What to do if car is damaged before delivery

What to do, realistically if car is damaged by the dealer.

We have seen many instances where the registered car is damaged substantially before delivery owing to dealer. We will say dealer only, irrespective of whether the contractor driver / call driver damaged the car or the showroom owner himself damaged the car. We have paid the dealer and dealer is responsible till the keys are handed over to the customer. Please note that the dealer cannot say that the call driver caused damage while going to RTO or while reversing or whatever. It is dealer's responsibility to ensure that the car is safe till delivery, irrespective of who they employ.

There can broadly be three types of defects.

  • Scratches and Scuffs – Re-paintable at the dealership’s service station

  • Dent on panels owing to an accident or careless driving.

  • Major structural damage due to accident or due to instances like fire or glass collapse.

Scratches and Scuffs: This could happen due to carelessness of the dealership staff, either inside or outside the dealership. The solution is to re-paint the scratched area at the dealership’s service station, at their expense. Do note that the dealer will push you to use your insurance, but please do not use the insurance. Dealer should do it at their cost, as it is their responsibility. If dealer doesn’t agree, do escalate to customercare@tatamotors.com . Most dealers will agree for re-paint. Get it written on paper or through some electronic media like Email, SMS or Whatsapp. Ask for some sweeteners in compensation. This could be some free accessories or some underbody coating or substantial discount on extended warranty or AMC/P2P.

Dent on panels and/or Bumper: The dent could have been caused by an accident. Again the dealer needs to take responsibility and fix the same. The same logic mentioned above holds here good too. Ask for additional benefits and compensation.

Major structural damage due to accident: If your car had a major accident, either on the road or at the showroom, due to a fire / wall collapse / glass collapse or whatever, the car will have structural impacts and it is not possible to do an aftermarket repair and bring it back to pristine condition. Dealer would offer to fix it / repair it and also throw in goodies but please do not accept this.

What to do in the above scenario?

You could go the legal route, but unfortunately, justice takes time in India. It is not time bound and quick.

Dealer will say, replacement is not possible as it is registered to your name. Request the dealer to repair it and sell It off in the second hand market. All dealers have their own used car wing or they have tie up with other used car dealers. The loss due to this will have to borne by the dealer. You can clearly tell the dealer that the mistake is on them and they have to bear the loss. Every dealer is expected to have insurance for inventory as well as the building. Their insurance should take care of the losses.

Customer need not bear the losses. Customer needn’t pay anything from their pocket.

One dealer in Mumbai agreed for ceramic coating in lieu of a structurally damaged car. There is no way a ceramic coating can compensate for monocoque damage.

Points to ponder:

  • If dealer tells there is minor damage, small damage or negligible damage, don’t fall for that trick. Most dealers are not ethical enough to tell there is substantial damage. Tell them that you want to see the car and you are coming to the dealership. They might say car is at service station. Tell them you will go there on your own. That will bring the cat out of the bag.

  • Involve the manufacturer in such scenarios. Send a detailed mail to the manufacturer with all facts and figures mentioned here. Clearly mention names in the written communication sent to dealer / manufacturer.

  • Do not accept dealer level warranty or dealer level service package. Accept only manufacturer level deals. If dealer closes down in future or plays cheap tactics like the person who committed this is no longer working here, you will be at loss. Manufacturer will conveniently say this is a dealer offer and we can’t do anything about it. Secondly, If you get transferred to a new city, it is not practical to keep coming back to the old city for service. Secondly, What if there is another dealer in the same city, offering better service. You won't be tied to the dealer from whom you bought it.

  • Threaten to file a case of "cheating" at the police station and send them a legal notice. This is to impact them psychologically. Usually police will intervene and ask to make a reasonable offer. Tell them, they can repair the car at their expense and sell it in the used car market. The loss should be borne by the dealership. This is a normal operational risk of the business and they would have insurance to cover such losses. This is a reasonable offer.

  • You are entitled for brand new undamaged car as you are paying the exact money what the dealer is asking for, that too in full, prepaid. Ask the dealer, whether they will accept fake notes or torn notes or unsinged cheques for a part of the amount. They will for sure say no. Then ask them, why as a customer you should accept a damaged product, due to dealership's error.

  • Keep repeating and stressing the point that it is the dealer's error and as a customer you have paid full money as agreed for a brand new car. You can tell them, selling a car is normal for a dealer, buy buying a car is a lifetime experience, that too with taxed money.

  • If dealer doesn't agree, threaten to go to social media and mention that dealership's name will be mentioned openly. Nowadays, Social media can reach everyone and form a positive or negative impression. Once this is said, there is a chance of negotiation, as many won't want their name to spoilt in the market.

  • Don't' fall for tricks or sympathy statements like "Sir - I will lose my job", "Sir - they will deduct this damage from my salary", "I will lose my bonus" and the most irritating thing- "Sir please adjust with the damage". Nothing of this sort happens. Dealer's operational cost usually takes care of such things or their insurance. No salesman or drivers will be penalized for such actions.

  • Dealers say that the driver was a contractor or tricks like the regular driver was sick, so he sent his brother/friend/father/uncle/acquaintance to especially help you specifically with your car only, as you are the most important customer in the history of the dealership ever. These things never happen and whoever they hire, whether direct staff, indirect staff or support staff, dealer is responsible.

  • Never agree for Teflon/waxing, ceramic coating, under chassis coating, free washing, Accessories etc. None of these hold good and are practically of zero value. Dealer would say for example, Ceramic coating worth Rs. 50,000/-. It is a gimmick, Tell them to give that 50,000/- in cash to you, I am sure they will not agree for that. This clearly shows the value is not 50,000/-