Elizabeth Avery had just heard about a Global News story about a man whose 2011 Audi Q5 burst into flames on a Toronto highway.
The report showed a ball of flame consuming Chris Sahadeo’s SUV, which had just left his auto dealer after scheduled repairs.
“I feel like I almost died,” Sahadeo told Global News in October 2015, moments after watching in disbelief as his pricey German-made car burned beyond recognition.
Avery, viewing the story, later said she could relate to the owner’s frustration. Her own Audi Q5 caught fire while parked on her driveway in Kingston, Ont.
“I could see smoke billowing out the front of the vehicle,” said Avery. “There were flames shooting out everywhere.”
Luckily, Avery and a family member were able to extinguish the flames, confined to the engine compartment. A subsequent investigation by her insurance company concluded that the cause of the fire was related to the Audi’s coolant pump.
At the time, Avery reported the problem to Audi Canada, hoping the company would take the matter seriously. She says she was ignored.
Then, this January, Audi issued a recall for 576,000 vehicles for fire and airbag rupture risks. It acknowledged that the coolant pump posed a potential fire risk.
Veteran automobile technician Kirk Robinson, who owns a repair facility in Mississauga, Ont., says safety is a key concern for car and truck owners.
“They want to know their vehicle is safe–they want to have confidence in their service provider and the manufacturer of their vehicle,” said Robinson, who has for years also hosted an automobile help program on a local cable television channel.
Robinson says some manufacturers are more transparent that others when dealing with consumer complaints about safety, and he points to an example involving his shop.
“I’ve had a car come in here from a manufacturer–it had an explosion on the engine. I had to prove it was a manufacturer’s defect. And the manufacturer paid it out, very quietly,” he said.
Audi Canada finally acknowledged Avery’s concerns about the overall safety of her repaired vehicle. The company agreed to replace it after a Global News story and other pressure, she said.
Avery says the company asked her not to tell anyone, but did not bind her by a non-disclosure agreement.
Eighteen months after her vehicle burned and she attempted to get the company to pay attention, she’s concerned Audi did too little, too late. She says consumers have to keep pressure on companies that don’t appear to take safety seriously enough.
“Consumers have to make sure the problem is dealt with. Not only dealt with but that other people know it.”