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Tycoon loses lawsuit against Trans Eurokars

Fragrance hotel boss had sued Rolls-Royce's S'pore distributor

[SINGAPORE] Fragrance Hotel boss Koh Wee Meng, who sued the Rolls-Royce distributor over his allegedly defective $1.4 million Phantom, has lost.

The Singapore billionaire, who according to Forbes is worth US$1.3 billion, had complained about a "loud moaning noise" and significant steering vibration while attempting a three-point turn two days after taking delivery of his ultra-luxury limousine on Dec 23, 2008.

Mr Koh wanted Rolls-Royce distributor Trans Eurokars to take back the car and give him either a full refund or a defect-free replacement. But the latter countered that the car was of satisfactory quality and that it had fulfilled all its obligations, including replacing parts and other repair work. It said that any noise and vibration when executing a three-point turn were normal for the Phantom.

In October 2009, Trans Eurokars offered to either buy back the car for $1.055 million, or trade it in for a new car for $250,000. But Mr Koh rejected both options in November 2009 and began legal proceedings two years after that.

High Court Justice Judith Prakash, who dismissed Mr Koh's claim with costs, said that she was satisfied that the car was fit to be used, "and did indeed perform, as a luxury vehicle, to transport the plaintiff and his friends and family in safety and comfort".

Mr Koh complained that "it did not meet his expectations but although there was a great deal of puffery in the advertisements put out by Rolls-Royce for Phantoms, there was no promise of absolute silence".

Justice Prakash wrote in her judgment: "It is also relevant that the plaintiff did not himself make known to the defendant prior to the purchase that noise and vibrations were of particular concern to him and that his purpose in purchasing the Rolls would only be satisfied if it was noiseless and vibration-free."

She emphasised that it was clear Trans Eurokars was "not disputing that there was some level of noise and vibration experienced when the Rolls moved out of a three-point turn".

"Its position was that this level was entirely normal for a Phantom like the Rolls and could not be called a defect. Thus, the analysis has to determine whether the degree of noise and vibration was such that it could be classified as a defect. In this respect, I am conscious that the plaintiff has argued that it is irrelevant to the inquiry whether there is a defect in a technical sense. He says that if as a whole, the Rolls is not of satisfactory quality or fit for its purpose, it will as a matter of law be regarded as defective."

Justice Prakash also wrote that the evidence of Mr Koh's expert witness, David John Bellamy, a UK-based Advanced Automotive Engineering consultant and assessor/valuer, was "entirely subjective", and contrasted with Trans Eurokars expert witness, Kelvin Koay, who provided an "objective measurement" of the cabin sound, which was within reasonable limits.

She pointed out that Trans Eurokars "never acknowledged that the Rolls was defective".

"The repairs and replacements were undertaken because the plaintiff persisted in his complaints and as the vendor of a luxury brand, the defendant sought to provide quality after-sales service to the plaintiff by identifying the problem, if any, by a process of elimination."