When Repeated Repairs Don't Work

It was recently reported that federal regulators have received over 200 complaints about transmission problems in the 2004 Ford Explorer. The complaints allege that there is a delay between the time when vehicles are shifted into reverse, and when the reverse gear actually engages. Other, more serious complaints state that the SUV may shift from park into reverse with no warning. Ford officials state that this defect has never posed a safety threat to drives and was addressed years ago through a service program at the dealerships. Yet the complaints persist.

While all the facts have not been fully investigated in this case and it is ongoing, it points to a common problem with defective vehicles: the “gauntlet” that dealerships and manufacturers will put a consumer through when it comes to a defective vehicle.

“What I call the ‘lemon gauntlet’ typically begins when you arrive for a second time for a repair of the same defect,” said leading lemon law California attorney Norman Taylor. “They say to themselves, ‘Uh-oh. If we can’t repair it, we’d better employ every trick we know to make this person give up and go away.”

Taylor has been a lemon law specialist since 1987, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and Associates, have handled over 6,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate. In his experience, such behavior is not isolated to a few instances, but is quite common.

The tricks employed include “too busy—can’t take the vehicle now,” altering the repair order to make the defect appear to be a different problem, telling the owner that “that’s the way the car was designed to operate” and trying to somehow convince the customer that the defective operation is somehow the customer’s fault.

“At some point in this gauntlet, the consumer may get so frustrated that he or she asks about their rights under the lemon law,” Taylor explained. “Invariably they will be told that they shouldn’t file a lawsuit because the dealership is really trying to help them. The truth is, if they were to get legal advice, they would learn that the dealer has likely intentionally mislead them. They would learn their rights, and would choose to pursue them.”

The best thing for consumers to do in such a case is to seek legal advice the instant they suspect they might have a lemon. This will help them avoid the many pitfalls and distractions carefully laid out by dealerships and manufacturers.

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