CONSUMER WATCH | 'Approved' Land Rover demo was resprayed and had rental car roots
The case of this KwaZulu-Natal optometrist and his Land Rover provides a cautionary tale about the pitfalls associated with online vehicle purchasing.
In July 2018 Sharafath Rauff bought a Discovery Sport from Jaguar Land Rover Cape Town, operated by the Combined Motor Holdings (CMH) retail group.
It was described as a 2017 demonstration model and had just under 8,000km on the odometer. Delivery took place at the Umhlanga branch of the network. It cost R634,438.24.
He explained to us that he had confidence in buying the model sight unseen, since it was from the approved pre-owned vehicles section: which meant an assortment of guarantees underpinned the provenance of the car.
Among these, according to the official website of Land Rover Approved, is a 165-point inspection to ensure a vehicle's “optimum electrical and mechanical condition and its bodywork is pristine”.
Notably, while the website promises vehicles in the Approved programme have not been stolen or written-off, it makes no mention of exclusions against vehicles that have been previously repaired.
Rauff learnt later that September, after taking the vehicle for a technical inspection at a Dekra Automotive centre, that his car had underwent repair work on the left-hand side of the body.
“I have owned more than 40 cars in my life, the Discovery Sport is one of the best cars I have driven, my problem is not with the Land Rover brand, it is with the CMH group and its unscrupulous practices.”
What prompted the assessment on a near-new car? While visiting another dealership to look for a vehicle for his wife, a salesman asked him how much he had paid for the Land Rover. When he told him, the salesman asked: “That much for an accident-repaired car?”
Rauff said he had been annoyed by the comments of the salesman — but considered them more carefully after certain blemishes and paint discrepancies had been pointed out.
He is now embroiled in a protracted legal tête-à-tête with the dealership, which initially denied it had knowledge that the vehicle had been previously damaged and repaired before being sold.
Section 55(2)(b) of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) outlines the right to products of “good quality, in good working order and free of any defects”, a provision that only falls away if the seller “has been expressly informed that particular goods were offered in a speciﬁc condition” and “has expressly agreed to accept the goods in that condition, or knowingly acted in a manner consistent with accepting the goods in that condition” as stated in Section 55(6) of the act.
The dealership, communicating through their attorneys, initially denied the vehicle was a demonstration model, said the vehicle was in good condition at the time of delivery and therefore snubbed his request for a refund, as provided for in Section 56(2)(b) of the CPA. This section provides six months from the date of delivery for such reparation to be made.
According to a synopsis compiled by the counsel representing Rauff, the Dekra report revealed “paint work and pit marks” to the rear fender, left front door, left rear door, boot gutters and rear bumper, in addition to “poor alignment” of the tailgate lid and its left hatch-door shock. It also noted a “defective” left sill panel.
Rauff sought further evidence attesting to the questionable history of the Discovery Sport, lodging an enquiry with telematics service provider Netstar, for a report on the movements of the vehicle. A signal report tallied some 1,000 pages, he said.
“For the entire month of June 2018, there was no movement on the vehicle. This was the month prior to my purchase of the vehicle.”
Rauff contends in his statement that the report confirms his vehicle was parked in the Saxenburg Park industrial area of Blue Downs in the Western Cape.
This was corroborated by correspondence from a representative of R&M Autobody Worx, whose address matches the one registered by the tracking device.
He acknowledged that cosmetic repairs were performed on the vehicle, but described the extent of the work as “minor”, with a grand total of R2,565 for paint services.
“Subsequent to having made this allegation, CMH now [advised] that the vehicle was repaired by the previous owner,” Rauff stated.
The previous owner, according to the invoice from R&M Autobody Worx, was First Car Rental. According to its website, First Car Rental is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CMH group.
Rauff expressed suspicion over the cost quoted by the repairer. “I have asked many panel-beaters and dealerships — they say you can’t even do a minor touch-up on a Toyota Tazz for that price.
“The dealership is still pursuing this matter and I am still being forced to pay monthly instalments for a vehicle I am unsatisfied with and which is losing value at a high rate.”
We approached the manufacturer at head-office level with a request to look into the matter and respond with comment.
“Jaguar Land Rover regrets the unfortunate situation experienced by the customer,” it said in an official statement.
“At the time of the initial query Land Rover Cape Town acted within the information it had at hand, and with no official record of any repair to the vehicle, was not able to relay precise information about its history.
“We can only assume the vehicle was repaired outside of Jaguar Land Rover’s approved network, and this was not disclosed to us at the time of trade-in, making it difficult to track previous repair work.
“Unfortunately, before all of the facts were ascertained the case had entered legal processes. Jaguar Land Rover will abide by any court findings and hopes to reach a suitable outcome with the customer.”
The company said that the incident has prompted a review into the quality check processes at the Cape Town dealership.
SIDEBAR: LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP
How can you avoid unwittingly buying an accident-repaired vehicle, or worse, a well-disguised former write-off?
Certified-used programmes by manufacturers imply true integrity, though undertaking a comprehensive check of your own would undoubtedly provide additional peace of mind.
If you are purchasing a vehicle online in another province, attempt to find a proxy in the region who would be able to inspect a vehicle on your behalf. Look into services like Car Inspect, who dispatch a technician to have a look at the vehicle you are considering before the final transaction. Companies such as TransUnion also provide vehicle verification services, promising detailed insight into the history of a car, but there are limitations to this.
Kriben Reddy, the vice-president of automotive information solutions for TransUnion Africa said that while buyers were once able to see if second-hand vehicles were written-off, this is no longer the case. Why?
“We source data from multiple sources to produce our vehicle verification report. We used to receive previous accident information from a specific data supplier, but unfortunately our agreement with this supplier has ended. Until we can source verifiable data again, we are not able to provide this information. Consumers can still establish whether the car is the correct model, any outstanding finance, mileage and whether it is listed as stolen.”
Last month, sister supplement Business Day Motor News reported on a plea by the SA Motorbody Repairers’ Association (Sambra) for the insurance industry to make its register of written-off vehicles publicly available.
Its national director Richard Green had said there is no way for a consumer to find out if the second-hand vehicle they are purchasing has been previously written off. Until such a database is available, buyers will have to rely on a thorough inspection beyond face value before signing on the dotted line — demand a Dekra report and if possible, enlist the services of a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase eye-over.