The director of a local car dealership which sold a ‘death-trap’ car told a court he was not a dodgy dealer.

William Frederick Howlin, director of Motec Autos, appeared at Haverfordwest magistrates court on Wednesday, January 30.

Milford Mercury:

He pleaded guilty, on behalf of himself and the company, to charges of engaging in a misleading action containing false information, placing an unsafe car on the market and fraud by false representation.

Rhian Young, prosecuting on behalf of Pembrokeshire County Council, said a customer returned an Audi A4 to the garage after experiencing problems, and paid an extra £500 to exchange it for a black Mazda MX5 in February 2018.

Milford Mercury:

He later found out that the car had previously been returned to the garage due to rust and took it to another garage to be inspected.

Miss Young said: “He had a call saying the MX5 should not be on the road. He was told that the vehicle was too dangerous to let him drive it away.”

The customer was told the car was in the worst mechanical condition for a vehicle which had just passed its MOT that the mechanic had seen, let alone without any advisories.

Research revealed a previous complaint about the car had been withdrawn when Motec provided a refund, after the car was found to have significant corrosion when serviced.

Miss Young said: “He was told it was a death trap. A tow-truck had to be organised to take it back to Motec.”

An inspector was ‘horrified’ by the state of the MX5, as the strength of the vehicle was compromised by corrosion. Hitting a kerb could have resulted in it collapsing, and it was described as ‘dangerous and unroadworthy’.

When visited by Trading Standards officers, a Vauxhall Corsa at the garage was found to be in an unsafe condition, and three out of six cars were found to have serious safety defects.

Miss Young said: “The facts are quite stark and damning, and not the actions of an experienced, honest and exemplary businessman.”

Miss Young added that misleading “Trade Sale Sold as Seen and Tried” signs had been used at the garage.

Aled Owen, defending, handed character references to magistrates, adding Howlin had a good reputation in the community.

He added that an MOT was a minimum standard, and there were ‘grey areas’ in terms of examination.

Mr Owen said: “This is not a dodgy dealer in the past and not a dodgy dealer now. The points have been addressed correctly for the future.

“This gentleman feels a sense of remorse and shame.”

Mr Owen added that actions were taken immediately, and the customer had been apologised to and compensated.

The court heard Howlin had failed to keep track with regulations and there had been a communication failure between staff.

Mr Owen stated a manager had been employed to ensure compliance, and standards were now beyond what was expected.

“This had been an expensive lesson for him and one that has done him no credit, but is an isolated incident in the course of a few months, while he has 38 years of experience.”

Howlin was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay a total of £17,360, on behalf of himself and the company, in fines, costs and surcharges.

Speaking after the case, Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Housing and Regulatory Services Cllr Pat Davies said: “The penalty handed out by the court sends out a clear message to Pembrokeshire motor dealers around the county that they must trade fairly and ensure that all cars that they offer for sale are safe and roadworthy.

“Trading Standards Officers continue to conduct unannounced checks at second-hand car dealers across the county to check on the safety of vehicles displayed for sale.

“Any Pembrokeshire consumer who purchases a car that they believe is unsafe from a motor dealer is encouraged to report the matter to the council.”