Action News Investigation: Cottman Transmission

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Action News Investigation: Cottman Transmission: Wendy Saltzman reports on Action News at 11 p.m., November 14, 2017 (WPVI)

When you go to get your car repaired, are you really getting what you pay for?

An Action News Hidden Camera Investigation exposes a local repair shop that charged a customer thousands of dollars for a junk part, and a tipster said it may have happened to others.

An insider at Cottman Transmission in Maple Shade, New Jersey told us he personally put used parts in customer's cars and charged them for work that wasn't done.

Customer Scott Kehl said he spent close to $3000 to have the transmission in his car rebuilt at Cottman Transmission.

"I didn't pay for used," said Kehl. "No one ever said that they were going to go to a junk yard, and put used parts in my truck. I never would have allowed it, never allowed it."

We contacted Kehl after we received a tip from the former manager at the Maple Shade store, Joe White.

White told Action News Cottman charged Kehl to have his transmission completely rebuilt, a process that could take days and dozens of hours of labor, but instead he said they installed junk parts in its place.

"He would purchase the transmission from the junkyard and be able to get the car out faster," said White. "The average person doesn't know what to look at."

White said he complained to Cottman headquarters in June and quit.

Action News Hidden cameras found similar salvaged parts sitting on Cottman's lot.

"When you are seeing the writing on the transmissions, especially the yellow writing, those are what are called junk yard stick numbers," said White.

Kehl said if he has junk parts in his car, he wants them out.

To confirm Kehl's suspicions, we took the parts from his car to experts at the law firm of Kimmel and Silverman.

"It's a junkyard part," said Steve Ruch, ASE Master Certified Mechanic. "It's not a new part."

Ruch said both Kelh's transmission and rear differential had the undeniable markings of a salvaged part.

"He obviously didn't get what he paid for," said Ruch. "He paid for the transmission to be rebuilt and overhauled and it wasn't."

We went back to Cottman with Kelh and our undercover cameras when he approached owner Lou Guarini.

Initially, Guarini denied the parts were used until Kehl presented him with the cold hard proof.

When we approached Guarini, he told us as far as he knew this was an isolated case and said the junk yard parts on his lot are for customers who request them.

Guarini said he'd take care of Kelh, and he called White a disgruntled employee.

"I'm going to do the right thing," said Guarini. "I always do."

Guarini said he refunded Kehl more than $3500 dollars.

In a statement, Cottman corporate tells us they have begun an investigation into the practices of this franchise and said any customers who believe they were treated unfairly should contact them.

The company issued the following statement:

We are very proud of the reputation of independently-owned Cottman Transmission franchise centers that have successfully serviced hundreds of thousands of vehicles throughout the US and Canada for over 50 years. With that reputation, we obviously take any allegation of unfair practices very seriously, even where lodged by a former disgruntled employee of one of our franchisees. We have commenced an investigation of the practices at the independent Maple Shade Cottman franchise and have secured the full cooperation of that facility to ensure that their customers receive fair and proper service. If any Cottman Center customers suspect that they have been treated unfairly, we invite them to contact our Consumer Support Hotline at 215-628-2120 or at www.cottman.com and we will address their concerns to their full satisfaction.

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For more news and updates to her investigations, be sure to follow Wendy Saltzman on Facebook.

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