An expanding family led Kathryn to dealer Whitehouse Bexleyheath and what looked like the perfect child-carrier – a Dodge Journey. So, in September 2010 she bought the car on a 48-month finance deal with FGA Capital UK, Fiat Group’s finance company. She enjoyed problem-free motoring for more than 18 months, but then, in May 2012, the Dodge failed to start.
As Whitehouse had gone bust, it was booked into authorised Dodge repairer Sargeant and Collins in Crayford. The car’s software was updated, but in the following week it failed to start three times.
Back to the garage, where a transmission cable was replaced. This solved nothing. Next, they tried the electrics. By now it was August 2012 and Kathryn asked Fiat for a refund. Fiat said it would honour the car’s warranty by repairing the Dodge, but that was all it was obliged to do.
For the next three months the car ran smoothly before the problem recurred (in November 2012). Fiat agreed to return it to Sargeant and Collins, who blamed a faulty battery cable. Kathryn was doubtful, but agreed to the fix if Fiat would extend the warranty. Fiat refused.
Kathryn then complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service. In May 2013, it replied, stating there was no case for rejection unless Kathryn could prove that the fault was present when she bought the car. Meanwhile, Sargeant and Collins had gone into administration, so the Journey was returned to Kathryn’s driveway.
Eventually, she booked the car into another authorised repair shop, SG Smith in Sydenham. At the end of June 2013, she was told that a technical team was being flown over from Italy. Exasperated and unconvinced that any more prodding and poking would help, Kathryn called Helpdesk.
We asked Fiat UK to look again at her case; the car had been off the road for a quarter of the time she’d owned it. A day later, FGA Capital told Kathryn she could hand the car back to settle the outstanding finance, and they would give her £1500 in compensation. Fiat HQ also now says the car is fixed, but Kathryn doesn’t want to keep it long enough to find out.
What if this happens to you?
- If your dealer goes bust and your car is still within warranty, it must be honoured by the car maker or its representative.
- If you have bought your car on finence, you'll need to get the finance company's permission before attempting rejection.
- If your car goes wrong more than six months after purchase, the onus is on you to prove that the fault existed when you bought it.