Unless there are photos and videos we don’t know about, Bill Shorten will be prime minister by June.
But given there are no sure things in politics the one thing he could do to get at least 19 million votes is call for a royal commission into the car industry. This time last year the ACCC’s Rocket Rod Sims released his version of a car royal commission. Friends, it wasn’t pretty reading then and nothing much has changed since.
Rod wrote: “Together, the Australian Consumer Law and state and territory legislation, along with manufacturers’ warranties, provide consumers with an extensive suite of … rights to remedies or other forms of redress in the event that a new car is defective or fails to perform as promised.”
Under the ACL, when you buy products and services, they come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what you asked for. If a product (like a car) you buy fails to meet a consumer guarantee, you have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund under the law.
But as the report details, the ACL is a waste of time.
“There is a dominant ‘culture of repair’ underpinning manufacturers’ systems and policies for dealing with car defects and failures, even where cars have known and systemic mechanical failures which would entitle a consumer to a replacement or refund under the consumer guarantees,” says Rod.
Reader Lindsey Neilsen, whose new 2017 Honda R needed half a new engine and was off the road for a couple of months, found both Honda Darwin and Honda Australia refused to replace the engine, the car or give her a refund. As Lindsey suggests “this may be a case of Honda trying to keep out of a mass recall”.
Adelaide’s Richard Bulfa is 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. As He says: “For two years since I own this vehicle, most of the time, it is being towed and repaired.”
A quick glance at the ACCC website shows at least five recalls for the Ducato, including camshaft cracking, the intercooler sleeve detaching and 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 transmission issues like those with the Mazda CX-5, where the transmission goes into limp mode and the engine stops.
The J.D. Power 2018 US Initial Quality Study ranks Range Rover last. Last has been a consistent rating for the Tata Motors subsidiary.
As Autotrader.com/Oversteer editor Doug DeMuro says: “Yes, that’s right: according to its own customers, the Land Rover dealership experience is roughly the same as the one you’ll get at good ol’ Billy Bob Chevrolet, home of low prices and brightly coloured helium balloons. In other words: Land Rover, who wants you to spend $135,000 for a Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography Portfolio Westminster Humidor Aardvark, will treat you the same as Chevrolet, who sells the Spark for $13,000, and Chrysler, who would finance a stray dog as long as it doesn’t pee in the showroom. (But) I believe Land Rover, noted manufacturer of vehicles that last as long as the chickenpox, couldn’t care less about its history of poor service, weak quality, and substandard reliability.”
So, if the dealer won’t replace or refund the lemon they have sold you, all you can really do is take them to court. That’s fine if you have the money to take on a big company. Take the case of Sally Morphy, who took delivery of a new Range Rover Autobiography in 2016 for $235,000. Sally had an independent engineer look over the car and he said there was a risk of “sudden and catastrophic engine failure”.
The consumer tribunal found the failures “rendered the car unfit for its basic purpose, that is to be driven on or off roads, let alone for any purpose such goods are commonly put to”. Sally was awarded a record $283,000 refund. Good result except Sally is trying to recoup her legal costs of $134,000. This is not the first case where Jaguar Land Rover Australia have taken a consumer case to court to avoid refunds under consumer law. It shows that unless you have deep pockets your rights under consumer law mean nothing.
Rod also said parts prices in Australia are rising relative to the cost of new cars, and that Australia has high parts prices relative to some overseas jurisdictions. Yes, that why the Subaru dealer quotes you $500 for a new key and the country’s top locksmith charges $500 for two keys and remotes.
Just to show you I’m not really the Grinch, Scrooge or any of those other idols of mine, here’s some suggestions for your kiddie’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Pancha Ganapati stocking. The perfect way to get young Sheherazade and Harry into motor racing (apart from getting them introduced to the sport by kart champion Troy Hunt at Top Gun driver training) is to buy them a toy car. I’m talking a Ferrari Testa Rossa produced by Modena Ferrarina Italia, with all the looks of the 250 Testa Rossa, but a fraction of the size. Powered by a 180-watt, 12-volt electric motor, this Feezer is yours from RM Sotheby’s for only $170,000.