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Temper excessive warranty claims

17th February 1978
Page 72
Page 72, 17th February 1978 — Temper excessive warranty claims
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Keywords : Contract Law, Warranty

VEHICLE DESIGN and suitability, those evergreen subjects among transport men, reigned supreme as a topic of discussion between myself and fellow operators attending a recent dinner.

We ranged over the whole gambit of the subject — engines, chassis and suspensions, transmissions, cabs, brakes, tyres and that old hardy annual "warranty".

There is probably more antagonism caused, and, faith lost between makers and users of vehicles, whatever their size or type, through disputes over the validity of claims made under warranty clauses, than through any other part of their dealings with one another.

Sadly, much of the blame must be laid at the operator's door. For although many of us don a mantle Of utter respec tability while attending meetings of our various associations, the heavy demands on our finances, energies and tempers often make us unreasonable people when dealing with our suppliers.

On the other hand we often see badly informed salesmen paid on what I call the "lucky for some" basis which tempts them to achieve a sale at any price, selling to the not-so-clued-up operator vehicles which simply could not be less suitable for the job in hand.

This situation is particularly devastating for an operator of a small number of vehicles because unlike his fleet counterparts his organisation usually has only one head from which to furnish knowledge of operational suitability, engineering quality and economic feasibility. And he must, in many cases, rely almost entirely on the integrity of the vehicle salesman.

Should that integrity be lack; ing then it's a sure bet that before the warranty period has expired, a small war will have developed. The operator sees a fault as a premature failure, while the manufacturer's man will view it as unfair wear and tear, or misuse.

The party that will inevitably be injured financially is, of course, the operator, because after all the manufacturer has already had his money either direct or through a finance company and so has nothing to lose — except that is, his reputation.

Here then we see the first and probably the most important lesson to learn. Always deal with a reputable supplier for he will jealously guard his hard-won reputation. But don't think for one moment that you can ask for Honest John treatment at the expense of the supplier's financial well-being.

Screw him to the wall with huge discounts when you buy your vehicle and you leave nothing in the kitty to pay for any warranty work that might arise later on.

Look round for a cheap, lightly specified machine to save a few pounds on first cost, and you can bet that when you hit trouble, and be absolutely sure that you will, the manufacturer's man will call "foul" and step smartly behind his small print. You can bet quite safely that it has a bit in it somewhere that refers to the equipment being suitable for the task to which it is put.

Then we have the genuine spare parts bit. Save a few coppers on Joe Blogg's air filters and engine failure ensues, whatever the cause, any fault will be blamed almost certainly on your failure to use official genuine parts.

How on earth does a genuine operator who does everything by the book fight a panel of sometimes dubiously qualified experts who, with heavy budgetary demands by their masters vying strongly with their consciences, have to come down on the side of the master when deciding who bears the cost of a replacement engine?

On the other hand, however, how does the maker's man deal with the opposite situatior where a bad and also sometimet dubiously qualified operato has, for instance, not change( an oil filter for a whole year? 01 perhaps has removed an ail filter because he got a few morE mph without it, but then denies, on The Bible, no less, that hE ever did such a thing.

Warranty claims and settle ments, like all other sections o our very difficult industry, des perately need honest men or both sides.

If operators try to taki makers to the cleaners with dis honest and unfair claims, the must not bleat if they get harst justice meted out in return.

Manufacturers who mete ou rough justice unfairly on till other hand, should be smar enough to recognise that thei sales would be much bette served by adopting a "seen ti be just" attitude to the problen and then remember that thei reason for being in business not — as so many of them seen to think — to make trucks o buses, but rather to sell them.

The scene is not all bad though. For every war that i! fought literally hundreds o deals and claims go througt without a hitch. It's just that wr all like to kick up hell if we sus pect we have been unfairly don( by, and it's always the othe fellow's fault when we arE recounting the story.

In a great many cases once E. dispute is investigated there arE seldom many bones with any real meat on them. The lessor is: discuss rationally, don': fight.


People: Joe Blogg

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