Review of Autocouture Motoring, Northeast Motorsports, and Rogue Engineering
My quest to find a reliable honest BMW shop started when my CPO ended on my 330ci ZHP coupe. I received front and rear sway bars as a gift and decided to give Autocouture Motoring a try since 2 of my coworkers raved about the place. One of them as a 135i and the other a 335i. I first call them up at 7PM expecting the place to be closed however, Sal picked up the phone and to my surprise exhibited great customer service and talked about scheduling an appointment on Saturday 9AM sharp. I showed emphasis on how I need to be out of the shop in 2 hours and that I would be there 9AM sharp. He quoted me a 2 hour job and said that it would be $200 to install front and rear sway bars. The quote was little hire then what most would charge but I was willing to give them to business based on Sal's customer service.
I arrive Saturday morning 9AM sharp and to my surprise NOBODY was in the shop. The shop was closed when it was supposed to be open at 9AM. I assumed at least someone would be there a little before the shop would open even if they couldn't get to my car until 9AM. I waited until 9:30AM when someone with a silver e46 m3 convertible on CSLs (I forgot their name) showed up looking hung over and so whatever for keeping me waiting outside their shop for 30 minutes. I mentioned to the installer that I need to have these sway bars greased well as I didn't want them to squeak. The person who bought them for me as a gift has a 330ci ZHP coupe as well with the same exact sway bars and has driven for 4 years without a sound. I also mentioned how I wanted the sway bars to be on the stiffest setting possible that would induce more oversteer rather than understeer. He was like, "Yeah sure, No problem." He slapped on sway bars in 45 minutes and still charged me the $200 labor price. I didn't make a fuss as I assumed they did a good job with it.
I get on the highway and noticed the car didn't turn in like my friend's car did and noticed every time I hit a bump I would hear the creaking noise on the car. I waited a few weeks to see if the noise would go away and it got progressively worse. Finally my service engine light went on and decided to knock two birds with one stone and have my engine serviced and my sway bars fixed. I show up at Autocouture at 6PM on a Wednesday night and was pretty happy they were able to take my car in since traffic delayed my appointment an hour. I was pleased they put the car on the lift right away. As I was waiting I was asking them to give me a price quote on installation of H&R Springs, Koni Shocks, FCAB, and RTAB installment. While Alex to my assumption was getting a parts list ready I went into the garage with the installer as he showed me the sway bars. To my surprise they were not greased as I asked before and the sway bars were on the lowest setting possible. I shook my head and had them grease it in front of me.
When I get back into the shop Sal was talking to me about certain parts for the car he would recommend and I wanted to stay away from coilovers since they would be well out of my price range and he mentioned that if I were to get the parts through him he would help with the labor. That night he kept jamming the idea that I would need rear sub frame bushings even though the installer said he looked at them and said I wouldn't need them. They also kept throwing out the fact that the sway bar bushings were causing the noise and not the fact that it wasn't greased. I was told I would get a phone call the next day with a quote. 5PM came and I didn't get a single phone call or voicemail. Annoyed, I had to call them back and was put on hold for 20 minutes. I was then told that they couldn't give me a quote because it was too late now. Yet, NorthEast Motorsports and Rogue Engineering were able to give me a quote within 2 hours.
Another day passes by and I receive no call again. I called to find out a price quote 3 times before someone finally spoke to me. They quoted me a price of $1600 to do the subframe bushings. $1600 for KW V1s plus installation. $500 to do the FCAB and RTABs plus retail pricing of Rogue Engineering bushings. As far as the service engine light they said it was a thermostat that needed to be replaced and talking to Rogue and Northeast I was notified of how the e46 cooling systems need an overhaul of the waterpump, expansion tank, etc. while Autocouture knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the cooling system to the e46 while they kept jamming the subframe bushings down my throat. They even were charging me labor to redo the sway bars to the stiffer setting. I asked the guy what was the cost to do the H&R springs and Koni's and the guy responded, "To be honest I'm not gonna even bother your time and my time to bring the car in for that job. It's coilovers only." I mentioned that Sal was giving me a break on the labor since I was getting all the stuff through them and he's like, "Bring your car in and we'll be able to take a look and give you a more accurate estimate." I'm like WTF?!?! Drive ANOTHER hour to get someone to look at my car when it was just there a few days prior???
