Worst Customer Service Experience Ever

Unhappy BMW R1200GS motorcycle

BMW, when will I get my motorcycle back?

If you follow my blog, you probably know I’ve been a big fan of BMW motorcycles. In fairness of reporting, I feel compelled to talk about the worst customer service experience I’ve ever had in my life. It is the worst motorcycle customer service experience I’ve had since I first started riding about 40 years ago.

Here is the story …

You may have read my previous blog post about my Raw Hyde Adventures trip to the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. When I got back at the end of March, I was incredibly enthusiastic about dual sport riding, and the BMW R1200GS I rode on the trip. I was so enthusiastic that I went out to California BMW in mid-April and bought my own GS. I was looking forward to riding to the Overland Expo in May and joining Raw Hyde Adventures for some nice riding around the Grand Canyon.

After waiting two weeks for the motorcycle to come from the factory (I later found out it actually came from another California BMW location a few miles away), on April 26 I became the proud owner of a brand new 2012 BMW R1200GS. And, that is where the problems began.

After riding it home, I discovered the transmission seemed quite quirky. I’ve ridden several BMW R1200 variants, and I’m aware of the quirky issue that you sometimes need to fiddle to get the bike from neutral into first gear. Annoying, but not totally unacceptable. However, with this bike, it wouldn’t downshift from almost any gear without first lifting up the shift lever. It happened anywhere from 4th gear on down.

I reported the problem to my California BMW sales guy on May 1. He thought it was probably a break in issue that would go away, but suggested I talk to their service department. I spoke with the service manager and he said it was probably just a typical BMW quirky transmission. I couldn’t believe that being unable to downshift without first lifting the shift lever was something I’d have to live with as a “typical BMW quirky transmission”.

On May 2, I took the motorcycle to California BMW to have the service manager ride it and judge for himself if this was acceptable transmission behavior. Fortunately, I guess, the service manager concluded there was something wrong with the transmission. As he described it, the gear shift goes limp and has to be lifted before it will re-engage and work again. Unfortunately, the first available service date available to fix the transmission problem was two weeks later, on May 16th.

I dropped my motorcycle off on May 16th and was told it would take two days to fix. The next day, I got a phone call telling me it would take 2 weeks to fix the problem. Something about parts being held up in customs by the Patriot Act.

Two weeks later I called to check on the status of my bike, and was told it needed three more parts. They didn’t know how long it would take to get the parts. Once again, told something about the Patriot Act delaying shipments.

I called service again on June 13, two weeks later. I was told the parts still hadn’t left Germany. They didn’t know why. I got another call later that day telling me the parts were now on an airplane from Germany, and should be in within a couple of days. So much for the parts being held up in customs due to the Patriot Act.

On June 15, I still haven’t heard anything from service about when my motorcycle would be fixed and ready to pick up. However, I did get an email from BMW asking me how happy I was with my service experience. It was address from the owner of California BMW. That was the last straw. I sent a nasty email back to the owner telling him what I thought of my service experience. He called me and apologized, and blamed the Patriot Act for holding up the parts in customs.

It is now June 28. It has been 9 weeks since I bought my BMW R1200GS and discovered the problem. It has been 8 weeks since I took the motorcycle into CalMoto service to prove there was a problem, and 6 weeks since I dropped it off  for service. I still don’t have my motorcycle back. I got a call from the owner of CalMoto yesterday saying the parts were still caught up in customs. He still doesn’t seem to think it is BMW’s fault.

At this point, I’ve lost all enthusiasm for my new BMW R1200GS. In reality, the motorcycle isn’t even new anymore. It’s over two months old now, and I haven’t even had the enjoyment of riding it. I didn’t enjoy riding it for 2 weeks because it had transmission problems. Now I have enjoyed riding for another 7 weeks because  it is sitting in California BMW’s service department. Sadly, I’m not even looking forward to getting the motorcycle back.

June 29, 2012 Update

As I previous mentioned, on June 15th I got a call from the owner of California BMW telling me the parts were now in San Francisco, 40 miles away. But, they were being held up in customs due to the Patriot Act. Now, two weeks later, I just got another call from the owner of California BMW. Apparently my parts are now on a plane from somewhere. They will hopefully be here on Tuesday. Obviously the parts weren’t in San Francisco as I was told. This is the second time I’ve been told the parts were being held up in customs by the Patriot Act just to find out 2 weeks later the parts are supposedly on a plane from somewhere. I hate when people lie to me. Maybe I should give BMW the benefit of the doubt and assume they just don’t have a clue.

