Earlier this year I had to have a bike repurchased by the manufacturer. While I can't disclose the make or model, I thought I'd share my experiences here if anyone is frustrated enough to pursue this option.
The short version is I had a bike with a problem. Various attempts at fixing it, including adjusting the timing belt and recutting the valve guides, failed. After the bike had seen more time in the dealership than in my garage, I started talking with the service manager. The point here is to keep things civil - the service manager is your advocate. Piss him off and your life just got harder.
Next, after several failed attempts, I wrote a detailed letter to the manufacturer. Everything was included, including where service was performed, dates of every piece of warranty work, even the time I picked the bike up after 3 weeks in the shop only to have the radiator fail after 1 hour on the road. I never mentioned lawyering up. If you do, don't be surprised if the next thing you get from them is a letter from their lawyer.
About a week after I mailed off the letter, I got a call from customer service person. I was cool, she was cool. I sang the praises of the dealership and made sure she understood the problem was the manufacturer's and I just wanted my bike working properly. She did a good job relating to my frustration and asked that I give them another shot at resolving the issue.
I took the bike back to the dealer to start over. First, they had to verify the problem still happened. It did. Next, they started at square one by running various diagnostics. The data was sent to the manufacturer's technicians and, over a week later, they suggested new throttle bodies. Honestly, this sounded like a fishing expedition and that's what I told the service manager.
Two weeks later, the throttle bodies arrived. And they were damaged. You can imagine my frustration.
I called the manufacturer's CSR and relayed my frustration. Essentially, I told her that I'd played fair and done what they asked, yet they failed to deliver - again. Oddly enough, she agreed and asked me to write a letter asking how I would like to resolve the situation. If this happens to you, think of it as Christmas, Easter and Super Bowl Sunday rolled into one. I gave them about 4 options: everything from simply asking for my money back to an exchange of my lemon for their new super-shiny, super-fast death bike with 5 years of free service, new exhaust, all the CF bits and my pick of apparel.
They said they'd give me my money back.
This is where things got hard. At this point it's been about 2 months since I wrote the first letter. I kept a spreadsheet listing dates and times of everyone I spoke or emailed with, along with other notes like "Service manager agrees throttle bodies are fishing." So I had my ducks in a row. What I didn't have was a certain manager's sign-off.
Getting the last manager's approval to cut me a check was the only time I really threatened anybody. And calling it a threat is pushing it. I kept calling my CSR every couple days to see what the hold-up was and this one manager kept delaying. Finally, I said to the CSR, "I have the CEO's email address. Should I just take this up with him?" I wasn't happy about having to do it, but I felt confident in playing that card because 1) I'd never used it before and 2) I do have the CEO's email address.
I got approval the next day. My instructions were to put all the OEM bits back on the bike and take it to the dealer. The dealer performs a damage inspection and, if everything's groovy, I get my check. Before I went to the dealer I called the service manager and told him what was going on, just so we were on the same page. I wasn't worried about the damage inspection but I wanted it to be brief: "You've already been all over this bike six times. What's to inspect?" Took the bike down, he inspected and I walked away with my check (purchase price minus mileage) a few minutes later.
So what did we learn during this saga:
- Keep the dealer on your side. When the process was finished the service manager actually thanked me.
- Don't threaten to lawyer up unless it's your last option and you really mean it. Lawyers mean the end of civility. (I don't think there are any lawyers on the board since they're too busy skinning orphans alive, but if there are, feel free to send me a cease and desist via PM.)
- Keep a log of everything: letters, phone calls, emails, visits to the dealership as well as what was said. If you're starting this process after a few visits to the dealer, ask the service department for the records of your bike and start filling in the gaps.
- Give the dealer two shots to fix something, then engage the manufacturer directly. Be cool with the dealer while this process is going on.
- In communications with the dealer and manufacturer, try to get them to relate to you: "I just want to ride," or "What would you do in my position?" Things like that. Be civil. More flies with honey and all that.
- Be patient. Other than what you might think, you're not all that special. Your lack of specialness aside, these things take time. If you haven't heard something in a week, ring somebody up. But be aware his or her answer might be to call back in a week. Balancing being patient with not getting brushed off is a call you're going to have to make.