Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE
L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
It was a simple question. A question posed by my brother Glenn, a 30-+ year veteran of the automotive service industry.
Glenn was commenting on a Mercedes that I had just driven into the shop. The vehicle was a 1996 Mercedes 3 series with 189,000 miles. The owner was interested in trading it in for one of our vehicles in inventory. I found that the car ran well considering it was nearing 200,000 miles. The only problem I noticed on the test drive was the brightly lit check engine lamp.
My father had me describe the car over the phone to several wholesalers that we sell the trade-ins to. One vendor was scared of the service issues of a "High mileage Benz." Unfortunately, the other vendor was only willing to pay a maximum of 2,000 for the car.
Hearing this, the owner became upset. At first blush, I couldn't really blame him. He questioned as to why the offer was only $2,000 when the car's wholesale book value was closer to $5,000. My father commented that not all dealers are comfortable paying the "book" price on a car with such high mileage. Then came the subject of the check engine lamp. My father questioned the customer about what the problem was. The customer said that he had taken the car to the Mercedes dealer and they said they could fix the problem. Again my father probed the customer: "And, how much did the dealer say it would cost to repair?" The customer sheepishly answered: "About $3,000 dollars for a new control module." At that point my father said: "Well, theirs your $5,000 book value: $2,000 for the car and $3,000 to make it whole again."
You sure can't blame the wholesaler for shooting low. Euro cars are big bucks to fix!
Now, let me go back and address my brother's question. Glenn was raising a valid point. This car can't get an inspection sticker because the check engine light is on. Not that the check engine light should be such a problem but were talking about a big dollar repair here. These high-tech cars are getting really expensive to repair let alone if some can be repaired at all. What is going to happen to all these problem cars? How many people are going to invest $3,000 to put out a check engine light so they can get a sticker? Glenn said that they will probably become the new age artwork on their owner's front lawns. Instant contemporary art. Park it in the yard, open the moon roof and plant a tree inside. If you can't fix it, plant it!