THOUSANDS motorists who were lured into buying new cars by an attractive offer meant to see them paying as little as R699 a month are up in arms after the company managing the deal, Satinsky Group, unexpectedly cut its losses with its Hong Kong-based holding company.
Many car owners who bought into the “Drive a new car for R699 a month” deal — that saw them driving a car branded with the advertisement and paid out monthly fees that went towards covering their instalments — said they were plunged into financial crisis this week when their rebates were not paid out this month.
Consumers were left confused as to whether to direct their anger at Satinsky or the Hong Kong-based Blue Lake Trading and Promotions.
Word quickly spread via social media and word of mouth that the companies had gone bust. Many said they were in the dark as phone calls and emails to Satinsky went unanswered.
Frustrated drivers in Nelson Mandela Bay, like others around the country, said they received the shock of their lives when they logged onto the Satinsky website to upload pictures of their cars and odometer readings to qualify for up to 100% of their monthly instalment paid back, only to find a notice that the company was no longer part of the deal.
Satinsky Group is headed by Pretoria businessman Albert Venter, who developed this marketing model about three years ago as a means to sell affordable cars to consumers who had fallen on tough economic times.
The company sold its branding division to Blue Lake in 2011 in a deal meant to see a similar concept implemented in Asian countries. Revenue generated in SA was to be split between the two companies.
Mr Venter, who would initially not be drawn to comment, denied the company had gone under and said they were consulting with their customers.
Asked for clarity on the matter on Thursday, Mr Venter said: “I cannot go into detail right now. I suggest you wait until we release a press release on Monday or Tuesday with all the facts.”
Blue Lake Trading did not respond to queries.
A notice on Satinsky’s website, which moved to allay customers’ concerns, announced the appointment of a new company, Accelerator Rewards Pty Ltd, that would continue ensuring car owners paid less.
It read: “After lengthy discussions with Blue Lakes Trading and Promotions, it is our opinion that the interests of Satinsky clients will best be served by dissolving the management agreement between ourselves and Blue Lake Trading and Promotions. Understanding the financial implications our clients will be facing, we have been pro-active in sourcing a suitable alternative offering to our valued customer.”
Reasons for the breakaway were not given.
However, car owners have been left confused and frustrated that they were unexpectedly liable for the full instalment on their cars this month, which for most was a major knock to their budgets. Some say they had never received the agreed amount back in rebates since buying their cars on the scheme.
Many took to social networks to voice their anger while others posted pictures on the web of their branded cars and warnings pasted next to the advertisements for potential customers not to buy into the “scam”.
In response to the non-payment of rebates, a group of affected Bay consumers threatened to strip their cars of the branding, saying they could not be expected to stick to their end of the bargain while the companies did not.
Dewalt Lou van Vuuren, who bought a Renault Sandero two years ago, said he had been thrown into a financial tizz as he relied on the monthly pay-back portion.
“We are seriously not happy about (not getting rebates) because we had worked out our budget based on the advert. To suddenly hear it is no longer the case is shattering,” he said. “This has been going on for a few months because my rebates went from R1,000 a month to only R500 without notice.”
Attorney Darryl Vorster said while there might be recourse for the disgruntled car owners, it would be difficult to get their dues from the Asian company.
“The problem is that Satinsky is an agent acting on behalf of Blue Lake, so they are contractually linked to or liable for payment. I doubt there is anything they can do other than to take Blue Lake on — and they are in central Hong Kong,” he said.