CAR DOCTOR: Dodgy Merc engine? The Consumer Protection Act can help

Justus Visagie.
Justus Visagie.

Dominique: Last year I bought a 2007 Mercedes-Benz C230 Estate (automatic) from a used-car dealer in Bloemfontein for R89 000. This year I had it serviced by a Mercedes-Benz dealer in the Western Cape. The workshop advised me to have the engine’s balance shaft replaced, at a cost of R62 000 for parts and labour. If I had known the car would need a very expensive repair of this nature and so soon I would not have bought it.

Justus: The M272 (pictured below) engine in your car is notorious in the car industry for eating its balance shaft gears. This even led to two class actions against Mercedes-Benz in the US because of these costly repairs.

Trudie Broekmann, an attorney specialising in consumer law: Section 61 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) provides a remedy for consumers who have bought a dud. The consumer can claim their damages (repair costs) for a defective car from the manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer (the second-hand dealership). In this case it would make sense to claim from the dealership and Mercedes-Benz SA.

The consumer is entitled to claim their damages up to three years from the date on which they discover the material facts about the damage to the car, for example the nature of the problem and the repair cost.

If the consumer suffers economic loss or has to incur expenses as a result of not having the use of the car, for example, transport costs – such as ride hailing services – or loss of income, that can also be claimed. I would recommend that the consumer talk to a lawyer to claim their damages.

Suppliers can avoid claims like this by disclosing to the buyer the defects and potential defects in a second-hand car.

The M272 engine is notorious in the car industry f

Brendan: I’m contemplating getting an older Chevrolet Trailblazer (2013 or 2014). What are your thoughts on these vehicles and the future of service and maintenance following Chevrolet’s departure, as well as future resale value? The value seems to have taken a hit already, which is good for buyers. I want to trade in my 2011 Hyundai ix35 Elite 4WD with 160 000km as it’s not suited to our rural roads. Any idea on trade and resale on something like this?

Justus: Trailblazers are excellent vehicles. Buy from a trustworthy seller with a good reputation and choose one with the lowest mileage and a full service history. Parts are available from Isuzu dealers.

As for your Hyundai, shop around for the best offer. Car dealers have access to Mead & McGrouther data, which determines book value, but these are guidelines and dealers often pay less or more than book value. The main factors are demand for the car and the condition it’s in.

Joseph: The Mahindra XUV 300 looks really good. Is it worth a test drive? Should I rather get the similar Hyundai Creta?

Justus: Test drive both and decide. The Mahindra’s diesel engine can be a bit noisy when cold, but the abundant torque – that feeling of being launched by a potent engine – makes up for the clatter, which soon fades. It’s also available with a turbo petrol engine.

The Mahindra (R250 000 to R325 000) is significantly cheaper than the Hyundai, but it doesn’t have the latter’s good track record yet. That should change over time, though, and it’s backed by a five-year or 150 000km warranty, so you shouldn’t lose sleep wondering if it will be as reliable as products from the more familiar brands.

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