Fair Go: Woman waits a year for ebike replacement part

Gill Higgins
Source: Fair Go

Product delays caused by Covid-19 have become a common occurrence, but Kay Bone never expected to wait a whole year to get a spare part for her ebike.

She’d been loving her rides around Hokitika for two and a half years. But one day in February 2021, out of the blue, her top-of-the-range bike simply gave up the ghost.

Turns out it was a problem with the motor, or drive unit, but she couldn’t work out how to fix it, neither could her local bike dealer.

They rang the drive unit manufacturer Shimano in Auckland who, according to Kay, said "sorry, you’ll need a replacement". She was told it might take a month, then two, but five months later and there was no sign of the spare part she needed.

At this point, with no progress through her dealer, she gave Shimano a call directly. She was now told it would probably be December before her part arrived. But while December came, her spare part still didn’t. Kay contacted Fair Go.

Fair Go followed up with Shimano Warranty Manager Steve Williams to find out what was causing the delay. He said many companies were suffering from a global shortage of semi-conductors and Covid-related shipping congestion.

But ebike expert Maurice Wells who owns the Electric Bicycle Hub shop in Auckland believes there could be more to the problem. He says there are plenty of components arriving on new bikes for sale, so questioned why the company couldn’t bring more in as spare parts for repairs.

Steve Williams response was that Shimano has enough orders for spare parts to meet demand. But if that’s the case, why did Kay have to wait for a year?

Steve’s answer was that Kay’s case was unique, with the delay made much worse by communication breakdown between Shimano NZ and Kay, and staff changes at Shimano. In better news, he said there’d be a new drive unit for Kay in about a week’s time.

So one year on, Kay was informed a replacement drive unit would finally be coming her way. However, there was still the issue of who should pay.

Kay says she was told a new drive unit would set her back around $2000. She wasn’t impressed. The cost of her ebike was just shy of $10,000. She’d serviced it regularly and kept it indoors, and it had only done about 7000 kilometres. “I expected it to last as long as I needed a bike, up until I’m 80," Kay explains.

Ebike expert Maurice Wells can understand why she’d expect to have a new unit free of charge. “I would think a drive unit should last tens of thousands of kilometres, so that's not to say they all last forever, but most people aren't going to change a drive unit while they own an ebike”.

It suggests the new unit should be covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act. When Fair Go put this to Steve Williams he said that it was “impossible to put a blanket kilometre-based life expectancy on a drive unit” but agreed to supply the unit at no cost as a goodwill gesture, based on her unique case. He says this had already been relayed to Kay in August.

Kay disagreed but was very happy with the outcome and now has her ebike back, fully charged and ready to ride.