Twice The Wheels, Half the Service

OK, so this is a motorcycling blog, with heavy emphasis on Ducati. But I’ve been amused by the number of times on assorted fora that the subject of Porsches comes up, with a surprising number of Ducatista admitting to current, past or intended ownership of the marque. And I am amongst that number – I’d been hankering after a 911 ever since, as a geeky kid, I stood with nose pressed to the glass of the showroom window of Glen Henderson in Edinburgh’s George Street, whilst my engineer father patiently explained the merits and insanities of the rear-engined layout.

It took a while but, in late 2012, I bought myself a four-year-old Porsche 911 from the Official Porsche Centre (OPC) in Glasgow. That started a relationship with the car and the dealer that’s been a mixture of delight with the car when it’s working, and continual, jaw-dropping frustration with the ability of this dealer to combine being – for the most part – pleasant and personable with screwing up, well, pretty much everything they do.

Early Portents

On the day I purchased the car, they managed to get the road tax wrong. That got sorted with a couple of phone calls, and they posted a replacement tax disc out to me.

A couple of days after taking delivery, I checked tyre pressures. To find that one of the rears was down. I pumped it back up. Over the next two weeks, it slowly deflated again to the same pressure I’d found originally. Sure enough, there was a nail in it. Now the time it was taking to drop its pressure was pretty good evidence that the nail was in when I got the car. So I went to Porsche Glasgow to argue the fact. After some discussion, they offered to go 50:50 on, not one new tyre, but an axle pair. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed. Then came the kicker: Porsche will only allow fitment of matched N-rated (Porsche’s own rating) to their cars. My car’s tyres were N1 rated but Porsche had recently updated their approved specification to N2. And of course they wouldn’t mix N1 (front) and N2 (rear) tyres, despite their being the same make and model of tyre (Michelin PS/2s). Given that the existing tyres were down to about 4.5mm anyway, I went 50:50 with Porsche on the cost of a complete new set. But I was definitely not happy with the dealer selling me a car with a nail in the tyre. When I got the car back with the new tyres fitted, the tyre pressures were completely different on both sides of the car. Both were incorrect.

I then took it to my very good local valet/detailer outfit, to have a full paint correction done and the car given a coating of GTechniq ceramic. They very quickly came back to me and reported that all four wheels were badly corroded, and that one showed evidence of a very poor refurbishment, and in the wrong colour – they actually recognised the bad workmanship as that of a certain outfit in East Kilbride. So much for Porsche’s much-vaunted used car preparation. I went back to OPC Glasgow and they agreed to refurbish the wheels under warranty,. As it wasn’t going to cost any extra, I asked for the wheels to be refurbished in Porsche’s OEM black, and ordered and paid for a new set of wheel centres in black to go with it, keeping the original silver wheel centres for the new set of winter wheels and tyres I’d bought. The wheels came back, refinished to a dreadfully poor quality and in the wrong colour. They’d also painted the original wheel centres, despite my careful discussions with Porsche Glasgow about NOT doing so. The centre shields also appeared to have been masked with a cabbage leaf. So OPC took the wheels back for another refurbishment and ordered a new set of silver wheel centres. This time, the wheels came back showing a combination of blistering to the new paint from poor preparation and damage from where they’d obviously been dragged across a concrete floor. And the new wheel centres were the wrong ones. So back it was for a third attempt at refurbishment and another order of wheel centres. This time, they came back in the right colour and with the right wheel centres, even if the paint finish wasn’t particularly good. But I left it at that, having by then rather lost the will to live.

In the first six months i also had the rear lights fill with water. A common problem, apparently, and one that was sorted under warranty with neither quibble nor problem. Hooray. I also had an intermittent issue with the central locking: this took FOUR visits to identify and resolve, despite my sending them a video demonstrating the problem happening, in a fruitless attempt to reduce the number of 140 mile round trips to the dealer necessitated by their failing to address the problem. They completely ignored the evidence I sent them throughout.

How to Make Easy Stuff Difficult

I’d had the car for a year when the battery failed. This is apparently not a warranty item, so I changed the notoriously poor quality OEM Moll Kamina battery myself for a top-spec Bosch – Porsche would only allow the fitting of another of their own-brand batteries, asking a few pennies short of £300 for the privilege, rather than the £100 of the superior specification Bosch.

