If you want a chance to drive cars that aren't yours really fast, don't become an auto mechanic. I love to do just that, so I'm an auto journalist, which means the cars I get to clumsily wring out are not someone's personal car. Especially someone's Corvette I'm supposed to fix. A mechanic at RK Chevrolet in Vineland, NJ is being accused of just this, and the owner is pissed.
A commenter on the Corvette Forum named Swaite described a maddening tale of alleged ineptitude and abuse, and a pretty clever way he used to get the proof he needed that his 2014 Corvette had been abused. It all starts innocently enough, with a check engine light and a fuel gauge issue. As Swaite says:
Ok I dropped my 14 z51 off at the dealer late last month for a CEL and fuel gauge malfunction. Was told it was a bad tank sensor and they would need to pull the tank to replace. Fast forward to today I get a call saying my car is ready an to pick it up. First thing I realize after I get in the car are some tools left on my driver seat next after I return them I put the car in reverse only to find the rear cam no longer functioning. When I get out to inspect the rear camera I see white paint scuffs on my spoiler (like the took of the rear clip and propped it up against a white wall). I told them about the camera issue and scuffs, told me they could fix it all while I waited. The scuffs came off and they got the camera working again as it was a disconnected wire in about 45 min. I get in the car again to drive off and now I realize the car will not shift in and out of 1-2 gear (7speed). From a standing start starting in neutral you can get into 1st but once you start moving and shift up to 3rd it's impossible to downshift into 1st or 2nd without putting the shifter into neutral wiggling the stick and forcing it into 1st. Now I return the car to the service bay and hand them back the keys telling them the issue. Now I get the rental car back and drive away with the promise it will all be fixed.
Now comes the part which makes me real unhappy as I think I have taken the rest in stride.
I get a call 30 min later saying the mechanic is in the car and it's fine could I come back and do a ride with him to show the problem...I agree and return. I return and duplicate the issue and the mechanic starts to profess that the car is fine and that is how it is SUPPOSE to be ....WTF!
The service advisor walks over while I start to explain that this is not how the trans is suppose to behave, and agrees but the mechanic still insists that it's fine. I offer to take him for a ride to show him, we go around the block and I show him how it is impossible to downshift from third and he still proclaims its normal. When we return to the dealer I get out and he gets into the driver seat and I watch him yank on the stick trying to force it into gear still mumbling how the car is fine.
I was told that the corvette tech would look at it as well but that means the non corvette tech disassembled the whole rear of my car already what else did they f'up.
So, a few initial thoughts: the owner seems like a pretty decent fellow, since he returned the forgotten tools (some guys would have kept 'em!); it's always an indicator of trouble when a mechanic will insist something is working properly and refuses to listen to you; and, as he mentions in the last line, this guy is apparently not even the actual Corvette-certified mechanic, which is something GM specifies for these cars.
At this point, Swaite is not able to find another dealer who will take a warranty car already allegedly impaired by another dealership, which isn't all that surprising.
The good news is a GM service rep had been reading the thread and offered her assistance. That's a good idea on GM's part, to monitor these specialist forums. The bad news is this:
Picked up my car this morning after being told all was fixed. Drove about 30 miles and went to downshift at a toll booth and again same issue ( car will not shift into 2nd or 1st ) called the dealer and returned later this afternoon. Upon my return the service manager asked if I would take out the corvette tech for a ride to show him the problem. I was also told again at this point it was not the corvette tech who has been working on my car. The corvette tech gets in and immediately replicates the problem. Asking if he would now be working on the car I was told no. After returning to the dealer I speak with the service manager again and let him know I am disappointed with the fact a non corvette tech took on what turned out to be a fairly envolved initial repair which caused all of the subsequent issues. I asked why the non corvette tech worked on the car and my answer was "I don't know", not the answer I was looking for. Next I expressed my concern that all of these issues have been caused by the mechanic and this is the person who you will again use to attempt to repair the car how will I know he will not cause anymore problems........here is the answer from the service manager which put me over the edge "if I knew the future I would got to the track and bet on the horses". Now I am hot, instead of flipping out in the dealership I called GM when I left ( I had emailed Marisa here on the forum as well) I wanted to talk to someone right away. I spoke with Dawn at gm and she was also very concerned that a non corvette tech was working on my car after multiple attempts has shown that he was not qualified to do so...and that the service manager would continue to keep this person on the task even after I voiced my concerns. As I know for now gm called the dealer and told them to stop work on the car. I also sent a message on the forum for Marisa to give me a call as she is my assigned person at GM.
I hope that this get resolved soon but I am now concerned about other damage this mechanic caused. I had wanted to keep the dealers name out of this but at this point I think others should know that it is RK Chevy in Vineland NJ. I would suggest other not get any service done here.
So, the car still won't shift into 1st or 2nd, the actual Corvette tech hasn't been working on the car, and he's still not getting straight answers from the dealership. What else could go wrong? How about this:
trans is still not shifting smoothly and the mechanic at the dealership abused my car and I have proof. I happen to plug in my telemetry device into the data port befor I left the car on Monday and this is how I found they test drove my car on the potholed streets around the dealership. the big spike is over 100MPH while the trans still was not shifting properly. I only had this plugged in for 1 day of the 20+ days they had the car what else did they do to it.
So, Swaite says he decided to plug in a telemetry device (which seems to be an OBD-recording tool like a Progressive Snapshot or similar) and he allegedly got these fascinating graphs:
Swaite says that huge spike there is the car hitting 100 MPH somewhere around 11:16, and then braking hard and fast to hit 0 MPH by 11:17. Now, Corvettes can certainly drive that fast, but remember this is one with a still-unsolved transmission issue, and the 100 MPH speeds seem to have been hit in the crappy roads surrounding the dealership. And that's just what was recorded on one day of the over 20 the car has been in the shop.
Of course, even beyond the mechanical issues of the car, taking a customer's car to roughly three times the speed limit on public roads is generally a pretty shitty idea. There's people that could be hit, cars (the owner's and others) that could be damaged and — hell, why am I even going over this — any drooling simpleton can tell you it's stupid to take a customer's broken car around at triple digit speeds around your shop.
GM's own customer satisfaction people are involved, but Swaite now essentially wants an entirely new car, since he has no idea what his Corvette has been through. Nothing is resolved so far, but it's worth reading the entire thread so you can feel that righteous burn of indignant anger as well.
I called RK Chevrolet and asked for a comment. The service manager refused to talk, but a service technician — not the one who worked on the car, did tell me a bit:
They were doing a test drive, and had to get it into 7th gear. That's why they had to get it to that speed... the customer is blowing this out of proportion, we have an engineer coming, and we'll be taking care of it.
Now, you can get a Corvette into 7th well before you hit 100 MPH — you don't need to hit 100. And, it's hard to say for absolutely certain, but the time stamps don't suggest that this run was made on, say, a highway, since the run goes down to 0 MPH very quickly.
Hopefully, this will all turn out ok, lessons will be learned, asses spanked/fired, cars given, hugs exchanged. We'll keep an eye on it.