Repair&Despair

Strike two for Pampanga distributor of Chinese brand

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10:22 PM April 2nd, 2013

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By: Tessa R. Salazar, April 2nd, 2013 10:22 PM

FRAGILE LIKE CHINA A low-speed collision caused this cave-in. Photo by Tessa R. Salazar

The complaints just keep on coming against this defective Chinese-brand mini van and its Pampanga-based distributor. The first time, one person (Ruston Banal Jr.) bravely came out and told his harrowing ordeal with this van (which came out in the Feb. 27 issue of Inquirer Motoring).

This time, around 14 units of these 1-liter vans—all 2010 models—owned by a San Fernando-based cable TV service provider (which requested its name be withheld) are involved.

The vans were bought to complement the company’s other fleet of Suzuki Bravo multicabs and the bigger Mitsubishi L300 FB vans. The Chinese vans, of the same size and dimension as the Bravos, were intended to carry cable wires, ladders, and installation equipment, and negotiate the narrow provincial roads of Bulacan, Tarlac and Pampanga, where the cable company would then service its clients.

The 3-year-old vans had just between 30,000 and 43,000 km in their odometers.

The cable company’s logistics service unit head told Inquirer Motoring that these vehicles’ preventive maintenance schedules were religiously followed at the dealership, and even an in-house mechanic checked on them from time to time.

But poor workmanship in a vehicle, no matter how often it is maintained, would always creep out, swear the logistics head and the in-house mechanic. They pointed out the tell-tale signs of these less-than-roadworthy vehicles:

1. Weak body. When a slow-moving government vehicle bumped one of the mini vans, a larger-than-expected dent on the side door came as a result.

In another accident, the mini van which was approaching the North Luzon Expressway exit at a low speed lost its brakes and hit the rear of an SUV. The whole van’s front crumpled, while the SUV’s rear door just had a slight dent. The van’s driver was injured. The entire engine bay, including the engine, had to be replaced via insurance.

2. Insufficient load-bearing capabilities. The cable company was able to compare the Chinese-made mini van with its Japanese counterparts in terms of load-bearing, and it was found badly wanting. It couldn’t carry sufficient materials to efficiently maintain the company’s operations. “In terms of carrying capacity, this van could be only for family use,” said the logistics head.

3. Hard starting. One van, according to the mechanic, would take two hours, even more, to start the engine. Tracing the cause was a problem in itself. “These engines are all EFIs (electronic fuel injection), so we’re having a hard time tracing the cause. Everything has been computerized already,” stressed the mechanic.

4. Unreliable cylinder head gasket, radiator, axle bearing and fuel pump. The mechanic said the vehicles were barely a month old when axle bearings already required replacing. The mechanic said the company never had these problems in their other vehicles. The axle bearings, for example, usually lasted a year for Japanese-made utility vehicles.

5. Parts are hardly available. The logistics head shared that the mini vans’ Pampanga dealership was “very accommodating when the vehicles were still under warranty,” but there was an instance when two units stalled and were stuck in the dealership for three months because, according to the dealer, no spare parts were available. “The services staff said they couldn’t do anything because the parts were to come from China.”

Share your car ownership experience, pleasant or otherwise. E-mail the author at tsalazar@inquirer.com.ph

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