It’s been four decades since California enacted its Lemon Law to help consumers who have purchased vehicles that are suffering from serious defects that never seem to be reparable. Under the law, manufacturers have an obligation to either replace a defective vehicle that’s still covered by the warranty or provide a full refund it the problem(s) can’t be fixed.
Although legal recourse is an option, thanks to the law, most cases are addressed without having to go to court. California drivers may find some reassurance in knowing that of the 7 million new vehicles registered in the state between 2018 through 2021, just over 34,000 were the subject of a Lemon Law claim.
Despite the options provided for relief under the California Lemon Law, not all consumers know about it or use it. Some end up losing money on their vehicle by selling it back to the dealer for less than they paid for it.
Highlights from a recent study
A recent study by the CALPIRG Education Fund and two other groups looked at just which auto groups were sued the most often under the California Lemon Law from 2018 through 2021 relative to the number of vehicles sold in the state during that time. Interestingly, it was a broad mix of luxury car manufacturers, those known for economy vehicles and everything in between.
Here are some highlights:
- General Motors topped the list with one lawsuit for every 78 vehicles sold in the state.
- Jaguar Land Rover North America came in just under that one in 83.
- Maserati, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz were all in the top ten.
- Tesla, for all of its high-profile problems, was much farther down at one in 1,553
- Toyota brought up the rear at just one lawsuit for every 2,029 vehicles sold.
The most common defects reported involved steering, brakes, transmission, engine and electrical issues.
The number of lawsuits doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of “lemons” sold. Whether a consumer goes to court often depends on how the dealers and the manufacturers handle the problems. The length of the warranty is also a factor.
If you are dealing with a new vehicle with serious or multiple issues, and you haven’t been able to get the satisfaction you believe you’re entitled to under the law, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights, your investment and – most importantly – your safety.