In January 2014, I noticed that coolant levels were dropping, so booked it in to be examined. It turned out to be a weep from the coolant hoses – another warranty job. That done, I picked up the car from the dealer, and headed off home in the dark of Glasgow’s rush hour, and in the face of a full blizzard. I’d just got to the M8/M80 intersection, about fifteen miles from the dealer, when the dash lit up like a Christmas tree, warning me of impending engine failure. I coaxed the car onto the hard shoulder and exited into the night. Stupidly, I hadn’t brought a full winter jacket with me, so rapidly became very wet and cold whilst on the phone to Porsche Assistance. Only to find that OPC Glasgow hadn’t registered me as a warranty owner with them. So it took a couple of hours to sort that out, as various extremities developed frostbite, countered only in part by my rising blood pressure. It turned out that, as I suspected, OPC Glasgow hadn’t bled the coolant system properly, leaving the engine with an airlock and short of a couple of litres of coolant. That got me lunch bought by a very helpful and friendly dealer principal – and this become something of a theme: friendly, helpful people with a complete inability to actually do their jobs properly.

The Art of (throwing away) the Deal

They couldn’t always even get the basics of interacting with the customer right: there was the day that I’d brought the car in for some work, with myself and a colleague en route to a meeting in Glasgow. We dropped the car off and were offered a drop-off in central Glasgow for our meeting. That was fine and we asked if we could be picked up to come back or whether we should just get a taxi. “Oh, we’ll pick you up, no problem” was the cheerful answer. When we phoned up after the meeting, the service receptionist denied point-blank having agreed to this, despite it being witnessed by my colleague. When we arrived back later by taxi, she then went on to call me, “A very cheeky man”. Classy.

At some point during the many shufflings back and forth for work to be done, re-done or corrected, I left a camera lens in one of OPC Glasgow’s loan cars. When I phoned them to ask them to check for it, no trace was found, despite an ‘exhaustive’ search. I therefore had to make an insurance claim for it. It was found on someone’s desk at OPC Glasgow a year or so later, fortunately by someone who remembered my original query. So much for their exhaustive search.

In August 2014, we decided to replace our trusty X5 utility vehicle. So, after considering, and test-driving, a Cayenne, I decided to downsize and fun-up by buying a Macan. A petrol ‘S’ model with a fairly full spec. So not a trivial purchase. Porsche Glasgow had a Turbo demonstrator at the time, so I called up, made an appointment for a test drive, reconfirmed it on the morning and then drove the 70 miles to the dealership. Where I was kept waiting – without apology – for half an hour. When chased by the concerned receptionist, the sales person then came out, disclaimed any knowledge of the booking, and asked to see my license. I showed her my license, plus a scan on my iPad of the old paper counterpart. I also had the number of the DVLA check and authorisations service, something I’d used with this dealer previously. She wasn’t having it, making up every excuse in the book about why she wouldn’t give me a test drive. When I pointed out that I’d followed exactly the same process with them before, just a couple of months previously and that they had a photocopy of my counterpart on file, she changed tack: “Oh, it’s a very powerful car – we can’t let just anyone out in it…”. Pardon, WHAT?! I simply and speechlessly pointed through the window, to where my 911 was gently pinging and clicking as it cooled down. She still wasn’t having it. I turned around and walked out, after first confirming with Katrina, the ever-helpful receptionist, that she had in fact passed on my test drive booking and reconfirmation. Which of course she had. I bought another X5.

Unwarranted

Come late 2014, the warranty was about to expire, and I was invited to cough up a couple of grand for another two years of warranty. Now the Porsche warranty is very good and pretty comprehensive, despite their exclusion of useful items like batteries. But I’d had such poor standards of service over those two years that I was very reluctant to hand more money to Porsche and Porsche Glasgow than was absolutely necessary. But I had them carry out the check on the car anyway, just before the warranty expired. That identified a couple of minor items – replacements of the suspension coffin arms – that needed doing, so I had that done in the last days of the warranty. I then took it to a very highly regarded independent specialist, and asked them to give it a once over. In under two minutes, they identified that the brake tandem pump was leaking and about to corrode through, which would have meant losing the brakes and dumping oil over wherever the car happened to be at the time. So back to Glasgow for that last bit of warranty, and mild sarcasm about their failure to spot a serious – and common – impending problem.

