Adelaide’s Richard Bulfa is not a Weekend Australian reader. I doubt he even knows where the Kensi is (23 Regent Street, Kensington) or has heard of Michael McMichael, Steven Marshall or the deputy PM of Australia (he’s not on his Pat Malone there). He’s just a hardworking Filipino-born Australian contractor who uses his own van to do deliveries for a major supermarket chain.
Unfortunately, in June 2016 he bought a Fiat Ducato as his workhorse.
Unfortunately, because he bought a lemon. Well that’s not true. It was great for the first seven months. From then on, he’s had a collection of problems. As Richard says: “For two years since I own this vehicle, most of the time, it is being towed and repaired.”
And some of the issues have been life-threatening and all of them threatened his ability to work. Issues like the van not engaging gears, the car going into limp mode, brakes not working and the car stopping in the middle of the road.
After getting nowhere with dealer Newspot Motors or Fiat, Richard went to Hendrik Gout, gun reporter on Adelaide’s Today Tonight. In a Weekend Australian-Seven investigation, Hendrik and I have taken up Richard’s cause. You can see the video report on Adelaide’s Today Tonight at 6.30pm on Tuesday night or online and you can read the print report here, which is hopefully what you are doing now.
We separately asked Fiat’s PR manager Alessia Terranova two questions: “Is this a known issue?” and “What are you doing to fix the issue?”. The first time Hendrik asked, Alessia said: “Could you please clarify the known issue you are referring to here so that I can provide our statement?” In response to my questions she said in part: “Fiat is investigating the customer’s concern and we have provided a replacement vehicle for the customer’s convenience while a solution is identified.”
Hmmm. Richard says the van was towed into Newspot in the second week of December 2017 and stayed in the service area until January 2018. “I requested a loan vehicle and was told to ask for it from the Fiat company. When I called Fiat they told me to call Newspot. I had to beg.”
Alessia went on to say: “Transmission issues may occur in commercial vehicles for a variety of reasons such as driving characteristics and overloading payload beyond specification. While we’re not suggesting that this has happened in this instance, we are working with the dealership to identify the specific cause of the fault and resolve it immediately. Any work carried out to resolve a manufacturing defect will be covered under our manufacturer warranty at no cost to the customer.”
Hmmm, again. A quick glance at Rocket Rod Sims’ ACCC website shows at least five recalls for the Ducato, including camshaft cracking; the intercooler sleeve detaching, causing a loss of power; and a problem that may cause the van to catch fire.
A quick glance on Google shows owners believe the Ducato has serious ongoing transmission issues not dissimilar to those with the Mazda CX-5 where the transmission goes into limp mode and the engine stops.
I think it’s about time we had a royal commission into what’s left of the car industry in Australia.
Moving on to more important matters: last weekend,the cream of our group raced in the F1 of the Southern Tablelands, Race 3 of the Marulan Cheap Car Challenge Endurance race over four hours with a break for lunch for the best hamburgers this side of LeMans.
Notable for their absences were Michael McMichael, who apart from being on a diet is now going to the gym and at 95kg is a shadow of his former self, and Tom Connolly who said he was embarrassed at his father’s 360 in the last race and it would be too cold and windy anyway.
OK, on the grid in the Phil Alexander-supplied 1932 Pulsar were: brown cardigan-wearing, radical LeMons driver Steve Champion; the Bathurst sign-maker who made the pink V8 super-ute popular, Shane Fowler; grey cardigan-wearing accountant Phil Keegan; and of course the person who was responsible for putting Shane Webcke’s Royal Hotel at Leyburn on the Conde Nast Gold List of the 10 best hotels in the world, your faithful correspondent. Full results next Saturday if we do well and don’t get disqualified again.
OK at Shannons’ winter auction last Monday: a 1953 Holden FJ ute brought $32K; I think the editor paid $11K for the 1976 Hercules W2000 Wankel Rotary Motorbike; and a 1989 Jag XJ-S V-12 got $44K (I think the XJ has a long way to go if you don’t go broke keeping the V-12 running). My favourite of the night was the 2002 Skyline GTR Nur (one of 1003) which, depending on condition, was well bought at $144K.