We are living in an age of transparency and businesses are expected to
deal fairly with consumers and be open and honest. Yes, even car dealers.
We expect that the cars we buy are safe and free of defects. Of course,
we are fast learning that this is not the case, even with makes we trusted
for years. But one thing we do have in the United States is a strong lemon
law that protects consumers from defective products. In California, the
Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act provides protection for consumers who
lease or buy new motor vehicles. If a dealer is unable to service or repair
a new motor vehicle to meet the terms of an express written warranty after
a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer is required promptly
to replace the vehicle or return the purchase price to the lessee or buyer.
This is not news – we all know that every new car comes with a warranty.
However, there is another category of warranty you will never read about
in your vehicle maintenance manual or warranty documents – a ‘secret
When a manufacturer decides to design and release a new model of a vehicle,
a lot of the tasks are farmed out to assorted parts manufacturers all
over the world. Prototypes are made and as much testing as can be squeezed
in takes place during this process.
Perhaps, during the testing phase it is discovered that the turbo charger
had a tendency to produce oil sludge. Sometimes as a result the turbo
would fail. Occasionally the turbo would freeze, explode and spatter shattered
components all over the countryside; (this is a real example).
The manufacturer has his risk analysts figure out how much of a problem
this is likely to be. As long as this is a low figure the new design will
go into production. And sure enough after a year or so, five or six out
of every one thousand buyers complain about the turbo failing because
of a sludge problem. Some of them just get it repaired. A few complain
and make a big fuss.
So what does all this have to do with the secret warranty? For those few
who make the big fuss and threaten to report the problem to the NHTSA,
suddenly the dealer is all cooperation. They agree to make a ‘special
exception’ in this case and fix the vehicle defect at no cost. You
see, they know that the problem exists and they take care of the few who
make a loud enough noise about it.
Every single automobile manufacturer has at least one ‘secret warranty'
in place. Some of them have three or four for different defects. If too
many safety defects in a certain vehicle get reported, the NHTSA will
have to issue a recall. Think Toyota. A recall cost big bucks. So that
is why they have these secret warranties – to avoid the pain of a recall.
If you have a defect in your car and someone at the dealership starts telling
you it's your fault, don’t buy it. Do your homework. Go online
and find out if other owners are experiencing the same defects. Read about
the lemon law and find out if a ‘secret warranty’ exists and
get the service you deserve.