[scroll down to the bottom for a brief summary]
One and a half moths back, I realized it was time to book my car in for service. Since I only drive ~12 000 KM/year, this was my first service – the two year one. I have heard horror stories about services in the Czech Republic - one service even crashed a customer’s Mini during a service visit, and had nothing better to say about it than “We’ve fixed the problems you’ve been having with your tranny” (see here: http://rapidshare.com/files/20850336...y_u_bychlu.rar
and here: http://www.bmwklub.cz/modules.php?na...wtopic&t=54379
). Other services will argue with you about what has and hasn’t been done (they’ll charge you for stuff they didn’t do), going as far as replacing parts under warrantee with non genuine ones. So, Czech services were something I wanted to avoid. Rest assured, it would have been easiest thing for me to take my car in to one – the nearest BMW service and dealership, also one of the biggest in the country, is just up the street from where I live. This service managed to go for a “test drive” in my friends X6M when he bought it new, (had about 7 KM on the clock) as well as scratch the engine cover (how on Earth does that happen?) while they were at it – so it was a no-no.
When looking for a service in Germany, I tried to stay realistic. Yes, I could have brought my car straight into Munich, or to Dingolfing, or some other “plant-direct” workshop. These places are a bit off hand to be honest. So I chose a compromise – I emailed 3 companies, wishing to see their reactions and determine where I would place my car. Since I was booking 1.5 months in advance, I had plenty of time to email everything out. The three companies I emailed were Autohaus Grieb, Autohaus Hofmann in Regensburg and the BMW dealership in Dresden.
We’ll start with the latter – the folks from the Dresden dealership did not get back to me at all. If they can’t respond to emails in a fashionable manner, they’re not worth my time – imagine if something goes wrong, they’ll just play dead.
I emailed Autohaus Grieb since I had a brief experience with them before. On my way home from Germany, I stopped by at Grieb’s place just to see what’s what, way after closing hours. Mr. Grieb was there and left a good impression. I sent them an email to their general information mail and got a response the second day that it is possible to come in for service. I was told to send them my VIN, to determine if service would be free. A week later, they didn’t get back to me. I sent them an email asking if it is indeed OK for me to come on the scheduled date – I haven’t had any response since. The date has passed.
Autohaus Hofmann in Regensburg were the first to reply. My contact person was Ms. Christine Koller, who took over from the mail I addressed to their general email. I received a detailed analysis of what the two year service includes, how much it will cost and that it may be free, if I have the Service Inclusive package. Again, I was asked to send them my VIN. I also inquired whether it would be possible to use ATE Superblue brake fluid. A week passed and I got no response. I emailed Ms. Koller, asking if I could come on the scheduled date, and if it is possible to use ATE Superblue. The next day I received an email saying that my appointment is confirmed and that I can bring my own brake fluid – they will check if it meets BMW spec, and use it if it does.
At this time, I was suffering from health problems, which are rather ongoing, and limit me from driving to a certain extent. Unfortunately, they did not improve as much as I expected them to, and as the date of my service appointment was nearing, I decided it would be best to move it to a later date (it’s about a 3 hour drive from Prague to Regensburg, so not exactly “around the corner”, but not too terrible either). I emailed Ms. Koller with an explanation of my problems and asked if it would be possible to move our appointment to a later date. The next day I received an email saying that it was indeed no problem and that they are expecting me in 3 weeks.
As my appointment drew near, two things came to mind
1) My air-con started to smell. At first I thought it was the evaporator, and so I emailed Ms. Koller whether it would be possible to clean the air con during my visit.
2) I have a rear spoiler waiting to be installed. The problem is it takes 6 hours to cure, and I didn’t want to wait that long.
So, how did the actual service appointment go?
We arrived at Autohaus Hofmann about 30 minutes before the scheduled time. I inspected the car, took pictures of the odometer and the outside – better safe than sorry, I was scared from all the horror storied I heard about Czech services. Then we went inside, looked around for a bit, and headed to the information desk. I asked for Mr. Bretzke, as per my email from Ms. Koller. Mr. Bretzke was dealing with a customer that had come in before me, so I looked around a bit more, and as soon as he was free, he approached me, introduced himself, and told me what documents he needs. I got the documents from the car and met with him at his office in the service department. There, he downloaded the info he needed from the key and explained what the service includes. We chatted a bit about Prague, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. He then printed some documents regarding the service, where he again showed me what will be done. He then asked if I would like to have the air con cleaned and the spoiler installed – as you can see, the information got to him from Ms. Koller, so communication between departments is at an excellent level. I kindly declined on both, as I figured the air con smell is due to the microfilter, which, as other users have reported, does start to feel musty after 2 or so years. I wanted to do some shopping while in Germany, so I declined on the spoiler as well. His last question was if they should wash to car, to which I also responded negatively. Finally, he asked if I would like to pay with credit card or cash – since I have the Service Inclusive package, I was expecting this service to be free. Mr. Bretzke looked up my car in his computer and indeed confirmed that I didn’t have to pay anything. Since I mentioned I will wait for the service, I was told to come back in 2 hours. I left to look around, feeling that I had entrusted my car into good hands. I spent another 20 or so minutes at the dealership (which is huge, by the way), looking around at what they had on offer. As I went outside, my car was no longer there, indicating that it must have been taken in straight away.
If you do ever go to Autohaus Hofmann, there’s plenty to do during your visit. Just down the street is a small shopping center, further down there’s a McDonald’s, should you be hungry, and across the street there’s a big bike (cycling as well as motorbike) shop – Stadler. We spent 2.5 hours strolling through these stores.
We then arrived at the dealership, late. I went to find Mr. Bretzke, who was not in his office. Another of the service men had him called, I looked at the stuff on display. Mr. Bretzke was with me briefly, we walked outside and he presented me with my car. As agreed, it had not been washed, except for the windows – which was perfectly fine, as those don’t get scratched. I checked around the car quickly, and popped the hood. Underneath, everything seemed in good order – the engine was clean (no oil spilled or anything), everything was as it should be. I also checked the inside of the car briefly, everything was also OK – just the way I had left it. I also checked the ODO, which only had 0.5 KM more than what I had left with. I was extremely satisfied. The result was perfect, I even asked for a plate frame with the dealership’s initials, which I quickly received.
All in all, this service appointment was a very pleasant one, and I look forward to servicing my car at Autohaus Hofmann in the near future. If you’re from the Czech Republic, or any nearby area to Regensburg, I can wholeheartedly recommend this service – especially Ms. Koller and Mr. Bretzke.
On my way home, the air con stopped smelling, so it does indeed look like it was the microfilter, not the evaporator.
Below is a quick summary for those who do not wish to read the whole text:
Communication – A*
Perfect communication on all levels, sent several emails and all were returned within the next day.
Flexibility – A
No problem in changing the service date, adding items to be done (air con cleaned, spoiler installed, etc.)
Price – A
Same price as any official dealership (for spoiler installation, air con disinfection), so on that level, they’re not charging premiums.
Work done/performance – A*
Absolutely nothing to complain about here.
Overall – A*
P.S.: You may wonder why I took the time to write such an extensive text about a positive experience. People often take the time to complain, but when something is done well, the do not find the time for praise. It is therefore difficult to make a honest judgment about a certain place/object, because the negative people write about it (which may be few) and the people with a positive experience cannot be bothered (which may be many). I will be the first to complain should something go wrong, but in all fairness, I will also be the first to offer praise should something be done well.
P.P.S.: Contact info for Autohaus Hofmann is here http://www.autohaus-hofmann.com/regensburg.html