• Mar 25th 2010 at 7:00PM
  • 177
Ready to play armchair Johnny Cochran? Here's a story about a horse that got led to water and then dove in. A Mustang Forum member, luckydawg003 (LD), took his manual-tranny 2007 Mustang GT in for warranty repair to Brandon Ford in Tampa, Florida. When he went to pick it up, the service manager departed to retrieve his car, then came back ten minutes later to say he had some bad news. According to LD, someone left the car in gear without the parking brake on, and when the service manager pressed the remote start button twice to start the car, it leaped to life and drove out of the dealer's lot, through a chain link fence and into a pond, getting completely submerged.

Other twists to the tale: LD had an aftermarket remote starter that bypassed the clutch and would start the car even if it weren't in neutral. A forum poster going by the handle Tylus linked to the posts wherein LD asks for advice on how to achieve the particular bypass he was after. Some folks think it's the dealership's fault, saying the 'Stang was in their possession and the service manager didn't need to use an aftermarket remote starter to retrieve the car. Some feel it's LD's fault, having left an jerry-rigged system in someone else's car. And some say there's enough blame for everyone. Question is, what is LD left to do about his scuba-diving Mustang? Pictures of the car post-dive in the gallery below.

UPDATE: An employee from Brandon Ford has added a comment laying out the dealership's side of what happened. You can find the full text of the comment after the jump.

[Source: Mustang Forums]

COMMENT FROM BRANDON FORD (You can also find it in Comments)

Frddealer 12:28PM (3/26/2010)

After reading many posts of the last few days that were either incomplete or just entirely inaccurate, I decided that it was finally time to set the record straight. The incident involving the Mustang that drove itself, unoccupied, into a body of water, occurred at our dealership. The simple, unquestionable facts of this unfortunate event are as follows:
• The vehicle was equipped with a remote start system.
• The system was installed in such a way as to circumvent the factory safety
systems that would have prevented it from starting in gear.
• By the vehicle owner's own admission with a County Police Officer present, he stated that he personally installed this aftermarket system and intentionally disabled the factory safety system.
• The vehicle owner used a remote that did not have a "start" button on it.
• The vehicle owner admitted that he never notified our service personnel of the remote start system on his vehicle.
• Despite numerous posts to the contrary, the emergency brake had been set when the vehicle was parked. This was verified by the recovery team.
• The method that was used to park and secure the car is in accordance with manufacturer guidelines.
• The service personnel simply attempted to unlock the vehicle with the remote which led to the remote start event.
• The vehicle owner had conversations with a remote starter installer prior to the installation. He was advised that his chosen method on installation was "unwise."
• Several posters advised the owner against his choice even calling it "irresponsible behavior."

Despite industry professionals advising against his method of installation, the owner of this vehicle apparently chose to ignore this advice. We were extremely fortunate that no one was injured as a result of this as we would be discussing who would be held criminally negligent had there been an injury or death. In light of some of this information, I hope that many of you will start to contemplate the safety of yourselves,
your friends, or even your families. Through reading these blogs, I have come to understand that this is an all too common decision made by people on their vehicles. Perhaps this event, however unfortunate, will shed some light on what we believe to be an extremely dangerous and irresponsible modification being performed on many vehicles. This should serve as a wake-up call to anyone considering performing this modification to their vehicle. Thankfully it was only a car lost and not a life.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dealers fault. 1st of all, should have used the parking brake, 2nd, there was no reason to use the remote start.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Uh... all the dealers I know won't even install remote start on a vehicle with a standard transmission
        • 5 Years Ago
        This guy most likely did it himself. Literally no dealership or any hole in the wall place that installs remote starters will put one in a manual equipped car...liability issues.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it is the dealerships fault, but chances are the owner is going to have to go through his insurance policy. they'll probably declare the car a total loss and settle with the owner for the loss, and then go after the dealership and their insurance company through subrogation, where they'll recover their losses and refund LD's deductible. that dealership will pay, sooner or later, but they'll pay.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree, both parties will pay. The dealership will assume partial responsibility for having possession of the car when the accident occurred, and the owner will assume the rest for unsafely modifying a vehicle.

        Sure he could've told the dealer, or better yet, handed over the valet key. The issue with the insurance part of it is modification that bypassed safety features, which contributed to the accident (greatly).

        I don't get why people don't like the idea of the dealer using the remote fob. Most people I know prefer it, so you don't scratch up the door around the keyhole.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Thsi is so NOT the dealer's fault. The idiot bypassed the safety provisions installed by the manufacturer, there was no START button labeled, and on every repair order I have ever signed has had a waiver. I was a parts and service director at a Buick dealership. A customer accused us of having rodents because something chewed nearly every piece of the interior on a car with 200 miles. What the customer never realized was that "little Johnny grandson" had his ferret in his backpack when he went to grandma and grandpa's and the little bastard chewed his way out. I put $5,000 worth of interior parts (including air bag sensors, etc) only to have the customer come back two weeks later and apologize for the mistake, but they felt no liablility and we owed it to them because they bought the vehicle there.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That type of remote starter installation is illegal in NYS. You are not allowed to put a remote starter in a manual transmission vehicle for just this reason. If the owner had told the dealership that he had this setup they would be liable. If not told, the owner is liable.
      • 5 Years Ago
      SITUATION: "Dealer accidentally remote starts customer's Mustang right into a pond."

      RESOLUTION: Customer receives new car.

      REASON: Between the time the customer dropped off his vehicle and the time he would have picked it up and accepted delivery, the dealership was totally responsible for the vehicle ... regardless of what equipment was installed in it.

