What to do if an auto dealer refuses to service your vehicle

Q. After a poor service and repair experience that was resolved in our favour by the manufacturer and warranty company, the auto dealer in our home city of Winnipeg no longer wants to honour its four-year warranty and maintenance package on our 2018 BMW X3. Unfortunately, we do not have another choice for service as there is just one authorized dealership in Manitoba; the next closest BMW dealer is in Regina, six hours away.

Our household has owned many BMW vehicles—and a major reason for choosing them was the factory warranty and maintenance package that came with the purchase. At the present time, my 2018 X3 is overdue for an oil change. Also, there was a recall in the summer of 2019; the satellite radio has never really worked and Sirius claims the vehicle needs reprogramming by a dealer.

We should be entitled to the warranty and service that comes with our vehicles without being forced to travel out of the province. Is there any recourse for us?

A. The warranty comes from the manufacturer, which is the party that issues it. The dealer is the manufacturer’s agent for performance of the warranty. No-charge scheduled maintenance is an additional service offered with some luxury brands; the service is contingent upon the vehicle owner or lessee taking in their vehicle to a dealership for service.

Automakers authorize warranty and service work outside the Canadian dealer network more often than you may think. From 2013 to early 2016, mechanics at franchised dealerships in the Beauce region of Quebec were locked out by their employers over a contract dispute. The dealers contracted out almost all of their warranty work to independent shops during this period, and the automakers reimbursed the shops as if they were auto dealers.

The most likely situation for covering work outside the Canadian dealer network is an emergency repair. Repairs may be approved at a U.S. or Mexican dealership if you break down during a trip. Inside Canada, luxury car brands tend to be concentrated in larger markets in Central Canada and on the West Coast. The repair for a breakdown far from a dealership that is covered by the warranty could be approved at an independent shop, and occasionally the parts are shipped to that location to get a stranded vehicle moving. However, the Automobile Protection Agency (APA) has also seen BMW approve towing vehicles for five hours or more to the customer’s home dealership for repairs, due to something as simple as a blown “run-flat” tire.

The problem in your case is compounded by the automaker’s promise to provide no-charge scheduled service; requiring the vehicle to make a 12-hour round trip to Regina for an oil change and minor inspection simply makes no sense.

John Raymond, a former auto dealer for two luxury brands, notes: “Bringing in a vehicle for scheduled service is an owner responsibility. For unscheduled service, like a recall or breakdown, we occasionally had the vehicle picked up and claimed the cost from the automaker, even when distances were very long. Your situation is a bit different; since your dealer is the only game in town for BMW, [you] can’t freely choose to decline to service your vehicle. The dealer’s responsibility under the warranty is attached to the vehicle, not you personally, and is part of the franchise agreement.”

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