John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Couple get $37,000 refund on 'lemon'

Vehicle Disputes Tribunal awards settlement after horror incidents with loss of power in Ford Focus vehicle.
A later make of the Ford Focus Trend the couple bought in 2012.
A later make of the Ford Focus Trend the couple bought in 2012.

After a fault caused a terrifying highway incident with a logging truck, a couple have been awarded a $37,000 refund on their car.

Judy and Roger Pittman, of Nelson, bought a Ford Focus Trend in September 2012. It was an ex-demonstration car from MS Ford in Nelson with 1618km on the clock.

Eight months later, the couple noticed an alarm sounding when they started the car. A dashboard warning saying "engine malfunction service now" popped up.

The Pittmans took the car back to MS Ford at once, but the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal said the couple weren't told what repairs the dealership did. The car, a two-litre diesel, was returned to the Pittmans, but the same trouble soon resurfaced.

Tribunal adjudicator Jason Scott McHerron said the car put itself into "limp-home mode" several times. He said this meant the turbo charger shut down, causing "a severe loss of power".

The problem recurred over the next 2-years, he added.

Mr McHerron said as Mrs Pittman drove the vehicle to MS Ford on June 8 last year, the car lost power.

But a more hair-raising experience was in store later that day.

As Mrs Pittman approached State Highway 6 near Nelson, the car had the same meltdown.

"I joined the road, the state highway, and all of a sudden the logging truck was bearing down. I was struggling to get to 50 km/h," Mrs Pittman said last night.

She said the truck driver would not have known what the car's problem was, or that it was incapable of speeding up. "So he just beared down on me and came right up behind me."

Mrs Pittman said it was nerve-wracking when the car's hazard lights suddenly went on and the turbo shut down.

At one point MS Ford fitted a new turbo charger, but this didn't help.

Mrs Pittman said there was no suggestion the "limp home" issue was widespread.

"I think it was just a very rare fault ... and that's what was so annoying for them and their mechanics."

She said MS Ford mechanics "tried their level best" to fix the issue.

The Focus went into the dealership more than a dozen times.

More discussions followed but the Pittmans wrote to the dealership on July 27, rejecting the vehicle.

"We felt we had no option but to pursue it through the court. We had, in effect, bought a lemon," Mrs Pittman told NZME.

The tribunal said Ford Australia became involved and in May last year suggested replacing the engine wiring loom.

But a mechanic at the dealership told the Pittmans this would be "a last resort" so the couple decided against it.

The Pittmans asked for a refund of $37,000, the same amount paid for the car in the first place.

The tribunal ordered MS Ford to take the car back and pay the Pittmans $37,000, even though the car's three-year warranty had lapsed.

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal

• Six of the 10 most recent decisions have gone in favour of car buyers.

• The average refund in these cases was about $16,526.

• In May 2014, Aucklander Andre Bodde was refunded $95,000 after a five-month legal battle over a 2010 Audi S4 bought from Quattro, trading as Giltrap Autos.

- NZ Herald

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