Coachbuilder Warranty Service Woes

Posted on May 5, 2009 by - Also by this author

FLAKY COACHBUILDERS: The warranty sounds great. But will they deliver?
In February 2008, we bought a limousine bus from a well-known coachbuilder. Since I don’t want to throw the manufacturer under the bus (pun intended), I will leave their name out of my rant.
The bus was beautiful. A fantastic looking interior with laser lights, a butt-kicking sound system, two big televisions, an “entertainment pole,” and a dazzling ceiling were just a few of the amenities. My only concern was the fact that this coachbuilder had just entered the bus market and we would become a guinea pig. Since we had bought several vehicles from the builder over the years, I was confident they would stand behind their product.
I could not have been more mistaken. Upon the initial inspection by the California Highway Patrol, we were told that the windows must have decals designating them as “emergency exits.” The door was to have a mechanism that would force it to open if it struck an object while closing, much like an elevator door. 
In an embarrassing moment, the CHP inspector stuck his arm in the door expecting it to bounce open but instead it closed on his arm pinning him to the bus. He yelled in agony for the driver to manually release the door. Needless to say, we failed the inspection. Well, I suppose these things happen when you don't really know what you are doing, and I realized that we were indeed the proverbial guinea pig.
Well, since the date we put the bus in service, we have experienced numerous problems including cargo doors not closing properly, a complete failure of the heating and air conditioning service, control panels that fall off the wall, ice wells that leak onto the carpet causing mildew in the carpet, and most recently, another air-conditioning failure. We have a step-well light malfunction within the first 30 days of operation and each time we call we are treated as if we are an inconvenience to the company and should just fix the problem ourselves since it is so minor. 
We have twice sent this vehicle back to the factory paying the entire cost of a chauffeur for 12 hours, the fuel for a 300-mile trip, not to mention the wear and tear on the vehicle. We paid an air-conditioning technician out of our own pocket for the work he did with no offer to reimburse. Not once has the company apologized, offered to pay for the fuel, or the driver wages or anything else.
So, here we are one year later and now my phone calls and e-mails are not even returned. So, remember, when you are told about a warranty in this business, it is not like Ford or Chevrolet standing behind their product and you know that a three-year warranty means just that. If you are dealing with a coachbuilder, you should know that it might just be lip service.
-- Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
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