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A mother of one is caught between a car dealer and her insurance company who are busy pointing fingers at each other instead of settling a valid claim.
Thembi Shongwe bought a brand-new Polo Classic in February last year, and six months later she had a burnt-out car to show for her money.
Shongwe said she was driving to Swaziland with her eight-year-old daughter and a four-year-old nephew when her car caught fire.
She said her car just lost power, and before she pulled over, she noticed the charging system's warning light on the dashboard.
Shongwe said she got out of her car to investigate, and noticed smoke coming from underneath the bonnet.
"I quickly removed the children from the vehicle, and passing motorists stopped to assist, but nobody wanted to open the bonnet because they feared that the vehicle would explode."
She said she called the fire department, who arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire.
The fire had developed from severe smoke to flames within 20 minutes, she said.
She notified 1st For Women insurance company about the incident, and they sent a tow truck to tow the car away.
Two days later she notified VW, who sent their forensic expert to examine the car.
Two months later, VW reported that they could not detect any manufacturer's defect and were exonerated from liability.
But Enigma, forensic experts from 1st For Women, found a manufacturing fault, said Shongwe.
This was communicated to Volkswagen, who insisted there was no manufacturer's defect, even though they could not say what caused the fire.
She only got the sad news last month. 1st For Women also declined her claim on the bases that they were not the manufacturer of her car and that the car was still under warranty.
"And now I am paying for a car I do not have. I cannot stop the car repayment as this will dent my creditworthiness," she said.
Nicolene Simpson of Volkswagen could only disagree with a forensic report compiled by 1st For Women's expert without elaborating. "Volkswagen is aware of Shongwe's concerns and sincerely regrets her disappointment in this regard. We endeavoured to provide Shongwe, our customer, with comprehensive feedback in this regard and have been open and transparent in our feedback with her," she said.
Enigma's report concluded among other things that:
l Given the extremely low mileage recorded on this vehicle since being purchased, the potential for a manufacturing anomaly is greater than on a similar "older" vehicle with high mileage.
l The seat of the fire is concentrated around the high pressure fuel rail and the damage it exhibited indicates the fuel rail had become compromised and fuel had been expelled from the high pressure fuel system into the engine compartment. This is corroborated by the report of the engine losing power shortly before the fire occurred.
Dorothy Smit of 1st For Women said they have repudiated her claim because the damage was of a mechanical nature. "The terms and conditions of our policy book stipulate that we do not compensate their (VW) clients.
"1st for Women do not cover any claim for loss, damage, death, injury or liability which is caused by or results from: deterioration and breakdown, failure, breakage or rust, wear and tear, depreciation, perishing, fading, mechanical or electrical breakdown," she said.
Mike Botes of the Motor Retail Industry has agreed to investigate.