Every year, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) issues a survey to identify patterns related to complaints reported for various industries. This report publishes data regarding the most common, fastest-growing, and most alarming complaints filed against companies for faulty products. It is interesting to note that the most frequently cited issues are against auto manufacturers – But, where do these complaints fall in terms of lemon law claims?
The details of the lemon law vary from state-to-state, but the underlying purpose of this law is the same. The lemon law is designed to protect consumers if they purchase a defective vehicle with unrepairable issues – of which are present while the car is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
This latest CFAus report sheds some alarming light on where the lemon law may be headed. Consumers need to be well aware of their rights and understand the difference between filing a complaint about a specific issue – versus filing a lemon law claim.
Let’s dive in.
Auto Complaints are Growing
Auto complaints have topped the list of the CFA report for years – but it seems like other problems with new vehicles have been steadily increasing.
Some of the major complaint categories include:
- Misrepresentations in advertising/sales of new and used cars
- Lemon law claims
- Faulty repairs
- Auto leasing
- Towing disputes
According to a survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automotive recalls have not only been more common over the past 20 years, but there have also been a higher number of vehicles included with each recall. Some of the recalls in recent history have been issued for millions of vehicles at a time, with the largest recall involving 1.6 million Ford F150s for a potential fire hazard.
Oftentimes, these recalls are initiated by repeated customer complaints about similar issues.
For instance, one of the largest recalls for 1.3 million Ford Fusions was issued in 2018 after two accidents were reported – which was due to a malfunction with the steering-wheel bolt.
Manufacturers typically prefer to issue a recall and offer complimentary repairs to customers. From their perspective, this is a much better approach than dealing with numerous lemon law claims. So, if consumers begin to file complaints about the same problem in a specific make and model, this generally triggers a recall.
Consumers should know that they have options regarding filing a claim – even if their vehicle is involved with a recall. Filing a lemon law claim for a recalled vehicle can be complicated, but certainly not impossible. You will need a good lemon law attorney on your side to argue your case.
Vehicle Defects are Becoming More Common (and Complicated)
Another likely reason why customer complaints against auto manufacturers have increased is due to the more complex nature of the mechanics for new vehicles.
Modern vehicles have way more tech features than they did fifteen – or even just five – years ago. Many cars now have built-in sensors to prevent collisions or automate parallel parking, not to mention even fancier features like vehicle to vehicle communication or virtual reality entertainment systems.
While this technology can improve vehicle safety – or simply create a more exciting driving experience – it can also increase the chances of a malfunction. And unfortunately, some of these malfunctions can be extremely dangerous for people in the vehicle and on the road.
One of the most alarming vehicle defects was a malfunction with Tesla’s autopilot feature back in 2018.
The driver turned on the self-driving option while on the highway and removed his hands from the steering wheel. The system malfunctioned and did not detect an obstacle in the road, which caused the vehicle to crash, killing the driver upon impact.
This is an extreme example of a vehicle malfunction, but there is no denying that technology can cause a lot of issues if it starts to glitch.
As vehicles become more complex and utilize emerging tech, we can only expect to see complaints – and lemon law claims – grow.
Manufacturers are Getting Harder to Deal With
Finally, an alarming trend related to consumer complaints is the pushback from manufacturers. According to CFA’s report, the most common complaints filed against auto manufacturers were for:
- Used merchandise sold or advertised as new
- Lack of information provided regarding the history of the vehicle
- Misrepresentation in advertising or sales of new and used cars, auto leasing, and rentals
Unfortunately, many manufacturers will fight consumers tooth and nail to get out of providing a refund.
One prime example shared in the report involved the purchase of a vehicle that was purchased by a consumer in South Carolina. The buyer purchased an Acura with a loan for $12,000. However, within just a few days, the buyer noticed issues with the power steering shaft and discovered that the vehicle had been involved in a recall. Additionally, the dealership had not provided this information, nor had they fixed the issue.
The vehicle owner filed a complaint against the dealership and manufacturer and was offered an initial payment of just $7,600.
This is not the only time that manufacturers have low-balled their payment offer. In the past, some have either refused to pay or dragged out a complaint case longer than needed.
For instance, in 2015, BMW refused to accept the lemon law claim for a 2014 428i – which had numerous mechanical problems. The claim eventually went to court and BMW had to pay over $170,000 to not just buyback the vehicle, but also cover all of the consumer’s attorney + court fees.
Manufacturers will stop at nothing to avoid lemon law buybacks. Recently, an auto manufacturer paid a defense attorney to publish an article critiquing the California lemon law specifically. On behalf of the auto manufacturer, the attorney falsely claimed that lemon law lawyers intentionally drag out cases to maximize profits from both consumers and manufacturers.
The defense attorney used this false claim to help its client lobby public opinion against the California lemon law and provide manufacturers with big business corporate protection – which would make it even harder for consumers to win their claims.
It is clear that vehicle issues are not just becoming more common, but corporate manufacturers are also making it more difficult for consumers to receive justice. While we don’t have a crystal ball telling us the future, we can tell you that having a lemon law attorney on your side will be crucial if problems arise.
At Cline APC, our team of California lemon law lawyers is prepared to fight auto manufacturers for selling defective vehicles. We have helped hundreds of drivers win their lemon law cases – let us help you, too. Contact us for a free case evaluation to get started today.