Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener woman says family 'completely abandoned' by Hyundai after vehicle breakdown on 401

A Kitchener, Ont., woman says her family was stranded for hours in 30 C heat after their 2020 Hyundai Venue broke down on Highway 401 and the company’s roadside assistance program failed to help get them home. A spokesperson for Hyundai Canada has apologized for the inconvenience of the vehicle malfunction.

Customers responsible for own transportation while vehicle towed, says Hyundai Canada

Bruce, Jessa and Shama Cunningham, left to right, were driving home from the cottage when their new Hyundai Venue lost power near Colborne, Ont. Despite having an extended warranty, the Cunninghams say they had to find their own way back home. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

A Kitchener, Ont., woman says her family was stranded for hours in 30 C heat last month after their 2020 Hyundai Venue broke down on Highway 401 and the company's roadside assistance program failed to help get them home. 

"We felt we were completely abandoned by the company in that moment where we actually needed their help," said Shama Cunningham. 

On June 27, Cunningham was on her way home from the family's cottage near Trenton with her husband Bruce Cunningham, baby daughter Jessa and their dog when the car suddenly slowed down and wouldn't accelerate above 10 kilometres an hour. 

They called roadside assistance — a service covered under their extended warranty package — and Bruce said the agents agreed to send a tow truck, but wouldn't arrange for a loaner vehicle or taxi. 

They waited about three hours for a tow truck to arrive and managed to get a ride to Kitchener with family, said Shama.

'Could have been dangerous'

Although the Cunninghams got home safely, Shama worries others could wind up in a similar situation with a worse outcome. 

"We were lucky in that we had AC, we had food and water, but if someone had just been stuck there without their car actually working in 30-degree heat, it could have been a very dangerous situation for people," she said. 

In an email statement, a spokesperson for Hyundai Canada apologized to the Cunningham family for inconvenience due to the vehicle malfunction.

Jennifer McCarthy said the company's agents tried to find a rental car for the family, but nearby agencies were closed on Sundays. 

"We are deeply sympathetic to Mrs. Cunningham as the experience of having a vehicle malfunction under these circumstances would no doubt be stressful — on a Sunday during the pandemic, all the more so," the statement said. 

Transportation up to customers

Due to physical distancing protocols, McCarthy said, customers are responsible for arranging their own transportation while their vehicle is being towed.

Similar policies have been in place at other towing companies in Ontario during COVID-19, including the Canadian Automobile Association of South Central Ontario (CAASCO). The association told CBC News its general policy is not to allow passengers into tow trucks, although CAASCO says it won't leave members stranded in unsafe locations or conditions. 

But more than a year into the pandemic, the Cunninghams say Hyundai should have a better contingency plan for drivers who are stranded outside of normal business hours. 

Shama said she's especially frustrated given this wasn't the first time the vehicle suddenly lost power.

"When we brought it in the first time, we trusted them when they said … it was fine, ready to go," she said. 

"When it happened again, on the side of the road, it was very clear that they did not actually look at our car properly."

McCarthy said a local Hyundai dealership has since replaced the vehicle's transmission and has "conducted numerous, and successful quality tests" on it. 

The Cunninghams got their car back Monday, but say they're still nervous about driving it. 

"I don't know if we can trust this vehicle any more," said Shama. 

With files from Talia Ricci

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