Nothing like throwing a little gasoline on the fire. My third payment to BMW Financial Services is coming due. I’ll have made 3 payments, $1,200 in total, on a motorcycle sitting in BMW service. I’m long past being angry. Constant reminders of how screwed up this is, and that I still don’t have my motorcycle.

July 3, 2012 update

I got a call from the owner of CalMoto. He said the parts for my motorcycle have arrived. I should have my bike back on Thursday. Here’s hoping.

July 6, 2012 update

I finally have my motorcycle back. A few days short of two months. And thankfully, the transmission seems to be working fine.


  1. The current crop of BMW’s are the most overrated, poorly designed, failure-prone pieces of crap on the planet! I assume that you don’t have a lemon law for bikes where you live, if you did after 30 days you could have made them buy it back and stick it where the sun don’t shine!

    Wishing you good luck with the bike in the future – IMO, you’ll need it.

    • This is my third BMW. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the bikes. I’ve also generally been pleased with the service. The problems I had were definitely not typical of my experience. On the positive side. The dealer gave me a loaner bike while mine was in the shop. BMW covered my two months of finance payments while it was in the shop. And, the dealer covered my first service cost. I was without my bike for two months, but I got almost $1,200 in compensation for my troubles. I’m not sure any other brand would do that for their customers. And, I really do like my GS. Check out the pictures from my Nevada dual sport ride. It was a blast on my GS.



  2. I bought a gs 650 bmw octoberr 2012, did 5000 kms and it had no oil suddenly, made an agonizing rattle when started, mechanic discovered an oil leak in the water pump, fixed that, just had its 10.000 km service and now needs a new accelerator cable as a nut had come off right down in the GUTS of the bike to put it blluntly and worn away. the bike has never been off the bitumen, should these things be happening, its not saying much for the BMW realiability, I actually dont feel safe taking it on a long trip anywhere,, hopefully the BMW roadside assist is reliable,, let me know your views,, Sheryl

    • Sheryl,

      I agree that problems like this shouldn’t be happening. My GS was my third BMW motorcycle. My R1200RT did a 10,000 mile and 49 day trip across Canada and the USA with nothing more than a maintenance service and some new tires. My first two BMWs were very much what I expected from BMW. My 2012 GS, not so much. All I can suggest is complain to BMW Motorrad and your dealer about your concerns. This past summer I had more issues with my GS. I had the same issue as you, concerns about the reliability of my bike. I explored moving to a different brand bike, but after quite a bit of research, concluded the R1200GS was by far the best bike for me. So, I went back at BMW. I must give a lot of the credit to Mike, the owner of CalMoto in Mountain View, who really was my advocate in helping work through issues with BMW. It took a while, but I’m now quite happy with their response. My experience is that BMW will do far more than any other manufacturer in dealing with your issues, and trying to make you happy. It’s part of why you pay a premium for a BMW.

      Sorry I can’t offer specific suggestions, but keep demanding for what you think needs to be done.


  3. Frank Thomas says:

    I loved my K1300 2009. Had the 24k service done at my home dealer, BMW of southeast Michigan on April 1st. Had the 30k done in Eugene Oregon at European motorcycles on July 15th where they also replaced the rear brakes. Spent just under $2000 between the two. Worth it for the peace of mind. 1695 miles later I’m sitting on the side of the road 7 miles north of Salmon Id. with the final drive spitting bearings and taking the brake, caliper and disc with it. Called the dealer in Eugene for help or suggestions. Got a’ sorry not our problem you’re two states away’. Called BMW North America got a ‘sorry but warranty is 2yrs or 35k miles (the two years trumps the 35k). Had to have the bike towed 140 miles to the nearest certified BMW dealer which was Missoula Mt. No Loaners (we’re just a small seasonal dealer). Called BMW customer service which stated it was up to the dealer for any concessions and that he would send them an email. No go. After waiting a week for parts and not quite $3800 later I’m back on the road. They didn’t even wash the bike. The harley dealer(in Missoula) washed my traveling buddy’s trike just for him stopping in. Do small dealers wonder why they stay small?


  1. […] you have been following along with my posts, then you are aware that I’ve been having a major problem with my BMW motorcycle. My new 2012 BMW R1200GS motorcycle was sitting in the California BMW (CalMoto) service department […]

  2. […] to go to another dealer to get them to admit there was a problem with the transmission. Good luck. Worst Customer Service Experience Ever Remove AdvertisementsSponsored Links […]

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