Service Intervals Blamed in a New Class-action Lawsuit

How often do you really need to take your car to the shop for maintenance? Apparently, the answer is not as simple as looking at your owner’s manual…

The trial for a class-action lawsuit claiming car owners are being misled about their vehicle's maintenance schedule wrapped up in Montreal on September 20 and is now in the hands of a judge, CBC reports.

The lawsuit's complainant, Thérèse Martel, and her partner Michel Lacasse purchased a low-budget Kia Rio from a dealership in Sherbrooke, Quebec back in 2012. Checking the manual's normal service schedule, they thought they were going to have the car serviced every 12,000 kilometres.

However, when the couple brought the car in for its first service, the dealer told them the 12,000-kilometre interval doesn’t apply to vehicles sold in Quebec because of the harsher climate and that they had to change the oil far more frequently.

Photo: Kia

How frequently? Martel and Lacasse say they were told to follow the manual's alternate, severe usage maintenance schedule—every six months or 6,000 kilometres.

The couple paid $985 in extra service costs in the two years they owned the car and Martel is seeking an equal amount in damages. If the class action is successful, it could apply to other Kia owners in Quebec.

What About the Rest of Canada?

Even in warmer regions like Victoria, B.C., where temperatures very seldom exceed the 0-30 Celsius range, customers are being told that Canadians have to follow the severe usage schedule in order to maintain their warranty.

"(Hyundai Canada) told me I need to follow it because I might be driving in negative 40 or plus 40, which of course is crazy for Victoria, where we've got very mellow, gentle weather," said Nick La Riviere, who owns a 2018 Hyundai Ioniq.

Photo: Hyundai

In a statement to CBC News, Hyundai Canada said the customer service agent made a mistake.

"Broadly speaking, most Canadians fall under severe conditions simply due to weather and temperature," the company said. "Small pockets, such as Vancouver Island, experience milder weather and may be exempt. However, a vehicle on Vancouver Island could still qualify for the severe schedule based on how it is used."

Of course, there are other considerations than weather when it comes to determining severe usage, such as regular driving in heavy traffic, in mountains or on dirt roads.

Photo: Danny Geraghty

George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association, says some automakers are rethinking severe usage schedules or dropping them altogether.

"For many of us in Canada, summer driving is not that hot and would match the less rigorous schedule," he told CBC. "But winter driving—except Vancouver Island or in the southernmost parts of Ontario—probably is a severe usage situation because of the cold, because most of us live in a highly urbanized setting where we do a lot of short trips."

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