When Steve Mosley bought a used Fiat from the Portsmouth branch of national car dealership Evans Halshaw, he was confident it would comply with their guarantee of a fully inspected hassle-free quality-assured vehicle, free from expensive major defects.
But within just a few weeks of buying it last April, an independent garage diagnosed a clapped out gearbox and worn out clutch, which would cost him as much to replace as he’d paid for the car.
Steve, from Bexhill-on-Sea, told Streetwise he was in the market for an unusual vintage Fiat 500 car, and first saw the very model he was looking for on an Evans Halshaw Birmingham website.
Advertised at £5,134, it appeared to tick the right boxes so he paid to have it moved and conveniently inspect it at the firm’s Portsmouth dealership – just a couple of hours’ drive away.
He said: ‘It looked in fair condition for its age and fine externally. When I started it up for testing, a tyre pressure warning came on which the sales person saw as well. The front tyre looked low and looked to be the cause. When I took the car away, I put air in the tyre and reset the warning and drove back.
‘I had a little difficulty changing gears smoothly and just put this down to not being used to the car. As the journey home was mostly fast dual carriageways I didn’t change gear much anyway, and the car ran well and smoothly. After about an hour, the tyre pressure warning came back up, and I reset it again and carried on.
‘The next day, I cleaned the car and looked at it more closely, when I noticed the rear nearside tyre was the wrong size and different from the other three tyres.
‘As it was a safety issue, I went out and purchased a new tyre. I then contacted Evans Halshaw by email and they agreed to pay for the new tyre. Once the tyre was on, the fault cleared and never came back for the short time I had the car.
‘I carried on using it for a few more days but the gear changing problem was getting noticeably worse. I went to a local Fiat dealer in Eastbourne raising my concerns.
‘To my astonishment, I received a quote from them for over £5,000 to replace the gearbox, clutch, and associated parts.’
Steve insisted the firm honour its repair warranty or refund him, but says he was driven round the bend by Evans Halshaw staff arguing the toss which branch should pay for the cost of the work.
After an exchange of increasingly acrimonious emails and phone calls, the firm finally agreed to take the car back for a full refund provided he returned the car’s V5 registration paperwork.
Days later he was still struggling to get the chaotic situation resolved. When he didn’t hear anything further from the Portsmouth dealership he got in touch again. Following several heated phone calls it emerged they were holding the refund in abeyance, because they couldn’t trace receipt of the V5 logbook document.
To speed up matters he paid the DVLA £25 for a replacement V5, and in the meantime the car and keys had been returned to Portsmouth from the Fiat garage in Eastbourne.
A furious Steve, 53, added: ‘Throughout the entire matter their customer service had been dreadful. They’re a big name and you put a bit of faith they’re going to deal with things efficiently and not sell you an unroadworthy car fitted with the wrong size tyres and when it goes wrong refuse to honour their warranty.
‘They’d got the car outside their garage, then they said they couldn’t deal with it because they didn’t have a bit of paper. That’s what really got to me. I didn’t have a car or the money to buy another one until they refunded me. What were they expecting me to do – argue over who owned it?’
At the end of his tether, Steve called in Streetwise for help.
Concerned he’d been on the receiving end of a raw deal and sold a dodgy motor by the UK’s leading automotive retailer, we sought answers from the parent company, Pendragon.
We asked them to investigate how, despite all their advertised quality standards and claimed pre-sales peace of mind inspection checks, the quality of the car clearly didn’t comply with the satisfactory and fitness for purpose standards set out in the 2015 Consumer Rights Act.
Two different tyres on the same axle would warrant an instant MOT failure, and the state of the gearbox and clutch components suggested that the pre-sales inspection and service was perfunctory and didn’t pass muster.
He’d incurred £95 additional out of pocket expenses which also hadn’t been reimbursed.
Evans Halshaw promptly responded to our request, but provided no explanation despite being repeatedly asked about the apparent lack of pre-sales quality checks.
A spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry to hear of the issues Mr Mosley has been experiencing following the purchase of a vehicle from our dealership in Portsmouth. The dealership’s sales team and our customer service team have been working with Mr Mosley to resolve all issues and he has accepted and been issued a full refund, as well as reimbursement for losses incurred as a result.’
Steve was left still smarting from his experience.
He said: ‘Thank you very much. You did your bit and I’m very grateful for it because I couldn’t get any answers from Pendragon. The dealership rarely got back to me when they said they would, and Pendragon were very nice to me but didn’t do anything about it.’