Seventeen million new cars sold each year. Five-hundred billion dollars we spend on luxury, leisure, and lemons. It could be as high as one in ten cars on the road is a lemon.
Attorney Craig Kimmel knows lemons. His law firm handles thousands of cases each year. He says, "This is a problem which is not one that's going to go away. It's only growing."
Growing? It's already huge. The consumer protection agency received 311,000 complaints last year. Christine Saladino made one of those complaints about her Mitsubishi Eclipse. She says, "I was spending days at the dealership going back and forth, parts being ordered, parts on back order..."
Parts needed to fix her busted airbags. She says, "Were they going to go off, God forbid, if I was in an accident?"
And then there was the problem with the windows. Water leaked in and they froze up. The broken windows stayed broken until she filed a complaint.
"It's an unwritten rule with most dealership employees that if you agree with a customer about having a lemon or defective vehicle, you'll probably lose your job," says former car service manage Jim Lewis
With that kind of pressure, Lewis isn't surprised consumers have trouble getting lemons fixed. The reason is simple. "It's to make increased profits."
So, to get the help you need when your sweet new car turns sour, start the squeaky wheel treatment.
First, be very specific about your car complaint. Next, keep detailed records of every problem and every attempt to get it fixed.
Because the general rule is this: after three failed attempts to fix the same problem or if your car is in the shop for a total of 20-39 days for all problems combined, you've got a lemon.
Craig says, "The manufacturer has to make good by either replacing the product or giving a full refund if they can't fix it."
The single most important thing you can do is make sure your new car is perfect before you take delivery, before you hit the streets. Remember, once you drive off the lot, you'll have to squeeze a lot harder to get lemon aid.