Beware the Secret Warranty

The 2009 Car Complaint Index has just been published, showing the ranking, by vehicle, of cars receiving the highest ratio of complaints to sales. Complaints are fielded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), results are published yearly and this year shows the Land Rover LR2, the Mitsubishi Lancer, the Pontiac Solstice, the Dodge Avenger and Subaru Impreza to be the top offenders.

Attention is sharply paid to vehicles with high complaint ratios for good reason: the percentage of defective vehicles, or lemons, is astoundingly high, especially from the U.S. “Big Three” automakers. To add insult to injury, when a defect is found in a vehicle, a manufacturer will do as much as possible to cover it up so that they are not plagued with demands for refunds or replacements.

There is, in fact, something called a “secret warranty” that can act as a deflection to consumers with valid lemon law complaints. “A secret warranty is a strategy that manufacturers use to avoid a recall,” explained California lemon law attorney Norman Taylor. “Under a secret warranty, manufacturers will pay for repair of a particular defect in a particular kind of vehicle, even after the warranty has expired. They call them ‘warranty adjustment policies’ or ‘goodwill gestures.’ And even these have to be pried from the manufacturers by loudly complaining consumers—only the squeaky wheel actually gets the grease.”

Taylor has witnessed such practice many times over the years. He has been a lemon law specialist since 1987, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and Associates, have handled over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate. He is one of the leading lemon law attorneys in Southern California.

It comes as no surprise that manufacturers will resort to such tactics to avoid a recall. If the NHTSA discovers safety-related defects and orders a recall, the manufacturer must arrange to repair the defect at no charge or, if the manufacturer chooses, can replace or repurchase the vehicle or defective component. The manufacturer must also file a public report with detailed information on the recall, must notify all owners of affected vehicles, and take numerous other costly steps to right the wrong.

Because manufacturers can and do take every measure to avoid replacement or refund of defective vehicles, it behooves any consumer who believes he or she may have purchased a lemon to contact a qualified lemon law attorney right away.

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