France Verhelst and her family, originally from Bordes, are not about to forget their holidays. Sunday 24 July at At 04.00 the couple and their three children boarded their Kia hybrid car, bought in March 2021. Heading Cap d’Agde, in Hérault.
The journey is uneventful until Bourges, where the pair notice a racing engine. A few hours later, near the Millau Viaduct (Aveyron), the situation worsened. “The dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree and more engine. We were freewheeling”, says, still tested, France Verhelst.
“The children screamed,” she continues. “There was no hard shoulder. We took an exit 100 meters away to stop on the branch road. Fortunately, otherwise there would have been five deaths.“
The family is left on the pavement for the first time…
The couple then contacted a technician from Kia France and followed his recommendations. The family sets off again, and 10 km from the finish line the pattern repeats itself. “That same night, the children had nightmares,” says the mother. The next day the vehicle is looked after by a Kia garage in Béziers (Hérault).
The day of the return to the Loiret, Sunday 7 August, France and her husband Florent are calm. “We told the kids ‘it’s good, the car is cured’. We didn’t know we were lying to them.’
The family takes the road for 637 km. On the road, the vehicle “goes up the towers” until it becomes almost “uncontrollable”.
“The car is close to 130 km/h on a hill, at 5,500 or even 5,600 rpm. We manage to leave the highway at Aumont-Aubrac in Lozère. We are wiping children’s tears.”
It’s almost 1pm.
Two hours later, a repairman intervenes. The parents and their three children, aged 8, 6 and 25 months, meet alone, without a vehicle waiting on the sidewalk. “We ask for transport home or a rental car, we are told ‘it’s sunday, it’s going to be complicated’says the Loiretain, who keeps calling for car assistance, to no avail.
… then a second!
After an afternoon of waiting outside with their luggage, the family finally gets an answer: “There must have been a misunderstanding, nobody cares about your file“, we were told.”
She will finally spend the night in a hotel found by the assistance, in Marvegols. On the morning of Monday, August 8, everything seems to be back to normal. “We found a car, but it’s a Peugeot 308, France specifies. It’s like trying to fit a football team into a Twingo.”
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The problems continue and the phone calls follow one another. The family must leave the hotel room in the middle of the morning.
“We called the manager of the Kia dealership near Orléans (where the couple have already had their car repaired) because the assistance explained to us that they had no more solutions to offer us.“
Only in the afternoon is the family back on the pavement. The “miracle” occurs aroundwhen a new vehicle, a Peugeot 3008, is offered to him.
“Moral and financial damage”
“We just almost died in the car, insists France. And leave us like that two days in a row, on a pavement, in the middle of a heat wave, with our children. There is real moral and financial damage. The little ones didn’t bother getting into a car anymore…”
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The couple sent a registered letter to Kia demanding compensation and a solution for their vehicle, which is currently being repaired at the Fleury-les-Aubrais workshop.
“Madame Verhelst contacted me on Monday 8 August and I intervened with Kia’s customer relations department. This is an unacceptable and illogical situation, but there are extenuating circumstances. There were very few rental cars, spare parts and staff.’
David Apicella (Kia site manager in Fleury-les-Aubrais)
This Tuesday, August 30, David Apicella met with representatives of Kia France to discuss the family’s situation. “I will explain the problem, the steps that have been taken and I want to express my desire to offer this family another vehicle, he explained Monday. In return, Mrs. Verhelst sent her bank details and documents.”