Exeter motor dealer found guilty of supplying an unsafe vehicle

Posted on: 12 October 2015

A Devon motor dealer has been found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of supplying a dangerous VW Touran in January 2012.

On a second count of failing to disclose material information to a purchaser of the car, the defendant Andrew Leach of St Leonard’s Cars, Exeter, was found not guilty by a majority verdict.

The case relates to the sale of the VW Touran by Mr Leach in January 2012.

Mr Leach first sold the VW Touran in October 2011 to a customer from Bath, who after experiencing problems, took the vehicle to a VW garage.

The garage told the customer that the car had been in a serious accident and should be returned to the original dealer for a full refund.

St Leonard’s Cars first offered to repair the car, but agreed to give a full refund after the customer sought an independent vehicle report from the AA.

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards visited the St Leonard’s Cars, after being informed of the sale by Citizens Advice.

The Trading Standards Officer saw the same VW Touran on the garage forecourt for sale again and advised St Leonard’s Cars about their obligations to trade safely and fairly.

Two days later, the garage sold the Volkswagen Touran to an Exeter customer for £10,475.

The car was driven for 17 months until it needed to go to another garage who were alarmed to find significant accident damage to the nearside front chassis rail and misalignment, missing bolts on the front cross member.

The customer asked for their money back because they felt that they had been sold a faulty and potentially unsafe car.

They also contacted the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who again informed Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service.

Trading Standards organised an independent vehicle inspection of the car, which confirmed that the vehicle was unsafe.

The independent report concluded that there was strong evidence to suggest that the damage and defects identified during the inspection were present at time of the previous sale, in 2012.

The nearside chassis leg was distorted with a clearly visible crease causing misalignment to the extent that the front cross member impact beam assembly was insecurely attached to the vehicle structure. There should have been eight bolts but because of the nearside chassis leg misalignment only four bolts could be fitted.

This seriously compromised the vehicle’s ability to absorb impact from a collision, and therefore the protection of its occupants.

The prosecution expert told the court that this damage could have a detrimental effect on the safe control of the vehicle particularly in a critical situation such as emergency braking or steering manoeuvres.

The report concluded that this vehicle was dangerous and presented a risk or potential risk to vehicle occupants and other road users.

The jury at the trial agreed.

During the trial it became apparent that there was confusion on the use of the term “HPI Clear”, which in relation to accident damage means that a vehicle has not been written off – not that the vehicle is accident free.

County Councillor Roger Croad, cabinet member for environmental and regulatory services, said:

“The case is a pertinent reminder to all used car dealers that they must ensure that their stock is in a safe and roadworthy condition and it is accurately described.

“Public safety is one of our primary concerns and we will continue to do all we can to protect local residents.

“We will continue to work with all motor dealers in Devon and Somerset to ensure that the safety of local residents is paramount.”

Anyone considering buying a second-hand vehicle can obtain a copy of Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service guide for first time buyers, called “Motorwise”, directly from www.devon.gov.uk/tradingstandards or by calling 01392 381 381.

Devon Trading Standards approved business can be found via the ‘Buy With Confidence’ scheme website.

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