ta da

six hours after the post office showed my letter being delivered to chrysler, i got a phone call from a detroit area code ... it is, in fact, a rep. calling from the CEO's office ... this in itself is interesting, not only because the response is so fast, but also because i never put a phone number on my letter -- it means that they've gone through their owners' logs and pulled it out.

the conversation is long, winding and strange (as conversations with me tend to be on the phone -- the robot has suggested that i start publishing all my phone conversations), but i can summarize it succinctly: if i follow what's in the owner's manual, i'm covered for warranty's sake.

some interesting pieces of side trivia:

* chrysler has a record of all my visits to all my dealerships, but they do not have a record of what the results of individual inspections are.

* my chrysler rep. also has a max care service contract on her jeep (and she hasn't read her owner's manual).

* i now have a name and a direct line into chrysler.

i was traveling at the time and forgot to ask for a quick note in the mail stating the same, just for my record purposes, but i will.

we also had a brief conversation about chapman that i will not repeat here, but i will say i am satisfied.

i consider this an early xmas present from chrysler, and given the current circumstance, could not be happier.


they've got mail

you can get email confirmation on certified mail now ... and it's cheaper than those damn little green cards.


b1-66er has requested that you receive a Track & Confirm update, as shown below.

Track & Confirm e-mail update information provided by the U.S. Postal Service.

Label Number: 7107 1692 5290 2804 2861

Service Type: First-Class Certified Mail

Shipment Activity        Location                               Date & Time
Delivered                AUBURN HILLS MI 48321                  12/22/09  8:06am

Arrival at Unit          AUBURN HILLS MI 48326                  12/22/09  7:46am

Acceptance               LOS GATOS CA 95030                     12/16/09 11:21pm

Reminder: Track & Confirm by email


and just when it was getting good too ...

i'm headed back east (which is to say CO and NV) for a few weeks ...
which means there'll be a delay on seeing/reporting anything related to
the chrysler group letter until after the new year.

in other news, my car was 2 years old, yesterday.


a question of faith

at breakfast with the grumbler this morning, i brought up the letter to mr. marchionne (since i knew he subscribes to my RSS feed) and asked him what he thought of it.

it was a non-topic for him.  "i don't think anybody's gonna read it."

but i think he's wrong.  i could go on and on about this, but having worked in large corporations (some with the grumbler, in fact), i know that a letter that comes out of the office of the president will get attention ... and very little gets sent certified mail these days ... i think it'll get a response ...

... but i've been wrong before.

quote of the moment

"The Sacred"

After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank
in their chairs,
the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone,
his tape deck playing
things he'd chosen,
and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,
their hiding places,
but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it,
and sometimes one other person
who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need
to speak, or to answer, the key in
having a key
and putting it in, and going.

-- Stephen Dunn


... and the rain came down

remember how i said that pre-emptive letters were going to go out to the heads of all operations based on the suspicious inspection that was done (and repeated here and here)?

well, that time has now come to pass.  i've arranged letters in reverse order of importance so the most important ones are on the top, the lessers toward the bottom.

you're welcome to read along and see:

my letter to the CEO of chrysler outlining the suspicious inspections and my need to have chrysler bring the matter to rest.

my letter to the general manager of chapman chrysler giving notice that i have good reason to believe those inspections are incorrect.

my letter to the president of daimlerchrysler service contracts telling her that i thought the phone conversation with her department was weak.

my letter to the CEO of the southern NV better business bureau opening the door for filing a complaint against chapman.

my letter to the secretary of the treasury letting him know what's happening with the US investment in chrysler from my end.

my letter to the owner of my chrysler, telling him i had great service there along the way.

my letter to autowest chrysler, tell them that i appreciated their service as well (here's another).

(and, yes, this increases the TVC of my car by $14 -- $11 for postage, $3 for envelopes.)

we'll see what happens.


letter to Sergio Marchionne

{note: original document was sent via certified US post -- hypertext links are for background information, the formatting is not part of the original letter and is a side-effect of the way html appears on a browser screen.}

December 16, 2009

Sergio Marchionne
Chrysler Group LLC
PO Box 21-8004
Auburn Hills, MI 48321-8004

Dear Mr. Marchionne,


I’m writing to you due to recent inspections on my 2008 PT Cruiser by Chapman Chrysler Jeep in Henderson, NV, which I believe are not correctly reflecting the state of my vehicle. This letter is an effort to ensure that my lifetime powertrain warranty and the associated “Lifetime Maximum Care Wrap” Service Contract (LMCW) will remain valid and intact.

