A Winnipeg man says he lost thousands of dollars after buying a brand new car with numerous problems.
In 1997, Paul Cech-Manek was in a car accident, and he has been living with chronic pain ever since. When a doctor in Brandon told him there was a treatment, Cech-Manek jumped at the opportunity. There was just one problem: his old unreliable minivan.
"The surgery was very dangerous," said Cech-Manek. "They had to take a bone out of my hip to insert in my spine."
Cech-Manek said he was worried about his van leaving him stranded and needed a vehicle he could rely on.
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After searching for the most comfortable car he could find, Cech-Manek settled on the 2013 Buick Verano.
He got the car from McNaught Cadillac Buick GMC in mid-June, and according to him, that’s when the problems started.
"[After] driving more than 10-15 minutes, the car started to heat up," said Cech-Manek.
He said no matter what temperature he set the ventilation to, the air coming out of the vents was "boiling." He took the car back to the dealership, where he said he was told to put the windows down or turn on the air conditioning.
On his way home from the dealership another problem cropped up.
"This young kid is passing me and cuts me off. I put my hands on the steering wheel to push my horn, and [it] didn’t work."
Cech-Manek took the car back to the dealership, who diagnosed the problem as a blown fuse and replaced it.
The next morning the fuse blew again. This time, said Cech-Manek, the dealership gave him a handful of new fuses and sent him on his way.
All American states have some form of lemon law. They differ in terms of the length of coverage, how long the vehicles has to be out of commission and the onus placed on the consumer.
Minnesota's law covers
-New and used passenger cars, trucks and vans, as long as they are still under warranty. Also covers the van-portion of recreational vehicles.
-Defects that represent "substantial defects or problems" or problems that would impact the vehicle's resale value. Does not cover damage due to misuse.
Minnesota's law is in effect
-For the first two years of a vehicle's life.
Minnesota's law says the manufacturer must replace a car after
-Four or more unsuccessful attempts to repair the same defect; or,
-One unsuccessful attempt to repair a defect that has caused the complete failure of the steering or braking system and that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury; or,
-A car which has been out of service due to warranty repairs for 30 or more cumulative business days.
Minnesota's law requires a customer to
-Inform the manufacturer in writing they want a refund under Minnesota's lemon law
-Give the manufacturer one last chance to fix the defect after informing the manufacturer
-Go through the manufacturer's arbitration process
If these are unsuccessful a customer may sue the manufacturer under Minnesota's lemon laws.
Then the vehicle started shutting off while on the road.
"I’m on Kenaston when suddenly my car stalls totally, like shuts down," said Cech-Manek. The car started again after a few minutes but shut down again a little while later, he said.
Cech-Manek said the stress brought him to tears. "I was totally in shock and disbelief . . . so many things left and right falling apart, how is that possible?"
According to Cech-Manek, he asked McNaught to replace the vehicle or give him a loaner while they figured out what was wrong.
But Cech-Manek said he was ignored.
"They just stood there and [did] absolutely nothing," he said.
With his surgery looming Cech-Manek sold the car to another dealership, who were aware of the problems. He said he lost thousands on the deal.
Gord McNaught Jr., the general manager of McNaught Cadillac Buick GMC, said he couldn’t comment on customer issues but said his dealership and GM take cases like Mr. Cech-Manek’s "very seriously."
"If it’s a brand new vehicle, within a short time of ownership, often times the manufacturer will get involved," said McNaught. "It’s a lot of communication and a lot of diagnosis."
McNaught added customers need to be clear what they want from dealerships once problems arise.
"The customer needs to make it known that they want an exchange on the vehicle as well . . . and that’s not always the case," he said.
According to McNaught, exchanges are "very rare . . . we’ve had two customers that were deemed eligible for a new vehicle." That was over a 10-year period, he said.
McNaught said he did not have records of how many customers asked for exchanges and were denied.
Author Phil Edmonston has written over 150 books about cars and reliability. He said it is becoming increasingly common for cars to have problems in their first year of life, but dealerships still have a responsibility to the customer.
"A good dealership is one that treats customers with respect and understands what they are saying," said Edmonston. Not "make you come back over and over again," he added.
Edmonston said he does not recommend the Buick Verano to consumers because while Buick has a good reputation, the Verano is too new.
"You are taking a chance when you buy a vehicle that hasn’t been on the market for a few years," said Edmonston.
In the meantime, Cech-Manek is recovering at home from his surgery. He said he is out more than $4,000 because of the car, and he is seeking restitution from McNaught Cadillac Buick GMC.