Car dealership hidden-camera investigation reveals how service centres upsell you on unnecessary work.
To read more:
»»» Subscribe to CBC News to watch more videos:
Connect with CBC News Online:
For breaking news, video, audio and in-depth coverage:
Find CBC News on Facebook:
Follow CBC News on Twitter:
For breaking news on Twitter:
Follow CBC News on Instagram:
Download the CBC News app for iOS:
Download the CBC News app for Android:
For more than 75 years, CBC News has been the source Canadians turn to, to keep them informed about their communities, their country and their world. Through regional and national programming on multiple platforms, including CBC Television, CBC News Network, CBC Radio, CBCNews.ca, mobile and on-demand, CBC News and its internationally recognized team of award-winning journalists deliver the breaking stories, the issues, the analyses and the personalities that matter to Canadians.
fasten your seatbelts is your car dealership ripping you off $1200 service they are recommending none of which was needed we're undercover you guys are missing everything tire rotation brake inspection again overselling high-pressure tactics like he was trying to scare me plus insider secrets you have to upsell them they come in for an all change your upselling somebody just trying to get to the bottom of why you're recommending service it isn't required on the vehicle this is your marketplace at some point we all do this but when you bring your car to the dealership for service yeah I just thought it how do you know what they recommend is what's really needed to find out we're recruiting Jessica sell see you don't really know who to trust when it comes to getting your car fixed with her newly purchased 2008 Honda Civic this is our bait car first we asked Jessica to bring it to this garage for a pre inspection by licensed mechanic mark Whitney nice to meet you have you had any issues with it at all is there any lights coming on nope nothing any rattles nope and then whatsoever so it's completely dependable starting running all right yeah after taking it for a test drive he begins once an instructor Wynton is now a vehicle safety advocate the verdict change the wiper blades rotate the tires that should be it Jessica's ready to check out what this Toronto Honda dealership recommends well based on my past experience with dealerships you know I have a feeling they're gonna try and upsell me and Jessica's not alone we're hearing similar concerns about upselling at dealerships from across the country including from Kathy Knight Kathy likes to take her grandson Joe around Ottawa in her 2011 Ford Fusion is CJ when her car needs to be serviced sheet her husband Craig always take it back to the dealership why is it important for you to go to the dealership to do your maintenance they know the car best and I just have confidence in them you develop a relationship you depend on them to give you advice when they give you advice you take it last fall Kathy neither snow tires put on so Craig makes an appointment online with their dealership but get this before even inspecting her car he gets an email back telling him it's also due for factory required maintenance and it was changing the spark plugs in the intake manifold gasket and changing the transmission fluid the PCV valve and holy cow 1,200 bucks where the stuff I was just gonna get the snow tires put on and an oil change time to get a second opinion personally absolutely unequivocally require less service so how do I know when I go to the dealership what maintenance I really need oh that's easy go to your car yeah pull out your owner's manual you take out the owner's manual and right here is the required maintenance schedule in it will be exactly what needs to be changed what exactly needs to be inspected these people designed and built the car they are the source of information when it comes to maintaining the car what the manufacturer suggests in the owners manual for maintenance and what the dealership suggests are two different things in most cases yes that's true they'll tell you that you need more maintenance than your car actually needs in some cases some maintenance procedures your car doesn't require at all so what about that list of what Kathy's dealership says she needs PCV valve oh I wouldn't bother changing it it's a lifetime product now the spark plugs on this car according to the owner's manual is good for a hundred and sixty thousand kilometers she is nowhere near that change automatic transmission fluid no well it's a big list you just said no to a lot of it yeah absolutely so what's going on what's going on here is the service advisor is trying to sell this woman a lot more work that she needs back in Ottawa Craig decides they'll stick to what's recommended in the owners manual but the dealership pushes back telling him the manual is describing normal driving conditions here in Ottawa we have special driving conditions due to the harsh weather the owners manual says nothing at all about special conditions about Ottawa or any other particular city or geographic area or country and doesn't say anything about the cold weather it doesn't but it's too late for Kathy and Craig did you do the spark plugs I did eventually the several months later how do you feel about that now that I was dumb I got taken in because this says right here in the thing that's in your car 160 thousand kilometres yeah that's another two or three years of driving in spite of knowing better you I still did it because because they recommend it and they sort of plant that little seed of doubt and you think well maybe they do know what they're talking about dealerships in Canada can make on average only about a thousand to $2,500 on each new car sale so there's service centers have become important money makers back on our undercover test Jessica Scelzi checks in at Parkway Honda I heard she booked in for a peace of mind inspection check the brakes suspension a couple hours later Jessica gets a phone call from an assistant service manager at Parkway Honda vibration the vibration that he's able to duplicate is coming from the brake drums they're overheated and they're warped so what he was suggesting is to replace the rear brake drums and the brake shoes what parts and labor Evon 621 plus tax Wow is that something that I can think about okay thank you Wow 621 bucks to replace her rear brakes they also recommend another 112 dollars for a brake fluid flush if she changes him now she'd be changing him a bit early she's got 40% left and that might take another six months she might get a year out of it