Allow me to back up...In November of 2007, Chrysler announced the discontinuation of one of the most fun cars I’d ever driven: the PT Cruiser convertible. I had one made to order once I discovered that I could get a LMCW. To be very clear, my LMCW -- combined with the lifetime powertrain warranty -- is the reason I sold both of my Hondas and became a Chrysler customer for the first time in my life.

In anticipation, I read the 2008 Owner’s Manual (OM) online before my car had even been built. Since my Cruiser would be the most expensive single item I would own, I knew that I would conform to the much more rigid Maintenance Schedule B (OM pg. 434), irrespective of how I actually drove the car. I figured that that way if anything ever happened to the car mechanically I could never be challenged as to whether or not I had chosen the right service schedule, and somehow void my LMCW coverage as a result. Even though there’s no mention of this possible objection in the contract itself, I didn’t ever want to broach the possibility of breach of contract in this way with anyone at Chrysler.

I’ve been driving a lot -- my car has more than 46,000 miles in less than two years. Thanks your distributed dealership network, I’ve had the 15 requisite services needed to this point performed by nine different Chrysler dealers in three different states.
On the whole the car has been doing very well, and my experience with your dealer network has been quite good. There is one notable exception...
On May 28, 2009, I took my car to Chapman Chrysler in Henderson, NV for my 33,000 mile inspection. Using a coupon from the Chrysler Web site I received an oil change, an air filter and an inspection for the (much appreciated) bargain price of $22.

The service components were exchanged without a hitch, but the inspection came back shocking. My car “failed” (their term) an automatic transmission fluid check, a power steering fluid check and a fuel line check. In all cases the fluids or components were found to be “dirty.” I was also “cautioned” on the brake fluid level/condition “due to mileage,” and I was told that my tires should be rotated and balanced. Combined, the price of these services would come to more than $800. This on a car that was less than a year-and-a-half old, and at 33,000 miles, still under full warranty.
I was surprised since the (far more extensive) 30,000 mile service at Las Vegas’ United Chrysler (they were still a dealer at this time, they are not any more) showed none of these problems.

I pressed my service advisor a bit. I told him I knew I was responsible for standard maintenance (LMCW pg. 4) but these items were far from standard. The brake service isn’t due until 48,000 miles and even then only if the car is used for towing (OM pg. 441), which it definitely is not. The transmission fluid is due for a change at 60,000 miles only if my car is used for police, taxi, limousine or trailer (OM pgs. 442, 447), which again, it definitely is not. And the fuel injector service? It doesn’t even appear in the OM.

I said, “Listen, if all this stuff is bad, it should still be covered under warranty. There’s no way this is ‘standard service.’ It’s definitely not required as part of Schedule B in the Owner’s Manual at this mileage. None of it’s even close.”

My advisor shrugged and suggested that desert driving can put excessive wear on a car. I said, “Not that it matters, but the vast majority of my miles are not in the deserts. I don’t even live here.” I declined the services.

That same day, I called my brother, b1-67er. He’s a licensed Professional Engineer with several automotive patents to his name (I encourage you to do a Google search -- he’ll show up when you do a search for the phrase “world’s best mechanical engineer”) and is a specialist in failure analysis. He was immediately extremely suspicious of the diagnosis.

This gave me a quandary, what happens if an inspection shows a “failed” component and then subsequently that piece develops a fault and I need warranty work done?
On or about June 2, I called the DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts hotline (800-521-9922) essentially asking, “if Chrysler does an inspection on my vehicle and you find something's wrong (like dirty automatic transmission fluid), and I don't change it, and it subsequently fails, am I still covered by the lifetime powertrain warranty (or the wrap)?”

Mr. Marchionne, you just can’t believe how difficult it was to get a simple answer to that question. It took nearly 20 minutes of back-and-forth conversation, but the service representative essentially said, “no, you would be liable” -- in the most non-committal way you’ve ever heard in your life.

This puts me in an awkward catch-22, because essentially what Chrysler is saying is “no, once we spot a problem, if it’s not fixed, you are not covered under warranty,” but if those components subsequently fail, the warranty is no longer valid. It doesn’t make any legal sense because it’s not “prescribed” in the OM (LMCW pg. 4).

On July 16, my 36,000 mile service is done at AutoWest Chrysler in Fremont, CA. As part of the coupon for an oil change, they too do an inspection of my car. They find nothing wrong.

