Your new vehicle needs repair and you contact the service department to make an appointment. You are advised that, unfortunately, they can't get to your vehicle for 6 weeks. Why?, you ask. You are told that the dealership does not have the part to fix your vehicle. Or even worse, your vehicle has a defect that needs repair immediately. But your car/truck is stranded in the shop with no completion date, waiting on parts.
The New Normal
Consumers in Michigan, the country and the world are in the midst of a debacle partially caused by the short-sighted auto industry who failed to play the long game. Yes, there is a chip shortage. And yes, the pandemic and the war in the Ukraine have affected supply. Many other companies and industries have thrived in this new era simply by having necessary reserves available in the event of a slowdown. Auto manufacturers, not so much.
This failure is affecting millions of auto owners. We have an ongoing crisis as vehicles sit in service departments waiting on parts that sometimes, literally, never arrive. I have dozens of current clients waiting on relatively simple repairs that cannot be completed for lack of available components. In some cases the parts never came and the manufacturer simply chose to buy back my client's vehicle and return the purchase price.
The Michigan Lemon Law
From a legal perspective, these delays factor into most Lemon Law language that requires vehicles to be repaired within a certain number of days. For example, Michigan's Lemon Law mandates that a vehicle is considered a “Lemon” if it's been out of service at least 25 days in the first year from delivery.
Michigan's Lemon Law at MCL 257.1403(1)(a), permits recovery of either a replacement vehicle or return of the purchase price, along with reasonable attorney fees, reimbursement for rental fees and other costs. (Over the past few years, vehicle replacement is not feasible for a number of reasons).
Lack of Loaners Too
To make matters worse, now that vehicles are sitting at auto dealerships across the country waiting for repairs, there is a scarcity of loaner vehicles. Loaners are less available simply because of demand, and because of the wider shortage of new and used vehicles across the board. This creates a nightmare for a new auto purchaser who takes the vehicle to the service department only to find out they have to be without a vehicle while repairs are performed. For some, this means they have to come out of pocket for a rental. And of course, rental vehicle fees have skyrocketed for some of the same reasons outlined above.
How to Navigate if you are a Victim
- Make Noise
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. You need to complain often and from different angles. Be professional about it, but be consistent. Whether it's phone calls, emails, texts, or all of the above, you should let them know how you feel. Let them know how this is affecting your life and your schedule. Consider contacting the Service Manager, General Manager or even your salesman. Write a letter, or even file a review of the dealership on social media.
The Observer newspaper investigating parts delays determined that auto manufacturers are prioritizing sales over repairs. They cited several instances where auto owners waiting for parts for months were quickly serviced when the Guardian simply made some phone calls to the manufacturer. (See: Car parts shortage leaves drivers in limbo as makers "put sales first", July 24, 2023, theguardian.com). Negative media exposure can be very persuasive.
- Request/Demand Reimbursement
If you are forced to rent a vehicle, send the bill to both the dealer AND the manufacturer, with a request for payment. Some auto dealers and auto makers are actually reimbursing consumers for rental fees.
- File a Complaint With Your AG
Every State has a process that allows consumers to complain about various consumer issues. Many States have easily accessed on-line forms that take only minutes to fill out. I urge you to do so. While this process may not resolve your issue, it will put some heat on the dealer and manufacturer and perhaps lead to a resolution.
- File a Lemon Lawsuit
As noted above if your vehicle is sitting in the service department waiting for parts, you should contact a lawyer about the Lemon Law. The Michigan Lemon Law can be implemented when your vehicle is out of service for 25 days. Not consecutive days. Not business days. 25 days.
We live in a new auto repair landscape. Many clients of mine who have the ability to GPS track their vehicle are reporting the vehicle is at the same exact spot at the dealership for months at a time. Just sitting there, not being repaired. If a vehicle is under warranty, the manufacturer has a legal responsibility to fix it in a timely manner. Don't wait three or four months to take action. Being proactive can often lead to a resolution that will get you back on the road. If you live in Michigan and your vehicle has been out of service at least 25 days, consider your legal options and feel free to contact the author.