depending on her driving and I didn't notice anything driving the car I didn't either when I had the drums off everything looked perfectly normal for that age of break but there's something critical the dealers not mentioning the largest recall in automotive history metal fragments from the exploding ammonium nitrate capsule inside Takata airbags have killed at least 14 people hurt more than 180 including a metal shard that went through this woman's face in 2013 while she was driving her Honda Civic I've taken the VIN off your car and run it through the Honda system your car has a passenger side airbag that's made by Takata that needs to be changed Wow so why wouldn't they have mentioned that to me he basically said he would be doing everything short of a safety on it which my mind should include an airbag that is the number one safety problem facing your car right now it's not rear brakes it's the airbag recall and so for him not to mention that is unbelievable to me Jessica heads back to pick up her car maybe they'll tell her about the recall in person the same assistant service manager from the phone call hands are the results of their inspection but under any outstanding recalls incredibly it's checked no Jessica gives them another chance to own up in the first three or four times I asked him if there was anything wrong with the car or if had any other safety concerns other than the brakes he said no but then without having to look it up he finally said at the end oh yeah I think there's a recall and then he made mention that he didn't have the part and you have to book a later date for me that just makes me sick because now I'm driving a car that's unsafe to both me and my passengers we contact this assistant service manager for an explanation but get no reply why would a dealership not tell a customer about this the dealership has has this business relationship that's special under contract with the manufacturing facility in that agreement they have to do work at a much reduced rate do you think that ever influences dealerships telling people about recalls absolutely so did it influence Parkway Honda for weeks we've been asking Parkway Honda to come on camera to explain why they've been recommending Jessica get serviced she doesn't need but not telling her about the service that she does need well they've told us they're gonna do an internal investigation but they will not talk to us on camera that's what they've said let's go chat with them service manager era passion stops me at the door okay but do you have an answer about why she's not being told about the recall these things but it's still it's you know that that's not an answer to the question about why she's not being told about a recall it's still not an answer the upsell continues power steering steering your steering you know it's probably gonna get Tiger that's just funny but hopefully made up this is your marketplace the real deal on dealerships we're heading undercover again testing the advice you get a dealership service centers fake car number two a 2013 Jeep Wrangler the owner Eric works for us and for months he's been getting emails telling him to bring the Jeep in for service so we asked him to make an appointment here at Toronto Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram what will this service advisor recommend but check out Eric's owner's manual it says it can be up to sixteen thousand kilometres or twelve months before the change oil message appears there is no message and it's only been eight months in just over two thousand kilometers since Eric Schlosser oil change her assessment isn't over yet it'll take a couple hours for their technician to do an inspection in the meantime we want to get some inside knowledge so we track down a former service adviser willing to share trade secrets when your service advisor you are a salesperson this is how you make your living right so you have to upsell them they come in for an all change your up selling somebody Lucas Leung worked at six different dealerships we present it in a way and let them know that this is what you should do if you don't do it what's gonna happen I'm a customer coming in what do you say to me right out of the gate yeah so I see that you're here for an oil change today you're at a hundred and fifty thousand kilometres actually and due for a timing belt as well as a coolant flush you can't do it it's up to you but if you don't do it what happens is that belt might wear out and when it wears out you know like this could cause overheating of the engine or it cause even more problems down the road so was there ever something in the dealership that looked different from what the owners manual said in terms of a schedule they would have a little board that shows you what needs to be done at what kilometers but then there are things on the site that they do recommend that's suggested you know recommended but not necessary for example power steering flush throttle body service transmission flushed you accumulate an X amount of numbers each month and you get a paid based on that meanwhile Toronto Chrysler's inspection is complete the year for an oil change is not acceptable not acceptable we show the footage to mark Winton you want your warranty to continue to transmission you have to keep up on your oil changes if they ever ask for it if you have a transmission problem they're not gonna worry today the truth of the matter is you're gonna void your warranty if you don't follow Chrysler's scheduled maintenance advice not hers this person is saying you know you need to change your oil every three months no this goes against what Chrysler says to do with its own product the service advisor lists their other recommendations you guys are missing everything tire rotation brake inspection you do need grace really she doesn't know we're also getting Marc Whitten to do his own inspection of the Wrangler so does he need brakes I wouldn't do that I would wait another year or two given how much this car is being driven it makes no noise the brakes have full power are they worn down yeah they're about half worn down but the owners gonna get another you know year or two out of this no problem the service advisors not finished you need an alignment okay you need to replace your filters a whole bunch of things you guys need to get your air filter should be replaced once a year I just inspected this car it does not mean alignment the air filter doesn't need to be placed once a year according to the maintenance schedule again overselling there's a conflict of interest in this business and it's kind of hidden