Butler & Smith story

A Butler and Smith story

by Duane Ausherman

I wrote this up many years ago, but I couldn’t find it, so I had to write it again.  I apologize if you have read it before.  I am going by memory, so I only guarantee the basic ideas, not the exact verbiage.

I think it was in 1972 that I attended the yearly dealer meeting called by Butler & Smith.  For the West Coast dealers, it was held in the LA area, where awards were handed out at a lovely dinner.

Before dinner, I was asked to go with a B & S person in the afternoon for casual social stuff in a display hall.  We entered a room of at least ten people, and they locked the door.  Was this to keep me in or keep others from walking in?

In attendance were three people from the BMW headquarters in Germany.  I was interrogated about my performance as a dealer.

They asked me why I didn’t turn in any warranty claims for the whole year.  I then asked if any customers had complained that we wouldn’t perform warranty work.  No, but why didn’t I turn them in? 

I would have been notified if an official complaint about my shop had been turned in because that was the law.

I explained that because 3/4 of my warranty claims had been denied in the previous year.  I was told that without warranty claims, how could the factory know what was going wrong?  When I complained about the rejection of my claims, I was told to submit them for defects that were being accepted.  I asked, how were false claims going to help the factory know what is going wrong?  BMW didn’t have a system for taking feedback from dealers other than the warranty system.

I had them by the balls, and I was only going to squeeze more.

I explained that they only pay $4 an hour for warranty work.  With only a 25% acceptance rate, I was only paid $1 an hour for our warranty work.  It wasn’t worth my time filling out the extensive paperwork for $1 an hour, and I would lose money.  So, for the next year, we performed all of the warranty work as required but didn’t claim it.  It came out of my pocket.  I was saving them paperwork and money, so they should be happy.

Since I had a captive audience, I took great advantage of it.  I explained that I had run a private repair shop for BMW only and done very well.  I had beautiful European connections for even better prices than I would get as a dealer.  I considered starting a business like the one that had just opened up, Capitol Cycles.

I decided to enter the official system and become a BMW dealer instead.  I felt that I was doing well since, in 72, my first full year as a dealer, our shop was awarded the “Model Dealership Award” by Flanders.  I was not only sticking the knife in, but I was also twisting it.

During this grilling, at one point, I was asked why I brought in large tanks to replace the silly little “toaster tanks” that came out in 72.  I responded by saying that I could sell far more motorcycles by having those large tanks available.  My competitors had registered many complaints about why was, my shop,  BMW of Marin able to get the large tanks and they couldn’t.  I didn’t reveal that the BMW factory people had given me the source for those large tanks in the first place.  It was our “little secret” because they couldn’t understand why B & S wanted those little tanks.

After this meeting was over, I went to the restroom.  One of the BMW officials followed me so that we could talk.  He told me that all 3 of the factory officials could hardly keep from laughing.  They already knew everything I told them, but they loved watching me stick it to B & S.

They already knew of me because the previous year, the head of the entire motorcycle division, Horst Spindtler, had visited my shop.  They flew into San Francisco and drove from there.  The B & S representative tried to bypass Dave Golden’s store in SF, but Horst insisted on visiting it first.  He told me it was the same “piss pot” he had seen on his previous visit.  He loved my store, and the word had gotten around BMW.  This was all after I explained why the /5 would wobble and how to fix it on a previous visit to the factory.  Go to https://w6rec.com/a-wobble-controversy/ to learn about the fix.

That is the short version of the story.  I hope to find time to write more of these war stories about B & S and their dishonest behavior.


Updated April 7 2023