CONSUMER WATCH | Dealer vs dealer in Nissan Navara engine dispute

The engine bay of a Nissan Navara 2.3D LE 4x4 automatic.
The engine bay of a Nissan Navara 2.3D LE 4x4 automatic.
Image: Supplied

Two car dealers are at odds over a double-cab that was revealed to have had an engine transplant.

On May 26 this year Nathanael Padayachee, owner of Nate’s Car Sales in East London, purchased a 2018 Nissan Navara 2.3D LE 4x4 automatic from Vaal Toyota Vereeniging. It was sold under the brand’s Automark pre-owned banner, where certified vehicles undergo various quality checks, including a guarantee of year, model and mileage, as described on their website.

According to an invoice, Padayachee paid R439,900 for the vehicle, purchased for resale to a client. He claims he had been assured that the factory-issued warranty of the Nissan remained active. At the time of purchase the vehicle recorded 65,042km on the odometer.

After taking delivery, he sent the vehicle to Automall Nissan & Datsun in East London for an inspection and to corroborate the validity of the warranty. An invoice and description of services from the dealership indicated a noise from the suspension, followed by a note that the technician was unable to complete the health check because the “vehicle has been worked on and not to Nissan standards”.

The outline, dated June 9, revealed: a boost pipe bolt was missing, air-conditioning piping and a wiring harness were not correctly secured, deteriorated water hoses needed replacement and engine oil was mixing with coolant. At that point the vehicle odometer was noted as 66,690km.

Later that day Padayachee sent an email to Carlo Vigliotta, the sales executive from Vaal Toyota Vereeniging who facilitated the deal, requesting a refund for R439,900, plus an additional R14,215 spent on ancillaries. In the correspondence, Padayachee said the issues discovered after the inspection had not been noted to him when he initially purchased the vehicle.

Padyachee said he was then told that because he is a dealer trading under his business entity, it was a wholesale agreement — absolving Vaal Toyota Vereeniging of certain obligations. Padyachee denied that it was a wholesale deal, adding that the selling dealership was trying to evade responsibility. In addition to the description from Automall Nissan & Datsun East London, he sent via WhatsApp a video clip of a service adviser pointing out the concerns found in the engine bay of the Navara.

He claims that on June 15 he was told that a refund would be actioned and that Automark manager Jacques Viljoen would call him on June 17 to discuss. “Jacques called me the next day, stating that [according to] Nissan Vereeniging, the vehicle still has warranty, as well as that the motor was replaced by them on November 5 2020.”

Padayachee said that had he been told upfront that the motor was replaced, he would have never completed the transaction. “He informed me that they will not refund nothing.”

An email trail shows that on June 22 he escalated his grievance to Ryan de Wet, dealer principal. De Wet responded: “Unfortunately we cannot take this vehicle back and refund you due to the reasons provided, misrepresentation was never the case here, the vehicle carries a Nissan warranty and all the work done on it, known to us and not, was through a Nissan dealer, Star Nissan Vereeniging.

When it was said that we would take the vehicle back by the sales person, all the detail was not on hand and only after in-depth investigation with Nissan we got to know about the work done, Star Nissan claims that all that is pointed out can definitely be rectified as the work was done by a certified Nissan dealer under warranty.

“The vehicle did undergo an inspection within my workshop, due to the full service history and the warranty that is covered by Nissan we did not look for any major faults as we are not Nissan specialists, this dealer that pointed out these points of concern, is clearly trained to do so on their products.

“I believe that your customer that you purchased this vehicle for would be in a better position as this engine that was replaced by Nissan only has an estimated 3,000km on and not the 66,000km odd.”

In response, Padayachee asked why the engine transplant had not been disclosed and said that on account of the issues identified by Nissan & Datsun East London, the Navara could not be driven. “If it’s such an appealing vehicle with only 3,000km, as you say, then to take it back and resell it to someone else — but this time be honest.”

A correspondence dated July 8 from Mathew Anderson, group service manager at Star Motor Group, which owns the Nissan dealership at which the Navara had its engine transplant, alleges that the Automall Nissan & Datsun in East London was “refusing to work on the vehicle based on petty things”.

