How State Farm And Byers Dodge Ruined Our SRT-4

How time flies. In response to a question on TTAC this morning, I’m reposting the twelve-year-old story of how a “dealership approved” body shop collaborated with State Farm to vandalize and damage my first wife’s SRT-4. I’ll also add a few things that I didn’t mention at the time because the situation was still very much in process.

What I wrote in December of 2004:

This past March, my wife decided to abandon her 330i Sport for an SRT-4. She ordered it and it showed up in April with her name on the window sticker. We immediately set about doing Stage 3/Hotchkis/MannyZ suspension, corner balancing, Stage 2 w/toys, K&N intake, a stereo, some other electronics, all with an eye to making a trackday/driver’s ed car she would really enjoy. And when the car was finished it really exceeded expectations.
By September the car was perfect. It had nine coats of Zaino on it and it had never, ever seen a brush or sponge, or stayed the night outdoors. One day some local citizens decided to break into the car and steal the Alpine CDA-7897 out of the dash. They broke the window, ripped the bezel out of the subdash, and scratched the door and roof. Although the criminals were caught the next day (coming back for more, if you can believe it) the cops were unable to conclusively link them to my wife’s SRT. (No, I didn’t go beat their ass or kill their families, because this is real life and not a Charles Bronson movie.)
My stereo installer and I put the dash back together, had new window glass put in, and it was nearly perfect. Only problem: the stage 2 toys were broken. They worked, but the plastic holder in which the dials are set was cracked. So our insurance agent suggested we make a claim. He then stated that if we agreed to use the State Farm-suggested shop, that our satisfaction would be guaranteed.
Yes, I know I should have used the specialty shop, but let’s be honest: this car isn’t a Porsche or a Ferrari. How badly could somebody fuck up a Neon? We dropped the car off for the estimate. It was returned to us with the dash pulled apart. Gosh, thanks.
Seven weeks ago we dropped the car off for the paint and interior work. This is where it gets hilarious. The body shop and the dealership argued for four weeks over who had lost the parts out of the subdash. Then they bought a used subdash because State Farm wouldn’t pay for a new one. Then they had to paint the subdash. Then the paint bubbled. So they took the dash out and messed up some adhesive, so they had to call the adhesive guy. The adhesive cleaner discolored the subdash so the painter had to come back in, but he accidentally painted the adhesive. Meanwhile, the turbo toys still haven’t come in. So they go ahead and paint the car.
We went to pick up the car this past Saturday night. There was a horrible squealing noise coming from the suspension… so on a hunch I check the oil and the odometer. Yup, we’re down a quart and up 100+ miles. Gosh, I wonder if they took the car joyriding every day to lunch while they were fighting over the dash? The boost controller was turned to “3”, and the two neon light switches under the dash had been snapped off.
We refused to take the car. I went back today… and I examined the car, finding the following:
* The door which was painted has been dinged hard, chipping more paint off than the original thief did!
* The scratches on the roof weren’t painted and new ones have been added.
* Bird droppings had eaten into the paint in several areas.
* The whole car is heavily swirled, and rubbed past the clearcoat on the rear bumper.
* It looks like someone backed a white car into the right front bumper.
* There’s a discoloration in the fabric of the rear seat, like bleach was spilled on it.
* The service advisor made a big deal about showing me where the inner front fenders have been rubbed by the wheels, implying that we’d abused the car. Only problem: I bled the brakes two weeks before giving the dealership the car and noticed no damage at that time. Sweet.
In other words, nothing has been fixed correctly and additional damage has been done. And they’ve had the car nearly seven weeks at this point. Needless to say my wife is past the point of tears. The whole car needs a repaint, a new dash has to be purchased, a full mechanical checkup and repair will have to take place. Who’s going to pay for it? I suspect we will end up having to retain an attorney. So far, State Farm, the dealership, and the body shop (owned by the dealer) have been pointing fingers at each other.
Even if everything is done right, we’re still talking about a completely repainted car with a Carfax charge against it… good luck selling it. I ‘m signed up for One Lap this year so maybe I’ll drive it. It would be hard to screw it up any worse.
We’ve never allowed dealership body shops to touch our Bimmers, Jags, Rovers, or Porsches in the past. Now I know that holds true for our poor little Dodge as well. Learn from my mistakes. Demand a proper fix and hold the right people accountable… and cross your fingers for our little Neon!

I should clarify that “toys”, in the above story, refers to the outrageous Mopar “dial-a-boost” and intercooler spray kit that you could have fitted to the SRT-4. “Dial-a-boost” was the greatest idea ever. It should come back. A few days after I wrote the above, I met with the State Farm rep and the body shop manager at Byers Northwest Dodge to consider “solutions” to the problem.

The State Farm rep was a tall, attractive, hard-edged young woman who started attacking me and my story before I’d even sat down in the office. “Got any proof that these — what do you think they’re called? Swirls? — in the paint weren’t here before? Can you prove the mileage on turn-in? How do we know that the door wasn’t damaged when you brought it in?” She was so aggressive that the body shop manager started laughing. “What in the world could possibly fix this little disaster of yours?” she mocked.