Bottom line is these guys don't E46s at all and I would never trust them with my car again. They try to scam money out of you and lie through their teeth. BTW my sway bars haven't squeaked since the day I got them greased. So, I would've wasted money on bushings I wouldn't need because of these guys. On the other hand, Ben at Rogue Engineering has worked on my friends car and did a complete suspension and clutch overhaul and was fair with the pricing. Ben seems to know a lot but has a vendetta with every performance part manufacturer that isn't Rogue Engineering. Made me feel that I wouldn't get an honest feedback at which part would best suit my needs. I would probably take my car to him as a last resort. Northeast Motorsport seemed to be the most knowledgable about e46 and trustworthy since the first call I made to Brett. I did my homework after the Autocouture fiasco and Brett knew exactly what needed to be done and what didn't need to be done. He knew a lot about the cooling and suspension work needed to be done to the e46. Unfortunately what prevented me from going to Rogue or Northeast was their shop hours. 8-5 week days only makes it difficult for someone who works to bring their car to the shop. Another issue is the Enterprise car rental is not walking distance from the shop. I would've taken my car to Northeast immediately after talking to the other shops but I ended up getting more done from my local BMW dealership at a cheaper price. I hope this sheds some light if you are in the North Jersey area looking for a reliable shop.
Thanks for the review, apparently you are not the only one with an issue (http://www.m3post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=549080) seemed to also have a problem. I have head a lot of great reviews from this shop, but it is these one or two in depth reviews that makes you want to rethink where you take your ride. I am around central new jersey, near New Brunswick what shops have you gone to that you feel your car is in good hands._nr_
Just for a sense of balance I thought I'd lend my exposure to Auto Couture. I had them do a VERY complex job, converting an SMG to a 6MT. I'd like to meet ANYONE that doesn't feel this is a complex endeavour.
I was living in the Philadelphia area and had VAC motorsports do a clutch exchange and they ended up replacing a lot of other parts. They overcharged me, used cheap aftermarket parts while charging me for OEM, kept my car for a month, they broke my rear view mirror off the windshield, had it repaired for free (I know the guy that fixed it for them), and then charged ME for it on top of the other charges. They also said I had to pay in cash ($3400), they said if not cash it would be $300 more even with check. Needless to say, I was not in a rush to return to them.
My SMG pump had died so I was looking to do the SMG to 6MT conversion. Coincidentally one of the people living in my building was walking by and complimented me on my car ('03 Laguna Seca M3 Vert). We started talking and I told him about my plans for the conversion and that I was trying to find a shop up to the task. He told me about Auto Couture and raved about them. He said it was far (2 hours from Philly area) but well worth the trip and he didn't take his BMW anywhere else.
I called that day and spoke with Stavros. It was immediately apparent that they were "car guys". Very pleasant, sounded excited about the opportunity, and very professional. Stavros checked with Sean (master tech) about the job and an accurate quote. Called me back within the hour to go over everything with me including time tables (which turned out to be accurate), prices, etc. I had performance technic in Cali build the kit. Auto Couture was great about taking out my bell housing, shipping it to perf tech to do the machine work, and getting the bell housing and a full install kit back. When I went to drop off the car, they were awesome about letting me look around the shop (they have some amazing cars and some amazing ongoing work). Sean gladly stopped what he was doing to introduce himself and talk to me about the job. Like I said, true car guys.. it was like being in a garage working on cars with a bunch of my friends.
They told me it would be about 4 weeks and it was just under that. The team was awesome and Stavros called me about every 3 days to update me. Even if there was no progress and they were just waiting on the parts from Perf Tech, he still called to let me know that. As one would expect, there were a couple complications, and they kept me up to date every step along the way and didn't charge me up the *** for the work and the headache.
When I went to pick it up, they were great. I got caught in traffic and Stavros stayed about an hour after closing time for me. And, he was glad to do so and still took his time talking to me and going over stuff when I finally got there (he didn't rush me at all). The car was amazing. They had already tested it and fined tuned everything, so by the time I picked it up, it was perfect and ready to go. And let me say, my only regret is that I didn't do this the day I bought my car. It's worth every cent and like I have a new car. But I digress... Of note, they called me the day after I got my car back and again a couple of weeks afterwards to see how everything was going.
Prior to going with Auto Couture, I read this review and there was one other bad one on a different site that I found about them. I'm extremely glad I believed the other hundred great reviews and didn't make a decision based on the 2 bad ones. These guys are extremely nice, extremely professional, extremely competent, and actually care about customers as people/friends. I moved to Florida last month, it will be hard to find a local shop that will live up to the guys at Auto Couture.
Just my 2 cents...
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