A customer of a Winnipeg Toyota dealership wants the company to exchange his car after learning significant details were not disclosed prior to the purchase.

Blair Friesen was shopping for a reliable commuter car in December 2011. He turned to Woodhaven Toyota, a member of the Birchwood Auto Group, a big-brand dealer he felt he could trust.

He said a salesperson showed him a 2009 Corolla, and left him with the impression the car had never been in an accident.

"I was told it was a clean car assuming that meant a non-accident car, so I didn't think nothing of it," Friesen told CBC News.

"I didn't think a big outlet like that would sell a car like this."

Friesen paid $15,500 for the Corolla, which had previously been returned from a lease. Last year, he got a surprise when his nephew was fixing a small ding in the door and noticed the car had been through major repairs.

"He asked me where I bought the car, and I told him Woodhaven," Friesen said. "He says 'well, I'd be taking it back there.  This car's been in a pretty good accident.'"

Three claims on 'clean' car

Friesen later ran his car's serial number through a vehicle history reporting service called CarProof, which catalogues insurance claims.

Contact the I-Team

If you have more information on this story or other investigative tips to pass on, please contact the CBC News I-Team at iteam@cbc.ca or 204-788-3744.

The report showed his car had three previous claims: One for vandalism, another for a minor collision and a third for a collision that netted an $8,200 repair.

"I was thinking like, wow, how could you not tell somebody that?" Friesen said. "Why would you even have that on your lot?"

Just one month after Friesen bought the car, the province changed the law in Manitoba.  Today, auto dealers are required to disclose a car's history to the buyer or they could face penalties.

Steve Chipman, president and CEO of the Birchwood Auto Group, owns the Woodhaven Toyota dealership. In an interview, he told CBC News that his dealership didn't know about the accidents.

He said at the time Friesen bought the car, his sales staff were not required to run history reports.

"We bought the car from Toyota Canada, back from a lease. It looked like a good car.  It wasn’t obvious it had been in an accident," said Chipman.

"We’ve offered him compensation."

No guarantees with new law

Chipman said the salesperson who sold Friesen the car doesn't work at the dealership any longer.

"There is nothing on file that would indicate that we knew it was in an accident," Chipman said. "There is nothing wrong with selling a car that’s been in an accident because lots of cars are in accidents.

"Cars are repaired, they’re safe to drive and they’re priced accordingly."

Chipman said he supports the new law that took effect on Dec. 31, 2011, but he adds that vehicle history reports are not foolproof.

Some cars are repaired without an insurance claim being filed, meaning there are still no guarantees, he said.

"I don’t think the searches are 100 per cent accurate," said Chipman. "The information is imperfect."

Chipman said Friesen's Corolla was inspected and safetied before it was sold to Friesen.  Birchwood is now offering Friesen $1,500 as compensation, in an effort to make things right.

"Disclosure laws have changed certainly and we’ve never tried to hide things from people," Chipman said.

Friesen doesn't believe the $1500 offered by Birchwood is enough and he's worried about the car's resale value in light of its history.

"It'll be hard for me to get rid of this car now because it was in an accident and a fairly major accident," said Friesen.

"If it was somebody like me, I'd shy away from the car unless you sell it at a cut rate."

Friesen wants the dealership to exchange his car for another of the same vintage which is accident-free.

Birchwood said it will entertain that idea and that it wants to resolve the matter with Friesen.


Since this I-Team story originally aired, the dealership has offered to take back the Corolla and give Friesen a deal on a new car.