“Simple,” I replied. “I want it sent to Dan Achbach and I want you to pay his bill.” Dan Achbach ran the only decent body shop in Columbus, the place that did all the exotics and high-value cars. I’d met him sixteen years earlier when I worked for David Hobbs. He wouldn’t be able to turn back the clock on the SRT-4, particularly not with regards to the mechanical abuse, but I thought he’d be able to undo some of the interior damage and I knew he could repaint the car properly.

My State Farm rep actually snorted when I made the request, making a hands-throwing-up motion to her new best friend seated behind the manager’s desk. After thirty minutes of fruitless discussion that had me feeling unpleasantly close to punching one of both of them, I settled for delivering a Little Golden Books speech on the value of integrity and I explained that I would do what I could to make sure that this incident cost them money.

I canceled my State Farm policies and I told the Internet about what had happened. Then I found a nice kid from Texas who wanted an affordable 2004 SRT-4 to use as a basis for his upgrades. As I recall, I sold him the car for $14,500 without the suspension stuff or the extra wheels. All in all it cost me about eight grand to own that car for thirteen months. Not pleasant.

There was an additional, unforeseen consequence to all of this. That boosted Neon was my first wife’s baby. She absolutely adored the car, loved modifying it, enjoyed every minute she drove it. The long saga of its vandalism and subsequent damage did something to her. It drained her enthusiasm. Not just for the SRT-4, but for cars in general. Something broke inside her. Now, twelve years later, she’s on her second C-Max. If you were to ask her, I think she’d tell you that she outgrew being a “car girl”. I would disagree. She didn’t outgrow that enthusiasm. It was stolen from her. It’s something I try to remember whenever I’m parenting my son. Enthusiasm, interest, care, concern. These things are fragile. Like exotic flowers. Hard to grow. Easy to crush. If your “good neighbor” is State Farm, you should consider keeping them out of your garden.

17 Replies to “How State Farm And Byers Dodge Ruined Our SRT-4”

  1. Mental

    Just wrapped a 2-year long ordeal with the good neighbor folks.

    After USAA stopped offering motorcycle insurance (except through a 3rd part vendor, Progressive) I went with a State Farm for years, just shy of a decade. In 2014 after moving to Georgia, my beloved BMW R1100RS fell of a trailer a snapped the aluminum frame. It was a total loss and after months of arguing I finally got them to let me keep the bike. They sent my check to the wrong address, twice. Even after I had update my address online, they would override it with the old info because it was an Oklahoma tagged motorcycle.

    But I still had my GSXR1000, DR400 and Vino scooter insured with them. However, when the payout was issued on the BMW, they cancelled the other three policies, without telling me. In fact I was still paying the premium for all of them, but they were trying to issue a refund to my old Oklahoma address.

    In March of 2015, all three bikes (the BMW with the GSXR and DR) were stolen from my storage unit. Guess how I found out my policy had been cancelled? When I called. Having no proof I had asked for a cancellation and the fact my premium had been arriving on time I was able to prove I didn’t cancel the policy.

    A year and 1/2 later I finally get the Colorado titles (the bikes had been paid off and my fault I never changed the titles) and the Oklahoma registration up to date (stolen before I could move them to Georgia). During this time, my GSXR100 in involved in a high-speed chase through two counties and is ultimately P.I.T.’ed by a local LEO. Now that one is recovered, the DR is gone. So this is now 2 different departments within State Farm and neither talks to each other. Thus begins another several month ordeal where no one can agree on the payout amount, who gets what paperwork or give me a name to settle this. Meanwhile, another department in State Farm calls me and tell me I have one week to finish the claim or get the GSXR from the impound lot because they are done paying. We work that out and then return to trying to wrap this up.

    My wife decides she has had enough and takes to social media. We get a phone call in an hour and assigned a case specialist. He sends us two preaddressed UPS envelopes and has us sent them to the two departments.

    They lose them. One department finds the envelope, but no title registration or police reports. They hint we should get duplicates because they won’t settle for the copies. The normally patient Ms. Mental has had enough and lays out the facts; we followed their procedure, we can prove they received the documents and this is their problem, not ours. A State Farm representative personally delivers our checks the next day.

    With the exception of the one who called about the impound fees, everyone we dealt with within the company was annoyingly polite and eager to help, but was unable to. I ended up speaking with a post mortem case specialist for almost 45 minutes explaining that their customer service reps are great, but they are powerless and there corporate communication is broken.

    Now we are fighting over a refund of the premium we have been forced to maintain while the case was being decided and they are dragging their feet about refunding 24 months of premium payments on bikes I did not have.

    When I got the Harley, I went to Progressive. I hope I never have to use them because I hear their customer service is a nightmare, but never again with State Farm. I just wish USAA still had motorcycle insurance.

