One automotive fact people have a hard time grasping is that some cars cannot be fixed. I know this to be true after dealing with thousands of consumers who have bought defective cars. Still, some people find it hard to believe, since they have never encountered a truly unfixable car.
I have helped thousands of consumers get their lemon automobiles bought back by manufacturers. Those “lemons” were defective after four or more failed repair attempts – although some had fewer repair attempts but spent more than 30 days in the shop in their first year of ownership. If the cars had been repaired, the manufacturers would not have had to buy them back.
What kinds of things have I seen? Cars that have stumped mechanics at several dealers AND technicians sent from the manufacturer. I’ve had factory reps tell me that the cars can’t be fixed, and they work for the other side. I’ve seen cars where technicians told the owner, “We can’t fix it.” I’ve seen dealers throw their hands up on a brand new car – before the buyer had it a week – and tell the owner, “Call an attorney and get it bought back.”
The notion that a car cannot be repaired seems impossible to some. If the car was designed and assembled by humans, shouldn’t humans be able to figure out what ails it? The biggest factor driving this is that cars have become so complex. Gone are the days where the only wires under the hood went to the distributor or the battery. Now, most cars contain more computing power than 1960s NASA had at its disposal. And all it takes is one or two of the control modules under the hood to go wonky before the resultant problems start confusing the technicians.
Couldn’t mechanics just start replacing stuff under the hood and eventually solve the underlying problem? In theory, that would fix some of the problems out there. But the law only gives them 3 or 4 chances before the lemon law kicks in. Some companies will try this – and fail. Witness the recent problems with Ford’s dual clutch transmission. On the first repair the transmission is reflashed. On the second, some internal parts are replaced. On the third, the whole thing may be rebuilt. On the fourth they often tell the consumer nothing more can be done if the transmission is still acting up. And it often is.
One other obstacle to repairing the terminally defective cars is that the cost of doing so might be prohibitive even if it were possible. I had a client whose car suffered from engine failure seven times. Each time the manufacturer replaced the engine without figuring out what was causing the failures. The car itself was not that expensive to begin with so I suspect the cumulative cost of the seven replacement engines and the cost of swapping them was probably approaching the value of the car. At what point does it become cheaper to simply replace the car completely rather than try to rebuild it piecemeal?
I have also represented the same vehicle twice. For two different owners. Owner one bought it new and it suffered from an unfixable malady. The manufacturer bought it back and sold it at auction. The second owner bought it from the dealer who bought it at auction and it immediately suffered from the same problem. After a few more failed repair attempts that owner ed the first owner out of frustration – who told them to call me. The vehicle was then repurchased a second time. And this was after eight or nine total repair attempts for the same problem.
I assure you: That particular vehicle cost its manufacturer way too much to have earned it any money. If anyone could have fixed it, they would have. It was merely one of the unfixable vehicles that exist.