Family’s lucky car fire escape

by Gazette Reporter

A COUPLE whose family vehicle went on fire while being driven claims that their calls for a north Dublin garage to take responsibility have fallen on “deaf ears”.

Paul and Carol Jackson bought their new Opel Insignia in 2011 from the Opel dealership at Joe Duffy Motors, Dublin 11.

Two years later on June 14, the €25,000 car caught fire when Paul was driving with his child through Lusk. The Clonshaugh resident and his child escaped injury when a fellow motorist alerted him to the undercarriage being on fire.

His wife Carol said: “Paul immediately pulled over, got the two of them out of the car and within two to three minutes the car was ablaze and is now a complete and utter shell. Obviously Paul was in shock as the car he was driving two minutes [beforehand] was now up in flames.”

While Joe Duffy Motors Opel Dealership have stated that the incident is currently being investigated, Opel Ireland claims that an inspection they carried out has revealed no manufacturing defect.

According to Carol, the car had been serviced on May 31, just two weeks before the incident.

On the day of the fire, Carol said she contacted Joe Duffy Motor Group,  who advised her it was a matter for her insurance.

“I was gobsmacked,” she said of the response as the car was still under warranty. “We have to expect that a new car  with 30,000km on the clock is allowed to go ablaze and they offer nothing to you?”

Carol said she has sent numerous emails and registered letters to Joe Duffy Motors. Since contacting the motor group, she said she has received one email promising a phone call, but has yet to hear more.

She said: “We have been left for nearly four weeks with no car as we asked for a replacement car [from] Joe Duffy Motors and this went again on deaf ears.”

When contacted by the Gazette, a manager at Joe Duffy Motors said Carol’s information was “incorrect” and that the incident was currently being dealt with by the company. When asked if the company had responded to Carol’s request for a replacement car, the manager said: “This matter is under investigation and there are certain parties involved and it is unfair to say, until the matter is resolved, what the actual facts of this are.” The manager also stated that the motor group “would not refer” a customer on  to an insurance company.

“Our company has been in operation for over 40 years and I know that we can’t speak on behalf of insurance companies,” she said.

When asked if the motor group had responded to the letters sent by the Jacksons, the manager said she was looking at a copy of the last correspondence. “I certainly would refute that the matter isn’t being dealt with. It certainly is.”

“The matter is being investigated fully and certainly no liability is being admitted because the nature of the fault has to be ascertained. There’s no evidence to suggest that the reason it went on fire was something to do with our company,” she added.

A spokesperson for Opel Ireland has said that the company takes vehicle fires (thermal incidents) “very seriously” and investigates each case thoroughly to determine the root cause, saying: “We work together with local authorities and insurance companies to investigate incidents and ensure the safety of our vehicles; this is of paramount importance to us.”

In relation to the Jackson’s Opel Insignia, Opel Ireland said a report was carried out by an Opel product evaluation engineer as well as an independent specialist from the customer’s insurance company.

“In both reports, no manufacturing defect was found with the vehicle.”

Referring to other thermal incidents with Opel Insignias in Ireland, the spokesperson said there was “no common theme linking these cases”.

“It is also confirmed that the circumstances of this particular case do not provide any evidence linking this to any previous incidents,” the company stated.

Another Opel (Vauxhall) Insignia was the subject of an investigation carried out by BBC Watchdog last year. In the report, the BBC television show looked at a similar incident to Carol and Paul’s, where a 2010 Insignia burst into flames while it was being driven in the UK. During the report it was revealed that the cause of the fire remained unknown.

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