The consumer’s issue:
“I bought a ‘15-plate pick-up from a dealership in June 2016 with less than 4,000 miles on the clock. In May 2019, when the car had just done over 33,000 miles, the vehicle suffered a catastrophic engine failure and was taken to a dealership for diagnostics and repairs under warranty (as the vehicle was under five years old at this point).
The fault resulted in the vehicle having a replacement short motor, cylinder head, cylinder head gasket, balancer shaft and all other associated parts under warranty. At the same time, further works were also required on the vehicle which were deemed not to be covered under warranty, and I paid the sum of £2,613.79 in July 2019.
Just over a year later, in June 2020, and with just under 40,000 miles on the odometer, the vehicle suffered the same failure with the engine again, so I had reported this back to the repairing dealership within the warranty period. However, the warranty claim was only submitted to the manufacturer in January 2021, seven months after the warranty had expired, even though the car was at the dealership all that time. The dealership explained that, due to the COVID pandemic, that was not practically possible, as they did not have the manpower to look at the vehicle, and that this should be taken into consideration.
In February 2021, I instructed an independent engineer to fully diagnose the cause of the engine failure and produce a detailed report. This subsequently revealed that all four injectors had been operating out of specification for many miles and a considerable period, and the report writer said that they were surprised that the injectors were not replaced at the same time when the repairing dealership had first carried out the work in May 2019.
I am of the view that it was this failure to replace the injectors which caused the premature catastrophic failure of my engine on the second occasion, and I am seeking that the repairing dealership cover the cost of repairs, as it was their poor workmanship that had led to this issue. I 100% believe I should not be left liable to cover such excessive repair costs, which are in the region of £18,000+VAT.”
The accredited business’ response:
- We would first like to point out that this pick-up was not purchased from our dealership. It was a used vehicle, and had only covered just under four thousand miles when it was bought.
- Initially, when the vehicle was brought to us, the engine was in a poor condition and we had confirmed that there was a previous attempt by another dealership to carry out a repair. Although this was the case, we had some suspicion that the vehicle was not previously approved for a warranty claim owing to the service history, but nevertheless, we had made our own claim to the manufacturer which was approved and we commenced the work.
- We can see that the consumer relies on an independent report which was instigated and paid for by ourselves. However, the report writer states that the car had not travelled enough miles to warrant a service, but following the engine replacement, the car was serviced. Although the report writer has asserted that the manufacturer specifies that the injectors should be checked and recalibrated upon each service, we disagree with this assessment and ask where this evidence can be found.
- We can confirm that when the short motor was replaced, the injector checks had taken place and had passed the appropriate tests – otherwise we would have replaced them. At this stage, we think that there could be three scenarios that could have occurred. These are namely that, the vehicle was serviced, and the injectors were over fuelling and were in need of changing, the vehicle was serviced in line with the manufacturer’s standards, or the independent garage did not follow the correct protocol and complete the appropriate service sheet.
- Finally, our position is that, at no point had the manufacturer asked us to inspect the injectors and test them prior to the first repair being required.
- They did ask us to carry out an inspection and testing of the second engine failure. If we had gone against the manufacturer’s recommendations, we could have been in breach of the terms and conditions.
- Once again, we refuse to accept any responsibility for the engine damage caused, as the work was carried out perfectly.
- We did not sell or make the vehicle, but acted as an agent on behalf of the manufacturer with regards to the diagnosis and repair of the engine, and are therefore not responsible for the vehicle being sold and not being fit for purpose.
- The consumer should either redirect their complaint towards the retailing dealer or the servicing agent that may not have acted properly in ensuring that the correct process was completed during the servicing of the vehicle.
The adjudication outcome:
- The Motor Ombudsman adjudicator said that the burden of proof was on the consumer to show that the dealership had failed to use reasonable skill and care when carrying out the repair works on the vehicle’s engine.
- The adjudicator considered the evidence and representations on both sides. They noted that there was supporting documentation from an independent technician which required consideration. The adjudicator explained that the third-party report writer had clearly reached a conclusion that the cause of the failure was due to the condition of the injectors within the vehicle.
- Furthermore, it was concluded that these injectors appeared to have been in poor condition for a longer period of time than the engine had been repaired for. The reasonable inference to draw from this is that the repairing dealership had replaced the engine of the vehicle and had not inspected the injectors of the vehicle when undertaking this work. The third party expert had expressed their surprise that the injectors had not been replaced as there was a clause that a new or tested injector fitted to a new or reconditioned engine must be tested in order to meet the terms of the warranty conditions.
- The adjudicator considered the evidence, and although the report writer had not expressly stated that it was due to the repairing dealership not carrying out with reasonable skill and care, they could consider all of the circumstances of the case to reach a determination on what they felt was more likely than not. On this point, whilst the adjudicator accepted the repairing dealership’s stance that they were only acting upon the recommendations of the manufacturer, the position of the manufacturer was that it should not preclude the repairing dealership from undertaking an action which could be acting in breach of their duties to a customer under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
- Overall, the adjudicator found that for the dealership to have carried out these repairs with reasonable skill and care, they should reasonably have inspected the injectors within the vehicle, and if there was an issue, they could have brought this information to the manufacturer for further instruction and guidance as to how this could have an impact upon the repair and the vehicle generally.
- For this reason, the adjudicator upheld the complaint in favour of the consumer and found that there had been a breach of Clause 3.10 of the Service and Repair Code, which states that: “The accredited business will carry out all work within an agreed timescale, exercising the reasonable skill and care you are entitled by law to expect.”
- As a remedy, the adjudicator recommended that the dealership conduct a further repair on the vehicle to replace the engine at their cost.
- Both parties accepted the proposed outcome, and the business carried out the repairs on the vehicle, which included the provision of a replacement engine. As the proposed remedy was agreed amongst the parties, the case was closed.