A couple of days ago, a colleague of mine showed me an interesting article on an international auto website. The article was about your new car not being entirely new. It was about how a vehicle can get damaged in the transit, and if the damage is relatively small, and dealer fixes it, the dealership is not legally bound to tell you about the damage. The author is from the US and was explaining the procedures from that perspective. He wrote that if the repairing that transit damage costs under a certain percentage of the actual cost of the vehicle, the dealership can sell you the car without ever mentioning any sort of damage.
I am going to mention the example he wrote in that article to make it easier to understand. He wrote that he bought a Subaru WRX for USD 28,138 from US state North Carolina. In North Carolina, according to the state laws, the dealership can repair a damage worth 5pc of the total cost of the vehicle. Over 5pc, dealers have to inform the customers. So the Subaru he bought was for USD 28,138, and the dealership can spend up to USD 1,400 in repairing transit damage and can sell you that WRX as new. You can read that article for more details here.
This got me thinking, what are the chances that your brand new off the shelf Toyota Corolla made by Indus Motors was damaged, but the dealership didn’t bother telling you that. Accidents happen! It is only natural. Honda Atlas has its plant near Lahore, Pak Suzuki and Indus Motors have theirs in Karachi. When cars are being transported, there are numerous ways they can get damaged; whether it’s loading unloading or the freight trailer getting in an accident, etc. Even at the dealership, a mechanic might have dropped a spanner on the bonnet of your Suzuki Cultus and the dealership immediately took the dent out and repainted it before you took the delivery. Let’s be honest, it’s not like paint quality of our brand new cars is so good that you can easily tell if the car has been repainted at the dealership or not. And mostly people are not able to identify if the paint is ‘janiyun’ (genuine) or a repaint.
You will find umpteenth number of new car owners with stories regarding their new cars not feeling right; misaligned panels, different shades of fenders, etc. I have heard several stories of people fearing their cars might have been repainted at the dealership before they were delivered. I am sure many of you might have seen the images of Hyundai Shahzore pickups with squashed roofs because the driver of the freight trailer couldn’t judge how low the bridge on the 9th Avenue was. If not, here are the images. Thread, here. And yes, that is an extreme example, but you get the point.
But here is another issue, the built quality of our brand new cars are not exactly great also. I mean yes, there are chances that dealerships are selling repaired vehicles every now and then but what if you that wonky front fascia of your car was not because of the transportation damage, but the car assembling plant at the backend didn’t bother to thoroughly check the vehicle for quality assurance.
Last week, I was driving with the head of PakWheels CarSure team here in Islamabad when I saw a beautifully maintained 10th generation Toyota Corolla in silver. I noticed its rear bumper was of a lighter shade than the body. So was the case with the front bumper as well. I mentioned this to the CarSure head and asked if the bumpers are repainted. He said, no! That’s just how the bumpers of those Corollas were. He told me Indus apparently didn’t put primer on the bumpers before painting them. So with the passage of the time, the paint on bumpers changes its shade a bit.
What I am trying to say is that as much as there are chances of your car being damaged in the transit, there are more chances of it just being poorly made. That’s just a sad truth. The question is, what can you do if you find out that your car has been repaired or something? As mentioned above, in the US, dealers have some legal amnesty when it comes to telling customers about pre-delivery damage. But after certain damage, they are bound to inform their customers. As far Pakistan is concerned, I am not aware of any law like that. I googled and asked around, but no one could give me a definitive answer. But there are a couple of things that can help.
Japanese parent companies of the Big Three operating in Pakistan are quite sensitive when it comes to their image and taking care of their customers. So if you have a problem with your vehicle, but your local automaker and dealer are not cooperating, shoot an email with details to their Japanese bosses. It usually works. I remember reading about one case where a PakWheels member sent an email to Suzuki in Japan because his car had some major built quality issue. I don’t remember the exact details, but Pak Suzuki did rectify the problem after Suzuki Japan’s involvement. Nowadays, even local car makers are worried about bad PR and image in the press thanks to the social media. One Toyota Corolla customer in Islamabad found out his Corolla to be a serious lemon. He tried his best to get it resolved through the Islamabad Aabpara dealership from where he bought the car but to no avail. Even Toyota Indus didn’t bother with his complaints. He ended up making a thread on PakWheels and his story got traction and finally Indus Motors woke up and hurried to resolve the issue but unfortunately for them, their Corolla had already hit the fan, if you know what I mean. That earned them some seriously bad press, although I don’t think that made any quantifiable difference in the overall betterment of the production quality of their cars. You can read about Nabeel’s story here.
Still, it’s better than finding a paper cutter blade in the rear seat of your car.
Other than making some serious noise on social media, there is a legal way as well. We have consumer courts working in Pakistan, working under Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan. And they are pretty efficient as far as I have heard. Say you found out that your Mehran was extensively damaged during the transportation, and your dealership is not cooperating with you, you can always go to the consumer courts. I have mostly heard positive reviews about the courts that they usually side with the consumers, but I don’t have a personal experience with them, or personally know anyone who had been to those courts.
So yeah, it’s a sad truth about our car industry. States in the USA legally provide cover to dealerships to cover the damage, but only to a certain extent. We don’t have any rule or law like that here in Pakistan, and our dealerships take absolutely no blame for any damage. Leave dealerships at a side for a second, our car makers aren’t exactly losing their sleep for us either.