“Hey, auto dealer: where’s my car?”
Frank Statti said he was left asking that question in March after taking his 2017 Nissan Altima to a dealership for repair.
He told Global News his backup camera was failing intermittently and he needed to book the appointment. But when he checked the insurance company’s monitoring app on his mobile phone and saw his vehicle far from home late at night, Statti said he got concerned.
“My initial thought was maybe someone stole the thing,” he said.
The Milton resident switched insurance providers and agreed to install a vehicle transponder that would monitor his driving habits. Statti said he mentioned the device to the service advisor when he dropped off the car at Milton Nissan, the dealership where he purchased the car.
Statti said he wondered why his car was 90 kilometres from the dealership that evening. He said the tracking data supplied through the app showed his car had been driven above the speed limit for most of the trip to Woodstock, near Highway 401.
“It was driving at crazy speeds… up to 148 kilometres per hour,” Statti said, noting there were frequent periods of hard braking.
Global News reviewed the tracking data provided by Statti’s app. It showed that the vehicle reached up to 148 km/h and was above the 100 km/h speed limit for most of the trip on the highway.
Statti said he believed the vehicle was stolen and called Halton Regional Police. An officer from another police department showed up at the Woodstock location provided by the app in the early morning hours.
It turned out the vehicle was being driven by one of Milton Nissan’s service technicians.
“We had permission to take the vehicle home. We informed it was out of town and there are three witnesses to that,” said Tim Hoogaars, the dealership’s operating partner.
He said it’s common for technicians to take customers’ vehicles home to assess problems.
“Sometimes if we can’t diagnose a vehicle, we will ask a consumer, ‘May we drive the vehicle home to see if we can diagnose it overnight?’ That is not uncommon in the automotive industry if you’re struggling to try to diagnose it,” Hoogaars said.
“Should we have got it in writing? Clearly yes, we’ve never had an incident before where it’s been an issue.”
Statti said he allowed the vehicle to be kept overnight but never consented for the vehicle to be driven out of Milton or a nearly 200-kilometre round trip to assess the rear camera.
He said he’s also unhappy the vehicle was driven at high speed — data that will be seen by his new auto insurance provider and can be used by the insurer to calculate the insurance premium he should pay in future.
Statti said he didn’t receive an apology from the dealership, adding the service manager even asked him to leave when he came in to discuss the issue.
“He kicked me out of the office. He said he was going to call the police. He said I was tracking his employee illegally,” he said.
Statti said the dealership also didn’t replace the fuel consumed during the long drive by its employee.
When Global News contacted Nissan Canada about the incident, the manufacturer said Statti’s car was “not used for personal travel” by the dealership’s employee.
“Customer service is an absolute priority for all of us,” Didier Marsaud, Nissan’s director of corporate communications, said.
Two months after the driving incident, Statti’s backup camera is still not working properly.
Nissan Canada told Global News it is arranging to have the camera inspected at another dealership.