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Top Gear Philippines

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Full disclosure: I personally know the owner of the Toyota FJ Cruiser in this story, which received countless scratches after a wrap job gone extremely bad. The owner is a popular TV personality. He didn't ask me to write this. In fact, I stumbled upon this story only through an industry friend. I hope to finish this piece without any biases. I am writing this because I feel there are valuable lessons to be learned here.

This is the story:

The TV personality very recently purchased a brand-new FJ Cruiser as a gift for his wife, who is also in the media industry. The SUV was to be a replacement for the latter's seven-year-old Fortuner, also a gift from her husband in 2006.

Two days after they got the green FJ Cruiser from the showroom, they turned it over to a car-wrap shop so that a clear wrap could be installed. Now, the wrap had been sponsored by a company that distributes a car-wrap brand. According to the wife, the wrap was offered to them for free after her own TV show had featured a Mini Cooper that sported the wrap being marketed by the company. She agreed. After all, she wanted to preserve her new SUV's pristine paint job.

When the couple got the FJ Cruiser back, they were disappointed by the result. There were many bubbles and the overall appearance simply didn't look professionally done. But since they got the wrap for free anyway, they just shrugged it off and went to another foil-wrap shop to have the clear wrap removed and replaced. This is where they got the shock of their lives.

The second wrap shop informed them that scratches were all over the car, most of which looking like blade cuts. Worse, there were dents in the roof, which the wife believes were elbow dents resulting from the wrap installer's carelessness. So they canceled the planned installation of a new wrap and instead brought the vehicle to Meguiar's Philippines, a distributor of car-care products that also provides buffing and waxing services, to see if the scratches could be fixed. The couple became livid after seeing the checklist from the buffing shop: Their FJ Cruiser looked like a guinea pig used for training and experiment (see photo below).

Extremely angry over what happened to their brand-new SUV, the couple is now demanding that the supplier of the wrap replace their vehicle with a new one.

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"This is my husband's hard-earned money," the wife tells me. "We're not rolling in cash. My Fortuner has been with me for seven years, and it still doesn't have scratches or dents."

The wife is now threatening to expose the incident in media. Naturally, the wrap supplier is very wary and is offering to have the vehicle repainted. The thing is, the FJ Cruiser owners do not want a fix--they want a replacement.

"Why should I replace it?" remarked the wrap supplier to the industry friend who narrated the story to me. "If a tricycle accidentally bumps your car, would you demand that the tricycle driver replace your car with a new one?"

The analogy is totally erroneous, of course. First, the tricycle driver is not a provider of products or services that contributed to the damage. Second, if you figure in an accident, there's a big likelihood your car isn't exactly new.

Still, is the media couple entitled to a unit replacement after everything is considered?

"There is no basis for replacement," explains Atty. Robby Consunji, author of Top Gear Philippines' legal column. "The customer can ask for repair. The paint defect is not a functional item like engine, transmission or brakes. The consumer protection law requires the shop to repair the defect. If the defect isn't solved, then the customer can demand replacement."

"We demand a new unit because our FJ Cruiser was literally fresh when we gave it to them," says the wife. "You can no longer bring it back to the original factory finish after all the cutter marks. The vehicle looks like a zebra."

So now we seemingly have a stalemate. The wrap supplier clearly provided horrendous service. But the question now is whether the FJ Cruiser owners have the right to demand a unit replacement, or if the service provider can settle the matter by just having the vehicle repainted. Seeing how pissed the owners are, I expect this story to blow up in the days to come if the issue isn't resolved amicably.

If this happened to your brand-new car, what would you do?

UPDATE: The FJ Cruiser owners have clarified that the wrap wasn't actually free but was, in fact, a barter agreement.

 

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Vernon B. Sarne
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