  2. Tomko

    “Enthusiasm, interest, care, concern. These things are fragile. Like exotic flowers. Hard to grow. Easy to crush.”

    In 20 words or less you’ve summarized one of my key life lessons that I’ve never before been able to articulate.

    Thank you.

  3. Disinterested-Observer

    We have had Allstate forever and they have been fine if expensive. The only almost negative was when our Focus came to an abrupt stop on the back of an S-Class. The hit was hard enough to deploy the airbags. We took it to an “Allstate approved” shop. Shockingly the shop said it was fixable, to the tune of $7300 for an optimistically valued $7500 car. We told them hell no, it is totaled. To their credit Allstate did not give us an argument.

  4. Tedward

    I had my own run in with an aggressive adjustor last summer when a truck hit our wagon. She didn’t take my advice and ordered parts I knew wouldn’t fit, then tried to pressure us on the length of the provided rental when the poor body shop had to reorder everything.

    Well, I made it clear that it was her fault personally. I detailed how my first suggestion would have saved the insurer thousands in rentals and repairs and also that, because of her decisions, the cost of repairs had already exceeded the point where they would have originally totaled the car. My last line was something like, I’ll let my (terrifying) wife get angry with you on subsequent calls, I’m just going to forward your mistakes and this outcome up the food chain if I have to talk to you again before my car is fixed and returned.

    The phone calls stopped at least. She blamed the shop internally I’m pretty sure, which sucks, and to this day I regret not having their back, even if they made a mistake or two I had to correct later.

  5. Yamahog

    Oh jeez this hurt my heart. I know the exact type of pitbull rep, most of my parents friends were that way (although they were business people and attorneys). Ever since then, I’ve gone out of my way to document things that might be contested (though I’ve had a camera phone for at least a decade so it’s been relatively easy).

    Most of the time it’s a non-issue, but when sometimes tries to adjudicate something and I can hit them with the facts it’s so satisfying and ever since I started getting money, it’s been so nice to make documentation an element of the deal. I really think that’s another thing that’s stacked against people on the hustle / grind. Oh well, if I’m out there hitting people with the facts, I might help make people more honest. I recently got my investing account manager fired, the margin calculations weren’t working correctly and I was able to carefully document it and show them the legal liability they created for themselves (because they’d inappropriately charge customers margin fees) and my account managed kept trying to suppress it / buy me off (e.g lower trade commissions) but then one day I inadvertently escalated it to his boss and he got canned right away because he didn’t raise the issue with anyone and I had a fat record of emails I sent him.

  6. Dirty Dingus McGee

    After getting hosed by Aetna 35 years ago, I learned that EVERYTHING needs to be in writing. I have had a couple claims since with other insurer’s and have stuck to that. No “he said, she said” bullshit, if it ain’t in writing no deal. Once I had to get an attorney buddy involved, and the tune sure changed quick then. Thing is, many folks aren’t in a position to play hardball, as most folks don’t have a few extra vehicles laying around to use if one is being repaired. I also use 3 different providers; State Farm (5 vehicles), Southern General (for an old beater truck) and Hagerty (4 cars).

  7. BC

    That is a proper horror story. Holy crap.

    “Enthusiasm, interest, care, concern. These things are fragile. Like exotic flowers. Hard to grow. Easy to crush.”

    Gotta remember that. Drive the Camry enough, and it will end up driving you. Or something to that effect.

  8. Jim Franck

    I must have a very good agent with State Farm.

    I signed on with my father’s agent at 18 when I bought a 1967 Mustang, imagining he knew best. Through my formative years behind the wheel, they were fair with me for the few relatively minor claims against me, primarily a fender bender and a few speeding tickets.

    The big one arrived when I was 27. I had a Z3 3.0i, and as I was driving out of my parking space at work, a woman I worked with barreled into the parking lot and into the left front corner of my car. It destroyed the hood, fender, bumper, headlight, suspension and wheel. $12,000 bill against an $18,000 value at the time. They denied the (insane) claim against me from the driver of the other car, allowed me to take my car to the best body shop in town with no questions asked, and my rates were not affected at all. 9 years past that incident, we’re probably about even in what I’ve paid them and what they’ve paid me.

    They have my business for life after that, provided the treatment remains the same. I know I was lucky at the time, but reading this it’s staggering to me just how lucky. I wonder if I was 21 with a clean record and reading this if I’d be in the market for another insurer.

  9. Your First Wife

    I don’t think I was as scarred by this as it seemed at the time. I was truly sad that my baby had been violated, in so many ways. I still love cars, and if you wanted to throw me an extra 100K, for John, of course, I’d buy that Aston I always wanted. More than anything, though, I have an actual child now, and most of what I do takes him into consideration in some way (I noticed you are driving a Honda Accord) 🙂 The CMAX is a fantastic car, and now that I have the Energi, I get some additional amusement from the plug-in. Also, buy Nationwide!


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