The following is my opinion and an accounting of my experiences with Girard Ford:
My dealings with Girard Ford began in late August 2009 when I looked at a truck at their dealership on West Thames Street in Norwich. A friend who is a car salesman works there, having transferred from a Kia Dealership where I had previously bought an Optima, showed me an F-150 that was pretty much what I was looking for and let me take it over night (a tactic which I am sure sells a lot of cars).
I liked the truck, but discovered very soon after taking it that the door mechanism on the passenger side wasn’t working and for my wife to get in I had to climb in and open the door form the inside. When I returned to negotiate the purchase, I insisted they fix it before I buy the vehicle and they agreed (reluctantly) to do so. They thought I should take it and come back when the part needed (which they had to order) came in. I told them no way – why would I want to buy a brand new truck that I knew already needed repair, had a malfunctioning passenger door and would also inconvenience me me (in terms of time) having it repaired? They took the part out of another of their several F-150s on the lot – which they should have just done in the first place and not even suggested I return in a week or two when they got the part in.
Anyway, I bought the truck and immediately had them clean the stain from the seat that was left by their people who “prepped” the truck for delivery before I drove it off the lot. It was, like the door handle mechanism, annoying — but taken care of after some complaining. Shortly thereafter, I returned to have them fix a faulty interior dome light switch (which they needed to order a replacement for). Not only did it often not work, it even fell out of the roof at one point. Of course, having no parts in stock or willingness to take one from their existing stock of vehicles, they ordered one and I returned again to have it put in. A few months later, it fell out of the cab ceiling again and required a return to have it put back in. The service guy informed me that they would not charge me for the repair – like he was doing me some sort of favor. Had they attached it correctly in the first place, I doubt I would have needed to return and spend my time there.
Oil changes were always lengthy there (usually close to an hour) and resulted in things like a failure to reset the oil life warning indicator on one occasion and incorrectly calculating the return mileage on two other occasions (apparently the oil changing guy isn’t too up on math). On another trip to have the squeaking springs fixed, I was told when the job was completed — that they “torqued” the springs and everything was all set. I immediately got in and discovered no change at all in the noise of the springs. I wonder if they did anything at all. I learned to live with it. But, for the record, I noticed no difference from before I brought it in to have it fixed and after I picked it up.
In February 2011, I was involved in a serious accident (was hit by an uninsured, unregistered, unlicensed guy driving through a stop sign) and had my truck repaired there at their “collision center.” They seemed to do a decent job and I found the manager, Rachel, to be pleasant and professional. Shortly after getting the truck back, I noticed that the steering wheel seemed to be a little loose – moving slightly up and down and side to side. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just the nature of that particular model of tilt wheel and it was the first time I noticed it or a post-accident issue. I decided to let it go for the time being, as it wasn’t that bad. Over the past year and more recently it began to get worse and I made an appointment to go see them and get it fixed. When I called the guy to see if the truck was done (they NEVER have the courtesy to call me), I was told it was all set -but would cost me $101 and change. I was informed it was not warranty work, because Ford did not cover loose nuts and bolts. Wow, is that crazy or what? I guess a 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty doesn’t really mean bumper to bumper when it comes to what holds the vehicle together! When I asked if that couldn’t have been caused by the accident, since they had to replace the airbag -and I’m thinking didn’t tighten that bolt down correctly, I was basically given an “I don’t know” answer and it was explained that the collision center is separate from the rest of the dealership. Funny, I could have sworn the name on the invoice was Girard Ford. I got a vague response from the service rep I spoke to (who might consider another line of work) when confronted about whether or not he thought that a bolt loosening in less than 2 years and 25000 miles was normal was given an I don’t know – the same answer I got when I asked what could have caused it. After complaining to the manager of the collision center and making it known that I would devote considerable time and energy into letting people know how bad their service is and their lack of integrity, I got a call back to tell me that she had decided that her shop would cover the bill – on the chance that their repair job had something to do with the loose bolt. So it went from ‘no way could it be our fault’ to a possibility when I mentioned that they had lost me as a customer, I would inform both Ford and Geico of my experience and anyone else in the market for a vehicle that would listen.
So I picked up the truck – it seems to be fixed and they didn’t charge me. If I didn’t make some phone calls and complain, I would have been screwed with a $101 nut-tightening job.
I had heard that Antonino dealerships didn’t always have the best reputation and I can say that my own experiences with Girard Ford and my wife’s with Michael Kia a few months ago seem to confirm this. When I posted my complaints on Facebook, several people responded with similar issues. I think, from now on, I’ll get it serviced at either Columbia Ford or Valenti in Mystic. fortunately, we have choices.
So, there it is. I’m sure people have had worse experiences with car dealerships, but mine is bad enough for me to warrant a little service center shopping.