BMW Angel eyes automotive illustration by Beau Daniels.
THE HALO EFFECT.
Last year, I bought a 2006 BMW E46 M3 Convertible with only 8500 miles and after owning it for just a few days, I realized that one of my favorite BMW "signatures" was not activated and started the process of looking into getting it up and running.
That feature is the headlight treatment, often referred to as "Angel Eyes", "Cat Eyes" or "Halo Lights". It's the light ring around the front headlights that make the car look really mean and screams "BMW".
A week after I bought it, we went on a trip to Europe to visit the Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW museums, so it was a perfect opportunity to inquire into what the process of getting the lights activated would be. After an hour or so, and discussions with a handful of reps at BMW Welt, I was assured that it would not be a problem as long as the car had Xenon lights, which it did. It was a simple key-fob re-code. I left Germany happy.
As soon as I got back to Chicago, I immediately went to Perillo BMW in Chicago to get it done. Obviously, I called first to make sure this was actually possible and was assured that it was. They asked me to bring in the car, so I did.
Once there, we went thru the customary process of checking the car in, explaining the reason for the visit and hoping for the best.
A day later, after repeated calls to the service department inquiring if the car was done (since I was told it would only take an hour) I'm told it was not possible to do the "Halo-Lights" on that year M3.
I'm not even going to get into the obvious inconvenience of taking a car into service and the time lost it involves... having someone drop you off and pick you up and so forth, but as a slight side note, I went thru a similar, unprofessional, unsatisfactory experience on what started as a very minor issue, that turned into a ridiculous situation at the same dealership (Perillo), on the same car, as described at the bottom of this post below.
So, after wasting almost half a day on this I simply came to the conclusion that I just had to accept the reality that my M3 would not have the Cat-eyes I loved so much. I looked online, I found after-martket "eyes", but eventually decided that if I could not have the real BMW effect, that I would not risk modifying my car for it.
Last Saturday, and purely by accident, I tagged along with a friend who was looking into buying a new SUV, and we happened to stop in at Fields BMW in Chicago to test drive the new X3. Thru the process of small talk, I mention to the salesman that I had an M3, and that I had been searching for a way to get the Angel Eyes.
He immediately assured me that it was indeed not only possible, but that Perillo had made a mistake. He was 110% positive. I told him the whole story that you have just read, and asked him to confirm it with his service department. He attempted to place a call to the back several times, but could not get thru, but he was in fact so positive, that he talked me into making an appointment to get it done. So I did.
Here I thought, was my chance. And, it would only cost me $140 to re-program the key. A price I was willing to pay. It was that simple.
THE ANGRY MUSTACHE
Friday comes and I'm off to the glorious event. Angels here I come.
I pull up to the service bay and the very first thing that comes out of my mouth is a plea for confirmation that this CAN be done. I am assured by the service rep that it can, and that in fact, he tells me that he has five years of experience with the E46 body style 3-series and has done it many times. In fact, there is a list of other "trick" re-programing bits that can be done at the same time at no additional charge. All he has to do is find the list.
He can't find the list. So he suggests we proceed anyways, and perhaps the techs can get to the list while the programing is being done. I then go off and sit, like a good little boy, in the lounge area, all fitted with my laptop so as not to waste any valuable time and await the exciting and well deserved news.... The Angels Eyes have arrived. It played out in my mind multiple times while I was sitting there day-dreaming.
My hard efforts have payed off. I did not give up, and now I am about to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
An hour an a half later, I see him walking towards me, in what I perceive to be an un-reasuring body language, but I try to brush that aside and do everything I can not to celebrate prematurely. Then he hits me.
It can't be done. That year M3 is off the table.
Then he tells me they did something different... activated my high-beam to run "low" as day-time running lights instead.
Of course, I responded with, well... I'm not paying for that. That is not what I wanted, and you didn't ask me before doing it. So he said he now had to ask his manager how he wanted to handle it.
As I wipe the condensation off my ears from the steam shooting out of them, he comes back a few minutes later and tells me that they are going to reverse it to how it was, and I was not going to be charged. I say fine.
He comes back again and tells me that they have decided to leave it as is, since it would take an additional hour and a half, and still not charge me. I say fine.
It is fine? No, it's not. Can I blame this on one dealer. No, I can not. Frankly, the trouble here is company wide. All the way from Germany. It's like they don't even know their own cars. It's a real shame because a simple and unified "no" would have sufficed.
It wasn't a complete waste of time, since during this visit I did get an oil change and new wipers after they noticed my warranty was about to expire in two weeks. That was good, and it is very much appreciated. But that should not, and does not erase the poor customer relations and service that I have received from a variety of BMW sources.
I don't think anyone is doing this on purpose, and the sales rep I dealt with was very helpful and made every effort to get this done, but it is nevertheless being done. These are not brain surgery issues, and as cars get even more technologically advanced, who knows what kind of off-the-cuff and incorrect diagnosis are going to be presented to future customers.
They need to do better. And btw, a simple apology from somebody wouldn't hurt.
I ended up leaving there with a furled mustached. Not a happy man.
A HEATED SITUATION.
I had noticed that the two outside rearview mirrors got so hot that if touched would burn your hand, so I called the dealership to have it looked at.
As I have past experience with dealerships, and Perillo in particular (see the bottom of this page), I always have the car checked completely so I can get it in writing that it does not have any damage, scratches or dings.
Monday August 17th.
So I drop the car off (with 8996 miles) and they tell me it would be done by end of day. Five O'clock comes and I have not heard from them so I call to find out what is going on. I am told that the mirrors are registering over 80 degrees and it should be no higher than 60, so they need to order new mirrors and because of this, they need the car another day. They also found a recall posted for the reprograming of the DME control unit (for manual gearboxes) and would take care of that as well. Fine, no problem.
Monday August 18th.
Four O'clock comes around again and I have not heard from them so I call to find out what is going on. I am told the new mirrors are in are are being installed, and I could come in an hour. I show up, wait for a few minutes, and the car is pulled up for me to take. The first thing I do is touch the mirror and it practically burns my hand, then, as if that is not bad enough, I see two three-inch gashes on the driver's side mirror casing.
Purely by coincidence, the Service Director was standing right there and was on his way to shake my hand (since we know each other from the previous incident) before knowing this had happened, and I showed him the damage.
So now the next step is I have to return to the dealership next Monday (because they do not have a loner car until then) so they can "repair" the mirror again and fix and paint the damaged casing. Additionally, I point out to him that the ticket states that when I brought the car in it had 9010 miles and when I took delivery, it had 9019. I then point to the odometer, and it says 9012.
As I mention above, the car had 8996 miles when I dropped it off, and they put 13 miles on it to change a rear view mirror, and both the drivers and passenger seats where completely re-arranged in a manner that suggested a "ride". (Which would all have been fine if none of this had happened, but since it did, it becomes one more annoyance).
Monday August 27th. I dropped off the car on the 24th and got a BMW 5-series loaner (very nice). I have been in contact with them every day as they test the system. They compared the vehicle readings to a 2004 M3 and found that my car is running 20 degrees hotter, so they replaced the door modules. They ran another test and got the same results, so they told me they are going to call BMW for some input. They called today to tell me that they found out the 2006 M3 specifications had been changed and that the readings they had been getting were in fact correct.
This, of course, led me to the question... why didn't they do that in the first place and avoid this whole experience?
So now the car goes off to the body shop to repair the scratched mirror casing.
Four days later, I got it back and left.
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