The consumer’s issue:
“I purchased a six-month-old car in July 2012, and six years later, it broke down and I had it recovered to my local garage. My vehicle was six years old with approximately 63,000 miles on the clock at this point. The business initially believed there was an electrical fault and replaced the battery and engine earth strap. However, after the repairs were completed, the oil pressure light started illuminating, so a new oil-pressure switch was fitted, but this still didn’t resolve the problem. I then contacted a franchised dealership that was authorised by the vehicle manufacturer to investigate the faults, but they couldn’t fit the car in until the end of September 2018.
I needed the vehicle for a pre-planned holiday, so I decided to take the car to an independent engine specialist. They found a faulty crankshaft and a damaged engine, which they said was due to oil starvation. I was told it wasn’t viable to repair the engine, so a brand-new one was ordered directly from the manufacturer, which cost a total of £8131.89 for parts and labour.
I believe there was an inherent fault with the engine on my car. It’s commonly known that there was an engine problem with earlier models, and I’ve asked the manufacturer to cover the repair or provide some contribution towards it, but they’ve refused. My car was serviced in accordance with the manufacturer guidelines and was only six years old when the crankshaft and engine failed. I’m therefore looking for them to reimburse £5,000 for the costs that I have incurred to date.”
The accredited business’ response:
- The consumer informed us of the fault their car had suffered from.
- The vehicle was six years old, and our warranty had expired some three years earlier. Therefore, we weren’t responsible for the fault or the cost of the repairs.
- However, we advised the consumer to take the car to one of our authorised dealerships so they could investigate what the issue was and the cause of it.
- We explained to the customer that we would cover the cost of recovery and diagnosis.
- We also let the consumer know that any goodwill was dependent on why the problem happened, so they were aware of the importance of having the car inspected by a franchised dealership. Despite this, the customer chose to take the car to a third-party garage to have it repaired.
- We attempted to discuss the cause of the failure with the independent garage, but due to the lack of information provided by them, we couldn’t determine the root cause of the fault.
- As the consumer chose not to take the car to one of our approved dealerships for repairs, we weren’t able to offer any goodwill on this occasion.
The adjudication outcome:
- The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator reviewed the evidence that had been provided and found that the manufacturer was reasonable in declining to assist with the repair costs.
- He argued that, because the manufacturer had not been given an opportunity to inspect the vehicle through one of their approved dealerships, they could only rely on the information provided to them, which was very limited.
- He said that, whilst the consumer had reason to believe the issues with their vehicle were due to a known fault, there was no evidence to support this.
- In the circumstances, the adjudicator concluded that the business had acted responsibly and could not uphold the customer’s complaint.
- The consumer disagreed with the adjudicator’s findings and requested a final decision from the ombudsman.
The ombudsman’s final decision:
- The ombudsman investigated the complaint and explained that the manufacturer was only legally responsible for faults that developed within their three-year warranty, so long as it could be proven that the fault was a result of a manufacturing defect.
- The ombudsman went on to explain that the warranty’s terms and conditions make it clear that, in order to claim, a car must be inspected and repaired by a dealership authorised by the manufacturer, unless agreed otherwise with the manufacturer directly.
- She said that at the time the consumer’s car failed, it was six years old, and the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty had expired three years prior.
- Therefore, there was no legal obligation for the manufacturer to cover the cost of repairs or assist with them.
- She explained that it was at the manufacturer’s complete discretion whether they offered any goodwill and emphasised that The Motor Ombudsman was unable to direct a manufacturer to offer goodwill when there was no warranty in place.
- The ombudsman noted that the manufacturer had offered to have the car recovered to one of their approved dealerships, and that they would cover the cost of recovery and diagnosis. She said the manufacturer had also explained that once this was done, they would consider if they could offer goodwill, but the consumer had chosen to take the car elsewhere.
- The ombudsman also found that the independent garage hadn’t explained what caused the failure of the engine, so there was no evidence that the parts had stopped working as a result of an inherent manufacturing issue.
- She considered the consumer’s comments that the car had been serviced in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines, and explained that, if the failure of the engine was linked to the car’s service history, then a complaint would need to be raised with the servicing dealership(s) directly, as this is not something for which the manufacturer would be responsible for.
- The ombudsman said the offers of assistance made by the manufacturer were fair and reasonable, and she concluded that there were no grounds to uphold the consumer’s complaint.
- The consumer did not respond to the ombudsman’s final decision, and the case was closed.