In preparation for a long road trip in April 2005, I had my 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe transmission fluid changed at(RFG Oil, Inc., dba) Valvoline Instant Oil Change on Sepulveda Blvd in Manhattan Beach. Was advised by them that their product would not void my warranty.
After driving to the bank (approx 1 mile away) reverse gear failed. Returned vehicle to Valvoline. Valvoline replaced the fluid again, this time using Hyundai fluid. Still no reverse. Took the vehicle to Power Hyundai in Torrance. The technicians at Power Hyundai determined the transmission needed to be replaced. Valvoline said it was a Hyundai issue; Hyundai said it was a Valvoline issue. This went back and forth for 3 weeks.
At one point, Hyundai offered to replace the transmission under warranty. They asked for Valvoline to fax them a statement that their product met Hyundai specifications. That was all they had to do. One line. Jeff Gong of Valvoline sent a 3 page fax. The first page stated their product complied with "Chrysler" specifications, the second page was their product sales and warranty info, and the third page was a table that stated Hyundai (along with 19 out of 21 other auto "specification or application") DID NOT approve their product.
Steve Brotkin, service manager at Power Hyundai, said he was very sorry, but there was no way they could honor the warranty after receiving that fax. I needed my vehicle and paid for the transmission replacement myself. Follow up demands for reimbursement went nowhere.
I in March 2006 filed suit in small claims court. Because of a series of unfortunate events and bad judicial judgement, I lost. For the first "trial" I was unable to serve Valvoline. Service of process WAS NOT ACCEPTED at their corporate address (service via certified mail to their address of record). Both Hyundai Motor America and Power Hyundai accepted service and appeared. After listening to testimony, the judge #1 said he was dismissing against Hyundai. It was very clear to him that failure after driving 1 mile was evidence of bad fluid by Valvoline. I asked him not to dismiss against Hyundai, that I wanted both defendants in court facing each other. He said he would reinstate Hyundai as a defendant if Valvoline had compelling evidence and he ordered Hyundai to appear as my expert witness at the next "trial". At the next "trial", Hyundai appeared as my witness. Judgement (judge #2) was entered for me and against Valvoline.
I attempted to contact Scott Kahle of Hyundai Motor America, who previously appeared for Hyundai. Hyundai customer service would not provide me with his contact information. They did, however, send my contact information to Mr. Kahle. I never got a response from him. Power Hyundai is no longer in business so I was unable to contact Steve Brotkin, their service manager, or anyone else from there.
I contacted the court and requested a copy of the transcript of the first "trial" where judge #1 said he would reinstate Hyundai as a defendant. The court provided me a copy of the second "trial." When I went back to request the transcript for the first trial (the one I ordered), I was told it was too late, clerk could not prepare it before trial. Needless to say, at the "trial de novo," I lost. I was severly outgunned.
Valvoline produced letters from "experts" that their fluid could not possibly have caused the failure, that it was "a pre-existing condition." (Why didn't they provide this information to Hyundai when Hyundai was willing to do the work under warranty?) I had no expert testimony to present and no witnesses. My documentation was not technical, only circumstantial. Judge #3 was unwilling to continue the trial and said he didn't think he could reinstate the defendant Hyundai.
Both companies "warrant" their products. Neither company stood by their warranty. And even the judicial process failed me.
I did everything according to the book. I followed up (daily, even several times a day). I kept notes of calls and copies of correspondence and receipts. I'm not a not a technical person or a mechanic. Just a victim.
El Segundo, California
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