Jeep #4 Report: New Year, Same ol Leak

All this time I’ve been worried that the leak is still there, and today the leak is undeniable.

One of the theories I developed last year was that the problem is related to weather and develops when we have ice and sleet. I knew our first storm this winter would be the test, and sure enough, my theory held up. (I was hoping it wouldn’t. I was hoping the car really was fixed. It’s not.) The snowmelt is well underway after Blizzard Jonas, and water is getting inside the Jeep again. I’ve logged 8,700 miles to date.

Jeep #4 goes back (for the third time) to see the water specialist on Wednesday. I am one step closer to putting the manufacturer on notice and hiring an attorney.

I made some calls and left some voicemails with the people who previously said things such as:

“We are taking responsibility and we are fixing any defects.”

“The vehicle has been repaired. We have met our obligation.”

  • I called the Jeep Resolution Team (888-542-7239) and got voicemail, of course.
  • I had a live chat with Catherine, who said they would not authorize a loaner car without a diagnosis. Just in case I had forgotten that our battles are not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities, my new case number includes the sequence “666.” (See Ephesians 6:10–17 on our battle against evil.)
  • I called up Pam Szuber in Auburn Hills, who reached out to me last year (got voicemail and left message, of course). Her number is 586-274-8087.
  • I called up Rick Simpson, a customer relations manager at the Mid-Atlantic Business Center, whom I also spoke to last summer. Got voicemail, of course. His number is 410-567-1836.

Last but not least, I found a really good article that discusses when you have a lemon law claim, sending notices to manufacturers, getting a lemon law attorney, setting expectations for a settlement. The section on how car companies try to put you off and make you go away was informative, and true to my experience:

The law always allows the other party to send a response to your claim.  This of course will come to you in the form of a letter from the car manufacturer.  Essentially, they will deny your claim every time.  They will tell you that they have reviewed your claim and are unable to do anything.  This of course is their first lie.  They haven’t reviewed a thing.  They have no idea who you are, what the problem is, or the circumstances of the case.  They merely gave it a weeks to make you think they paid attention and then plunked your name into a form letter that merely says “no”.

Here’s the deal.  Car companies put out so many problem cars that if they honored every request under lemon law, they’d go broke.  So their answer is to honor none of them.  They know that if they deny every claim, probably 70-80% of cases will go away at this point with most people believing that they really don’t have a case.  Car companies also know that if they string out the process as long as they can, the majority of the rest of the cases will also go away because:

1) Many people won’t come up with the money to retain an attorney or will become scared of going to court. 

2) Others will simply decide that going through the lemon law process isn’t worth it and just sell the car.

3) Something can happen to the car, you will move to another city/state and have to start over, or something else.

4) If they can delay it long enough for you to put thousands more miles on the car, even if they do make you an offer, it will be reduced because the car is older and has been used more.  If you put on another 30,000 miles and they settle with you for value, that is 30,000 more miles that they don’t have to pay for.

5) Most that go the distance will settle for their attorney fees and a couple of thousand dollars.

Car companies understand that time is on their side and if they wait it out, they can get rid of about 95% of lemon law cases without even getting close to the courthouse steps.

If for some reason Jeep #4 and I end up in court, (and that is the question of the day: will Jeep #4 and I end up in court?), here’s what we can expect:

Here’s a secret.  Car companies do NOT want to go to court on a lemon law case.  The risk of going to court on lemon law far outweighs what they risk in doing so.  Here’s why:

a) Defending a lemon law case is expensive.  By the time a lemon law trial is done, the car company can easily spend $20,000 defending itself.  These cases are rarely done with their own attorneys so it is money out of pocket.  With that much money at risk, defending a lemon law case is already costly, even if they win.

b) In most cases, lemon law allows you to collect up to triple damages.  That means that if your car costs $25,000, they risk losing $75,000 in the hands of a jury, plus their own attorney fees.  Since they can replace your car at cost AND recover some of their loss in selling your old car, replacing your $25,000 car with a new one can cost them as little as $10,000.  Their choices are therefore to risk losing $100,000 or settle with you at their cost for $10,000.  At a 10-1 ratio, settling looks pretty inviting.

c) Car companies do not want lemon law publicity.  Obviously, your case is not going to make headlines in USA Today or the NY Times, but it still registers as a precedent and can be picked up locally.  Public attention to a lemon law case risks more than a loss in court.  It can also represent loss in brand image and therefore sales when new potential buyers dismiss buying their cars because of the public attention.

Related Jeep News

Poor design; inferior parts, pawning known defects off on customers will catch up to you. If not in this world, then in the next.

It’s time to hold auto executives accountable and include jail time for safety issues. Though million dollar fines seem like a lot to the individual consumer, they are barely a slap on the hand for large automakers, who write it off as the cost of doing business.

UPDATE 2/4/16: Supposedly, the Jeep passed the water tests at the dealership. I did notice a small circular stain that remained. The carpet is so thin it can be hard to tell if it is wet or cold or both. The spot seemed to be in the latter stages of the drying process.

Why and how I had wet carpet (beneath the WeatherTech mat) on Monday remains a mystery. I believe that the problem is related to weather. Both incidents occurred after a thaw-out after several days of freezing temperatures and snow/sleet. Jeep #4 is not an all-season Jeep.

The Questions of the Day are as follows: when will this happen again? how do I document it? Do I wait until the next incident to put the manufacturer on notice that #4 does not conform? Will a lawyer take my case (auto fraud against the dealership or lemon law against the manufacturer)?

I have a query in with a new law firm. I should have pushed harder last year, but kept waiting on the firm in Fairfax to review the facts. When the lawyer finally called me, you could tell by the questions she had not reviewed any of my documentation. If she did not want to take my case, just say so. If she was too busy, just say so.

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