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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A/M Switch Replacement

The A/M switch (Part # 61311387858) came in this week and I picked it up on Friday while I was there dropping off a belated holiday breakfast involving coffee, donuts and bagels for my tech and his crew. I probably should have asked for a price check on the switch before I ordered it but I didn't think to do so considering it was only something like $20 the last time I bought one. The new price? $87...with my discount, which is totally ridiculous for a simple switch that probably cost $5 to manufacture.

(Image: Access to the A/M switch through the driver side window switch)Last Sunday I replaced the switch in less than a minute. All I had to do was use a small flat-blade screwdriver to pry up the driver's side window switch and then stick my fingers in that hole far enough to push up on the bottom of the A/M switch to release it. I pinched the sides of the electrical connector to release it from the switch, swapped in the new switch, turned the ignition key to position one to verify operation of the “A” lamp and then popped the switches back into the console.

I have no idea what the dealer would have charged for this, but let's just conservatively call it $25 labor saved and $20 parts saved.

Financial Realities for Dealer Technicians

On my way out of the dealer the other day I couldn't help but overhear a couple techs complaining about how little money they're making. The sad thing is this is not the first time I've heard this complaint. Being a BMW technician used to be a rather profitable endeavor but as BMW adapts to the reality of being a volume producer of hideously complicated and failure-prone vehicles purchased by people conditioned to expect "free maintenance", times are clearly changing in the dealer maintenance bay.

For the last several years BMW has been reducing book labor hours in order to reduce the amount of money they have to reimburse dealers for warranty work. Since it's fair to say that warranty work is the bulk of the work performed at the dealer and technicians are paid flat rate for jobs based on book labor this hits technicians in their wallets. Through no fault of their own, they get paid less for every job.

To add insult to injury the dealers have been selling an increasing number of extended maintenance warranties to customers who want some form of insurance to protect themselves against unexpected maintenance costs after the warranty period ends. The problem is when technicians perform work covered under these plans the dealers reimburse the technicians at an even lower labor rate than they receive for standard warranty work. Since the technician has no control over how the customer pays for the work it's not hard to understand why the technicians are frustrated.

Screw the technicians, you say...as long as the customer is getting a better deal, right? Wrong. Here's a reality check for anyone with a newer BMW looking to buy an extended maintenance warranty: you're getting screwed too. If the warranties weren't profitable, meaning the customer wasn't paying substantially more for the warranty than they receive in services covered, they wouldn't be selling them. My advice to all BMW owners is to pay for maintenance out of pocket when the need arises and to sell the vehicle if you can't afford to write the checks. But I don't have a degree in finance so what do I know?

Mileage: 231360, Parts: $90, Parts Saved: $20, Labor Saved: $25