Being too trusting and eager when buying a second-hand car can result in you winding up with a 'lemon'. File photo: David Zalubowski / AP
Johannesburg - "Steer clear of Southgate Wheels”. That’s the takeout message from Sello Diphoko’s expensive mistake after trusting the second-hand car dealership in Randburg.

Diphoko’s inexperience tripped him up in December 2017 when he spotted a Quantum minibus taxi on the floor at Southgate Wheels and fell for the salesman’s smooth ways.

Diphoko explained that he liked the condition of the minibus’ body and seats, and asked the salesman if the engine had ever been modified because he was planning to transport children to school in the Free State. The salesman assured him it was in a “good” condition and insisted the engine had never been modified.

Alarm bells, though, should have gone off from the start, when the salesman insisted money be paid over before Diphoko could even test drive it - and asked repeatedly via WhatsApp when the transfer would be made. When Diphoko asked about wheel alignment, the sliding door, and speedometer (which wasn’t working), the salesman told him he should “take his word for it” that the vehicle was fine.

Stranded

But Diphoko realised he had a “lemon” when it broke down outside Bloemfontein a week later and he was stranded overnight along the roadside.

“On 15 December, when I was outside Bloemfontein, the engine blew and the engine block cracked - it turned out it had been glued in place as a temporary fix before I bought it. The mechanic who inspected the car for me in Bloem told me there were missing valves and rockers on a piston, which had contributed to the damage.”

Diphoko is now stuck with a minibus that needs repair and Southgate Wheels does not seem to care.

“The car is still being repaired by me: I had to buy a second-hand engine for more than R15000 (which I didn’t have) and I had to pay the mechanics who worked on it. I still have to take it to an auto electrician to fix all the electrical issues. I have lost so much on this, borrowing money and increasing my credit limit, which affects my credit profile.

“I’ve been ripped off. I paid so much money, trusted these guys, and now I sit with all the stress. R200 000 for this is a lot of money and yet it is still not fixed.”

Tough lesson

Southgate Wheels has gone quiet, despite the manager Conrad initially telling me: “We would like to thank you for your e-mail regarding the Quantum purchased by Sello. In order for us to make an informed decision regarding the issue, we are kindly requesting the client to forward us any e-mails, SMS or correspondence pertaining or related to the issue at hand, when he was communicating with Southgate Wheels after buying the vehicle (sic). According to this e-mail it seems Sello furnished Southgate Wheels with information of paramount importance. Hope to hear from you soonest.”

A week later, Conrad still hadn’t responded. When reminded, he claimed not to have received the information which I was cc’d on. So I resent it, as did Diphoko, but Conrad and Southgate Wheels failed to respond by the deadline.

Diphoko has learned a tough lesson: “I guess these guys are so happy because they sold me the minibus, knowing full well that it had so many hidden problems. They need to be taught a lesson and that they can’t take their customers for granted.”

Had Diphoko been less trusting and eager to buy the minibus, he would have saved himself that R200 000 and a lot of stress by googling Southgate Wheels.

Curiouser and curiouser

Interestingly, they respond on Hellopeter but I noted some rather curious entries. Two include verbatim “apologies”, apparently written by two different people, stating:

“I hereby would like to formally apologise and revoke any statements made pertaining to Southgatewheels. Due to unfortunate events there was miscommunication as to the final product that was delivered as well as the substantial amount thereof. I thank Southgatewheels for the manner in which this was resolved/clarified. Your professionalism is duly noted, especially in times when dealing with unhappy clients. Thank you for taking the time out to clarify any misunderstandings and expressing your concern towards unhappy clients. This exhibits the core values of your business being the clients satisfaction and not just a service you deliver (sic).”

One person was so delighted with their service that she wrote: “I bought in a consignment vehicle in Dec 2017 Southgatewheels sold the vehicle on my behalf and paid me on time so I can enjoy the December holidays.”

But the month before, in November, the same person thanked them for being so helpful in helping her pawn her vehicle and in February this year she was effusive in her praise for their assistance in helping her buy her first, dream car.

I’ve advised Diphoko to approach the Motoring Ombudsman about the matter or get a lawyer involved.

The Star