– Danielle Beauvais, Esq.
What was a rare occurrence has become common place. Jeep, Chrysler 200, Dodge and TLX owners, often panicked, bring their first-year vehicle to a dealer to complain about front axle vibrations at low speeds, transmission hesitation, unexpected downshifts, and even sudden lunges.
Transmissions may shift into neutral while driving or the dashboard’s warning lights becomes illuminated. Amazingly, the transmission was often working fine before the transmission recall, but the “reflash software” has been shown to be the starting point of the downhill experience.
“We have had to do an inordinate amount of intervention on that transmission, surely beyond what any of us had forecast,” FCA1 CEO Sergio Marchionne stated in January, 2015.
As vehicle electronics become increasingly complex, mechanical defects are replaced by electronic ones. Learning this the hard way does not improve the plight of the thousands of owners who pick up their car from the dealer with no improvement. Completely frustrated, owners might forcefully demand that the selling dealer buy the car back, or they may waste hours with Chrysler’s customer resolution program before giving up and losing thousands of dollars when trading in a low mileage vehicle.
One telephone call to a lemon law attorney is often all it takes to get on the road to a buy-back. The lemon law is enforceable against auto makers, not against dealers. It provides a remedy by using the legal system.
Many consumers who clearly qualify for a buy-back read the lemon law and incredibly, decide to take a detour by contacting the auto maker and subject themselves to more aggravation. By the time one realizes that nothing satisfactory is going to happen, the filing deadline might be missed, the mileage is higher, and the value of the case might have gone down.
I routinely receive stacks of email conversations between consumers and manufacturer representatives. Statements cannot be un-said and may constrict a case. For example, a consumer blaming a car’s problems on dealer negligence in emails to the manufacturer gives the manufacturer the gift of a great defense. It would be prudent not to say a word to the party you should be suing.
Manufacturers encourage consumers to call them instead of contacting an attorney. But do these companies truthfully welcome claims against them? When people do get a buy-back offer, I often find that the offer may not be optimal. I recommend contacting the manufacturer only when there is no legal recourse available.
After three transmission repairs under warranty, or 30 days out of service, the quickest route to a buy back is to contact someone who actually wants you to get a buy-back. When reading the lemon law, don’t forget the provision about attorney’s fees. “Fee-shifting” means that the manufacturer will pay your attorney’s fees as part of your damages.
1 Chrysler Group LLC was bought by Fiat and is now incorporated as FCA US LLC. FCA stands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.