Friday, 17 September 2010

The Hyundai saga continues

Mmegi readers may recall that in July and August we reported on a problem a reader had with the Hyundai dealership across the border in Rustenberg. Her Hyundai had broken down there last October so quite sensibly she had the car towed to the nearest dealership for repairs. That’s when, instead of getting it fixed, things started to go wrong. Badly wrong.

Instead of fixing the car they proceeded to CLAIM to repair it and allow her to drive it away on TWO separate occasions, only to have it break down both times within a few kilometres of the dealership. They helped her run up an enormous phone bill and took a total of P20,000 from her for the repairs. When we first got involved they even claimed never to have heard of this customer and it was only when we forwarded them the 4,000 words of email correspondence between them and her that they remembered. Since then they’ve claimed to fix the car yet again but they say they will only give it back to her if she gives them another R6,500 for the latest repairs. It really does look like they are planning to repair or replace every part of the car until it works again.

We had a very frustrating time trying to get the dealership to pull their finger out of whatever orifice contained it but then something surprising happened, something good. The message seemed to get through to the right people.

The first to get in touch was the local MD of Hyundai in Botswana who asked how he could assist. The next day the National Customer Care Manager of Hyundai South Africa was in touch saying he had only just heard of the problem. He promised a detailed response within “the next hour”. In fact it only took 38 minutes. His response seemed very optimistic. He said things like:
“sincere apologies for all the inconvenience you had to endure over the past 10 months”
“definitely NOT the level of service we expect from our staff and our dealers”
“necessary action will be taken against [the dealer] for not escalating this matter to myself earlier, that I promise you!”
“We have put an investigation team together who will be at Hyundai Rustenburg on Monday, 2 August 2010, to discuss this matter with the owner of Hyundai Rustenburg and to inspect your vehicle.”
So you might think things were getting better?

I’m afraid not. It’s time to update you on all the progress that has been achieved since 2nd August.


Despite their promises of an investigation all they did was repeat what Hyundai in Rustenberg had said, conveniently excluded significant parts of the story. Do you think they were perhaps feeling defensive?

This is terribly disappointing. After that initial surge of hope and optimism I’m sure you can imagine how frustrated we at Consumer Watchdog are, but our frustration is nothing compared to that of the customer.

Anyone who has ever bought a nice car will understand how excited she was when she first got her new Hyundai Santa Fe.

Along with the picture you can see here of her car she also sent me another that she didn’t want us to publish and I can understand why. It shows her sitting in the driving seat looking like a kid on Christmas Day. It must be very difficult for her to look at that picture now.

What Hyundai have managed to do, either directly by Hyundai Rustenberg treating her so badly or by Hyundai South Africa so catastrophically mismanaging her expectations, is to entirely ruin her relationship with her beloved car. She told me that as a result of this she feels “helpless, cheated, deprived, abused, angry, hopeless, sad, weak and drained”.

Of course Mmegi-reading skeptics might be asking themselves whether the customer could somehow be in the wrong in this case? Maybe she’s not just sad but might also be mad or bad? It does happen. We get plenty of cases brought to us where in fact the customer is in the wrong but if this is the case here all Hyundai would need to do is pick up the phone or start writing an email and I would understand their side of the story. But they don’t seem to have another side to the story. There really does only seem to be one.

This is a very good example of how badly things can go wrong. Frankly I can’t see any part of this story where Hyundai in Rustenberg or Hyundai in general as a brand come across as a company you would want to buy a car from.

I should stress that I’ve no problem with Hyundai cars. I’ve owned one in the past at it was perfectly fine. They’re not BMWs or Mercedes but then they don’t cost as much either. The problem is what happens AFTER you buy a car. This is what we all sometimes overlook, or what ends up disappointing us. Before you buy a car ask everyone else you know who’s bought one from the same manufacturer, what’s the after-sales service like? Are they any good at servicing their brand? Do they treat their now-captive customers like dirt?

It’s not my job to tell anyone that they should or shouldn’t buy a particular type of car. However I do think these after-sales issues are just as important as the appearance, image, speed, comfort and fuel-efficiency of a particular model. You have to ask yourself, based on this case, whether you would choose to buy a Hyundai.

I wouldn’t.

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