Persistent safety issues on leased car; looking to get buy-out
January 10, 2017 4:50 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to get GM to buy out the remainder (~$1400) of the lease on my 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV with 12k miles due to persistent and unresolved safety (and other issues) including brake failure. Dealership is not helpful and GM customer support is not panning out. What else can I do?

In 2014 I leased a new Chevy Spark EV for about $225/month on a 36 month lease. It’s a fun, fast car and I love driving an electric vehicle. Our city has free fast-charging, which is great.

In 2015 I started having a problem where the car would start vibrating very hard, like so hard that it would shake the rear view mirror way out of alignment. This would usually happen at highway speeds. I discovered it was the electronic parking brake failing to release on one of the rear wheels (I could tell because the rotor was red hot). The dealer did nothing the first visit as they couldn’t replicate. On the second visit they also did nothing. On the third they said they replaced the parking brake unit, but then it turns out they didn’t. They did verify that the brake rotor showed significant signs of being heated to red-hot.

Sometime late in 2015 I started being unable to fast charge. The dealer discovered this was due to the fast charge module being unable to talk to the parking brake module because *the parking brake module was defective*. They replaced both and fast-charging worked again. The parking brake issue still occurs.

Then this winter the heat stopped working.

Then the fast charge stopped working.

When I was taking it in for them to service both of those issues, the BRAKES FAILED while I was driving on a residential street. The brake pedal went to the FLOOR, I put both feet on it and shoved as hard as I could, and I barely stopped in time to not rear-end a car in front of me. I was two blocks from the highway I was about to get on and if I had gotten on and the brakes had failed I am sure it could have been fatal. Note that the car won’t let you engage the parking brake while the car is in Drive, so I couldn’t rely on that to emergency brake.

I got the car towed to the mechanic. They said the master cylinder had failed and they replaced it. They said the fast charge had stopped working again because the parking brake system was messed up AGAIN. They said they fixed that.

I no longer trust this car to transport me safely. I want out of this lease.

I worked with the dealer and with GM customer service simultaneously. The dealer said they talked to their GM rep who said I haven’t had enough persistent problems to warrant a buy-out of my lease. GM customer service keeps playing phone tag with me, the kind where they called once and I keep calling back and always getting a voicemail box, and if I dial 0 to talk to an operator they connect me to someone’s voicemail box.

In the state where I reside, the Lemon Law is only good for the first 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first, so that does not apply here.

I have filed a report with the NHTSA about the brake failure.

What’s next? Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb? Would a lawyer want a case where there’s only $1400 on the line?
posted by MonsieurBon to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Are you sure your state's lemon law doesn't cover you? The time limit often applies to the start of the unresolved problem. It's worth double checking.
posted by lozierj at 4:58 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Lawyer. I don't know if punitive damages apply, but I sure want them to here.
posted by Dashy at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you go to a different dealer? Lying about replacing parts seems like a dealer service problem, not a car problem (although you have those too)

I'd start filing federal safety reports (nhtsa?) And executive emailing
posted by TheAdamist at 5:57 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

yep that dealership is jerking you around, time to go corporate.
posted by patnok at 6:05 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you have a local news show with a consumer reporter? They can be quite effective in shaming a business into fixing a problem.
posted by agatha_magatha at 6:18 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oregon Lemon Law is clear about 24 months and 24,000 miles from delivery.

GM Customer Service's initial solution was to offer a different dealer, who then didn't return GM's phone calls or e-mails or mine. My partner has her car serviced at this other dealer and the last time I took it in they recommended $1,400 in work that wasn't recommended by the manufacturer (flushing of systems, real Jiffy Lube kind of crap, etc.) so I don't remotely trust them either.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:11 PM on January 10, 2017

(I'm not a lawyer; I don't even play one on TV.)

Oregon Lemon Law is clear about 24 months and 24,000 miles from delivery.

Sure, but it looks like you first reported the problem within 24 months and 24,000 miles of delivery. Lemon laws usually care about the time of first reporting, because otherwise the dealership can just drag its feet on the repairs until time runs out.

Looking at what appears to be the relevant law, this seems to be the case. There's also an additional year to start lemon law proceedings, and for safety-related problems like yours, it looks like the dealership only gets one shot to fix it before you can start proceedings.

Depending on where in Oregon you are, there are likely several lemon lawyers that offer free consultations. I would talk to a couple. Worst case scenario, you're out 30 minutes of your time.
posted by lozierj at 1:19 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

A few thoughts in no particular order:

- This is probably within the jurisdiction of small claims court, which you might not need a lawyer for. Check, though, because small claims court in my jurisdiction is limited in what it can do outside of ordering payment of money - no idea how it works in your jurisdiction.

- Have you written a demand letter to the dealership detailing the problems and telling them you want out of the lease? If I were a dealer and had that in writing somewhere I'd be concerned about the liability implications if something did happen. It might goad them into responding in a way less formal complaints do not.

- Question for you to think about if you're bringing a claim (or talking to a lawyer): is the lease a contract? Might it be an express or implied term of that contract that the vehicle be free of serious mechanical defects? Could these problems amount to a breach of that contract? The answer to those questions could be yes or no, but it might be an angle to consider.

- Other possible resources: consumer protection law is often dealt with via state attorney general's offices, this appears to be Oregon's.

posted by AV at 3:20 AM on January 11, 2017

One approach nobody has mentioned. Auto dealerships are licensed by the state. Contact the licensing board and ask them how to proceed. Turns out if a dealer stands to lose their license, they get very eager to resolve your complaint.
posted by DaveP at 4:18 AM on January 11, 2017

Also, if I was getting nowhere I'd probably call up the local 'consumer advocate' new reporter. Funny how a little negative local coverage gets car dealerships hopping.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:43 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, you may be right about the Lemon Law! Thanks for linking to the actual statutes.

I found 4 other NHTSA reports of similar braking failure just for my year and model, which shares the same components as a ton of other GM cars.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2017

Make that 7 reports. Yeesh.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:42 PM on January 11, 2017

« Older Hacks for postpartum work routine and life balance   |   Where do I buy weird scents like cut grass or... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.