Hyundai drivers demand action over peeling paint
Angry Hyundai drivers whose cars are worth little more than scrap due to a common paint peeling issue have ramped up their push for compensation.
About a dozen owners and their supporters drove their shabby looking cars to Channel 7 in Perth for a public protest just before Christmas.
Organiser Keir Emery, whose wife’s car is one of hundreds with paint falling off in chunks, said they wanted to put pressure on Hyundai to do the right thing and address the widespread problem with white or pearl white primer on some models.
“People feel embarrassed driving around in the cars. But the people high up in Hyundai are the ones who should feel embarrassed,” he says.
“Big business just tries to brush it under the carpet, they don’t care. But it has a big effect on the average person not being able to drive their car or then sell it because it looks so bad.”
Keir is part of a Facebook group with more than 800 members across Australia. Most members have white or pearl white Hyundais. A class action was launched in Canada in May this year on behalf of Hyundai drivers “seeking compensation for damage to members’ vehicles as a result of paint delamination”.
The Facebook forum is full of stories from drivers too embarrassed to drive their cars and disgusted with the way Hyundai has handled their complaints. Many have been quoted thousands to respray the vehicle, with Hyundai refusing to acknowledge the fault with the paint applied.
In most cases, they have spent months running around in circles, being shunted from dealerships to Hyundai Customer Care to panel beaters for quotes and back again. Even though most consumers were outside the manufacturer’s paint warranty, they have protection under Australian Consumer Law.
Paint coming off all panels
Keir's wife drives a 2016 Hyundai i20. It was still under warranty when paint first started falling off in 2019. At the time, Hyundai said there was a manufacturing fault with a primer mix-up and agreed to respray.
“Hyundai told me they resprayed the whole vehicle but it turns out they only sprayed a few panels,” he says. “Six months later, the rest of the panels started to peel and I brought it back to them.”
When Hyundai tried to push blame on to the panel beater, Keir followed up with him. “He said ‘look mate, I’ll give you my report’ and he says the panels he resprayed are fine. It’s the remaining ones that have paint falling off.”
Refusing to entertain the idea of paying $10,000 to respray the entire car – more than the car is worth - Keir has been fighting Hyundai ever since.
“Eventually they said we don’t believe it’s a manufacturing fault. It is something you’ve done and we’re not taking responsibility,” he says.
But when Keir searched online, he found he was far from alone. Most of the owners in the Facebook group, which is growing every week, drive i20s or i30s badged from 2014 to 2018.
“They just keep putting people off and kicking it down the road so they can push it out of warranty. But they should take responsibility for this – it's their paint issue,” he says.
“My wife works with children with disabilities and drives around with clients. It’s an embarrassing situation, but she shouldn’t be embarrassed. Hyundai should be. There are so many people affected by something they did.”
Even in his own small town in Western Australia’s South West, Keir has met three people whose cars are in similar decay, at least on the surface.
Repairs cost more than car
Carol* is one of them. He struck up a conversation with her in a local carpark after noticing the state of her vehicle. The older woman, who was not on social media, was unaware there were hundreds of people in a similar position on a Facebook page alone.
Sue* has been advocating on Carol’s behalf. With Carol based in the country and it being too difficult for her to come back and forth to Perth to try to get the issue sorted, her 2015 i20 has been sitting in Sue’s driveway for months.
When Sue managed to get WA Consumer Protection on board, they negotiated a $3500 payment with Hyundai as a ‘goodwill gesture’ towards a respray.
“We went to two repairers, one recommended by Hyundai, which was awful. It took three weeks to get a time to even take it for an assessment and then they were rude and dismissive,” Sue says.
“The other quoted for individual panels, which might have been almost covered by the offer from Hyundai. But they later phoned back to say they wouldn’t do that because the car needed a total respray.”
They warned that masking other panels to respray the worst – two doors, the bonnet, roof and back panel – would loosen the paint on the ‘best’ of them, leading to further damage.
With a cost for a total respray coming in at $10,000 and Hyundai offering only a third of that – to be paid directly to the panel beater. It’s a difference Sue can ill afford.
“She is on a disability pension and can’t throw away that kind of money,” Sue says. “I think if Hyundai agreed to pay what the market value of the car would be if it didn’t have the paint issue that would be a reasonable outcome. As it stands it is virtually worthless, even though it is a perfectly good car other than the paint.”
Drivers left in limbo
Kiah Sarah is in a similar position. Her 2014 i20, which she bought as a demo in 2015, still drives like a dream. It looks like a nightmare.
Just before her son was born five years ago, she noticed paint peeling off the bumper and took it back to the dealer.
“I said I’d done a bit of googling and I can see other i20s of the same colour have the same issue because of the primer they used,” she says. “So they ended up spraying the back panel, which to me is like an admission of ‘okay, we did the wrong thing’. And then two years later, the whole car started peeling.”
She took the car back to the dealer, where photos were taken for a claim. But when she followed up, it hadn’t been lodged. The dealer wanted her to get approval from Hyundai Customer Care to lodge the claim because the car was out of warranty. She then had to chase up Customer Care again to keep their promise to ask the dealer to lodge the claim. She is still waiting to hear what will happen next.
“I was going to try to trade it in and upgrade to a bigger car. But who knows what the car will be worth in the state it is in,” she says. “It's so disappointing because everything else about the car is fine. It’s literally just the paint, which is a shame. They go for ages without any problems. My partner's step mum is a driving instructor and has done 300,000km, and it’s still mechanically sound – it's just the paint peeling off.”
Time to take responsibility
Kiah believes Hyundai has a responsibility to recall all the cars affected by the manufacturer’s fault and provide compensation.
“The last time I spoke to them they were trying to say ‘well it’s an old car, it’s coming up to 10 years old and your warranty has run out’,” she says. “But you see cars that are 20 or 30 years old that don’t have this issue. It’s their issue, not something we did.”
She told Hyundai Customer Care that she was in a group with hundreds of people affected by the issue and she wanted that put on her claim. “She told me ‘we don’t look at other people’s cars because it’s not relevant’, but it is relevant. They are all the same car and they all have the same problem.”
Keir wants people affected to be compensated fairly for the manufacturing fault. “I’ve met some lovely people. One of them is an elderly lady with a disability. She’s not on social media so wasn’t part of the Facebook group,” he says. “This protest is about raising their voices and making sure everyone knows about this, and maybe we will get a class action.”
It’s also about showing the depth of disgust at the way Hyundai has handled their complaints. “If you treat people right when they have a genuine issue you’ll have a customer for life,” Keir says. “Most people will never buy a Hyundai again because of how they’ve been treated.”
If you have been affected by the Hyundai paint peeling issue, please lodge your complaint with us and we will help you handle it.
Watch Jo's segment on Channel 7News about this widespread issue and get informed.
*We have only used first names at the request of these interview subjects.