CONSUMER WATCH | Big battle over a rusty Suzuki Jimny

08 February 2023 - 11:35
By Brenwin Naidu
Suspension components were corroded.
Image: Supplied Suspension components were corroded.

Deválier Wouda loves his Suzuki Jimny but was less pleased by the way the manufacturer dealt with issues of rust that affected the unit.  

Wouda, an attorney, purchased his Jimny GLX new from Suzuki Bryanston, Johannesburg, in January 2022.

In March he moved to Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape. In October he noticed corrosion on the chassis and suspension, including the right front and rear brakes.   

“I take pride in my vehicle and try to care for it as best as possible. To discover rust on a part of the chassis after about 11 months of taking delivery was concerning, to say the least,” Wouda said.    

“It is well-known that rust on any part of a vehicle is a serious issue and can be terminal to the vehicle's lifespan. It is fair to expect that a reputable brand and company such as Suzuki will deliver vehicles of good quality, produced to meet reasonable standards of use over an extended period.”   

A Suzuki-approved panelbeater advised rubberisation of the undercarriage.
Image: Supplied A Suzuki-approved panelbeater advised rubberisation of the undercarriage.

One of the reasons that inspired his purchase of the Jimny is the famed reputation the model enjoys for its off-road capability and durability.   

“I am aware that various factors affect the development of rust or corrosion. However, it can be expected that a new vehicle, if properly treated with anti-corrosion treatments, will not rust or develop corrosion within at least the warranty period, irrespective of exposure to various elements.”  

He took the vehicle to the Suzuki dealership servicing the area, owned by the Tavcor group.   

The vehicle was inspected and a claim was submitted to Suzuki Auto South Africa by the dealership. On November 17 Wouda received an email from a service adviser at the dealership informing him the claim was rejected on the basis that the warranty did not extend to undercarriage rust.   

He tried to seek assistance from the Bryanston dealership that sold him the vehicle. The dealership said it could not assess the claim as it had not inspected the vehicle and referred Wouda to Suzuki Auto South Africa’s customer care department.

“To be frank, it does not make sense that the warranty does not extend to the vehicle's undercarriage. It can confidently be stated this exclusion is liable to be set aside by a court on the facts in this matter,” said Wouda.  

“It is appropriate to note it appears from the markings in the service booklet that rust was present on the vehicle on August 11, the date on which the vehicle had its first service at Suzuki Gqeberha, in the same areas I can see rust now. 'R' is marked on the vehicle figures.  

Rust crept into tiny crevices.
Image: Supplied Rust crept into tiny crevices.

“I was not made aware of this at that time. Had I been, I would have acted accordingly, as I take my duty to care for the vehicle seriously. It is reasonable to conclude that rust was already developing before that date.”  

He took the vehicle to Accident Paint & Panel, a Suzuki-accredited panel beater in Gqeberha for an assessment. A letter from the company, with inspection date recorded on November 29, confirmed the corrosion.   

“This vehicle is a 2022 model — one-year old. In our opinion the complete chassis will have to be rust cleaned and re-rubberised. As for the suspension parts, they are to be replaced or receive the same treatment as the chassis, as suspension is a safety component,” the report said.   

“The estimated cost to do this could be about R20,000 and will have to be done by someone that specialises in this field,” it concluded.

In December, Wouda received feedback from Tavcor Suzuki in Gqeberha indicating a contribution of 50% would be made to repairs.   

Wouda was unclear as to whether the decision was made jointly by the dealerships in Gqeberha and Bryanston and Suzuki head office. He rejected the offer.  

“ I did not intentionally or negligently cause the damage and cannot be expected to contribute to the cost of repair. It is reasonable to expect a company which adheres to principles of good governance and customer service will accede to the claim made, take accountability and repair the damage. 

“With the information I have, it appears as though Suzuki Bryanston, and by extension Suzuki Auto South Africa, sold me a new vehicle without having properly treated the suspension and undercarriage to prevent rust and corrosion. As such,  justified reliance cannot be placed on the waiver of liability as repeatedly relied upon contained in the warranty the car was sold with.”

Wouda contacted us on December 13 and we approached the manufacturer on January 9 for comment, once business had resumed.   

The company responded on January 13.   

“The customer booked his vehicle in with Suzuki Port Elizabeth since the undercarriage was rusting. A claim was loaded, but rejected as undercarriage rust is not covered by this warranty policy.  

The owner expressed fears over the vehicle's long-term safety.
Image: Supplied The owner expressed fears over the vehicle's long-term safety.

“The customer was not happy with this outcome and decided to take his vehicle to a Suzuki-approved panel beater for a second opinion. The panel beater inspected the vehicle and issued a report. On November 28 the customer escalated his dissatisfaction with the claim outcome to customer care together with the panel beater inspection. This was further escalated to the SASA warranty department, senior management and Maruti India.

“After lengthy discussions it was concluded that the decision remains the same: ‘The rust is caused by external factors and influence, it has occurred in multiple parts, therefore indicating it is not a specific manufacturing defect’.

“As a gesture of goodwill, Suzuki Auto South Africa agreed to carry the costs for the replacement of his brake discs, provided he signs an acknowledgment letter, which he did.”

The acknowledgment letter states new Suzuki vehicle body panels are covered by a perforation warranty that does not apply to the chassis or undercarriage, adding that other corrosion would not be covered.

Before publication this week, we contacted the manufacturer to find out if new developments had taken place since its last comment. It had changed its position on the matter.   

“Suzuki Auto South Africa is in contact with Mr Wouda and have decided to repair and treat his vehicle and will monitor his vehicle over the next few months. All findings will be communicated to the factory to ensure a good quality product and experience for our customers.”

The manufacturer confirmed it would carry the cost.

At the time of going to print, Wouda confirmed the manufacturer had contacted him about the arrangement and there would be reimbursement for costs he incurred to remove rust on the rear drum brakes previously.

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