Coronavirus: Ontario health care worker’s car quarantined by auto dealer

An Ontario health care worker had to wait six days to get her utility vehicle back from a Ford dealer after it was towed there on the way home from her shift at a long-term care institution.

The delay wasn’t due to any serious problem with her new 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid purchased in January. All that was eventually required was a software upgrade.

“On the Ford app, it said to call roadside assistance and have it towed to the nearest dealership,” said the woman’s husband, Jason Wallis, who spoke to Global News outside the family’s home in Flinton, which is about 175 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.

The dealership took the position that it had to be quarantined before technicians would examine it.

“They (the dealership) informed me that because of where my wife works the car would have to be quarantined for three days,” Wallis said.

He said he was informed that technicians did not want to work on his wife’s vehicle because she is a personal support worker in a long-time care facility where there have been recent cases of COVID-19.

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Wallis’s wife is not sick.

He said he understands the concerns for safety. However, he said he had hoped Ford would provide a loaner vehicle or another means of transportation for his wife who makes an hour-long commute to the long-term care home.

The Escape is under full warranty.

“The dealership did try to arrange a loaner vehicle from the local rental company, but unfortunately was unable to source a vehicle,” said Lauren More, Ford Canada’s vice president of communications, in an email to Global News.

More acknowledged the three-day quarantine took place at the dealership, noting, “that is a recommended practice for vehicles coming into service areas to protect the technicians who work and service vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She said Ford’s dealers are “following the advice of health authorities” in quarantining vehicles.

However, when contacted by Global News, the Ontario Ministry of Health could point to no specific directive advising auto repair facilities to put vehicles in quarantine. In fact, auto repair is considered an essential service in Ontario during the pandemic.

Global News could locate no other examples of shops putting vehicles into quarantine.

When two Toronto-area Ford dealers were contacted to see if they were imposing any time restrictions before examining vehicles for repair, neither was.

Wallis said he located another Ford dealer that agreed to service the vehicle without delay. But he said Ford Roadside Assistance, which towed the vehicle to the first dealer, would not agree to tow it to another dealership unless Wallis would pay.

“Dealers are independent business owners … each dealer decides whether to stay open,” More said.

Six days after the vehicle was towed, Wallis retrieved his wife’s Escape from the dealership.

“Hopefully this doesn’t happen to other health care workers,” he said.

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