Lemon list helps consumers avoid a sour experience
|Ask Craig your
question! Craig Thor Kimmel is a nationally recognized automotive
consumer advocate and managing partner of Kimmel & Silverman, P.C., the nation's
largest lemon law firm. For more information on automotive consumer issues,
a phone number like 1-800-LEMON-LAW, you could certainly expect that
we receive a number of calls every day from distressed drivers
looking for our help. What you may not know is we also receive a
number of calls each month from prospective car buyers.
"Which cars should I steer clear
"How many complaints do you have
regarding the [insert name here]?"
"Is it better to buy foreign or
are driven individuals, out to make sure their car buying experience
does not turn sour. It always bears repeating for everyone else
however to ask and have answered all relevant questions before going
out to purchase a car. To do this often avoids disappointment down
the road. At our firm, we recommend for the prospective purchaser to
"research, research, research" as the key to finding the
right ride. As the second largest household investment, purchasing a
car should be never be a rushed decision.
For our investigation into new car
selection, we sought the input of the Center for Auto Safety and a
new vehicle complaint published by Automotive Expert Jack Gillis,
whose publication, The Annual Car Book provides valuable
information. Each year, thousands of consumers contact the National
Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) This list is
compiled of the cars that receive the most complaints per sales. We
dub it the "The Lemon List' (quote by permission of Mr. Gillis
on our website).
Of course, this list should not be
considered an end-all, be-all when buying a car. Just because a car
appears on the list, does not make every example of that car a
lemon. Quite the contrary. The list is only a tool to help
locate a car that best fits your needs. If you compare several cars,
the list can also help narrow the choices. And if a car is not on
this list, it certainly does not mean that that the make or model is
problem free. Each individual vehicle is different. As the list does
not reflect whether the complaints were valid and verified, the
reader must be aware that the list is limited to complaints only. To
view the individual complaints, visit the National Highway Traffic
and Safety Administration website at www.nhtsa.org.
We are often asked whether
manufacturers pay attention to this type of information and the
answer is 'yes', some do. In 2002, for example, one manufacturer had
the misfortune of a minivan as the #1 position on the List, but
wrote us shortly afterwards with assurances that the issues were
being addressed and changes were in store for that vehicle. As a
gesture of acknowledgment, the Center of Auto Safety removed that
car from its inauspicious position at the top of the list. We
consider that type of responsiveness to benefit consumers
tremendously, inasmuch as we, the Center for Auto Safety and Mr.
Gillis, were able to effectuate changes that benefits consumers,
without filing a lawsuit. A manufacturer that takes the time to read
and understand customers' complaints and then goes out to address
them, is a manufacturer that is certainly attentive to the needs of
the consumer and for that, is an 'MVP" among manufacturers in
So, what cars are on the list and
why? Without further ado, here is the 2004 Lemon List:
Impreza-I was surprised to see this car rise to the #1
position, as Subaru has generally enjoyed a loyal and well
deserved reputation for quality. The number one complaint
involved the ABS system, specifically that brakes were
sensitive over bumps and in wet weather. Other issues involved
engine hesitation and shuddering and the inability to shift
I35 -The big complaint here is the front end. Consumers have
complained that the front end pulls dangerously when on bumpy
or uneven roads.
A4-You may remember a past column I wrote regarding the
ignition coil problem,, which has generated a significant
amount of complaints. Consumers have complained that the check
engine light came on quite often, that the engine shuddered
and stalls, and for some, left them stranded. Also, issues
involving poor operation of the braking system were complained
of by consumers.
Ford Escape-The Escape dropped from #1 to #4, with stalling
becoming a major complaint this year. Other complaints include
electrical concerns, doors opening while driving and water
Focus-Jumped up one notch from #6 last year. Consumers
complained of problems with airbags-either not deploying at
impact or deploying for no reason. Consumers also complained
of stalling conditions, odors and fumes coming from the HVAC
system, and the vehicle shaking and shuddering.
RSX-Consumers with manual transmissions are complaining the
transmission has a hard time getting out of gear, especially
when shifting between 2nd and 3rd, and often pops out.
Consumers also complain of problems with the airbag sensors
and the check engine light.
Aztek-Consumers have complained of engine problems-with the
engine idling and the check engine
light coming on. Other complaints include
brakes locking up, cars moving forward when trans is in
reverse and noises in the steering wheel.
Excursion-The Excursion moves from #4 to #8. Although not one
of Ford's top sellers, it still generates complaints from
consumers. Consumers have complained of the truck stalling,
significant electrical problems and water leaks.
Eclipse -The Eclipse moves from #5 to #9. Consumers complained
of airbags not deploying at impact, the engine shutting down
while driving, and problems with the clutch wearing out under
Liberty-The youngest model on the list. Last year, another
Jeep, the Grand Cherokee, was in the top 10, but it dropped
significantly this year. Airbags are also among consumers'
complaints with the Liberty-consumers have said that airbags
do not always deploy when needed. Many consumers also
complained about stalling conditions and other engine-related
For the remainder of the list, visit www.lemonlaw.com.
What do you do if the car you drive
is on this list? Is there cause for concern? Generally speaking, no,
but should you find similar problems with your vehicle, it is
important to bring the problem to the attention of your dealership
service manager. You have a warranty for a reason. If you have a
problem, you need to have it addressed.