Specialist Recruitment and Consultancy
17th Aug 2011 | by: robsteed

The most recent excitement in my house has been car related, but not in a good way.

Last year I bought a 6-month old Mazda3 with 2 1/2 years of Mazda warranty left on it, from Donalds Group in Bury St Edmunds.  It’s a great car, and I was really enjoying driving it until…….

It all started in February, when driving to the next village 2 miles away the car suddenly cut out.  After a couple of minutes of trying to re-start it, it fired back up and behaved as normal.  I contacted the dealer, took the car over, they put it on their computer and checked for errors and all was normal.  We both assumed a one-off blip.

About 2 months later the same thing happened.  Then again 1 month later.  A further 2 weeks later the dealer had the car in again for 3 days, and again found nothing wrong with it.

Over the next 3 weeks it happened twice more.  The second time nearly resulted in a very nasty meeting with a lorry.  By now the dealer had stopped responding to emails, so I sent took legal advice, sent a recorded delivery letter to the dealer and to Mazda head office.  I got a response, and they agreed to have the car in for 2 weeks, give me a courtesy car, involve a Mazda engineer, etc.  Good news!

Another week passed and I had the same problem 3 times one evening.  The next morning it happened twice more, I cancelled my meeting, called the dealer and started to head over to the garage.  I didn’t make it.  The car finally died, the RAC were called, the car got towed into the dealer – never have I been so pleased to break down, finally my problem would be solved.  Surely!  At this point I still really loved the car, and was hoping for them to fix it.

2 weeks later I had an email saying that they’d only managed to replicate the fault once, and could they keep it for a further week.

A further 10 days later they said that despite 5-600 miles of testing they still couldn’t replicate the fault, and therefore there was no issue and could I collect the car.  Having nearly been driven into by a lorry 4-weeks earlier I wasn’t prepared to risk putting my children in this car again.  So, more legal advice was taken, and the advice I was given was to take the issue up with the car finance company – Santander.  I was also advised to reject the car (i.e. leave it with the dealer and refuse to drive it).

Santander responded very quickly.  Within 3 days I had received a request for further information.

Last week I received a note from someone senior at Donalds Group (the first time anyone other than the poor service manager had been polite enough to contact me).  They stated they were going to dispute my claim, and after 2-300 miles of testing they didn’t believe there was a fault with the car.  You may notice the testing has reduced from “5-600 miles” to “2-300 miles”, so I called the RAC and checked the mileage when it was towed in, and by my maths they’ve done 99 miles of testing.  Given the fault was historically occuring an average of 500-1000 miles apart that probably doesn’t help.

So, as it stands today I’m still waiting.  Further legal advice supports my feeling that I should be due a replacement car or a refund.  Of course I’m still paying £300 a month to Santander, but I haven’t driven my car for 8-weeks now.  Luckily I have a kind brother-in-law, who has lent us his car, but it’s not the same.

So, despite 6-months of documented faults, independent validation of the fault by the RAC, and written confirmation from the dealer that they have replicated the fault once (in 99 miles of testing), it’s me that is suffering.  Santander are still getting paid, Donalds are not replacing the car, Mazda UK are not communicating with me at all.

Frustrated isn’t the word!  As you can imagine, I’m not recommending Mazda or Donalds Group to many people any more.

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