Dealers know that stereotypes of their businesses run deep. That's one reason they generally go out of their way to satisfy customers, including taking the financial loss when a mistake or misunderstanding occurs.
But many stores draw the line when a mistake can be easily corrected or when it seems a customer is eager to cash in on the goof.
"Right is right and wrong is wrong," said Bruce Schindler, president of Bob Davidson Ford-Lincoln in Baltimore, about deals he has seen felled by faulty paperwork. "We had one customer who signed a note for $3,000 but wouldn't pay. When we sued, she countersued, saying the warranty we gave her wasn't right. That was the first we realized that we made a mistake. We corrected it and gave her the proper warranty, valued at roughly $1,200." The customer agreed to payment, Schindler said, and the store is collecting what it's owed. "The customer will receive what they deserve, as the dealership will," he said.
Those outside the auto industry might wonder why a dealership would go after $3,000.
First, no one wants to feel cheated. Second, the cost of doing business is escalating. In 2016 total expenses at the average franchised new-car dealership rose more sharply year over year than total revenue from sales including F&I and fixed operations, 6.5 percent vs. 5.1 percent, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's NADA Data 2016 study.