      COULD'VE, WOULD'VE, SHOULD'VE: The customer could have (or should have) informed the dealership about the device. Whereas, the service manager could have simply manually started the vehicle, thus resulting in a no foul, no penalty call.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The car went to the dealership for WARRANTY repairs; no mention of what type of repairs, or whether the malfunction (if any) was caused by the owner's actions. Nonetheless, the car was left in the care, control and custody of the dealership, who is responsible for this or any car left there for repairs. The 'service manager' went to retrieve the car, not the owner; still on the dealership's agent control. Regardless of any type of modification, the dealership accepted the car for some type of repair. If the incident hadn't happened there would be no mention of the alteration. However, in trying to shift the limits of liability the dealership is now mentioning the alteration made by the owner. The dealership's insurance will provide them with an estimated replacement value, and will either pay that amount to the owner, or offer a replacement car or same or similar value. Up to the owner to accept or litigate the issue no matter whether it had an inadequate alteration or not. However, the repair tag shall be carefully evaluated if the warranty was voided by his alteration of a manufacture's system.

      I also believe that the insurance company of the owner should immediately cancel his policy for improperly tampering with a vehicle's safety feature, and for potential endangerment of life and property of his and others. Any individual acting so irresponsibly shall be deemed uninsurable. This is a clear example of why our insurance premiums are increasing; we have to pay for other's irresponsibilities. Maybe he should be playing with remote control cars, and not driving a motor vehicle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Take the dealer to court, it's in the bag. But, only a damned fool would rig a vehicle that way.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I say run the mustang back through the pond the wheels are still dirty!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Unless LD left the car with instructions on starting the vehicle with the management & a HUGE sticker saying 'Do NOT leave in gear'!, then I think you can hardly attribute all the blame to the dealer.

      You know damn well that if you were the grease monkey fetching the car, you'd have pressed the remote start button too!

      50/50 - Dealer should supply the parts and labour at cost to LD.

      If he did leave a warning with the dealer and instructions - SUE!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Legally, the liability should be on the dealer.

        From a more practical standpoint, who presses buttons if they don't know what EXACTLY will happen? For all the tech/porter knows, that button could be a remote detonator for a car bomb. Let not forget that the remote start kit was aftermarket - so there's no expectation on the dealer's part about intended functionality.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Too funny! That's the best laugh I've had all day :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Chris 0 - yer, but it's a button! Push the button, push the button....oh yer, it's a remote star......Aghhhhhh.....SHIIIIII*........

        ...walk away, walk away...deny everything!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dealership's fault. Period. Who can argue that it isn't? How did the person that pressed the button not know the car was a manual and in gear? And if there was a question of whether or not the car was in gear, then he/she should not have pressed the button. You take you car to dealership because they are supposed to know how cars work. Since this was a warranty repair, the could essentially have whatever mods the owner wanted and it would still be the dealer's responsibility. Once the dealer has the keys, the car is their responsibility. I know this has been said, but I'm going to reiterate it: the dealer did not need the use remote start to complete whatever repairs were requested. My car is manual, and I want a to put a remote start on it (I never park my car in gear, I always leave it in neutral, and use the e-brake). Any shop I would take it too better know how to handle it, or else they shouldn't be working on cars, period. They are supposed to be the experts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you rig up a system that was never intended to be in your car, and bypass all the safety functions and then take it to a dealer and hand them the keys with the remote for your jury-rigged starter you are an idiot.

        The people that go fetch the customers cars are typically the service writers or some errand boys, not mechanics that knows everything about the car. The guy going to fetch it probably had no idea the car was even a manual in the first place.
        What if some guy wired some explosives in the car and set it to be triggered by the remote starter? would it still be the dealership's fault when the car exploded?

        Of course, if I was the dealer I would make sure it was my policy never to touch any 3rd party equipment.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just like others, you are sadly misinformed on how to park a manual transmission equipped car.

        Just using the parking brake is setting yourself up for a problem, they are not intended to hold the entire weight of the car. In fact, since these cars have nuetral saftey switches, it is pretty common practice to leave the car in gear without the parking brake applied on flat surfaces, this is how many people do it, the engine compression and mechanical advantage are better equipped to hold the car than a parking brake is.

        I will certainly argue that it's not the dealer's fault. First off, anyone at a dealer would expect a car equipped with remote start to have a saftey device built in that would not allow the car to start when in gear. The guy running to grab the car was almost certainly not the same guy who parked it (a porter, advisor, or manager would have run to get it, the technician would have parked it after the repair).

        At best, if I were the dealer, I'd split the bill. The tech left the car in gear without the brake applied which is technically incorrect, however, the customer did much worse in bypassing the saftey device built into the starter (which should never be installed in a manual trans equipped vehicle in the first place) then leaving the device active and not warning anyone that it had been tampered with. What happens if someone accidentally hit the remote start button with the keys in their pocket (I've had this happen before) or what if another car on the lot happened to use the same frequency as the customer's aftermarket remote start (this is also an outside possibiity). He installed a device not meant for this kind of car and defeated the safties. He should be responsible for most if not all of it as far as I'm concerned.
      • 5 Years Ago
      first off , why put a remote starter on a car in Florida ,and why on any manual trans , are we getting to lazy to use a key anymore ? these questions lead to a one word answer "IDIOT"- although this one could easily go before the judge , the vehicle was in the possesion of the dealer at the time , even after the admission by the owner, the dealer will probably have to coff up the cost !
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