is doing anything, um, untoward with your car.
Here’s the video it captured:
It’s not the most thrilling video in the world, but it does have some notable bits, including this part:
Yeah, that’s 94 mph in a 45 mph zone. Now, I know airbag recalls are important and crucial, but I’m not sure there’s a requirement to drive a car at speeds to where you subconsciously become really thankful airbags exist to test out that everything works.
Martin also told us of other issues he had with the way his car was treated by the service department, including a 3500 rpm cold start, second gear pull to redline, and the leaving of a Tupperware container with some lunch remains in the car:
I spoke with Tyler Chevrolet service manager Dale Patzkowsky about the incident, and asked why a road test was even needed for an airbag re-flash, especially a high-speed test?
Patzkowsky told me that they routinely road test every car before it goes back to the customer, which seems reasonable, but for the high speed part he told me that sometimes they need to “warm up the tires to make it ride smooth,” which I’m not so sure I buy.
Patzkowsky did agree that the speeding was excessive and by no means their normal procedure, and that the tech that was driving has “been reprimanded,” and that they’ve apologized to the owner and “done all that is required.”
It is sort of difficult to know exactly what to do in these situations; while there was no major damage done to Martin’s car, driving a customer’s car at over double the posted speed limit on a small, two-lane road is absolutely a terrible idea, for many reasons.
Also, don’t these techs know that these cars have the Valet and the Performance Data Recorder? You’d think they’d assume these systems were active, or at least check, before trying anything like this, right?
Aside from the fact that it’s not the service tech’s car to hoon as he pleases, the potential for disaster is very high, and while I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t understand the urge to open that thing up, it’s just not what a tech should be doing with a customer’s car.
There’s other disturbing details, such as the dealership misrepresenting the miles on the ‘Vette after it was returned (they listed 7,813, when it was actually over 7,820).
Martin has reached out to police regarding possibly citing the driver for unauthorized use of the vehicle and speeding/reckless driving. The Niles Police Department did not think there was any cause for charges for unauthorized use of the vehicle, but they did suggest it could be possible to cite the driver for careless or reckless driving.
Martin’s also contacted Chevrolet, which is reviewing the case and wishes to keep the dealership involved with the situation, something that both Martin and the dealership do not seem interested in, for understandably different reasons—the dealership thinks they’ve done all they need to, and Martin disagrees.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tyler Chevrolet asked Martin if they’d lost his business.
“Yes, absolutely,” is what Martin told them, as you’d probably guess.
UPDATE 4:30 PM: I just spoke on the phone with Tyler Chevrolet, who denies that the Tupperware was theirs, maintaining it was already in the car. The tech in question that day reportedly goes to Burger King for lunch every day, and has never brought his lunch to work.