Lexus Service Turns Sleazy

You know those “dealer options” offered when you buy a car? Things like rust-proofing and paint sealant? They’re totally unnecessary, of course, but they’re a significant revenue source for the dealers and the salespeople. They’re pitched as last-minute impulse-buy items, appealing to your fears and desire to get out the door.

I’ve owned or leased four Lexus cars, the current one being a 13-year old environmentally incorrect honkin’ V8 LS400 cruiser. (Our other car is a Prius.) Great cars. Until now I’ve had most maintenance other than oil changes, batteries and tires done at the local Lexus dealership. They’re expensive, but the service is good, fast, courteous and generally honest. Last week a radiator hose broke and I had to have the car towed to the dealership: a $13.40 part plus $145.00 for labor. Okay, that’s a lot of labor to replace a hose, but I’m okay with it.

But when when the service rep called after the initial inspection, he also pitched three other items. The latter two were described as “dealer-recommended items.”

  • Replace the valve-cover gaskets.
  • Annual “de-carbonizing”. [Flash video]
  • Power-steering flush. [Flash video]

So the impulse/ripoff options have now made their way to Lexus service departments. Leaky valve-cover gaskets are to be expected on a 13-year old engine, and they’re not much of a problem. A little bit of oil oozes out and possibly drips onto the exhaust manifold, but at $900+ I can wait. Okay, thanks for noticing but I’ll pass. No harm in suggesting this one. But it’s those last two items that annoy me. Of course injectors need to be cleaned, but I’d be surprised if that isn’t covered by regular Lexus maintenance, which is very thorough. Same for the power-steering system.

Watch the Flash videos. Notice anything unusual? First, they’re not Lexus branded. Hmmm. Second, look at the URL. They’re from a site called Liqqid Express, which offers the headline “Featuring Online Menu Selling for the Service Department.” Another hmmm. Clearly, this is all about selling not service. Each of these services was quoted to me in the $100 range.

I complained to the service director who replied in email “…Both of those services are of value to our customers; that is why every Lexus dealer in the [San Francisco] bay area offers these services…There are many services that are good ideas for your car that are not in the manual. Lexus puts the minimum requirements in the owner’s manual for maintenance that is due on these cars…”

I don’t know if it’s still the case, but Lexus (corporate) used to be extremely fussy about quality dealerships and service departments. The survey they send out after every service appointment can (or could) cause a lot of grief for the dealership. I plan to voice my concerns to Lexus when I receive my next survey. If, as the local service director says, this is something that is going on all over the bay area, I wonder if it’s approved or at least sanctioned by corporate Lexus. I’ll be interested in their response.

In any case, I plan to look for another shop to perform maintenance in the future.

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