On November 8, 2014 we bought a new 2015 Subaru Outback from the Richmond Subaru dealership, from a salesman named Dicken Lau: . The service was fine, a bit of haggling took place and we walked away with the Outback for a bit over $25K, after trading in our 2008 Toyota Yaris, which had roughly 53,000 kilometres on it.
In the first month or so after buying it, we noticed a crackling hiss emanating from the front right hand corner of the interior, a little above where the shotgun passenger’s right knee would be. It was puzzling, since a crackling hiss is not a sound you normally expect to hear in an automobile, much less a brand new one. To my inexperienced ear, it initially sounded like it might be from the sound system, since there are a couple of speakers in that general area, one in the door and one in the dashboard.
After emailing Dicken about the problem, but receiving no reply, I booked an appointment through their online service booking tool, and went in on December 20th. I tried to time it with the installation of a ski rack, to avoid making multiple trips to the dealership. What a naive optimist I was. On arriving at the dealership (I), despite having booked an appointment to install a ski rack through a certain Yogesh Prasad: , it turned out that there were no ski racks in stock! They had to unmount one from the demo car inside the showroom and install it on ours. Finally, we got a ski rack installed, and then moved on to getting the technician to diagnose the sound, but to no avail. It was a rainy day and as we drove around trying to duplicate the noise, the rain drowned out all crackles and hisses that might otherwise have been present. Feeling a bit sheepish, as you’re wont to be when you insist there is an error but aren’t able to reproduce it in front of an expert, we left after being told I could bring the car back in on a sunny day when the rain wouldn’t interfere.
Three days later, December 23rd dawned cold and sunny. I called the dealership and drove down (II) after pleading my case about the weather to the lady who manned the phones in the Service department. This time the rain didn’t interfere and we were able to reproduce the sound within a block of the dealership. Having identified that the sound exists, but not being able to identify the source of the sound, they booked me in for another appointment on December 29th.
Yes, this is how I spent a lot of time during my precious Christmas Break! Driving to and fro from nostrum domus to the Subaru dealership in Richmond. Anyhow, the 29th arrives and I’m at the dealership (III). Their method of diagnosing the noise is to tape up sections of the passenger-side window and drive around. If the crackle doesn’t occur, ding ding ding, we have a winner! After doing this for two hours, they were unable to find the source of the noise and re-booked me for the whole day on December 31st, at 10 A.M.
Dutifully showing up on December 31st at 10 A.M. (IV), but with my patience wearing thin, I sat in the lobby and read a book for three hours while they tinkered with the car in more attempts to diagnose the root cause of the sound. At 1 P.M., I was informed that they had found a probable cause, it was the gusset on the passenger-side window, the tiny triangular one that sits in front of the main window. But of course, the replacement part was not in stock and so they would have to order it. They would let me know when it was in and I could bring the car in. At this point, Jude Kim: mentioned giving me a loaner vehicle and dropping my car back at my place when it was done. Thinking that it was but one more trip until the matter was resolved, I declined their offer and told him to call me when the part was in.
Fast forward to January 6th. Jude calls me and tells me the part is in, and I can book an appointment for January 17th. They’ll provide me with a loaner and replacing the gusset should take a couple of hours. The wife, who is 8 months pregnant at this point, I might add, and I go down to Richmond on January 17th (V), anticipating a trouble-free car at the end of the day. We leave our car with them and use the loaner to go have a leisurely brunch in Steveston. Halfway through our prandial endeavour, we receive a call from Jude, who cheerily breaks the bad news to us that the gusset replacement was futile, BUT they now know that it’s a known incident logged and identified by Subaru Canada. My appetite is ruined at the prospect of another trip and we finish our brunch and head back.
On returning to the dealership, Jude informs me that Subaru published a Service Bulletin on January 9th, 2015 identifying the exact problem we have, with steps to fix it. The bulletin number is SB.12.08.14 and its subject line is “Wind Rushing Sound from Front Door Sash Area”. The date here is the important part. The bulletin was published on January 9th, and we were there for the gusset replacement on January 17th. Why did they attempt to replace the gusset when this was a known issue by that time? Did they think they could fix the sound with this alternate hack? Were they trying to save money? Were they just incompetent?
In any case, I am now angry. I have been to the dealership five times in two months for a brand new car. This negates the fundamental assumption that buying a new car saves you from the hassle of having to take it in all the time for time-consuming repairs. I’ve taken a brand new car in for an issue five times more than I ever took the Toyota Yaris, in all five years of owning it. It is hard for me to say the word “Outback” without suffixing obscene expletives to it. Jude explains how the bulletin is new and they can order the repair kit in by the 22nd, and so we can come back on Saturday, Jan 24th and leave the car for a couple of days and so on. I swear loudly and tell him I think the car is a lemon. No new car was ever back at the dealership five times in 8 weeks. Something is fundamentally wrong and in any case, I don’t want to make any more trips to fix the issue. I am not interested in the fix and would like a new car or my money back.
Jude tries to placate me by telling me that if the solution is not a technical one, I need to talk to a Sales Manager, as he has no authority to promise any sort of compensation beyond loaners and the like. He takes me to meet Tyler George: , who tries to mollify me by empathizing with my frustration. I tell him that I know what he’s trying to do and I simply want a new car or my money back. Since we’re both plainspoken now, he tells me flatly that getting my money back is not on the cards, not yet anyway. He realizes that the dealership has dropped the ball on their end and he will try to make it up to me. He tells me that he doesn’t want me to be frustrated as it’s simply not good for business. I tell him that a million tweets with the hashtag #subarusucks won’t be good for business. He agrees that no one wants that. He promises me 3 full tanks of gas and 2 years of service gratis, along with the loaner to keep while they wait for the repair kit and fix the car. They will also drop the fixed car off at our place and take the loaner back, saving me a trip to the dealership.
I’m not of a mercenary outlook, and no doubt, a more keenly pecuniary person could have wrangled a better deal, but I had vented my spleen by this point and wanted to take the wife home. I acceded to his terms, we shook hands and I drove home in the loaner, which is also a fairly new (3800 km) 2015 Outback with a similar rushing/crackling noise. Today is January 22nd and let us see how long it takes them to fix the car and drop it off. In theory, the part should have arrived today and they should get to it on the weekend or before that.
All employees of Richmond Subaru can be found here: http://www.richmondsubaru.com/dealership/staff.htm
The first page of the Service Bulletin addressing this issue is here:
Richmond Subaru bungled matters twice and is now making it up to me