After having had the two-year service done by OPC Glasgow in September 2014 (I’m a slow learner), I’d decided that the car would be better served by my having the car serviced by the same competent independent who’d spotted the issue with the tandem pump, PK Supercars in East Lothian, with whom I’ve been absolutely delighted. I got them to give the car a full going over in December 2016, after it failed its MoT on corroded rear brake discs and pipes – a couple of grand later and the car was fully set up for another couple of years motoring – that included replacement of the driver’s side window regulator, a common weak point on these cars.

I then had a full four-year service done by PK in January 2018. Which proved to be interesting, as they found that the cylinder bank heat shields were corroded in place – once they drilled them off, they found that the spark plugs, which should have been changed at least twice in the cars 30,000 miles and nine years, appeared never to have been changed at all. I inspected the plugs that they’d removed, and came to exactly the same conclusion – they were in dreadful condition. So another black mark to the OPC. That of course makes me wonder what else they hadn’t done.

Missing in Action

Roll on now to March 2018, when the passenger side window regulator failed. Unfortunately, it failed in the down position, which meant that the car was effectively unusable. PK were booked up far ahead, so I reluctantly took the car to OPC Glasgow, and waited. And waited. And waited. After a few weeks I complained to Porsche themselves, who – eventually – told me that they were looking for a new supplier of window regulators and that, basically, I was SoL. After a detour when I persuaded OPC Glasgow to fit an OEM window regulator that I’d sourced (design911, as it turned out, sent the wrong part, despite my triple-checking with them), a window regulator finally turned up from Porsche and was fitted. That took things to within two days of THREE MONTHS, during which I was without the car and had had to cancel two planned trips, including a chance to drive the NC500 before the tourist and midge seasons kicked off. 

The Last Straw

And this is where the law of consequences kicked in, big time: the car had sat outside at OPC Glasgow for all that time, during which time: the valve timing solenoid bank on cylinder bank 2 stuck, causing an almighty misfire (remembering that it had just had a full service before this), and the discs went from mildly rusty to heavily corroded, with the surface breaking up. Now the traditional remedy for problems like that is the famed ‘Italian tune-up’, but OPC Glasgow was adamant that the misfire was too dangerous to allow the car out, and that they’d cheerfully relieve me of another £700 to sort it. At this point I became heavier than the bucket, and took the matter up with Porsche UK with, to be fair, the support of OPC Glasgow’s service department. After some to-ing and fro-ing, that resulted in the repair being comped by Porsche themselves, which was a fair outcome, but scarcely compensation for three months without my car.

So I picked the thing up and drove it home, during which time it was running very nicely. The discs were definitely corroded, but I’d accepted that I needed to get that sorted myself, either by having them skimmed or replaced with proper Brembo items. Oh, and at some point after leaving me, it had picked up a nasty scratch to the interior of the driver’s door trim – unfortunately, I have no way of proving whether it was OPC Glasgow or the company who picked up the car.

The car however was still on its winter wheels and the summers needed new tyres, so I took them away too, to get new tyres fitted by my local garage/race shop, finding in the process that OPC Glasgow had stored my summer wheels in December without washing them – they’d then sat for seven months encrusted with crud and salt from my drive down to have them swapped over. I assume they do that to everyone.

This nearly brings us up to date. Nearly. The day after getting my car back, I went for a happy little drive, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Two days later, I went back to the car, to find the battery to be flatter than a very flat thing – not even the click of a solenoid. I called OPC Glasgow: “Did you put my battery on charge at any point in the three months you had the car?”. “No, we just charged it up the morning you came to collect it”. Great: as any fule kno since about 1860, a lead-acid battery allowed to fully discharge and sit without a charge will cause the plates to become sulphated, essentially buggering the battery. And my battery was well buggered. OK, it was four years old, but I keep it on a conditioning tender, and it was in fine condition before going to OPC Glasgow. I then had to follow their recommended procedure, involving a donor battery and the emergency terminal in the fuse box, to power up the electric bonnet release, so that I could get in and get a charger onto the battery. I left it on a recondition cycle for a couple of days, after which it started. But the entire PCM system – the car’s computer, communications, entertainment and navigation system – was now as dead as the proverbial doornail, having been fine before the battery expired. It didn’t take me very long to discover that this can be a bit of an issue when going through the emergency access procedure. So I called OPC Glasgow. They picked the car up a few days later and have since completely failed to revivify either battery or PCM, thereafter disclaiming any responsibility for battery, PCM or the death of Stalin. Now I do take the view that those who break things, either through misdeed or neglect (self included), should bloody well fix them. That does not however appear to be the view of OPC Glasgow, who have simply been issuing bland denials of any responsibility, deflecting responsibility for their failure of duty of care with the battery (and everything that happened subsequently) to a head office instruction to them not to maintain the batteries on customers’ cars. Seriously.

