Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of the week again: Friday is here, and that means it’s time for Letters to Doug, the weekly column where you write in with an automotive query and I reply with tremendously questionable advice.
If you’d like to participate in Letters to Doug, feel free to send me an e-mail at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, or Tweet me at @DougDeMuro. But just remember: I can only reply to one letter a week, and it will probably not be yours. It will probably be from someone who has a much stranger automotive problem than you.
Case in point: this week’s letter comes to us from Dave, a reader located in the New Orleans suburbs, who writes:
Here is my question to you. I recently purchased a used 2012 Maserati Quattroporte for my fiancee. I purchased the car from a Mercedes dealership in my area but where we live in the suburbs of New Orleans, they don’t have a Maserati dealership anywhere near us. My closest options are Houston, Dallas, Tampa or Atlanta. So when it comes time to have the car serviced, where should I take it? As far as I know they don’t have any independent shops in the area that specialize in Maseratis, so should I have the car shipped to a Maserati dealership when it comes time to have it serviced? Or should I bring it to the used imports dealership in the area? Seriously, I’m at a loss here. Any help is appreciated.
Before I get started here, I want to thank Dave for writing in. I say this because some weeks I have a very difficult time choosing which letter to respond to, and I go back and forth for several minutes, trying to decide, and I’m not really sure what will interest people the most.
But this week, that isn’t the case. This week, I began salivating the moment I saw this letter. It has everything: A used Maserati. A massive first-world problem. A city spurned by an automaker. OH MY GOD, THE POSSIBILITIES!
I’m going to start with a little bit of an ode to New Orleans. I love New Orleans. I first visited the city last year, and I really liked what I saw of it, when sweat wasn’t cascading down my face and into my eyes. Seriously, though: if you haven’t been to New Orleans, you should visit. It is a beautiful southern city with some amazing homes, and gorgeous neighborhoods, and tremendous restaurants, and beautiful charm, and I swear to God that only a small part of it smells like vomit mixed with urine.
But there is a major car enthusiast problem with New Orleans, and that’s the road quality: it is the worst of any city in the United States.
Now, whenever I talk about road quality here on Jalopnik, I get dozens of readers writing in to tell me that the roads in Michigan are far worse than the roads anywhere else in America, and possibly even a little worse than driving a Lamborghini on the surface of the moon. But the simple truth is that Michigan is overrepresented among the commenters on Jalopnik due to the auto industry’s presence there, whereas New Orleans is underrepresented because many residents live in potholes, where there is very little Internet reception.
Seriously: I’ve driven in three continents, in dozens of countries, and in most places in America, and I’ve never seen roads like they have in New Orleans. Actually, “roads” is being generous. The proper terminology would be: a bunch of tarmac laid down back when Huey Long secured $37,000 in federal funds that otherwise would’ve gone to the declining blacksmithing industry.
So the result here is that not many people in New Orleans have sports cars. And the result here is that a lot of sports car manufacturers have simply abandoned the city altogether.
Case in point: Ferrari doesn’t have a dealer in New Orleans, even though it has one in the Canadian city of Calgary. I find this unusual because a) Calgary is a lot smaller than New Orleans, and b) the primary method of transportation in Calgary is the dog sled.
It’s so bad that even Porsche had no dealer in New Orleans for the first few years I worked there. That’s right: for several years in the 2000s, Porsche — home to four dealerships in the state of Alabama and one dealership in North Dakota (LOOK IT UP!) — was not represented in a major U.S. metropolitan area with more than 1.2 million residents.
And this brings us back to Dave’s question, because indeed Maserati is also a member of the list of automakers without a dealership in New Orleans.
I find this to be absolutely, unbelievably, almost criminally insane. There are two reasons why I say this. Number one, Maserati has some ridiculous sales volume targets for the next few years, which means they are desperate for business. Seriously: if you walked in a Maserati dealer on December 31 of this year, you could probably bargain a Ghibli down to eleven grand in cash plus an iPad Mini.
And number two: Maserati has dealerships everywhere. They have a dealership in Knoxville, Tennessee. They have a dealership in Greenville, South Carolina. They have a dealership in Rochester, New York; in Appleton, Wisconsin; in GRAND RAPIDS FREAKING MICHIGAN!!! They have FOUR DEALERS in the Boston area, which is enough to take care of the mob, AND all the local government employees on the mob’s payroll, and STILL have dozens of cars left over.
And yet they won’t touch New Orleans?! One of America’s great cultural centers? Home to over a million people? And a giant, well-respected university? And dozens of beautiful, expensive homes? And successful businesses? And amazing restaurants? And PEYTON MANNING?!?!?
So I’m clearly very incensed by this, but this isn’t really helping Dave with his Maserati troubles. So I’m going to move on to that.
Unfortunately, Dave, you’re not going to like what I have to say. Here’s why: assuming you are still under warranty, you have to ship the thing to an authorized dealer when it needs work. For every oil change, for every fluid change, for every warranty repair, you’re going to have to put it on a truck and send it 355 miles away to a dealership called Helfman Imports in Houston, Texas, who will promptly perform your service in roughly 45 minutes and then send it back, on a truck, 355 miles, to your home, until the next time you need a service, which — knowing Maserati — will be before the truck arrives.
I say this because Maserati can deny any and all warranty claims if you start servicing the car at an independent mechanic. “Your navigation screen isn’t working?” they might say. “We’d happily cover that, if only you hadn’t gotten that oil change at Rod’s Oil Changes and Exotic Animals!” And then they’ll slap a huge “DENIED” stamp right on your paperwork, and probably slap you in the face, because that’s how Italians conduct business.
Now, I have also have some good news: if your car is out of warranty, you probably don’t need to worry about taking it to a Maserati dealer. I’d start by calling up the Mercedes dealer who sold you the car, and asking if they’ll work on it. They’ve probably handled twin-turbocharged V12 Mercedes models, so I suspect they can work on a V8-powered Italian.
If not, call other high-end dealers and independent mechanics in the area. After all, the car isn’t rocket science: all the parts are readily available — and if Maserati can find a mechanic in Bakersfield, California (where they also inexplicably have a dealer) — then surely someone in New Orleans can figure it out.
And while you’re on the phone, give Maserati North America a call and tell them that if they’re going to locate a dealership in Allentown freakin’ Pennsylvania — a bustling metropolis home to a regional airport that offers commercial flights that go all the way to Pittsburgh — the least they could do is also stick one within 400 miles of New Orleans.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.