The 39,000 and 42,000 mile services are both done a Chapman in Henderson. Once again on both of these they claim the same problems from the 33,000 mile service (I don’t know for certain that they actually re-tested at these times -- it’s possible they were just re-publishing their previous tests).
For the 45,000 mile service I go to My Chrysler in Salinas, CA. They do the general inspection as part of my oil change coupon and find nothing wrong.

I’m not going to say if Chapman is correct in their belief that my car has several problems -- as a consumer, I don’t think I should have to. For certain there are three other Chrysler dealers who have not found the problems reported by Chapman during the same rough period of time. Instead I’m going to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
One of three things has to be true (possibly in combination):

  •  Chapman is incorrect about what’s wrong with my vehicle.
  •  Chapman’s tests are far more precise than the other Chrysler dealers I have gone to. That’s why they are showing problems that others do not.
  •  The other Chrysler dealers I have been going to are not actually performing the inspections, or are simply failing to spot what’s “wrong” with my vehicle.
Of these three -- especially given the expert advice of my brother -- I think one of the first two must be correct. My bet is on the first one.

I studiously avoid being confrontational as a consumer of a company’s products. I’d much rather get along with my service provider than try to fight them (and, quite honestly, I want to see Chrysler, in all forms, do well). To this end, this is what I’d like to see you provide to me as a consumer of your product:
  • Authorize a San Francisco Bay Chrysler dealer (e.g. someone like Stevens Creek) to do an inspection on my vehicle -- looking specifically for the problems reported by Chapman. This ensures that the inspection would be done well-away from any influence that Chapman might exert giving a better chance for a “true” inspection. It’s also closer to where I live.
  • If the inspecting dealer finds any of the problems that Chapman have reported, give authorization to have that repair done under warranty. Clearly these problems should not be appearing at this mileage (they are not prescribed by the OM at this mileage) and need to be fixed. They were all originally spotted well within the original 3 year/36,000 mile time period.
  • If the inspecting dealer finds no problem, then have them provide that information in writing -- this would give me coverage for any problems that may arise in the future.
  • Alternatively, you could simply send a letter saying that as long as I follow the service recommendations in my OM, I am covered by my plans (the powertrain warranty and/or the LMCW), and I do not have to comply with inspection results.
If you are not able, or unwilling, to provide this to me as a service, there are a few things that I want to make clear for the record:

  1. By both Federal law and your LMCW (pg. 4) I am not required to have my car serviced at a Chrysler dealership to maintain the validity of my warranty. Being able to prove that the car was serviced is good enough for fulfillment. I use your dealerships because I never want to have a non-Chrysler service on my car called into question. However, if the inspections are creating difficulties themselves, it’s senseless for me to accept them and I should move outside the dealer chain of reference to minimize my expense and hassle.
  2. I do not consider Chapman’s assessment of my vehicle to be accurate. There are eight other unique Chrysler dealers who have never found a problem with my vehicle -- three of them immediately surrounding Chapman reviews.
  3. Chrysler’s unwillingness to help would make me a vocal advocate against your corporation. I am not saying this as some quasi-form of psychological blackmail (nor do I think I have much clout), it’s merely that I cannot, in good conscience, support a corporation who supports what I believe are predatory business practices. (I do not believe this is true at the present time.)
  4. Nowhere in the LMCW, nor in the OM, does it say that I am responsible for correcting problems found by Chrysler inspections. In fact, due to #1 above, Chrysler inspections are not required. I stand by the sentence on page 4 of the LMCW fully, “your responsibility is to properly operate, care for and maintain the vehicle as prescribed in the OM supplied by the manufacturer” (my emphasis added). That is precisely what I do, and to the letter. There is nothing I have agreed to in principal, nor in print, that says I have to abide by a recommendation resulting from an inspection. (Especially one that equals 4% of the original price of my car in less than two years of use.)
Mr. Marchionne, I don’t delude myself for a second. I know the chances are essentially zero that you will read this letter -- it undoubtedly will be batted from department to department for awhile before it ends on the desk of someone who’d rather not deal with it. But that doesn’t lessen the fact that I believe in my cause, nor does it take away from the fact that I am (at least for the moment) a fan of Chrysler’s. I bought my car when everyone I knew or talked to thought it was an act of folly. Essentially my pals asked, “What good is lifetime if the company has no life?”

But I know a thing or two about business and the law. And I admire what it took to for a major corporation to come out with a lifetime warranty. I was enthralled enough that I decided to come along for the ride. I have a ‘blog dedicated to my car (in fact, this letter appears there, as will any response you send) -- I encourage anyone who sees reads letter to give it a look at http://www.continualcar.com/.

