Hybrid hassles: Ontario Kia customer frustrated with long repair delays

Click to play video 'Power failures in Kia hybrid cause $49K headache' Power failures in Kia hybrid cause $49K headache
WATCH ABOVE: After settling on a Kia, Randy Starr and his wife said they thought they’d made a great decision. But as Sean O’Shea reports, power failures on the road and a seven-week repair delay have changed them from satisfied consumers into unhappy ones.

The Korean automaker’s motto is “The Power to Surprise,” but an unexpected power failure in Randy Starr’s new Kia was about the last thing he said he thought he would experience on North America’s busiest highway in April.

“All of a sudden this message came on saying, ‘Hybrid System Failed,’ and I lost the functionality of the car, all ability to accelerate; if I hit the brakes it would be very choppy,” Starr said, referring to his experience on Highway 401, which runs through Toronto.

Starr said he drove the under-powered Kia Niro hybrid off the highway and called Plaza Kia, the dealership where he bought it.

The vehicle was taken in for evaluation, but a technician initially found no defect.

“As soon as I drove off the (dealership) lot, the system failed again. (The technician) said he drove it for 20 minutes, he said everything’s fine,” Starr said.

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Later, Starr said the vehicle failed two more times. He returned it to the dealership on each occasion.

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“There have been three failures, now they’re trying a fourth fix,” Starr said.

The Kia Niro hybrid has been at the dealership for about 47 days, Starr said, who has been using rental vehicles instead of his new car. He has been reimbursed by Kia for the replacement vehicles, but said he was only permitted to rent a vehicle that is smaller than the one in for repairs.

At one point, Starr said he asked Kia for a replacement.

“I’m a third-time Kia buyer, can you give me my money back or give me another vehicle?” he said, adding he was told those options were not available.

“I’ve learned that Kia is not standing behind its customers.”

Kia, on the other hand, said it supports its customers.

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“While we do understand that being without your vehicle can be frustrating, Kia Canada goes to great lengths to stand by our products and have won numerous quality awards because of that,”  Kia Canada corporate communications manager Mark James said in an email to Global News.

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“In rare cases, diagnosis and repairs take longer than expected as these are very high-tech products and we need to make sure they are fixed properly for the long term safety and happiness of our customers,” James concluded.

Coincidentally, Starr was notified his vehicle was repaired and ready less than a day after Global News contacted Kia for this story.

As he left the dealership, Starr said he was reassured by the dealership.

“They said there should be no more problems,” Starr said.

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But as he drove home in his nearly-new Kia for the first time in about seven weeks, Starr quickly found out the problems weren’t entirely addressed. The air conditioning in the vehicle wouldn’t work. The outside temperature at the time was about 28 degrees at the time.

He returned to the dealership to drop it off for yet another repair, which Kia promised to fix within the day.

Starr said there should be lemon laws in Canada to protect consumers who buy vehicles that don’t work as promised.

“There is what’s right, what’s moral and what’s legal. And all those things don’t always coincide.”