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.


Do the Right Thing – the first time

Lesson of a Lifetime:  The least expensive thing is to Do the Right Thing the first time around. Waiting always costs you. In the long run, doing the wrong thing costs even more.

Victory in America’s Largest Lemon Law Case 

BMW Does the Right Thing (Twice)! 

Question of the Day:  Where is your treasure?

Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be (Matthew 6:21). It is my hope that your treasure is not in a Porsche 911 [or a Jeep (Grand or Baby) Cherokee] – Seeking Assistance for a Porsche 911 Lemon

Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.  Matthew 5:25–26

The Parable of the Persistent Widow — Luke 18:1–8

Jeep #4 – Day 5

The Question of the Week:  What is the right and just thing to do in this situation?

The dealership sells me a new car that has water damage because of defects in the sunroof drain tube. These things happen. Factories don’t produce perfect products each and every time.

  • What should the dealership do?
  • What should I expect?
  • What should the manufacturer do?

Lemon Law of Virginia

At this time, we don’t know if the car is a lemon. I am gathering information, in case Jeep #4 has repeated problems.

The lemon law of Virginia is good for 18 months after purchase. If after three attempts to fix the problem, the problem returns, the consumer may file a lemon law claim. If the problem is a safety issue, the problem must be fixed the first time. The first step in the process is for the consumer to notify the manufacturer of intent to file a claim (mailing a certified/return receipt letter), and give the manufacturer 15 days to fix the problem. [Again, I guess.]

My main concern is that the car’s defect caused water damage that existed before the sale. This damage reduces the value of the car. If I tried to sell this car, I would be asked if this car has ever had water damage, and I would have to say yes. The value is affected significantly. (How much exactly I don’t know, but certainly this car’s value is much less than one that has not had this problem.)

Customer Service Asks About My Car Buying Experience

Yesterday (day 5 of ownership) I received a boilerplate e-mail from the dealership’s Customer Service department. I wondered why she was not already aware of what was going on, as I had sent at least half a dozen e-mails, probably more if we count them, to the sales manager and general manager. (That is an aside.)

Patience Is a Virtue

I succeeded in practicing patience (for the briefest of periods and with the help of Other Plans) by not responding right away. It is Lent and a Friday, so I had plans to go to church and pray the Stations of the Cross. It also happened to be the First Friday of the month, a day where I go to First Friday Mass and Adoration as a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This was a perfect opportunity to stop and put all this in an eternal perspective and to ask for the Peace of Christ to enter me regardless of the outcome.

This was an expensive car. Not the most expensive, not the least, but a pretty penny, for sure, and without question the major purchase of the next decade of my life according to my known budget.

Putting Things Into Perspective

My neighbors help me put this issue into perspective. Marilyn and Leonard are both 80. Leonard has been caring for Marilyn since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 20 years ago. I took them some soup and salad on Thursday because Meals on Wheels does not deliver if schools are closed. I was pretty sure, with the bad weather, they would not deliver Friday (yesterday) either. Marilyn’s Parkinson’s is advanced. Leonard describes her as being in the third quarter. When I visited the past two days, her eyes were closed for most of the visit. She was not able to speak to me very much, but she knew I was there. I told her all about my new car drama. When I asked her if she enjoyed hearing my story, she was able to say yes. Yesterday I fed her dinner and said something that made her laugh really hard. They helped me forget about worldly things and re-center my mind and heart on more important things. It is my hope that I was able to lighten their burden, if only ever so briefly.

Ready to Respond

I came home from church last night ready to respond to the e-mail from Customer Service. I began my e-mail by asking for forgiveness. I assumed from day 1 that the dealership would not do the right thing, but now Customer Service has said they do want to resolve this problem.

I requested that the dealership allow me to return the car and void the sale.

…this story is to be continued…

Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts. See if there is a wicked path in me; lead me along an ancient path. — Psalm 139:23–24

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit. — Jeremiah 17:7–8