A recent Jalopnik post let readers gripe about warranty repairs. In my "real" job, I am an attorney and specialize in "Lemon Law," having filed thousands of lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved buyers of unfixable cars. It gets to the point where phone calls that start with, "My transmission fell out of my car on the day I bought my car," don't get my attention the way they used to. I've been doing this for 23 years.
But, when people ask me about the most egregious story I've come across in my time suing manufacturers and dealers, I usually tell the Corvette Story.
My client's husband gave her a Corvette for her birthday. It was her dream car and I even saw the pics she took of it the morning she got it, wrapped in a big red bow.
With under 2,000 miles on the clock, the rearview mirror began to rattle ever so slightly. For those of you who study how drama is created, note that the problem with her car is as slight as it could possibly be. Wonder where this is going?
She brought the car to the dealer and asked them to secure, tighten, or whatever you do to make the mirror stop vibrating. They told her to leave it and that they would call her when it was done later that afternoon.
When they didn't call as they had promised, she called them. A service advisor handed her off to the service manager (huh?) and she then was told that "We fixed the mirror but a customer backed into your car on the lot and put a little ding in it. We will fix it for you for free but it will take a few days."
Something in his voice led her to realize that the man was lying to her. Or, as I tell clients when it comes to bad people, "If their mouth is moving and sound is coming out of it, they are lying to you." Either way, she hopped in her husband's car and raced to the dealership. She headed to the body shop.
There was her car with three flat tires, a smashed front end and scrape marks raked from front to back, evidence of whatever it was that tore the convertible top back.
After going ballistic on everyone within the range of a screaming human voice, she was told that a porter had taken the car for a joyride – I mean "a test drive" – and had lost control of the car. He jumped a curb (one that was particularly tall, right-angled, and tire-hating) and then ran it through/under a chain link fence.
The "customer backed into your car" story had long since been forgotten.
Long story short(er): They refused to do anything for her other than let their body shop repair it. She refused, we filed suit and they defended it! I took the deposition of the man who wrecked the car. He said the accident was caused by the anti-lock brakes ("I hit the brakes but them anti-lock brakes kept cutting them brakes off.") Eventually, they settled but it wasted a lot of time, judicial resources and the dealer lost several customers for life.
I apologize for telling you a story without pictures but the case was early in my career, before scanners were commonplace. The pics were given back to my client when the case resolved.
Steve Lehto is an attorney and writer. He wrote Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation and The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device both published by Chicago Review Press. Follow him on Twitter: @stevelehto