Her car sat in a St. Thomas, Ont., dealer’s lot for months waiting for a recall. Now it doesn’t work

A St. Thomas, Ont., woman is asking Ford Canada to fix her car after it was left to sit in a dealership parking lot for 15 months while waiting for a recalled part.

Jessica Robertson bought a used 2012 Ford Focus in 2015. In August last year, the transmission seized up. The car was towed to St. Thomas Ford to replace a transmission control module (TCM). The part was the subject of a recall and it had to be replaced at the automaker’s expense. 

Robertson had hoped the car would be back in her hands quickly, but instead, she was told there was a shortage of TCMs.

It took 15 months for the part to be sent to the dealership. During the wait, the company paid for a rental car, but there was a difference between the rental cost and coverage of about $5 a day, leaving Robertson with a rental bill of $150 a month. After eight months, Ford began to pick up the full rental tab.

Robertson said she would call the dealership often for updates, and each time, she was told the part was on back order and there was nothing Ford or the dealership could do to speed things along.

An employee advances a 2012 Ford Focus on the assembly line at a Ford plant in Michigan. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press )

Robertson, whose father is a mechanic, said she’d asked the dealership to start her car every now and then during its long stay outside to ensure it would run after the repair was done. 

“They didn’t start it. They didn’t do anything,” she told CBC News. “They left it parked for 15 months in the spot where I dropped it off. They wouldn’t let me start it. I told them my car is going to be garbage if you just let it sit there.”

Then, last week, the dealership called Robertson to let her know her car’s TCM had been replaced. Unfortunately, there was some bad news too. Sitting outside for more than a year had left the vehicle with problems it didn’t have when it arrived on the lot. The battery didn’t work. The brake rotors were coated with rust, and the tires were in bad shape. 

No comment from Ford

CBC News reached out to Ford Canada for comment but received no response. Calls to the dealership were also not returned.

Other than offering to replace the car’s battery at a 50 per cent discount, Robertson said neither the dealership nor Ford was willing to fix the damage caused by the car’s dormant stint outside. She also had to return the rental, which Ford stopped paying for once the part was replaced.

This week, Robertson had the car towed from the dealership to a mechanic, who quoted about $2,000 to get the car road worthy again. She believes Ford should be responsible for getting the car running again but said she’s getting the runaround. 

“Ford is saying it’s on the dealership, the dealership is saying it’s on Ford,” said Robertson. “Neither one of them is going to help me. They’re saying there are hundreds of people in this situation.”

Dealers should be responsible, consumer group says

George Iny is director of the Automobile Protection Association, a consumer watchdog group that focuses on the auto industry. He said that in these situations, the dealerships should return the vehicles to customers in the same condition they were delivered to them.

“The dealer had custody of the vehicle,” said Iny. “The service failure was Ford’s, so they’re responsible toward the customer.”

Anyone in the auto industry should know that a car left outside for months without being started or driven will develop problems, said Iny. He said months-long delays for vehicle parts are not unheard of due to supply chain issues. In some cases, cars can sit for months in repair shops until parts arrive. However, he said some customers aren’t getting the full story.

“The carmakers are taking care of themselves first,” he said, “because the same parts are making their way to the assembly line because they’re still manufacturing the vehicle, but they won’t supply it in the replacement market.”

Robertson said she’s telling her story because other Ford Focus owners might be facing similar challenges.


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