OPINION | Be on your guard when buying that car by checking price of parts

Be on your guard when buying that car by checking price of parts, says Wendy Knowler
Be on your guard when buying that car by checking price of parts, says Wendy Knowler
Image: File

Savvy car buyers know to check the price of parts before buying a car, especially the crash parts – fenders, lights and the like – because if are very expensive, your insurer could declare the car a write-off after a seemingly minor accident.

But there’s another factor which has a huge impact on the cost of car ownership, not to mention state of mind – the availability of parts.

A well-priced part becomes a very expensive one if the manufacturer takes months to supply it.

That’s the prospect which Preethie Shanker of Durban was faced with.

She bought a new TATA Indigo Manza sedan last August, “based on the fact that I was promised excellent service and no issues with availability of parts”.

But she got neither in the wake of the accident she had in the car in April. “The insurance claim was approved but when the panelbeaters contacted TATA for a part – the rear right panel – the problems began?

“The first order was placed on May 7, and we were told that we’d have to wait 30 to 45 days for the part to arrive by ship from India.”

It couldn’t be airfreighted, she was told, because the part was too large.

Then it got worse – someone in TATA apparently cancelled that initial order, so the part had to be re-ordered on May 30. “Then I was told it would take 60-90 days for the part to arrive!

“So in effect I will not have a car for around five months due to TATA’s appalling service delivery,” Shanker told In Your Corner.

“I requested a courtesy car since the delay was due to their incompetence, but they claim not to have any vehicles available for me.

“This while I’m paying for a car that I cannot use due to them being unable to deliver.”

In an email to Shanker earlier this month, a TATA SA representative told her: “We will not be able to assist with a courtesy vehicle as the part in question is a slow moving body part which we only stock on demand.”

And then came a real gem for the customer service handbook: “(Your) insurance could have a benefit plan available which includes a courtesy vehicle option, or you may request assistance for vehicle use from the panelbeater should they have one available.”

Even if Shanker’s insurance cover included the car hire benefit, it’s seldom, if ever, for longer than a month. I took up the case with TATA distributor Accordian Investments, and got a response from Jannine Talbot – head of customer care at Motus, which represents several car brands, including TATA.

She offered Shanker two options “in an effort to minimise any further inconvenience and frustration to you, and as a gesture of goodwill” – the company would pay the instalment on her car until the part was received by the dealership and dispatched to the panelbeater, or carry the cost of a hire vehicle until that happened.

Oh, and the part is no longer coming on the slowboat from India.

“TATA India has confirmed that they have sourced the panel and we are putting the panel on airfreight, but it was a very large, complete panel and the flight needs to have space for it,” she said. "It’s essentially on standby for the next available flight."

Nice save, but clearly Shanker shouldn’t have needed a journalist’s intervention for that part to be made available within a reasonable time.

So how do other manufacturers respond when that same part is requested for a sedan similar to a TATA Manza? Here’s what a few of them told me:

HYUNDAI Accent:

“95% of parts required are in SA. If the repair of a vehicle is delayed by parts supply, we will definitely not use the sea freight option – the part will be flown in to get the customer back on road as soon as possible. The lead time is 10 days.”

FORD Ikon:

“If we do not have stock and a dealer places an order, the part will be airfreighted. Depending on where the source is, it will take about 10 days from order placement.”

VW Polo Vivo sedan:

“The Polo Vivo is the only entry-level car produced in SA so the part should be in stock either at the local dealer or in our warehouse - depending on when the body repairer orders the part, it will be available within two to three days.”

CONTACT WENDY:

E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za; Twitter: @wendyknowler

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