My Experiences with Audi of America and
Thoroughbred Motorcars, Nashville, TN
In January 2005, I purchased a new Audi S4 Cabriolet for approximately $55,000 cash from Thoroughbred Motorcars in Nashville TN.
I was a little hesitant to purchase an Audi after having previously bought an Audi Fox way back in 1976. This car was plagued with electrical problems and never functioned properly. I thought, surely, Audi has taken care of these problems by now. The dealer assured me that Audi had eliminated such problems from their current cars.
Within the first week of driving my new high performance Audi S4, I began to experience problems. The car was inconsistent in its throttle response occasionally being very sluggish. This problem occurred in all transmission modes: Standard, Manual shift mode and sport mode. My wife accompanied me when these problems occurred, and also experienced the same problems when she drove the car.
I immediately returned the car to Thoroughbred for service, explaining the problem in great detail and suggesting to them that it was an intermittent problem that would probably not show up on their standard computer testing. I stated I was not anxious to just get the car back the next day with a “no problem found” note. I suggested they call the Audi tech help people to see if the problem had been reported before and, if so, that they take steps to correct the problem. But, indeed, they returned the car to me the next day, along with a “no problem found in diagnostic testing” statement. They made no offer to delve deeper into the problem.
Approximately one week later, on a road trip, my wife entered a busy intersection while driving the car in my presence. The car almost completely stalled, and would not accelerate beyond about 5 MPH for a period of about 5 to 7 seconds. We narrowly avoided an accident because the other cars navigated around our stalled Audi S4.
I immediately picked up my cell phone and called the dealer, reporting that the car was a serious safety hazard. They responded with “bring it in and we’ll look at it”. Since I was 400 miles from home, I was not able to do so until we got back from the trip. During the remainder of the trip, the car completely stalled once more while my wife was driving, and a third time while I was driving. We also experienced three more incidents where the car was sluggish on take off from a stop. (This is a 340 horsepower performance vehicle).
Upon our return, we again took the car to Thoroughbred Motorcars and emphatically stated the car was hazardous to drive and must be taken care of. At this point, the service manager suggested to me that he would like to drive the car to and from work for a couple of days to see if he could duplicate the problem. I reluctantly said this would be OK as long as only the service manager used the car. He then stated that he would fax me an agreement to sign authorizing his operation of the car in that manner.
When I received the fax, it contained the following waiver of responsibility for me to sign:
"I expressly waive any claim I may have against Thoroughbred Motorcars or its authorized representatives for any injury or damage that arises or may arise from their operation of my automobile in the manner described and authorized herein".
I responded immediately to the service manager that I would authorize him to drive the car; but that I could not possibly sign the waiver they wanted. I explained this was because they waiver would have allowed him to potentially drive the car into a school bus full of children, perhaps killing one or more of them, and then use the waiver to hold me financially and legally responsible, while relieving themselves of all liability. I stated no attorney on earth would suggest that I sign such a waiver.
At this point, I stated my opinion that it was the responsibility of Audi of America and of their dealer, Thoroughbred Motorcars, to rectify any defects in the car, and that they would be expected to do so without putting me in financial or even criminal risk in the process. I also reminded the service manager that the “Lemon Law” allowed them four attempts to repair the vehicle, after which I would have cause for legal action for them to refund my purchase price if they were unsuccessful.
At this point, the service manager became rather abrasive toward me. He first said that the lemon law would not consider their first attempt to diagnose the problem because they “did not actually attempt a repair” and he implied the subsequent service calls would also not count “unless they took a wrench to the car”. I told him that I believed my attorney would take issue with this assertion, stating that his position would allow them to completely dodge their responsibility under the Lemon Law by simply never working on the car.
At this point the hostility increased as the service manger stated to me “their policy is to cease and desist any further service on a vehicle anytime a customer mentions bringing an attorney into the picture”. He then stated, “I think I will terminate this conversation now”, accusing me of “being paranoid”. Throughout the conversation I insisted that all I wanted was what I paid for on a fair an amicable basis.
I next solicited the matter directly to the owner of the dealership. He apologized for the tone of the service manager and agreed that it was not his place to offer legal opinions about the Lemon Law, and that he would stand behind the vehicle and its warrantee.
At my urging, I again suggested they contact Audi for help with the problem. The dealer did so, and came up with a service bulletin that indicated the car’s engine would be limited to 1500 RPM if it is operated with both the brake and gas pedal depressed at the same time. I said I would take this under consideration by observing my own driving habits and those of my wife. During this time, the car was still in the dealer’s possession so I asked my wife to drive her own BMWZ4 while I observed her left foot, without informing her of what I was looking for. She invariably took her foot off the brake before accelerating. I reviewed my own driving habits and found that I normally did the same.
The service manager then drove the car and attempted to cause brake/gas pedal condition, and was indeed able to produce such a stall. He reported to me that this was probably the problem. I said I would take the car and drive it some more to make absolutely sure I was not causing the problem by driving with my left foot on the brake, but that I was almost certain this was not the case.
To test the condition, I drove the vehicle around the dealer’s parking lot and managed to force it into a stall but it took considerable pressure on the brake to cause the condition, and the condition immediately rectified itself when the brake pressure was released. I immediately went back to the service department and reported that this was definitely not the same problem we had experienced that we had experienced stalls that lasted five or so seconds with no brakes being applied. I also stated that this did not explain the frequent sluggish acceleration incidents. The service department expressed no comment and offered no intention to delve further into the problem.
At this point I decided to take the matter directly to Audi, via one of their “Customer Advocates”. They (she) were polite and said they would research the matter. A couple of days later, the Customer Advocate reported back to me that the problem was that I had refused to sign “the waiver”, and that they could not force the dealer to diagnose the problem in its absence. I pleaded with her, saying that I felt it was up to Audi to ensure I received the safe and reliable car I paid for, and that I should not be required to sign my rights away in the process. With that, she stated there was nothing more Audi could do. (The dealer had previously told me they were not allowed to replace any parts on the cars without Audi’s permission or directive).
A few days later, I again sent Audi a complaint about the situation via their website. The result was that I was reconnected with the same person. She again reiterated that there was nothing further Audi could do. She offered that I was asking the dealer to do an unusual amount of test driving to diagnose the problem, and that they had refused to do so in the absence of “the waiver”.
I reminded her that I was asking for nothing more than what I had paid for and should expect in a luxury car, and for that, between Audi and Thoroughbred Motorcars, they were ducking their responsibility toward their customers. I closed with the statement that their mutual failure to act in a responsible manner toward their customer would leave me no choice but to seek other avenues of satisfaction. Among these avenues I included legal action and a media campaign to support my rights as a buyer. She had no response to this
In further email correspondence with the owner of Thoroughbred Motorcars, he also stated that “the waiver” was a necessary step for them to do any further diagnosis. In effect, I was told I could keep bringing my car in and they would hook up their diagnostic software, but that was about all they could do. I reminded them both that the day I bought my Audi S4, my wife was also very interested in buying a new Porsche Boxster, but that she had already decided not to do so as a result with our current dealings with Porsche Audi and Thoroughbred Motorcars of Nashville.
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