With unique technology comes the potential for unique problems.
The Lemon Law defends consumers against defective vehicles, but does it still apply to more energy-efficient cars, such as hybrids? The Lemon Law Firm of Kimmel & Silverman has the answer.
Hybrid vehicles are nothing new, but recently they’ve seen a surge in popularity.
Between fluctuating gas prices and a social call for more environmentally friendly modes of transportation, many drivers are drawn to the benefits commonly associated with hybrid and other alternative-fuel vehicles.
But, as with any consumer product, not all hybrid cars are without their faults. With the mass production of any vehicle comes the potential for defects and non-conformities that affect even the most critically acclaimed models.
When you purchase any new car from an authorized dealership, the dealer is often more than willing to repair that vehicle under warranty, provided the warranty covers such repairs. Ideally, if there is a problem with your new hybrid car, you would simply bring it to the dealer for a fix, and that would be that.
Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple.
Some vehicles are more stubborn and persistent with their defects, refusing to stay fixed, despite numerous trips to a manufacturer-authorized repair center for the same issue.
We call these vehicles “lemons.”
Fortunately for consumers, there’s something that can be done to get rid of your lemon car. Lemon Laws exist in most states to protect consumers from these shoddy vehicles, including hybrid cars that refuse to conform to the quality standards required of all automobile manufacturers.
First Thing’s First: What Is The Lemon Law?
The “Lemon Law” helps protect consumers from vehicles with a serious defect or non-conformity – specifically those that impair the use, value, or safety the vehicle. When a car is a lemon, the same issue recurs again and again, despite multiple repair attempts (often three or more) by an authorized dealership.
Lemon Laws vary from state to state, so be aware that the statute in the state you purchased and / or registered your vehicle may be different from that of another.
So How Does The Lemon Law Apply To Hybrid Cars?
Before we get into the unique issues that can affect hybrid cars, it’s important to note that a hybrid vehicle can still suffer from many of the issues seen in gasoline-only vehicles. Continuous and unexplained “Check Engine” lights, transmission problems, shaking and rattling, malfunctioning electronics, and issues with oil consumption can still affect hybrid cars. In certain states, if these problems occur repeatedly (usually three or more times), the car would qualify as a lemon.
To help illustrate this point, we can use the Pennsylvania Lemon Law.
The PA Lemon Law applies to vehicles that have been in the shop an unreasonable number of times (normally three or more) for the same non-conformity, so long as the first occurrence happens within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles – whichever comes first.
If you purchased / leased your hybrid in Pennsylvania and / or registered it for the first time in PA, and it has been in the shop three or more times under the manufacturer’s warranty for a single issue (such as transmission problems or shaking and rattling), your car may be a lemon.
Of course, the entirety of the PA Lemon Law (or any Lemon Law) can’t be adequately summarized in a single paragraph, nor can we cover all of the possible issues covered under the Lemon Law in a single post. However, in the next section, we’ll discuss some of the issues that may be unique to hybrid vehicles where the Lemon Law could apply.
Which Issues Are Unique To Hybrid Vehicles?
Despite their similarities to gasoline-only vehicles, hybrid cars have a number of differences that distinguish them from other cars. These differences include unique braking systems, charging systems, power cells (to drive the electric motor) and cooling / air conditioning systems.
If any of these components fail repeatedly, despite multiple attempts to repair the issue with an authorized dealer, you may have a lemon on your hands.
Because of this, it’s important to maintain a detailed record whenever you bring your hybrid in for repair. Whether you’re driving a Toyota Prius, a Ford Fusion Hybrid or any other vehicle, keep the original copy of every repair invoice you receive. This information will support your Lemon Law claim, if you choose to make one.
Federal Warranty Law As It Pertains To Hybrid Cars
If your hybrid vehicle is used or doesn’t qualify under the Lemon Law for your state, you may still have rights under Federal Warranty Law. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that applies to consumer products that cost $25 or more and are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. This includes hybrid cars.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also has the same fee-shifting provisions as the Lemon Law. This means you always pay nothing, regardless of whether your claim is successful. If your vehicle has been in the shop for repair three or more times for the same issue, it may be worth discussing the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act with a consumer lawyer.
What Should I Do If I Think My Hybrid Is A Lemon?
Start by attempting to resolve the issue with the dealership in a civil manner. Although the situation may be frustrating, you need to remain calm and level-headed.
As noted earlier, you will want to request a copy of every repair invoice with each visit to the dealership. Always double-check these invoices for accuracy. You may also want to ask about Technical
Service Bulletins for your vehicle. This will serve as evidence to support your Lemon Law claim, should you make one.
If you are unable to successfully repair the vehicle, despite multiple attempts with an authorized repair center, it’s time to submit your claim.
While you can pursue a Lemon Law claim yourself, with the BBB or with your state’s Attorney General, many people have expressed a preference to working with an experienced Lemon Law Attorney on their claim.
A Lemon Law Attorney should always work at no cost to you. Additionally, consumer lawyers can assist you with claims under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and may be able to reach a settlement in pre-litigation, which could expedite your claim if successful.
Legal remedy for Lemon Law claims may vary depending on the severity of the defect or non-conformity, but typically ranges from monetary compensation (to make up for loss in value of the vehicle) to a replacement vehicle (typically MSRP-to-MSRP) to a complete buyback of the defective lemon.
When you purchase a new hybrid vehicle (or even an electric vehicle), you’re still entitled to the same consumer rights as drivers of a gasoline or diesel vehicles. Although things may be a bit different under the hood, many of the core features of an automobile are the same, and even those that are different may still be covered under warranty and are still protected under applicable state and federal laws.
Understanding your rights can help you stay on the road and out of a lemon. If you’re unsure about your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced Lemon Law Attorney for assistance.