Can’t Get the Parts for Your Vehicle Repair? You May Be Protected By Lemon Laws.
The auto industry was one of the first to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Even before the first cases were announced in the U.S., mandated closures and travel restrictions in other countries disrupted the supply chain of U.S. automakers. According to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, imported auto parts totaled $155.8 billion in 2019, with the biggest suppliers to the U.S. auto industry being Mexico, Canada, and China. Virtually every automaker was affected.
Dealers and service shops have also experienced difficulties getting parts for vehicle recalls and repairs. Parts production continues to be affected domestically and globally by government restrictions and public health concerns, and shipping issues have caused delays and increased expense. Here in the U.S., customers are reporting delays of weeks and even months, waiting, without the use of their car, for the parts to complete a repair. Often, the dealer cannot even give them an estimated date for the repair.
Which vehicles are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Both domestic and foreign automakers are affected by COVID-19 shutdowns and supply chain disruption. Toyota, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Volkswagen, Ford, GM, and Nissan are just some of the automakers that have announced shutdowns and delays to new vehicle productions or parts availability. Most recently, a global semiconductor chip shortage has caused numerous automakers, including Ford, GM, Nissan, and Volkswagen, to announce cuts to production of new vehicles. Ford also announced in December 2020 that it is has been forced to delay delivery of the eagerly anticipated new Ford Bronco because of production delays. In our lemon law practice, we have seen a lot complaints from Ford and GM owners in particular about delays due to a lack of replacement parts. Some of our clients have been forced to wait 4 months for replacement parts. In a recent blog post, we also discussed the parts delays that Jeep Gladiator owners are facing to repair the drifting steering addressed in a recent TSB.
However, while customers are stuck without their car, and service shops deal with frustrated customers, overflowing repair lots, and increasing loaner car costs, manufacturers do not seem to be acknowledging the problem. In response to a July 2020 Automotive News article regarding parts delays, particularly for the April TSB regarding coolant leaks in the 2017-19 Ford Escape and 2014-19 Ford Fusion, Ford issued a statement that it was “not aware of any significant parts delays currently impacting dealer ability to repair these engines.” Car owners are concerned that manufacturers are not listening to their customers and addressing their concerns.
What rights do you have if you can’t get the parts for your vehicle repair?
Lemon laws may protect you if your car repair is delayed due to a lack of replacement parts. Lemon laws are different in each state, however, they typically require a dealer/manufacturer to repair a defective or “lemon” vehicle within a certain time period or mileage limit, and allow the dealer/manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to do so. Most lemon laws define what is reasonable by limiting the number of repair attempts and the length of time that the vehicle is out of use or in the service shop. In Pennsylvania, for example, if a new car is in the repair shop for more than 3 repair attempts or 30 cumulative days for a problem found within the first year or 12,000 miles, the law presumes that the dealer/manufacturer has failed to repair it within in a reasonable time. Our FAQs give more detailed guidance on the lemon law limits in your state (Pennsylvania Lemon Law Lawyer; New Jersey Lemon Law Lawyer; California Lemon Law Lawyer; Ohio Lemon Law Lawyer.)
If a vehicle that is covered by the state’s lemon law is not repaired within a reasonable time, the owner is entitled to a refund, replacement vehicle, or cash compensation. Therefore, the owner of a new vehicle that has been sitting in their driveway or the repair shop waiting for a replacement part may be legally entitled to demand a full refund or replacement vehicle.
If a vehicle is not covered by the state’s lemon law, perhaps because it is outside the time or mileage limits, there are still other legal options. Federal breach of warranty laws and state consumer protection laws often protect consumers who are stuck dealing with a lemon vehicle or a difficult or shady dealer or repair shop but are not within the limit of their state lemon law. More state specific information is available on the Warranty Claims section of our website.
What should you do if your car repairs are taking too long?
If you think your vehicle repair is taking an unreasonable length of time, or number of attempts, because the dealer does not have the parts or for any other reason, there are steps you should take to protect yourself:
- If your vehicle is not safe, do not drive it. Your safety, and the safety of others, is paramount.
- Keep a record of all your vehicle repairs, including how long it is in the shop or unable to be driven.
- Get (and keep) a repair order and invoice every time your vehicle is in the shop, which correctly details the dates of service, repairs, and costs.
- If your vehicle is going to be in the shop, ask for a loaner car. They do not have to give you one but many dealers/repair shops will do this as a customer courtesy.
- If you need a rental car, check your auto insurance policy to see if it provides any coverage, and keep receipts for any expenses.
- Get legal advice. The law is there to protect you but it can be technical and you do not want to unwittingly miss a deadline or take any action that could compromise your claim.
Timothy Abeel & Associates handles lemon law and breach of warranty cases in multiple states for drivers who are dealing with a defective vehicle. We offer free case evaluations to discuss your problem and the options available to you. Contact us via our website to find out how we can help you.