Homeless Man Protests Over $8000 Transmission

March 17, 2011

Not everyone has an economic safety net. Some just have a laptop, a cell phone and their car. In Minneapolis a man has made an 11 year old Audi A8 his home for months at a time, but now his options are dwindling for lack of an operational transmission.

The single, 53 year old homeless person told his "wrong place at the wrong time" story to Twin Cities. Seems the former white-collar worker gave notice at his job in 2006 to get a better one, but while he was on a hiatus his would-be employer issued a hiring freeze which left him without a job.

Three years later he had depleted his savings, sold his home and had his Lincoln repossessed. He decided on the Audi as a replacement partly based on its ability to serve as a bedroom. People have from time to time invited him into their homes to stay and others have forwarded gift cards for food and gas.

The original transmission was replaced under warranty at 46,000 miles. The new one carried a one year warranty. That transmission lost reverse gear recently at 96,000 miles and it is because of this that the owner is staging afternoon protests at a local Audi dealership saying that the car's manufacturer has a moral responsibility to stand behind a part he believes to be defective.

The price tag for replacing the transmission is $8,000. An Audi spokesperson described the transmission as a self contained unit that can't be fixed and must be replaced as a completed assembly. The car company checked for Twin Cities to see if this year and model of A8 had ever been recalled for transmission problems. It had not.

Audi is adhering to their stated warranty in this case, but has made a substantial donation to a local agency that assists in situations like this, while stating that the severe weather is their motivation.

Currently, the protester has accepted temporary lodging from a couple that heard of him through the picketing effort. He also blogs and tweets about the protest when his is not looking for work.  In the afternoon he hands out information about his plight and displays a sign. The only form of nourishment he accepts while protesting is protein shakes.

This story is interesting because it has a few facets to it. Personal responsibility is one - the you make your bed, you sleep in it - approach. Then there's the planned obsolescence of the un-repairable $8,000 replacement transmission that some would say is failing before its time. And what about the car company's feel good donation, more than they needed to do or not enough?

[Twin Cities]

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