Can it really cost $400 to replace a small piece of chrome trim on my Holden Caprice?


Hi John,

I enjoy your reports on Radio 2UE. Regarding my 2008 Holden Caprice, the small boomerang-shaped chrome strip around the C-pillar on the driver's side of my '08 Caprice has fallen off. 

The dealer quoted $240 to replace it, as it includes the window. Then the window would need be replaced at further cost. Total estimated for this is over $400 for a small piece of chrome. I called Holden and they confirmed that I cannot purchase the chrome trim separately. 

I called Holden six months later and again I was told I cannot purchase the trim separately and they wouldn't advise the supplier (because apparently this is commercially confidential information). They also said they would not intervene with the supplier but will refer to engineering to ascertain if there is a design fault.

Since this incident I have noticed many with this small piece of chrome missing. Obviously owners like me are baulking at the cost of replacing a whole window. It's a rip-off that customers like us can't purchase just the chrome strip from Holden. It is only held by a few dabs of glue. 

I'm hoping you could make some representations.

Thank you,

Regrettably, there are no US-style lemon laws in Australia - yet

Regrettably, there are no US-style lemon laws in Australia - yet


In my view, GM Holden has an appalling corporate culture matched only by its terrible record for quality and reliability, both in its imported products and the locally built vehicles. In the case of the cars built here, that's a real pity because otherwise they would be decent vehicles. Additionally, the company has been trotting out the same old Caprice since shortly after Jesus scored the winning goal in the under-15s grand final for Nazareth in AD 0014 - so there's really no excuse for these kinds of lingering detail design flaws where bits of trim keep falling off, etc.

Despite the biggest wake-up call of all time (going bankrupt in the GFC), General Motors continues to remain arrogantly out of touch with its customers, and it continues to act like customers don't matter. (It doesn't even mind killing the odd one, if you believe US news reports.) You just can't take the hubris out of the management style of GM or its subsidiaries, apparently. You are a customer; therefore it's OK to violate you, sometimes in the most fundamental ways - that's the GM we know and love.

Holden is losing market share like it's going out of fashion here in Australia - and this is simply because that company systematically fails to respond adequately to customers who have a problem, like you. All cars have problems (although few brands have the kind of safety recall record that Holden manages). It's how those companies deal with the inevitable problems that determines if a customer will ever return to upgrade.

In your case, this is a very easy fix, too, if they were prepared to be reasonable. I mean, you're not even complaining about the trim falling off - your only gripe is being bent over while getting it replaced.

It's patently absurd that you cannot purchase this small item of trim separately from the window, even though, ironically, it is designed to separate itself from the window while the car is driving around. Perhaps you should just keep one eye peeled on the side of the road - you could easily find the part you want just lying there...

Clearly, the two parts are not fused together. So they could be sold separately. Imagine that. Providing what customers need. Imagine if Apple did that. Or Samsung. (Oh ... that's right: they do.) You think buying the window is a rip-off? Perhaps you should consider yourself lucky that Holden does not require you to purchase the complete roof turret, all the glazing, headlining and radio aerial as well. Together with an engine, transmission and driveline.

See, the fact that the trim falls off (and I have actually seen a few Caprices in this trim-less condition) is bad enough. The fact that the company seeks to profiteer nakedly as a consequence of its under-done engineering is unconscionable. It's essentially rewarding itself for half-doing the job on the production line. But let's not forget that multi-national companies are just like us ... only immortal, devoid of empathy and concerned only with shareholder return on investment.

Is it any wonder Australians increasingly turn to Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai?

Your problem is just one little sprinkle on the icing of systematic rip-offs, on the cake of under-done engineering that is the brand we call Holden. That's just how it is. I guess you should be thankful you didn't buy a Holden Cruze or a Captiva - because they really are card-carrying shitboxes in comparison to the Caprice, which does have some significant redeeming features.

In short, it's categorically unprincipalled to expect you to pay $400+ to fix a design flaw in the vehicle, so that it can just happen again. Under Australian consumer law, manufacturers have obligations that persist after the warranty expires. Trim should not just fall off a well maintained car after seven years. Trim is not subject to wear and tear. It's not even on a part of the door where there are ongoing shocks from opening and closing. Furthermore, the ACCC should be alerted to this absurd practise of not selling the trim separately - that's a fundamental rip-off. If I were you I would make representations to Holden (not the dealer) and tell them you are going to approach both agencies in relation to this matter - historically, regulator intervention is the only way GM ever changes its tune. Usually it just considers it's a law unto itself.

I will forward your issue to a senior GM Holden executive for his review and possible dealing.