I realize that I’m the smallest conceivable mite on a planet of the much bigger problems you deal with, but before you completely wave me off, consider this: if even one percent of current Honda owners had done the same as I, Chrysler would have no monetary troubles (and, ironically, you wouldn’t have to read this letter right now, because you wouldn’t be running the corporation).

The entire purpose of this letter is to put a stake in the ground now to help stave off any possible problems in the future. This missive isn’t a warning; it’s a request for official help. I bought my PT Cruiser for enjoyment of a fun car and to be a participant in a grand experiment conducted by a company that had its back against the wall.

So far the experience has been great. My car is extremely solid and reliable. On the whole my experience with your dealers has been extremely good (especially Chapman, if you ignore the inspection “problems”) -- better than my old Honda dealers. I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m upset with Chrysler, because I’m not. I’m just doing everything I can to never buy another car again, including writing this letter.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Enclosures: 6

cc: Mark Akbar, General Manager, AutoWest Dodge Chrysler Jeep
Nick Banker, General Manager, Chapman Chrysler Jeep
Sylvia Campbell, CEO, Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau
Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury, United States Department of Treasury
Tom Maher, Owner, My Jeep Chrysler Dodge
Ann Tomlanovich, President, DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts, Inc.
ecc: b1-67er, Professional Engineer
J. Scott Maberry, Esq

letter to nick banker

December 16, 2009

Nick Banker
General Manager
Chapman Chrysler Jeep
930 Auto Show Drive
Henderson, NV 89014

Dear Mr. Banker,


On May 28th of this year I took my PT Cruiser to Chapman Chrysler to have a service done using a coupon I had printed from the chrysler.com Web site. For the bargain price of $22 I would get an oil change, an air filter and an inspection.

The oil change and air filter went without a hitch, which was great. Unfortunately this was more than offset by my shock when I learned the inspection had found three items “failed” (transmission fluid, power steering fluid and the fuel line) and that two others were “cautioned” (brake fluid and tire balance) on my car. The suggested maintenances totaled more than $800...This on a car less than a year and a half old and with only 33,000 miles on the odometer.

Aside from your dealership’s inspections, there has never been a hint that this might be the case with my car. In the 12 oil changes and inspections I have had at eight other dealerships, before, in-between, and after those you performed, none have shown any problems with my car.

As you will see in the enclosed letter, I am contacting the Chrysler Group CEO in an effort to rectify the quandary your dealership’s inspections have put me in...It’s extremely important to me that my lifetime powertrain warranty and Lifetime Maximum Care service contract remain valid.

I do not expect any action (including a response) on your part. I just wanted to make you aware of the situation firsthand so you could see the interactions I’m having concerning this matter. Please be aware that I reserve the right to post, even in edited format, any response you have to my ‘blog devoted to my Cruiser: http://www.continualcar.com/.



cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

Sylvia Campbell, CEO, Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau

letter to Ann Tomlanovich

December 16, 2009

Ann Tomlanovich
President, DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts, Inc.
DaimlerChrysler Service Contracts, Inc.
P.O. Box 2700
Troy, Michigan 48007

Dear Ms. Tomlanovich,

As you will see in the enclosed letter to Mr. Marcionne, I’m concerned about the results and implication of a series of recent Chrysler inspections. I’m writing you for two reasons: one is to let you know that your business arm was mentioned in my letter; the other is I had an extremely frustrating call with your staff.

On or about June 2, 2009, I called your consumer hotline (800-521-9922) to ask this question: if I have a Chrysler inspection done on my PT Cruiser and a car component is seen as problematic, will I be liable (ie. not covered by the lifetime powertrain warranty and/or my wrap) if this particular component ultimately fails?
It was nearly impossible to get a direct answer to this question. In fact, after 20 minutes of probing, the answer I had was essentially, “probably.” It’s actually worse than no answer at all.

I’m not expecting an answer to this question from you (or actually a response of any kind) -- I’m leaving that in the hands of Mr. Marchionne -- but I am letting you know that the training this particular service representative had on this particular question was beyond wanting, it was simply weak.

At the very end of the day, a Service Contract is monetary icing on the cake for your company. You know it, I know it, and it’s the very reason that you have this particular job. As a consumer, what I really want on the other end of the phone is someone who can answer a question simply -- especially if the question has a yes or no answer.



