A complaint against Skoda Automobiles triggered a sharp realization for us. The realization of the all pervasisve metaphor that is called the car.
Automobiles almost manifest the world of consumer issues, ranging from bada dil to bada bill. In short, a car is as much a middle class dream for mango people as much as it is the ultimate luxury statement. Hence, the consumer complaints too reflect this paradox. When we featured the story of a harrowed Nano consumer (Read: True Story Of A Harassed Nano Consumer), we had confined our perspective to issues that are triggered when car is bought out of necessity. But a consumer is a consumer, and harassment seems to be his fate as was evident by the story of this consumer who went through harassment while buying a luxury segment car. We also chose to feature this story about a complaint against Skoda to highlight the fact that in a world where lots of money can guarantee everything, spending lots of money hardly guarantees a protection against consumer harassment. Affluence, in other words, is no defense in the harsh world of consumers.
Below is the story of the consumer in his own words.
Hi, I am Savio. My fiance, Ms. Divya purchased a Skoda Fabia (Colour: Red, Vehicle Num: MH01 BF 0632) from Autobahn Prabhadevi. Our pre sales experience was not of the highest class. We went in for an EMI facility and a number of documents required for the loan were asked later. We considered this a part of the strenuous process of getting through a loan (though it was the responsibility of the Executive Mr. Ali to have asked for all of these documents before hand). We were also recipients of short selling, when Mr. Ali during our test drive categorically stated that the Fabia model that we were purchasing had a Dead pedal. This was very important for Divya’s driving experience considering that she drove a Hyundai Santro for the last 12 years with a Dead pedal. In fact, one of the reasons why we chose the FABIA over the POLO and BRIO was the existence of a Dead pedal.
We received our car on the 4th of May 2012. Post driving it for a day, we realized it did NOT have a dead pedal. On querying Mr. Ali, he accepted that it was his mistake and that the Fabia does not come with a Dead pedal. When I inquired with Mr Ali’s boss (Mr Amit), I was told that he would inquire with the workshop and get back. It’s been 40 days; nothing has been done about it. Two weeks into driving the car, we noticed that there were sharp alignment issues. The car was leaning towards the left automatically. We visited the workshop (the car wasn’t even 15 days old) at Sewree. The representative at the workshop informed us as that as we had driven above 950 km, we would have pay charges. I rebutted with an outright ‘NO’. He then spoke to Mr. Amit and only then did he inform us that he would do it for free. Once the alignment was done we noticed that the back seat power windows weren’t working. We fixed that too at the Sewree workshop.
It shocked me that a NEW car was given to us with such major defects. Within 3 days, the alignment of the car was back to being a problem. This time it was even worse than the previous time. We decided that enough was enough. I called up Mr. Amit who said he would arrange for a pick up. But I had seen how the Sewree test drivers drove cars and I did not want any of these jerks to touch our car. So we decided that we would go to the KURLA workshop (apparently the most advanced) on Saturday (8th June 2012). We BOOKED an appointment. Directions to the workshop given to us by Ms. Maria were vague. We were asked to take a left after HP petrol pump. There are 5 HP Petrol pumps within 2 mins of distance. After calling her up thrice she finally gave us a tangible landmark and we found the workshop.
We reached the workshop and found (to our absolute amazement) that there was NO appointment in our name. This got us even more agitated. Only after applying constant verbal pressure, were we asked to wait till an attendee (Mr. Valentine) would take a look at our car. The quality inspector than took a test drive with us. Again to our absolute shock, he refused to acknowledge the alignment issue and in fact went to the extent of defending the defect saying ‘After 30mtrs left side alignment is normal’. Divya forced him to stop the car right there and then drove it herself to exemplify the issue. Only then did he accept the error.
We were then asked to wait while Mr Valentine did a recce of our car. While we waited in the customer lounge, we were stunned to meet another Skoda Fabia owner who had bought his car 4 days before from the same Autobahn at Prabhadevi (Mr. Abhay was his sales rep). He had purchased the top end version and faced multiple problems from power windows not working to inferior plastic parts. Frankly, we were too shell shocked to speak. We were made to wait for more than 3 hours while our car was being ‘repaired’. Only after a trial of almost 4 hours was our Fabia given back to us.
We’ve now driven it for 3 more days and once again the problem has cropped up. The car leans and shifts dangerously to the left and could cause loss of property, damage and worse loss of life. We went in for a Skoda because we thought that being a German company it knew what Quality was. Their Ad punch line ‘Obsessed with Quality’ also says that. But alas, I must admit we have made a mistake. We had decided that once Divya bought the Fabia, within a week I would book my Yeti and I also wanted to gift a Rapid to my future Mother in law. Thankfully, I haven’t done anything of that sorts. It shocks me that the response to our problems is poor and unsatisfactory. We have been given a DEFECTIVE car. There is no 2 ways about it.
On Saturday (16th June 12) I called up Mr. Amit and told him to take back the car or give us our hard earned money back. We frankly do not have the gumption to run to every workshop in Mumbai. There are much better car companies out there who know how to treat their customers with respect. Divya’s 11 year Santro never had an issue even after SUBMERGING fully in the tragic Jul 2006 Mumbai floods. I have written this letter to you to keep you aware of the facts. I hope you do something about it. Because I am not going to let go off this so easily. You need to just Google ‘Skoda Fabia problems India’ to know the multitude of issues people face. I wish I did that before I bought the car. Alas, I trusted in SKODA.
Tadka Take 2
A very articulate narration of an experience that is not as uncommon as many of us would like to believe. Judging by the sheer number of complaints, buying an automobile is hardly the dream task it ought to be. Companies like Skoda which dominate the luxury section owe that much more responsibility to their consumers by virtue of a mere cost-benefit analysis.Maharashtra Consumer Forums across country have always taken a harsh stance against such complaints and we urge all consumers who are similarly troubled to not take things lying down and approach either forums like Akosha or escalate their complaints to consumer courts for redressal.
Companies like Skoda need to take cognizance of such issues and address them with pressing urgency because despite the availability of redressal mechanism, the interest of consumer welfare always lies in a situation where grievance does not arise in the first place. Until that happens, consumers like Savio will continue to pay price for their ability to pay a price!