“There is a national dealer network capable of assisting all mutual customers, irrespective of where the vehicle was bought or repaired. It is also part of the franchise agreement that no dealer may refuse to assist a Nissan customer, so based on the evidence, and the says by whoever made the video, it is quite clear that they are looking for any possible reason not to work on the vehicle or to assist the client.

“My recommendation would be to get Nissan SA involved and have them look into the situation as well.

“I could tow the vehicle back to clip a harness back in, and move a pipe in a different route, and clean the radiator cap, but that would unfortunately cost about R8,500 just for the towing costs back to Gauteng, then we will spend five minutes on the vehicle and tow it all the way back for another R8,500.

“And another point that I would like to raise on this matter is the fact that all used vehicles sold through any dealer network, irrespective of the original equipment manufacturer, needs to go through roadworthy and some form of 101-point safety check. Why was this not identified then? The possibility could also be raised that someone else worked on the vehicle?”

In a separate email, Mark Lentz, workshop manager at Nissan & Datsun East London, confirmed:

“The concerns on the Navara were discussed with Nissan warranty department. The conclusion is none of the faults are warrantable therefore there is a cost involved and someone would need to foot the bill.

The fact that there is oil in the cooling system is concerning as this could lead to a major repair.

“My question is: why weren’t these issues picked up at the used vehicle 101 or equivalent check and rectified before the sale of the vehicle?”

On July 29 we approached Toyota SA Motors (TSAM). “We have just been advised that the matter is now being handled by Nate’s and the dealer’s lawyers, we would therefore not be able to offer an official statement,” said spokesperson Mzolisi Witbooi.

On Aug. 13, an email from Caxton Mabikwa from the customer liaison department of TSAM read: “For us to resume with the investigation a letter will need to be sent to us confirming that the attorneys have stopped the legal investigation.”

Peter Allam of Allam’s Attorney’s, representing Padayachee, responded: “Please note that we’ve stopped all legal proceedings as far back as the July 29 2021. Our client only contacted us to assist as the seller had indicated that they had instructed attorneys. We leave the matter in your capable hands to resolve.”

Vaal Toyota Vereeniging’s Automark manager Jacques Viljoen stated that the Navara was a trade-in at the dealership, a one-owner vehicle with a full service history and that it still fell under the manufacturer’s warranty.

We found out that the previous owner had a factory problem with the vehicle and the engine was replaced by Nissan under warranty, we were not aware of that at the time.

“Not that it would have made a difference with the original transaction as all the work was done by the manufacturer under warranty, all that this would mean is that the next owner would be getting a vehicle with a new motor under warranty putting him or her in even a better position.

“Nate’s Car Sales had all the information needed to do their own due diligence before purchasing the vehicle as all us motor dealers do when purchasing from each other,” he said, adding that it was a wholesale agreement.

“The information we gave was 100% true at the time of sale.

“Having a new motor in a vehicle with 60,000km odd under a manufacturer’s warranty would definitely put you in a better position I would think.”

On August 16, Nissan SA responded to our request for comment:

“The vehicle is question was sold to Mr Padayachee as a pre-owned vehicle by a non-Nissan dealership. This non-Nissan dealership should have performed a pre-delivery check before selling the vehicle to the customer,” said Natasha Naidoo, manager in the customer contact centre, adding that “the condition of the car is questionable”.

“From what our dealership has seen thus far, the repairs are not warrantable. Mr Padayachee does not want the vehicle any more and expects the non-Nissan dealership to take the vehicle back. The non-Nissan dealership has referred the matter to their legal team to mitigate.

“From a Nissan perspective, we will authorise the initial fault findings to determine the root cause. In terms of cancelling the deal, the selling dealer will unfortunately need to address that.”

While the office of the Motor Industry Ombudsman of SA (Miosa) declined to comment on the case specifically, it said that in instances where dealers are in dispute, its office is able to assist in conciliatory proceedings — if both parties consent and subject themselves to the process.

Would the buyer still have recourse available even though he purchased the car under his dealership's name?

“Yes, he would have a right to recourse, even if he purchased through his business,” said the ombudsman.