Consumer SOS: Hyundai steps in after Global News story on Orangeville dealer

Click to play video: 'Hyundai ‘disappointed’ with dealer, pays for repairs after Global News report'
Hyundai ‘disappointed’ with dealer, pays for repairs after Global News report
WATCH ABOVE: Days after a Global News report documenting how an Orangeville Hyundai dealer treated its customer following a theft, the manufacturer has condemned the conduct and arranged for repairs. Seán O’Shea reports. – Sep 6, 2022

When a Hyundai dealer in Orangeville, Ont., refused to pay the cost to repair a customer’s car whose catalytic converter was stolen while in for service, the manufacturer stepped in.

Hyundai not only replaced the catalytic converter and exhaust pipe, it had the car towed to another dealer, provided a rental vehicle for a week, paid to have the interior and exterior detailed, and gave the vehicle owner a $500 gas card.

And it offered an unreserved apology following a Global News story documenting what happened.

“They did a fantastic job,” said Diane Reid, who picked up her gleaming 2010 Hyundai Veracruz from Performance Hyundai on Tuesday.

“They went above and beyond,” said Reid, whose experience with Orangeville Hyundai garnered thousands of social media viewings and international attention after it was reported by Global News.

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Orangeville Hyundai, co-owned by dealer principal Phil Richards, was adamant in a television interview that his dealership was in no way responsible for damages even though Reid’s vehicle was in his company’s care.

“It’s out of our conrol, we don’t control theft,” Richards said.

“She has only herself to blame for this,” he said, referring to Reid’s daugher, Jamie-Lee Higginson.

Richards called Ontario Provincial Police officers to the dealership when Higginson informed another customer in the service department that the dealership had declined to take responsibility for damages. He said he believed Higginson was acting in a threatening way because she suggested she might call a lawyer for advice.

He told Global News his dealership would not budge by volunteering to repair the vehicle. (It was originally at the dealership because Orangeville Hyundai advised it needed a new alternator. Later, a mechanic at another shop determined it only required a new battery.)

“That’s right, based on her behaviour and how she went about it,” Richards said, referring to Facebook posts pointing out what happened to her mother’s vehicle.

Richards openly acknowledge Orangeville Hyundai had no exterior security precautions in place to help guard against theft.

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“‘Who runs a business these days without security cameras? Seriously?” said Detroit-area lawyer Steve Lehto, who is familiar with Michigan law that governs a dealership’s liability.

“Do they not realize how bad this makes them look? ‘Stuff got stolen from a car; you can’t blame us because it’s happened before.’ That’s exactly why we can blame you,” Lehto said in a YouTube broadcast using the Orangeville Hyundai case to point out a consumer’s rights.

Orangeville Hyundai admitted it had at least one other case of catalytic converter theft on its property a few months ago, and had not beefed up security in any way since then.

“No, there’s no security video,” Richards said. There is also no fence around the dealership or after-hours gate preventing thieves from driving onto the lot.

Thefts of catalytic converters are increasingly common in North America because of the valuable metals used to manufacture them.

After the original Global News report and the dealership’s refusal to assist, Hyundai Canada openly acknowledged the response was not the right one.

“When a customer’s vehicle is in the property of a Hyundai dealership, they have an obligation to take care of the vehicle,” wrote Jennifer McCarthy, national manager of public relations for Hyundai.

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“We are deeply sorry for the Higginson (and Reid) family’s experience at Orangeville Hyundai and are working with them and a different local dealership to replace the catalytic converter as soon as possible,” McCarthy added in her letter to Global News.

Reid was grateful for how Hyundai handled her case at a corporate level once it became public.

But Higginson, her daughter, says Phil Richards ought to have contacted her personally with an apology for calling the police and for refusing to pay for repairs.  Richards did not offer any apology to her.

Lawyer Steve Lehto said it’s clear Orangeville Hyundai should have acted differently.

“You fix it at cost and you’d save yourself a bunch of embarrassment because this is absurd. But it’s why it made the news, Global News.”

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Delighted as they were with how Hyundai Canada resolved the issue, there is a twist to this story: five minutes after driving off the Hyundai lot in Brampton, Reid and Higginson pulled over because smoke was pouring from the vehicle’s exhaust system which had just been repaired by the second dealer.

The vehicle has been left for further assessment and to see what repairs are necessary now, and whether Hyundai or the family will be asked to pay.

Late Tuesday, Hyundai Canada reaffirmed its intention to get the vehicle back on the road again.

“We empathize with the unusual situation Mrs. Reid has experienced today,” said McCarthy.

“We will continue to work with Mrs. Reid and the team at Performance Hyundai Brampton to determine the cause of the engine issue, and identify possible solutions as soon as possible to avoid further inconvenience.”

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