Enclosures: 1
cc: cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to sylvia campbell

December 16, 2009

Sylvia Campbell
Southern Nevada Better Business Bureau
6040 S. Jones Blvd.
Las Vegas NV 89118

Dear Ms. Campbell,


I’ve had a series of inspections done on my car at Chapman Chrysler Jeep on 930 Auto Show Drive in Henderson {ed: here, here and here}. As you will see in the enclosed letter I have sent to Mr. Marchionne, I have reason to believe that I am getting exaggerated claims on the state of repair of my vehicle.

To be very clear and absolutely fair, I am not 100% certain that Chapman’s reports are in error. I just have very good reasons to believe they are.

I’m not familiar with what constitutes a “complaint” with the Better Business Bureau. If my grievance qualifies, please consider this a formal lodging to that end. If not, please accept my apologies for disruption of the BBB routine.



Enclosures: 2

cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to Timothy Geithner

December 16, 2009
Timothy Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
United States Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Mr. Geithner,


Although it’s devilishly hard to determine explicitly, my understanding is the federal government now owns a large portion of the Chrysler Corporation and the Treasury is the department responsible for the oversight of this holding.

I’ve copied you on a grievance I currently have concerning the “lifetime” agreements I have in place with Chrysler (their powertrain warranty and the “Lifetime Maximum Care” service contract).

I am expecting no action on behalf of you or your department. No response is necessary. I merely wanted to make you aware of what was happening with your investment at the absolute most microscopic of levels. I know that as an investor I’m always curious about anything that happens relative to an investment of mine and it’s possible someone in your department might actually be charged with knowing this kind of stuff.

Use it as a datum for the larger picture, or ignore, as you see fit.

A happy new year to you,


P.S. As I was looking for your street address, I saw the “free shipping” promotion you have on dollar coins and ordered four boxes. I love the dollar coins and I think it’s a great idea to help pump them into circulation. (And no, I’m not even getting a single frequent flyer mile for it).

Enclosures: 1

cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to my chrysler dodge

December 16, 2009

Tom Maher
My Jeep Chrysler Dodge
800 Auto Center Circle
Salinas, CA 93907

Dear Mr. Maher,


Just the briefest of notes to let you know that I have mentioned your dealership, in passing, in a letter to the Chrysler Group CEO, Mr. Marchionne (enclosed).

As I have stated in my letter, my sole experience with My Chrysler was superlative. My oil change and tire rotation were done cleanly, correctly and on time -- according to my schedule. (You can’t believe how hard it is to get a car serviced in the afternoon -- nearly everyone wants a morning appointment.)

The only reason I mention this to you at all is on the very off chance you hear something from higher authorities due to my letter. I seriously doubt this would happen, but just in case...

A very Happy New Year to you,


Enclosures: 1

cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC

letter to AutoWest Dodge Chrysler Jeep

December 16, 2009

Mark Akbar
General Manager
5850 Cushing Parkway
Fremont, CA 94538

Dear Mr. Akbar,


Just the briefest of notes to let you know that I have mentioned your dealership, in passing, in a letter to the Chrysler Group CEO, Mr. Marchionne (enclosed).

As I have stated in my letter, my experience with AutoWest has been superlative {ed: here and here}. The people at AutoWest have always been efficient and gracious (especially Roger Thurman). The work your center has done on my PT Cruiser has been great.

The only reason I mention this to you at all is on the very off chance you hear something from higher authorities due to my letter. I seriously doubt this would happen, but just in case...

A very Happy New Year to you,


Enclosures: 1
cc: Sergio Marchionne, CEO, Chrysler Group LLC


the continual car window is closing

i just read that last summer chrysler announced the 2010s would no longer have lifetime powertrain warranties.  this also means that it will no longer be possible to get lifetime bumper-to-bumper wraps.  (oh, and just to blow my own horn, i predicted this happening two years ago.)

so ... if any of the three of you who read this 'blog want a continual car of your own, you better go out and snag a 2009 chrysler, jeep or dodge.  otherwise you'll be driving a boring old industry standard warranty.

and seriously, who wants to do that?

(3/1/13 note: at least as of now you can still get a lifetime wrap on all chrysler vehicles as well as FIAT ... so chrysler has stuck by the lifetime idea ... they must be making money on it.)


... and a filter

missed one of the little check box-ies that said i need to get a new air filter at 45k.  went and installed it myself (which is right at my very limit of automotive mechanics) and learned about this crazy thing called the "make-up" filter -- essentially a little sponge that's sitting in the same box.