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DRIVETIME:MOTORING:ROAD WATCH:Car builders hit back at Which?

Byline: STEWART SMITH

THE OFFICIAL body which represents Britain's car makers and importers has accused consumer watchdogs of taking a "cheap shot" at car makers.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers (SMMT) has slammed a Which? report for pointing the finger at seven car makers over new car warranty conditions on servicing.

And one of the car makers involved has demanded a correction from the Consumers Association - publishers of Which? - over what it says are incorrect allegations that it forces customers to have their cars serviced at franchised dealers.

The magazine claimed that servicing through a franchised dealer is still mandatory for many new car warranties, flying in the face of Office of Fair Trading concerns published in its new car warranty report last December.

The SMMT says that car companies have responded in full to the OFT concerns and have moved quickly to change terms relating to servicing conditions.

Servicing via reputable, non-franchised outlets is now available to buyers of all new cars, without affecting the validity of any of the industry's free peace-of-mind warranties, according to the SMMT.

The organisation's chief executive, Christopher Macgowan, says: "The industry fully accepts that consumers should have the choice of where to service their cars, although we are still looking for clarification over what level of information should be kept to prove that a maintenance schedule has been met.

"The fact is this latest Which? report is wrong and sends a confusing message to consumers. It is a cheap shot at an industry which offers comprehensive warranties and has moved quickly to address OFT concerns over new car warranty terms and conditions."

Meanwhile the UK importer of Japanese Mazda cars says it is demanding a correction over allegations in the Which? report that it operates a restricted warranty programme forcing customers to use their own franchised dealers.

The company says it has never had a service restriction applied to its warranty policy and that its customers have always been able to have their vehicles serviced outside of the Mazda dealer network without affecting their warranty rights.

The only stipulation, says Mazda, is that the servicing must be carried out correctly and at the correct time and mileage intervals.

CAPTION(S):

RESPONDING: Mazda insists it has never imposed rules on customers over where servicing is done
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 14, 2004
Words:382
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