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Tuesday, July 16, 2024   

Lemon list helps consumers avoid a sour experience
by Craig Kimmel
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, visit http://www.lemonlaw.com
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Craig Kimmel

With 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 of?"

"How many complaints do you have regarding the [insert name here]?"

"Is it better to buy foreign or American?"

These 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 our view.

So, what cars are on the list and why? Without further ado, here is the 2004 Lemon List:

1) Subaru 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 gears.
2) Infiniti I35 -The big complaint here is the front end. Consumers have complained that the front end pulls dangerously when on bumpy or uneven roads.
3) Audi 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.
4) The 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 leaks.
5) Ford 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.
6)  Acura 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.
7) Pontiac 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.
8) Ford 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.
9) Mitsubishi 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 15,000 miles.
10) Jeep 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 problems.

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.

Safe driving.



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