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I purchased a BMW 123d M Sport from Barons BMW (Farnborough) in 2009. The test drive demonstrated a couple of minor problems to be resolved, these being an interior storage compartment which wouldn't open and an air whistling noise coming from the drivers door window at speeds of 60mph and above. The sales person made a note of the faults and assured me that both would be dealt with during the pre-delivery check, which would be completed by one of their trained technicians.
I collected the car a couple of weeks later and handed over the keys to my old vehicle in part exchange. This was my first BMW as well as being the most expensive car I had purchased to date. The excitement was short lived! My first journey in the 1 series was from Surrey to my office near Manchester and I could immediately tell that the whistling noise from the drivers door window had not been remedied. After about fifty miles, I got the impression that something was wrong with one or both of the turbo chargers, the power delivery was lumpy, inconsistent and appeared to be deteriorating every time I put my foot down. I contacted my Barons BMW sales person the following day and explained the problem, she was very apologetic and seemed to want to help in any way she could. The car was booked in to be looked at by the Barons BMW Service department in Ash Vale (near Farnborough) and I requested a courtesy car. I asked for something other than a Mini because of the length of my journeys to and from Manchester and the sales person suggested a 5 series in lieu of the journey length and the fact that my new car was an immediate problem child! Shortly afterwards, I received a call from the sales person to ask how many miles I intended to put on their car while mine was being looked at – an answer I couldn't provide given that it was dependent on how long they needed to keep my car for. I suggested that it was likely to be somewhere between six and nine hundred miles. She then informed me that I would have to use a Mini due to the mileage. I pushed back on this and she explained that she'd been told to inform me that they were 'not obliged' to provide me with a courtesy car! To keep things simple on the phone, I agreed to the Mini and decided to write a letter of complaint to the dealership explaining my grievances (these being that I had part exchanged a car which was functioning perfectly well, for a car which was not and that I was now paying a monthly finance charge for a high specification 1 series and instead I would be driving a Mini One). The dealer sales manager then telephoned me to say, and I quote: 'My intention wasn't to p*ss you off Sir, it's just that I don't have a 5 series to give you'. Despite the surprising language used by the sales manager, I wanted to keep things amicable and straight forward so I left it at that. I wondered if perhaps he felt we might connect more effectively by using such language as I was younger than his typical clients (being in my early thirties).
I dropped the 1 series off at Barons Ash Vale servicing department and picked up the courtesy car - expecting to get my car back when I returned from Manchester. They called me the next day to confirm the engine problem and to explain that at this stage, they were unsure as to how long they would need to keep my car for. If memory serves me correctly, a couple of days later they called again to say that they were still unable to remedy the problem but that they were working to resolve it. I asked them to keep me regularly updated – which they did. For what seemed like an eternity, they called nearly every day to say that the problem had been caused by a new software update being loaded onto the car in the pre-delivery check. They wanted to put the old software onto the car but they were, apparently, waiting for BMW UK to dial into the car remotely as Barons did not have the necessary authority to do so. Looking back, I have to say that this all sounded a bit fishy but I felt confident that a BMW dealership such as Barons would do the right thing! After about a week, I contacted the sales department again and asked them to give me my old car back as I had lost confidence in the new car, which seemed to be taking a very long time to fix. They informed me that this was not going to be possible as my old car had been sold. Instead, they told me they would hurry the service department along and get the problem resolved. I couldn't help feeling something was very wrong with the whole situation, but my options seemed to be quite limited.
When I eventually got the car back, which I think was about two weeks later, the engine problem had been resolved but the wind noise from the window was still a problem. I called and asked them about the wind noise and they informed me that the car had been road tested and that they had been 'unable to replicate the problem'. This was staggering given the fact that every one of my passengers noticed it straight away! I took the view that I'd barely driven the car despite owning it for about a month and that it was best to address the problem at a later date.
When the first service was due, I decided to take the car to Barons in Hindhead and I again asked them to look at the wind noise problem. When they returned the car, they informed me of the service cost, which was nearly three times higher than the cost of a first service as quoted by the sales person at the time of purchase! The window had been adjusted by 5mm and the wind noise problem was apparently no more. I took the car home and on the way back I quickly established that the wind noise was worse that it had ever been! I was also surprised to see from the invoice that I had even been charged for topping up the windscreen washer fluid (I'd previously owned a second hand Porsche Boxster and even the Porsche garage hadn't charged for this!).
At around this time, my father looked at the car and informed me that it had clearly had some re-spray work done on a couple of panels because there were drip marks and masking tape marks in a couple of places. Now I am not saying that the re-spray work took place when Barons Ash Vale Servicing had the car for a suspiciously long time the first time round. The story they gave me about BMW UK needing to remotely dial into the car as the reason for keeping it for so long doesn't quite sit right though! I normally use a jet wash to clean the car, but I decided on one occasion to use a normal car wash and when I came out the other side, one of the panels and the rear bumper showed scuff marks from the car wash brushes. I don't think this is normal for modern paint, especially BMW paint.
Again I had to take the car back to them for several things to be dealt with under warranty and this time I took it back to the Ash Vale branch. Primarily, I wanted to resolve the whistling noise from the window as well as the interior heater fan making a kind of whistling noise in certain conditions. There were a couple of other minor things as well. The day before I brought the car into them, I cleaned, waxed and polished the car by hand and it was looking sparkly and nice. When I dropped the car off to them, I decided to make a point about the paintwork being soft and that I had concerns about the story I had been given regarding BMW UK and the mysteriously long time Barons had needed to keep the car first time round. I was quite bold and I implied that maybe the car had been involved in an accident whilst in their care. It was put to me, very robustly, that this would 'never happen and that there was nothing on their notes to suggest this' and she then explained that 'modern paint is very soft'!!!! I showed her the drip marks etc. and she sheepishly said that it was clear some work had been done to the car but when or by whom was a mystery! Furthermore, the nice lady then informed me that the story I had been given first time around regarding BMW UK needing to remotely dial into the car couldn't have been correct - as she was saying this, I watched her face as the penny dropped in her own mind about what she was saying. She then explained once again that there were no notes to support my suspicions or indeed the version of events I had been given first time round about BMW UK. My opinion of Barons was already pretty low, but after this nugget of information from the service representative, I realised how naïve I had been and that in reality, I'd left it far too late to do anything about my concerns/suspicions!
When I collected the car, they told me that the wind noise problem had been fixed (it is now better although still noisier than the passenger side!) and that they were 'unable to replicate the problem' with the fan noise. I went out to the car and did a quick walk around to check – shock horror, a BIG scratch on the rear bumper! To be fair, it wasn't a deep scratch at all, just about two feet long. I went back and got one of the guys out who was some sort of manager or supervisor and he immediately told me that it couldn't have been them, it must have been there when I dropped it off. I explained that I had waxed and polished the car by hand the previous day and that this was clearly a very fresh scratch. He took the car back for half an hour and then returned it declaring that the scratch had been removed with some cutting compound. Fair enough, the scratch had gone but I was now quite irritated by my entire experience of Barons and the contradictory information and denials and so I politely explained everything which had gone wrong from day one. He said 'Sir, I hope this is now all resolved, with respect, we don't want to see you back here any more than you want to come back here'! Rather charming - not!
This is a long review, albeit a very abbreviated version! I think any readers will get the picture though. Apparently I am supposed to experience “joy” as a BMW owner! The car is now being looked after by a different BMW dealer and I don't think they'll have to try very hard to improve on my Baron service....