KALKIE couple Darrell and Maureen Stevens have spent almost a year battling to have a new car replaced after it was riddled with rust from the word go.
To add insult to injury, after months of stressful negotiations, Ford Australia eventually offered to replace their car as a "goodwill gesture" - but only if the couple would contribute $3500 to cover the cost difference of the latest model.
Late yesterday, after the NewsMail started to make inquiries, Mrs Stevens confirmed she had been contacted by the Office of Fair Trading, which said Ford would waive the changeover fee.
The saga started when the couple picked up their new 2010 Ford FG G6E Falcon 50th Anniversary sedan from Coral Coast Ford in March 2011.
Mr Stevens said they had been customers of Coral Coast Ford many times before and had always been happy with their service.
But when they got home, they noticed the new car - which cost $48,945 - was suffering significant rust damage.
"From the day we picked the vehicle up, there was rust all over the engine block, manifold, in the seams and on bolt heads," Mr Stevens said.
"There was even gravel in some of the seams.
"It didn't ever have that new car smell."
Mr Stevens believed the car was damaged in the Brisbane floods and later shipped to Bundaberg.
He said they took the car to an independent mechanic, who confirmed their fears it was riddled with rust.
"He pointed out that apart from the visible rust that we could see, there was severe rust on the seams and joins, seat hinges, and on a couple of places there was no paint on the metal at all," he said.
Following 11 months of refusals by Ford to replace the car, and after repeated visits to the workshop for repairs, Mr and Mrs Stevens were finally offered a new car - as long as they paid an extra $3500 plus delivery costs.
An email dated February 17 from Ford's Customer Relationship Centre in Melbourne, dated February 17, which has been seen by the NewsMail, offers a Ford FGMkII G6E Falcon sedan as a replacement "as a gesture of goodwill".
"The drive-away pricing for this vehicle is $50,858. Your contribution would be your current 2010 Ford FG G6E Falcon 50th Anniversary sedan, registration number DMS97 and a contribution of $3500," the email said.
Mr Stevens said the sum of $3500 seemed to have been plucked out of thin air.
"Our car cost $48,945, and the cost of the proposed replacement is $50,858," he said.
"By my reckoning that comes to a difference of $1913."
A spokesman for Coral Coast Ford would not comment yesterday.
Ford Australia spokeswoman Sinead Phipps said the company was aware of the couple's situation and was disappointed they had had an unhappy experience.
"The $3500 changeover fee is a direct reflection of the increased value of a brand new 2012 FG Mk II G6E compared to a 2010 Model G6E," she said.
"Ford is committed to continue working with the Stevenses."
Mrs Stevens said she was yet to hear from Ford after her call from Fair Trading yesterday.