people don't know they work on commission but they do I would say 90% of these dealerships do work by Commission how much of your salary could end up being on commission more than 50% more than for their 751 of the dealerships I have worked for I was 100% in commission was that an incentive to sell something that either wasn't necessary or wasn't necessary at that moment yes I would definitely say so being on a hundred percent commission I was very nervous like every day if is you don't know how much you're gonna be making some customers may not necessarily need it right away but they're they're obligated to do because of how I advise it how I put it on the table back in the dealership your spark plugs are due to please the brain well we checked the spark plugs in the owners manual and it says Eric's don't need to be changed for another 107 thousand kilometers or six more years a power steering flesh to steering your steering you know it's probably going to get tighter because it needs to be flushed out that mileage right now you do not recommend flushing it and as far as this other stuff it might get tighter the steering that's an that's a great one I mean that's just funny that's like totally made up think about it okay just don't wait too long do you have any questions just give me a call okay do have questions we call and email but this service advisor doesn't reply we also contact the dealership but getting answers from Toronto Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram that's been the tricky part so we're gonna pay them a visit ask in person general manager Dave Dodds ok how are you good I'm David with CBC marketplace David I'm sorry but this is I can go but I'm just trying to get to the bottom of know why you're recommending service it isn't required on the vehicle or why you're recommending service more frequently than than the manufacturer you have to have a sense on that why you're recommending that service that often do your service advisors work on Commission the dealership is owned by Auto Canada based here in Edmonton with 65 franchises across the country it's one of the largest auto dealer groups in Canada we do some digging and find out so far this year they have made more on service than they have on selling new and used cars combined well we asked for some more information they won't come on camera but the president of Auto Canada writes to us and says he applauds the manufacturers maintenance schedule without explaining why his dealership isn't using it will the government crackdown if someone is found guilty the penalty can range from a fine to jail time potential this is your marketplace get more market links sign up for our weekly newsletter at cbc.ca slash marketplace this is your marketplace caught on camera the dirt Lander standing was those mister bringing in for a regular maintenance aggressive upselling you guys are missing everything misleading inspections how do I not press them several times he wouldn't even mentioned Rico if this happens is there anybody protecting you to find out and I head to Ontario's watchdog the Ministry of government and Consumer Services hey Harry I'm David with CDC nice to meet you yeah good to meet you spokesperson Harry Malley what does the law say about a repair shop telling you you need to do something before you need to do it or you don't even need to do it at all repair shops cannot offer services that aren't needed that's against the law it could be in violation of the consumer protection act so they can't mislead you if it's the service that's not needed they can't be like this is needed to fix your car what is the range of your power to penalize if someone is found guilty the penalty can range from a fine to jail time potential it can go all that way yes a dealership would say this is the work that you need to do and then we would go to experts and they would say no it doesn't need to be done your brakes can last for months or maybe another year before they need to be changed so in those cases we we want those consumers to reach out to us if there was a violation we want to know so we can do something about it and we can find any bad actors that may be out there so we we need the help of consumers to make us aware you know I think when I go and buy a car I am aware that the sales person makes a commission that's how they make their money I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that many service advisors people you come and meet they too are on Commission and that they are essentially incentivized to sell you more we want to make consumers aware that they have those rights they they need to know that when they go to these technicians whether they get a commission or not they can't offer you services you don't need and we can look into that if they feel like some of their rights were violated I have worked for brands that really focuses on customer service like hundred percent customer service no you don't need to release sell sell sell sell sell I mean like it's good so there's good guys yes oh absolutely I've worked with amazing companies out there so what can you do to prepare if you're going into the dealership before you go look at the mileage on your car see how many kilometers are on it then have a look at the doors owners manual go to the maintenance section and see what's required at that mileage or slightly before somewhere near that mileage jerk or months and once you know what that is go right to that service advisor and say I want these things done and what if they push back well if they push back you walk out the door advice Jessica sell see could use since our first bait car test she's been getting notices in the mail from Parkway Honda that I needed spark spark plugs shock strut things like that even though my car was just there and they just inspected it but nothing about the Takata airbag if it wasn't for marketplace I wouldn't have known there was a recall on my car today she's bringing it to a totally different Honda dealership to finally get that airbag replaced done finally what a relief I've been so stressed out about having people in my car having passengers like I didn't realize how much I was bothering me driving in traffic until now that it's finally done my car's safe yay we're inside farmers markets I hope everyone's the day they use that nor is it local people at the market don't know they're buying that food and they're being lied to are you really buying direct from the farm we follow the trail Zoomers are paying a premium for your product because they think that you brew it are you ripping people off you