As struggling new-car dealers try to wring more income from service operations, the industry found itself on the defensive last week after a national news program's hidden cameras uncovered dealerships attempting to overcharge for service work.
An MSNBC "Today" show producer took her mechanically sound but out-of-warranty 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee to five New York-area Jeep dealerships.
Before those visits, though, a mechanic hired by the network installed a faulty air conditioning relay that caused the system to improperly blow warm air, a problem the mechanic said he would charge a customer $100 to fix.
Four of the five stores found the faulty relay, but they tacked on services that repair experts interviewed by MSNBC called unnecessary. One dealership service adviser told the producer her air conditioning compressor had blown up and a fix would cost more than $2,000.
David Kelleher, a member of the Chrysler National Dealer Council and owner of a Philadelphia-area dealership, said the automaker's 2-year-old Dealer Standards program has helped to rein in "rogue-type service offerings."
Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri issued a statement to MSNBC: "I can assure you that we are investigating this case."