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$135k Audi damaged by faulty AC pipe: Auckland family fight for refund after claims car ‘unsafe’

Dec 04, 2023Dec 04, 2023

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The 2021 Audi RS4 suffered extensive damage, rust and mould, after an disconnected AC hose put water inside the car. Photo / Supplied

A couple whose $135,000 Audi RS4 suffered water damage from a disconnected air conditioning hose said the dealership has refused to refund them despite a report claiming the car is unsafe.

The 2021 car, which has corrosion, damaged electrics and mould, has since been flagged as water damaged by New Zealand transport agency Waka Kotahi.

The couple say they will take Giltrap Audi to court claiming the $135,000 they paid for the car and legal costs.

“We have already spent $15,000 on reports and legal fees which is a lot for a young family,” the man, who did not want to be named, said.

“I felt I had no choice because I work in insurance and I know that this type of water damage can cause issues in years to come. I can’t risk that with a young family”

It is accepted by both parties the heating, ventilation air conditioning hose (HVAC) was either never connected or was disconnected before the couple bought the high-performance car.

The Auckland couple, who have two young children, bought the 2021 Audi as a family car from Giltrap Audi in Grey Lynn, in January this year.

Fast forward to April and the man said he heard a “sloshing sound” under his seat when driving. He had also noticed a damp smell in the new model car.

Unable to get an immediate booking at Giltrap Audi the man took the car to Continental Car Services in Newmarket. The car was put on a hoist and a technician drained around 2 litres of water from the driver’s side of the car.

Despite this, the sloshing sound continued and the man returned to Continental Cars. He was told to inform Giltrap immediately as the issue “could be major.”

The couple returned the car to Giltrap and technicians stripped the whole interior of the car discovering the HVAC hose designed to drain water onto the road was not connected and was draining water inside the car instead.

“I was horrified, my car was in bits and there was corrosion everywhere. The carpet was mouldy and the electrical components had watermarks,” the man said.

The couple and Giltrap Audi disagree about the amount of water removed from the car.

Dealership staff told the couple the damage was “not major” and would be repaired under warranty but after consulting a lawyer the man told Giltrap Audi he wanted to reject the vehicle under the Consumers Guarantee Act and get a full refund.

Giltrap Audi refused and said the car, which was under warranty, would be repaired and returned to the family.

Concerned, the man had an independent report done on the damage, saying he didn’t want to be left with a car that was unsafe in years to come.

“There is too much damage. I have an independent report saying it can not be fully repaired to a safe standard and I have two young children, I need the car to be 100 percent safe,” the man said.

“If they think they can repair the car to that standard why don’t they refund me and onsell it themselves.”

The couple’s lawyer said the fault and damage met the criteria “constituting a failure of substantial character” under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

The independent report was prepared by a consulting mechanical engineer and road traffic crash investigator with more than 19 years of experience.

The report claimed the car is unsafe to drive and there is no guarantee the car can be fully repaired because water damage can show up in components years later.

The expert’s report claimed water had damaged the car’s active suspension and dynamic steering module, caused corrosion of electrical systems connector plugs, and the structure of the floor pan.

Water damage had also jeopardised the effectiveness of the vehicle’s active control engine-mount system (ACM) and the driver’s seatbelt pre-tensioner in the event of a collision, the report claimed.

It was accepted the hose could have been disconnected from the date of manufacture.

The assessor said this meant the car had suffered significant water damage over an extended period of time and was susceptible to dangerous electrical faults and failure.

He said it could not be determined how far the water had reached and what issues would arise in the future.

He did not believe “the scope of repairs being considered by Giltrap Audi was sufficiently broad to address all areas and systems that have been damaged or will develop problems in the future as a result of the ingress of water into the vehicle.”

The report said the vehicle should be reported to NZTA and ban flagged as a water-damaged vehicle.

The man took this advice and submitted the report to the NZTA which accepted the car was water damaged and flagged it.

“After seeing the damage and the independent report I would not feel safe driving it with my children,” the man said.

“I also couldn’t in good conscience sell it to anyone else so took the advice and asked for advice from the NZTA.

“When the NZTA saw the report and photos they flagged it as water damaged.”

The man believed he was entitled to a refund because the fault was with the car when he bought it.

“We would never have bought it knowing the damage that lay under the carpet, he said.

A spokesman for Giltrap Audi said the company was committed to working with the couple to resolve this matter, and both parties have agreed to put it before the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal to seek resolution.

“Giltrap Audi has tabled a solution for (the couple) that meets Consumer Guarantee Act requirements. This solution was offered from the initial stages of this matter arising.

“This solution remains open for (the couple) as Giltrap Audi remains committed to finding the best outcome for all parties.

The spokesman said Giltrap Audi had identified a fault with the HVAC hose, which has caused moisture to accumulate in an isolated area below the driver’s seat.

“The fault and resulting issue are minor and can be easily repaired, returning the affected area to a factory standard,” the spokesman said.

“The repair can happen in a timely manner and is covered and approved by the manufacturer’s new car warranty. This aligns with the Consumer Guarantees Act remedy requirements and has been relayed to (the couple) on several occasions.”

As this matter will be put before the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal, it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further.

Jessica Walker from Consumer NZ believed the couple were entitled to a refund from Giltrap.

“Under the Consumer Guarantees Act if a car has a substantial defect, consumers are entitled to reject the car and request a refund, they do not have to accept a repair.”

Kirsty Wynn is an Auckland-based journalist with more than 20 years experience in New Zealand newsrooms. She has covered everything from crime and social issues to the property market and has a current focus on consumer affairs.

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