Taken To The Cleaners – Dealer Service

I love cars, but I hate car dealers. Unfortunately, it seems that over-engineered, unreliable electronics are making us more reliant on dealer service than ever. That makes cars more costly than ever.

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Our sports car recently suffered a blow to its stereo/navigation system. I stopped at the grocery store a couple miles from our house and the electronics didn’t turn on when I got back to the car. I took it into our local non-dealer car repair place and they diagnosed it as the CIC module. CIC stands for ‘Car Information Control’ and a replacement unit costs $2K.

That’s $2K, if you can get one.

The problem is that there are a limited number these CIC units available in the world (I was told that there are only 3 remaining for this vehicle). BMW apparently has them all in Germany and since there are so few of them, they will only make them available to their dealers. They won’t sell them to a third-party service garage.

Related: Save One-Third On Car Repairs By Avoiding The Dealer

When I took the car to our BMW dealer, the price for the CIC went up by another $1K to $3K. That apparently is the dealer mark-up, because when I asked why it was so much more, they just said “well, that’s the best price we can do”. In addition, there is another $500 for installation and ‘reprogramming’ the car to the new CIC, because every sensor in the car runs through this unit.

In the end, the repair will cost us almost $3.5K. Did I mention that the vehicle still has less than 30K miles? Unfortunately, the 5 year ‘bumper-to-bumper’ warranty is expired since it is a 2013. I should note that it has been extremely reliable until this point.

Still, I think there is an unholy alliance between car manufacturers and dealer service garages when it comes to shoddy electronics. In the past, cars became more affordable the longer you kept them as the ongoing price to repair them was less than the early depreciation. It seems those days may be over.

With electronics now comprising 40% of the cost of a new car, the need to bring them back to the dealer for expensive electronic fixes, may have shifted that paradigm. The more electronics are proprietary and require special programming, the more mark-up a dealer can apply.

Have Electronics Put You In The Dealer Service Bind?

Image Credit: (c) MrFireStation.com

12 thoughts on “Taken To The Cleaners – Dealer Service

  1. Sorry to hear about your car. Sounds like the dealer really had you bend over for that repair….

    A few years ago I saw an investigative report once on hard to get parts. When a manufacturer has a part with a good track record of not failing they will not have stock for the part. The reporter went into great detail to find out the reasons and it turns out there are many. Sometimes the manufacturer outsources many parts but keep the rights on the product so that the outsourcer can not simply make new ones for the aftermarket. Others if the part doesn’t break often enough there is no market for the part so the prices of used parts for that items goes through the roof. If enough people are looking for the parts and the used market is hot enough the part manufacturer will make parts for it.

    Seems like they want cars to be like iPhones and a bunch of other products they are designing to be error free for the warrantee period. With the goal to get customers to buy a new every few years.

    We had a older Grand Am which had a problem with it’s control module. The problem was with security module on the ignition prevented the car from starting the dealer wanted over $2000 to replace the whole unit. I went on the web and found a workaround which involved cutting some wires and putting in a certain ohm resistor in-between to bypass the ignition security. Total cost was only $2 bucks, some time removing the glove box and working under the dash, and my wife thinking I was going to wreck her car. That car started no problem for a couple more years until my wife traded it in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked online to see what I could do and called some high-end audio shops, but the fixes were well beyond my know-how and seemed to require OEM control module. One shop said they make so few Z4 Roadsters that there isn’t much demand for aftermarket solutions. I did get a free bottle of water at the dealer to placate their gouging me! 😉


  2. Its time to think about that Tesla. I think that modern EVs are lacking 19 separate systems (transmission, alternator, distributor, fuel injection, belts, etc) that are present in ICE vehicles. While things eventually go wrong with an EV, there are far fewer things to go wrong. You’re going to have to see the dealer eventually, but for far fewer things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m sure I will go electric before long, but my cars have been relatively repair-free from a mechanical standpoint. It’s the sensors and electronic components that are problematic (in this case entertainment & navigation system), so I’m not sure a Tesla will protect me against those issues.


  3. Ouch, Chief! Sounds like they’ve got you exactly where they want you. Next time you calculate the price/value equation of a luxury sports speedster, it seems like you should add 10% fudge-factor to cover future “gotchas”. As for me, Honda gets me from A to B. No thrills. No spills.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had Hondas and liked them. Acuras, too. Very reliable cars and relatively inexpensive to repair. This car isn’t about ‘a-to-b’, of course. It’s a hobby & lifestyle … rallies, cruises, autocross, and track days. Good times & good friends.


    1. It’s been pretty reliable for the 5 years I’ve owned it. Still has less than 30K miles. Still, the cost of repairing electronic components is souring my love of cars right now. I had a $3K repair to the computer in my old X5, too. Might need to trade it for a pre-75 Corvette or something that is easy to fix!


      1. There is a Porsche repair shop two blocks from which I walk by 2-3 times each day. They have six bays and they are always busy with vehicles ranging from 1-50 plus years old. People drive for miles to have their service performed. I have often thought that if I ever splurged, it would be a sixties vintage Porsche. Simple elegance

        Liked by 1 person

      2. An early Porsche 911 would be fantastic. And … no expensive electronics to go out!


    1. I was told by two ‘experts’ that you couldn’t use used parts because of the way the electronic security system was set up. I’ll ask again while they are still waiting for the part to arrive from Germany.


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