My car was delivered back to me yesterday, with no change to its state. This is now, as you might imagine, being escalated by all available routes.

Before the present impasse, I’ve had assorted apologies from OPC Glasgow: those don’t however even begin to address the inconvenience, time lost and frustration I’ve experienced – in the time I’ve had the car, it’s been off the road for more than four months – a record for me, even in a driving and riding career that’s included six Italian and two French vehicles.

I don’t mind paying for service – although a car dealer charging more per hour than my orthopaedic surgeon does rather stick in the craw – as long as I’m getting competent service. With OPC Glasgow, I’ve had anything but, on most occasions that they’ve got their sticky mitts on the car.

I’ve been hugely impressed with PK Supercars, who’ve both done excellent work and have spotted some of the things that OPC Glasgow simply haven’t been doing. Unfortunately, PK has now closed their servicing side, so I’m on the hunt again, unless I simply decide that enough is enough and sell the car. Which would be a shame, because it’s a sublime thing to drive and to look at, and most of the issues I’ve had have been dealer caused, not inherent to the car.

I wouldn’t go to Porsche Edinburgh, simply because they’re part of the same Sytner group as Porsche Glasgow, and are therefore tarred with the same brush. There’s a helpful, if overworked, specialist in Stirling, and there’s a new (non-Sytner) Porsche centre in Perth, about whom I hear good things. But Porsche Glasgow? Never, ever again.

3 Comments

  1. Fiona Robertson July 24, 2018 at 8:35 am #

    Well. That was a bit of a read, to say the least. The tin lid has to be the last part where you compare the cost to your Orthopaedic Surgeon. Good god. I have to confess, I laughed at that bit. More in disbelief than anything.

    I’m with you in grieving the loss of PK Supercars. I’m on the hunt for a replacement service provider for wee George too.

    I know where I won’t be going, that’s for sure.

  2. John W July 25, 2018 at 7:56 am #

    Hi Richard,
    Us Porsche owners could write a book about our exploits (you nearly have, above ;-p )
    It does astound me how these ‘prestige’ dealers manage to employ monkeys, that have no respect for the customers cars, or how frustrating it is to have such shite service. They arent all like this, but it only takes one to put you off, or taint your opinion.
    To be fair, I have used Guildford a few times, and they have been great. Last time I used Byfleet, who used to be an independant (Camtune) and are now an approved service centre. They did the last big service on my 997 turbo and that in itself was fine, but their valetter managed to feck the cooler at the front with his pressure washer (something I didnt immediately notice until I washed it a couple of weeks later).
    They also said the variable vain turbo actuators were stuffed, and I needed a pair of turbos. £4k each, including fitting 8-|
    I sourced a pair of recon ones for 2k (total) and did the job myself in a day.

    Doing the spark plugs is a b@stard, on my 993 you have to drop the silencers, and lower the engine too to get to the front right plug. I’ve not tried on the 997, but I doubt it is any easier.

    I’m Currently stripping the heads and barrels off my 1200 Multi (following what I think is it eating a ring), because the good dealers are too busy to take it on, and I dont trust the other ones.
    I think owning Porsches and Ducatis is akin to whipping yourself with birch branches. Can be feckin painful at times, the anticipation of the next ‘session’ never goes away, but the feeling when its working again and going well is magical.

    All the best mate,
    John.

    • Richard August 18, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

      Well, we have progress: I sent a politely stroppy letter to the dealer principal at Porsche Glasgow, containing the link to this post. He phoned me straight away, and we had a very constructive conversation – this was the first he’d been informed of these issues. As it stands, they’re going to replace the whole PCM unit FoC, whilst trying to get goodwill from Porsche themselves. His attitude was everything I hoped it would be – it’s just a damn shame that I had to go through so much grief to get a sensible response. Far, far better for them to get their process right in the first place rather than having to placate a deeply aggrieved customer. Of course, we’re now into waiting for Porsche to give a ship date for the replacement unit: their parts service has been shockingly poor in the last few years.

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