Our blog: How dealers have to clear up manufacturers’ mistakes

  18 June 2018

Who would want to be a dealer facing a mess on the scale caused by some manufacturers and the possibility of a legal challenge at retailer level.

Only this week Mercedes revealed that almost 750,000 cars and vans need a software tweak over emissions, not the first time that dealers have had to carry the can for them over this. The VW group’s issues are well known but despite paying out nearly £19 billion in fines so far the class actions from private motorists have not yet begun. BMW has been blasted for failing to divulge what it knew to be an electrical fault and someone is now dead as a result.

It’s an unholy mess born of corporate cynicism and arrogance at manufacturer level, but what does it means at retailer level?

The legal situation remains to be resolved but lawyers and car owners are already talking about dealers’ responsibilities under various consumer Acts, sales of goods and I dare say other statutes. Only a few weeks ago Caffyns was moved to acknowledge the problem and say there are cases pending although they are confident that it will not get to a situation where they are hit financially. At least, no provision has been made, no war chest put to one side to meet any such claims.

But leaving aside any such possible liabilities, there are more immediate issues for them to deal with on behalf of the manufacturer which landed them in this mess in the first place. Fitting all those recalls into the workshop schedule without bumping other customers further back in the queue, running customers to their work or elsewhere in a courtesy car while theirs is on the ramps, handling irate but fully justified questions about the impact on resale values all this will have… it’s not easy.

And yet I spoke to a VW dealer when the emissions fiasco first came to light and it was obvious a recall programme on a scale rarely seen would be needed. “You know’’, he said “it’s true people will remember VW for this but it is equally true that our customers will remember us for the way we looked after them. With a bit of care and some resources something like this can be a good opportunity for a dealer to make something positive out of a bad situation. At the end of the day, this is a people business and we are good at that.”

It will be a skill much in demand over the coming weeks and months for some retailers.

John Swift
Auto Retail Agenda

imageTags: recalls

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