An Ontario woman has decided to Go Public, as she fights to get Mini Canada, owned by BMW, to pay $10,200 to repair her Mini Cooper, after a blown engine that left her car unusable.
"When the car stopped dead, I could have been killed or killed someone," Yasmina Bursac told Go Public.
"I'm a relatively experienced driver, I've been on the road for a long time. It was frightening."
Bursac bought her used 2010 Mini Cooper S from a Volkswagen dealership in Mississauga, Ont., in July 2013 for $21,000 .
The vehicle was only three years old with 61,000 kilometres on the clock, and Bursac says the Volkswagen dealership she bought it from told her it was in good shape and safe to drive.
But just over a year later, on Sept. 26, 2014, Bursac says she was travelling at 70 km/h along a Mississauga road when her car suddenly stopped without warning.
She heard a hissing sound and couldn't restart it.
Bursac had the car towed to a nearby gas station where a mechanic looked at it.
"He told me … the engine had been completely damaged beyond repair and I needed a new engine. I was in disbelief because the engine only had 64,000 kilometres on it," she said.
Bursac wanted a second opinion, so she had the car towed to Budd's BMW/Mini dealership in Oakville, Ont.
She says the dealership confirmed the worst — a vacuum pump had failed, causing the timing chain to snap and doing irreparable damage to the engine.
Bursac says the dealership told her a refurbished engine would cost her just under $10,200. Bursac was shocked; she still had about $19,000 in car payments to make.
Mini agrees to pay 60%, with strings attached
Bursac called Mini Cooper Canada to complain. How could a relatively new car with so few kilometres have such a massive mechanical failure?
After some negotiation, the company offered to pay 60 per cent of the $10,200 cost, if Bursac got the repairs done at its dealership.
But Bursac had done some research, and believed the initial estimate was inflated, so the offer to pay a large portion of the cost wasn't the deal it seemed to be, especially when the damage wasn't her fault.
"It was shocking, because online the price range for a refurbished engine was between $1,700 and $3,000."
Mini already facing class action lawsuits in U.S.
Class action lawsuits involving certain Mini Cooper models have already been filed in the U.S.
One $85-million US lawsuit alleges BMW failed to notify consumers about a design defect that could cause water pumps to fail in thousands of 2007-13 Mini Coopers.
That class action is pending court approval and involves the water pump that wasn't recalled. BMW denies the allegations.
In November 2013, a big class action lawsuit was settled involving the 2002-06 Mini Hardtop and the 2005-08 Mini Convertible.
Plaintiffs alleged a design defect caused the continuously variable transmissions or CVTs in the vehicles to prematurely break down, which could lead to transmission failure while driving.
In that case, BMW denied the allegations but agreed to provide refunds to consumers.
'A used Mini is a piece of junk'
Go Public could not find a record of any class action lawsuits in Canada, but that doesn't mean there are no unhappy Mini drivers.
George Iny, president of consumer advocacy for the Automobile Protection Association in Canada, says his organization hears a lot of complaints about the older Mini models — especially those manufactured between 2002 and 2008.
"A used Mini is a piece of junk. And the pity is, unlike other BMW products, it's sold to people who would otherwise be driving in a small Volkswagen or Toyota or something like that," he told Go Public.
"These are the people who don't necessarily have the BMW wallet to pay for BMW price repairs. It's both not reliable and very expensive to fix."
The problem, according to Iny, goes beyond Mini products. He says that across the country, provincial governments are failing when it comes to protecting car owners.
Iny says that under most provincial consumer laws, defective goods are subject to a refund or replacement, but the provinces seem to ignore that when it comes to defective vehicles.
He says car manufacturers know they won't be penalized or face fines if their cars are defective.
"Very few retailers would refuse to take back really defective goods. Car makers and car dealers do that every day," Iny says.
Lemon laws needed in Canada, say advocates
Iny wants to see so-called "lemon laws" in Canada, like the ones in the U.S.
Individual states have their own legislation that goes by different names, but they all give car buyers extra protection if their vehicles are defective — if they have bought a so-called "lemon."
"What you would need is some kind of 'lemon' protection for both new and used car buyers, because the car companies don't respect the implied warranty that you get. You need something clearer," said Iny.
In the case of the Mini, Iny says BMW could do a lot better by offering its customers extended warranties for problematic models or cheaper repair rates, just as other car makers have done in the past.
In Bursac's case, she tried to strike a deal with the BMW dealership, suggesting it fix the car and then sell it, subtracting the cost of the repairs, enabling her to pay off as much of her loan as possible.
But Bursac says the dealership refused, saying the best it could do is offer her $1,000 for the broken-down car.
BMW: there's little Mini Canada can do
Barb Pitblado, BMW Group Canada's director of corporate communications, says that because Bursac bought the car second-hand from a non-Mini dealership without an extended warranty, there is little Mini Canada can do.
Pitblado says the company offered to pick up 60 per cent of the cost of replacing the engine as "a gesture of goodwill and to make [Bursac] happy with her brand experience with Mini."
Pitblado offered to put Bursac back in touch with the BMW/Mini dealership.
Bursac declined that offer, saying the situation leaves her saddled with car payments for a vehicle without an engine, which she can't drive or sell.
"It was just a horrible experience and it's continued to be a horrible experience," she says.
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