Virar biker's death: Dealer claims accident, not a malfunction of machine

Updated: Dec 05, 2018, 10:03 IST | Samiullah Khan | Mumbai

As Virar resident Zoheb Merchant is laid to rest, bike dealer says machine was serviced perfectly just 10 days before the mishap

Zoheb Merchant
Zoheb Merchant

As Virar resident Zoheb Merchant, who died in a bike accident at Manor on Sunday, was laid to rest at Aaram Bagh in Reay Road on Monday, the local dealer for MV Agusta, whose F3 800 model Zoheb was riding, denied allegations of technical malfunctions. The police told mid-day that their engineers will soon inspect the motorcycle before deciding on a course of action.

Virar resident Zoheb Merchant's friends and family have claimed that glitches in his MV Agusta F3 800 resulted in the fatal mishap on Sunday.
mid-day reached out to MV Agusta India with a list of questions regarding a Facebook post-Zoheb had uploaded on March 28 about several issues he'd encountered in his Rs 20-lakh superbike, which included a 'clutch failure', 'broken swing arm', and 'accelerator failure'. Zoheb had also alleged the MD of the company was not returning his calls. Following are excerpts from MV Agusta's response. They have been edited for clarity. (MV Agusta said the vehicle is under the name of Faiyaz Merchant (Zoheb's brother), who did all the communications, although the rider involved was Zoheb.

What happened to the swing arm of the bike?
In September 2017, Mr Merchant and his brother reported the issue regarding the swing arm. Subsequently, we transported the motorcycle at our head office's technical centre and investigated the issue. There were heavy skid marks on the tyres. However, the sides of the motorcycle were intact. This indicated that the motorcycle had been raced at a very high speed, and hit a very large bump, which caused a tremendous impact. In conversation with our team members, Mr. (Zoheb) Merchant had also confessed to this accident, even though it was denied by his brother (Faiyaz) subsequently. Despite that, in order to serve a premium customer, we requested a senior service staff member from Italy to visit India and inspect the bike to confirm the same. Accordingly, the motorcycle was [inspected] by MV Agusta Italy's technical representative, who concluded that the issue was a result of a high-speed accident. The same was explained in person to Mr. (Zoheb) Merchant and his brother. Such cases are not covered under warranty, but as a goodwill gesture, we replaced the entire part for free and delivered it to him, the report of which is available with the company.

Mumbai: 'Malfunctioning' Superbike Causes Virar Man's Death

He also faced an accelerator failure issue
We think the issue was incorrectly reported. However, any issue remarked by the customer has been attended to and the customer has constantly used the vehicle. Even last month, the vehicle had been reported to the service centre for a regular service, and no specific complaint was reported by the customer.

Mr Merchant has mentioned your MD, who did not return his calls regarding the issues with his bike. Why did he treat him in such a manner?
The customer has had many direct interactions with the senior management staff of the company... Finally, we also asked him to send a written report as per our system, which was analysed, and next steps were taken. The customer visited our office and met the business head, along with the Italian representative, and was provided the due explanation... Even as recently as 10 days ago, the customer got his motorcycle serviced fully at our workshop and then called the management late in evening asking for a discount for the servicing. The call was attended and redirected for appropriate action.

Why did he face so many problems with a bike he bought for around R20 lakh? If there were so many defects in it... why wasn't his bike replaced?
As explained, the issues were caused due to an accident and rash driving beyond permissible speed limits, as was also, what we believe the current unfortunate accident... As we mentioned earlier, despite the accident case, we replaced the entire swing arm costing in excess of R5 lakh and handed over the motorcycle, which was duly accepted by the customer, who had been riding it frequently since.

Mr Merchant also referred to the superbike as "a life threatening machine." Months after he said that, he has unfortunately lost his life while riding it. Is the bike to blame for his death?
Mr. Merchant has been our privileged customer and has been riding the motorcycle for over one and half years. It is unfortunate that he has once again met with an accident. While we have not inspected the motorcycle, [but] the pictures of the motorcycle, as attached and in your report, clearly indicate:

  • There has been a major impact on the bike.
  • We were told that he was riding at speeds nearly two or three times the permissible limits, and unfortunately, overshot a curve and crashed into a divider.
  • Your article mentions an electrical malfunction [as claimed by Zoheb's friends] that jams the front tyre disc, which is technically incorrect and impossible. There are no electronic components in the front wheel...
  • Moreover, your report quotes his friends as claiming that the rotor jammed, which is impossible. Had the rotor jammed, the bike would have toppled and the customer would have been on the inner side of the curve. Instead, he overshot the curve going wider, clearly indicating an accident with the vehicle. The customer had serviced his bike a week ago, and we had inspected the same on the Texa tool and everything was in order. While we sympathise with this...we believe this was an unfortunate accident and not a malfunction of the machine.

'Covering up their mistake'
Responding to Agusta's reply regarding the issues, Faiyaz told mid-day, "It is utterly incorrect to say that the bike's swing arm was damaged after it was raced at a very high speed and hit a very large bump. Because after hitting a large bump, there will be scratch marks or other damage to the bike. But there was nothing as such. The company is covering up their mistake. No one will race the bike at a high speed after knowing that it has a number of mechanical faults. He always rode it at a limited speed, lesser than 100 kmph."

He added, "After so many mechanical failures, I'd told the company to replace the bike as it could be fatal to ride it with so many technical glitches. That's why we'd left the bike at the showroom for six months. But they knew Zoheb was really fond of the superbike. The company convinced my brother to take the bike back after repairs."

Zoheb's friend said when the swing arm got damaged, he was riding next to Zoheb. "We were at a normal speed of 70-80 kmph, when suddenly the swing arm of Zoheb's bike got damaged. We all stopped our bikes to check the reason. It was really shocking that the bike, which he'd bought hardly three months ago then, had a damage in its swing arm. We wrote a series of e-mails to the company, asking them to repair the bike. The company finally succumbed to our demands because they knew it was not our fault. There was no accident. Had the case been accidental, the company would not have repaired the swing arm free of cost."

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