Nova Scotia

When Honda refuses to fix a recalled CR-V, it gets to decide how much it's worth

A Rothesay, N.B., woman whose Honda CR-V has been recalled says she's caught in a battle with the automaker after it refused to repair her vehicle and instead "pressured" her to sell it back for less than she believes it's worth.

'The vehicle should not be assessed for value by the only people who are willing to buy it,' says N.B. owner

Renee Landry points to the lot at a Saint John Honda dealership where her CR-V is being stored. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

A Rothesay, N.B., woman whose Honda CR-V has been recalled says she's caught in a battle with the automaker after it refused to repair her vehicle and instead "pressured" her to sell it back for less than she believes it's worth.

Renee Landry recently took her 2007 all-wheel-drive CR-V to a Saint John dealership to fix the windshield wipers. It's then that she learned the model is under recall in provinces that use a lot of road salt over concerns the rear frame could rust.

But it remains in the lot at Fundy Honda. That's because Landry says she was told the problem was "not fixable" on her vehicle, and her only options were to take a $6,291 buyout offer or sign a form releasing Honda Canada from any liability if she chose to drive the SUV away.

"It just doesn't sit right with me that they can tell me that my vehicle is not roadworthy and then they also get to decide how much they're going to give me for it," Landry said in an interview.

The recall was issued Jan. 17 and affects almost 84,000 CR-Vs sold between 2007 and 2011. Transport Canada said it applies to vehicles originally sold or currently registered in areas of heavy road salt usage, including Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are no laws specifying how automakers should calculate the value of recalled vehicles or what period of time they have to offer consumers to consider buybacks

'We were being rushed'

Landry said Honda Canada gave her a loaner vehicle for one week, telling her she would have to make a decision on her CR-V within that time period or the dealership would start charging her for storing the vehicle. The dealership subsequently told Landry it would not charge her.

She had hoped her CR-V, which has 240,000 kilometres on it but is in good condition and is paid off, would last another few years.

Landry looks over notes she's kept about her dealings with Honda Canada over the recall on her CR-V. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

"I felt we were being rushed and we were also really pressured into buying a car from Honda," Landry said, adding there is nothing on the dealership lot she can buy for the buyback amount offered.

George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association, said while some owners are happy with their buyback offers, his organization is hearing from people who are not.

"The buyout offers are all over the map," he said in an interview, calling the calculation process "opaque."

Some offers seem very generous, he said, while in other cases "it would be impossible to find a used CR-V on the market in the condition of the consumer's vehicle for the money they're being offered."

Landry was never told how Honda arrived at her buyback offer.

Honda Canada declined an interview request, but spokesperson Laura Heasman described the offer as "reasonable."

She did not provide a breakdown of how it determined the value of Landry's car.

Heasman said in an email the company "consults a variety of leading third-party vehicle valuators to obtain an estimated vehicle value based on key vehicle attributes such as model year, trim and mileage, as well as the overall condition of the vehicle."

Landry's Honda CR-V sits at the local dealership. After dropping it off for windshield wiper repairs, she was told it was under recall and could not be fixed. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

She said the automaker then adds a bonus amount to the estimated vehicle value as goodwill and to help cover sales taxes customers may need to pay on a subsequent vehicle purchase.

Landry thinks the process is unfair.

"The vehicle should not be assessed for value by the only people who are willing to buy it out," she said.

'Bully' perception

Iny said there's a perception that dealers and Honda are "going to bully you to try and get you out of your vehicle." One way they do that, he said, is by giving owners like Landry very little time to make up their minds.

"There's no legal imperative to ask you to decide to give up your vehicle in a few days. They could give you more time," Iny said.

He also said some customers are not being told the recall provides for a second, more detailed inspection that could result in a more involved and costly repair. Honda, he said, "would prefer to buy your vehicle back instead of paying for repairs and keeping it on the road."

He notes structural repairs are expensive and time consuming, with the potential to overwhelm the dealers that have in-house body shops. Every vehicle can be repaired, he said. The issue is at what cost.

2nd inspection

The recall details on Transport Canada's website says if the vehicle passes inspection, dealers will apply corrosion protection. "For a vehicle that does not pass inspection, Honda will repurchase the vehicle. In the event the repurchase is declined by an owner, a secondary inspection and body shop repair may be possible."

Fundy Honda general manager Dave Valiquete said they did complete a second inspection. But when asked by CBC News whether that meant lowering the gas tank, which is part of the Level 2 inspection, he replied, "Yes, we had it up on the hoist."

When it was pointed out that putting it on the hoist is not the same as lowering the gas tank, Valiquete said CBC News would have to speak to Honda Canada.

Landry doesn't blame the local dealership for her woes. She said she understands they are in the middle and can only do the work authorized by Honda Canada.

'Mutually beneficial arrangement'

Heasman, the Honda Canada spokesperson, said the company has been in contact with Landry and "intends to continue to work with her to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement regarding her vehicle in furtherance of this safety initiative." 

Landry said there's nothing mutually agreeable about her conversations with the company, and said the most disappointing part of the experience has been Honda Canada's customer service.

"At one point I was told by a Honda Canada employee that I should start taking the bus."

She wishes "good luck" to anyone trying to find a reliable vehicle for what she's been offered for her CR-V.

Landry says Honda Canada "kept comparing the recall to my vehicle being [in] an accident," which she says isn't a fair comparison since the recall is the result of a manufacturer's defect and nothing she did.

Landry has since purchased another vehicle and hasn't decided what to do about Honda's offer. She said she was fortunate enough to be able to buy another vehicle, but not everyone can.

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.