On 1st September 2005 I picked up a Brand new Brabus Roadster from an authorised smart dealership, the same dealership I had previously purchased a brand new city cabrio from.
On day 1, I washed the car and found that it leaked.
I wasn't naïve in purchasing the roadster and I knew that they all leak, however this was excessive and left a constant stream of water into the car.
I called the dealers, made them aware of the situation and on day 2 the car went back.
I was loaned a new standard roadster as a courtesy car whilst they ordered new seals and fitted them. Let's call this instance 1.
2 weeks passed; "Right Mr Turner, we have water tested your car, and it's all water-tight."
Great. I went to collect the car, and for a week or so it was fine - basically until the seals were disturbed when I took the roof bars out.
It then leaked again. Instance 2.
Back with the courtesy roadster, they tried to fix the problem again, more often than not making the issue worse.
I gave them another 3 weeks to solve the issue before all was ready again.
It had been personally water tested by the sales manager and deemed a-OK.
I made the 120-mile trip back to the dealership, but as I was becoming a little wary now I asked for a demonstration before I left the dealer.
Lo and behold: it leaked. I didn't even get in the car, I just took the courtesy car and left the Brabus with them. Instance 3.
So far, the car had been with the dealers for a total of about 8 weeks. Then, finally it's ready.
I make the long drive to collect the car again, and on the face of it all is fine: no leaks, fixed by new seals; new roof bars taken from the RCR in the showroom; new wing mirrors and housings and raised window heights.
During the first proper rain storm (about a week!), it leaked down the inside of the mirror housings and down the speaker grilles.
I should have ignored it, but given the amount of time and work that had been done; I sent it back, again. To save me the journey, they sent the courtesy car to me, and picked up the Brabus to take back. Instance 4.
We're now mid-November when the car is ready; they say they have solved the issue by filling the hollow internals of the seals with silicone, making them tougher against the window. I'm sure this is not a recognised fix, but if it works, great.
The car gets delivered back to me; I conduct my usual checks around the car and find a kerbed wheel. My heart sinks.
Outside of the regular issues I had the interior door pin drop out of the door, so I couldn't open the door, and had an issue where at any speed, the driver's door would open on its own!! Very dangerous, and this happened to me twice in this short ownership period.
The thought was already with me that I had a Friday afternoon car. I needed to reject this car.
I phoned the Dealership manager and expressed my wishes to return the car and have a replacement - the rather blunt answer was "no, not possible".
Clearly this was not acceptable to me so I sought legal advice. I contacted Consumer Direct and trading standards regarding the matter and was sent some guidance notes and templates in which to formalise my request.
The rejection was going to be based on the Sales of Goods Act, under not fit for purpose, and not of satisfactory quality.
I drew up my letter and sent it to the manager, I also saw fit to send it to the head of smart UK. I never thought for a second that this would achieve anything but two days later I got a call from the dealer manager.
"Mr Turner, I have received your letter of intent, and I understand you have also contacted Mr. xxxxxxx. There was no need to do that."
Clearly I had touched a nerve; apparently they were called in for an evening meeting with the dealer principal to discuss the situation.
The plan was for them to have one last chance to fix the car whilst the rejection was in process, and under more legal advice I agreed for them to do this. Instance 5.
I received a formal apology letter from smart UK offering me a free service as compensation. I was absolutely disgusted with this, and sent back a strongly worded letter accordingly. The revised and 'final' offer was £500 towards any smart accessories and servicing as means of apology for the inconvenience caused to my person.
In the meanwhile, the dealer had 'fixed' the car. I drove in the courtesy roadster (now having done 3,000 miles in it!) and met with the sales manager. I had to speak with the Branch manager on the phone as he was 'unavailable'.
I actually found he was very rude on the phone and very dismissive, and I made the decision at that point that I was not accepting the car back. A test in the car park showed clearly that the leaks were not fixed. I will concede that they were better, but it was not good enough for me to accept.
I handed the manager a formal (pre-prepared) letter stating my intent and request for a new replacement car.
I had been assigned a 'case advisor' from smart UK, and it acted against me that she was friends with the manager at this dealership. Her advice was constantly for me to 'drop it', but this was not acceptable - this car cost nearly £18,000 and I wanted it to be right. She also received a copy of the letter of my intentions.
They had a week to mull it over before I received a phone call from the dealership, asking me if I wanted to change the spec of the replacement car! So they'd conceded giving me a replacement but wanted the easy option. No, it must be the same, as I had almost every option fitted to the car!
This process had taken us into the 2nd week in December, and thankfully the car was shipped from Germany within days.
Finally I was happy with the car, yes it leaked - they all do, but this leak was tolerable and I certainly wasn't going through all that process again!.
My final battle was that my £500 goodwill was withdrawn as I received a car instead!!
I did not spend a month of my life writing legal letters for my health, the £500 was for the inconvenience I had suffered and that hadn't just gone away.
It took 2 more rather abrupt letters - again send to the head of smart UK before they backed down, and I spent the money on a factory alarm system!
The replacement car, was infinitely better than the first, it drove faster, it didn't leak as much! and I didn't really experience any major problems beyond the normal roadster owner experiences!
"All's well that ends well!!" But they don't make it easy!