- More than 7 million New Vehicles Registered in California from 2018 to 2021, only 34,397 Lemon Law cases were filed in CA courts
- In 2021, only 1% of the 6 million vehicles recalled by the Federal Government resulted in cases
- GM consumers that purchased a new car in California are 26 times as likely to file a Lemon lawsuit.
For decades, the California Lemon Law has stood as a testament to consumer protection, ensuring that vehicle buyers are not left stranded with defective cars. This law, which has become a model for other states, offers a robust defense against manufacturers that fail to uphold their warranty obligations.
Our article takes a look at a study done in 2021 by CarConsumers.org, a non-profit auto safety and consumer advocacy group. In the study, it reviews the history of the California Lemon Law, and which brands continue to rack up claims against them.
We’ll explain where this law came from, what it means, and how it works. Plus, we’ll look at which car companies have the most and least problems with this law.
Curious about which brands face the most claims and which ones have the fewest? We’ll reveal that too. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of how this law works, why it’s so important for anyone thinking of buying a car in California, and which car brands you might want to keep an eye on.
California Lemon Law and Its History
The California Lemon Law, officially known as the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, was enacted in 1982. It was designed to offer protection and legal recourse to consumers who found themselves with seriously defective vehicles.
The law mandates that auto manufacturers provide refunds or replacement vehicles if they fail to rectify major issues that arise during the warranty period.
The Origin of the Law in CA
The California Lemon Law, more formally known as the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, traces its roots back to the early 1980s. It was a time when consumers were increasingly frustrated with being stuck with defective vehicles and having little to no recourse.
The law was named after its primary advocate, Assemblyman Sally Tanner, who recognized the need for stronger consumer protections.
Rosemary Shahan, a consumer activist, played a pivotal role in pushing for its enactment. After experiencing firsthand the challenges of dealing with a defective vehicle, Shahan rallied support and became a vocal proponent for the rights of consumers. Her efforts, combined with those of other advocates, led to the law’s passage in 1982.
The Tanner Act amended the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, setting a precedent for other states to follow. It was a groundbreaking move that shifted the balance of power, ensuring manufacturers were held accountable for the quality and reliability of their vehicles.
How Does It Protect Consumers?
The California Lemon Law offers a multi-faceted shield to consumers, ensuring they aren’t left at a disadvantage when faced with a defective vehicle.
Here’s a breakdown of the protections it offers:
✔️ Refund or Replacement: If a vehicle is deemed a “lemon” after multiple unsuccessful repair attempts or if it’s out of service for an extended period, manufacturers are obligated to either refund the purchase or provide a replacement vehicle.
✔️Reimbursement: Consumers can be reimbursed for incidental costs related to the defect, such as towing or rental car expenses.
✔️Legal Fees: If a consumer wins a lemon law case, the manufacturer is often required to cover the consumer’s attorney fees, making it easier for individuals to seek legal representation.
✔️Protection from Repurchased Vehicles: Manufacturers must title and register repurchased “lemons” appropriately, ensuring future buyers are aware of the vehicle’s history.
✔️Extended Warranty Period: If a defect is reported during the warranty period but isn’t rectified by its end, the warranty is extended until the issue is resolved.
By offering these protections, the California Lemon Law ensures consumers have a robust safety net, holding manufacturers accountable and promoting transparency in vehicle transactions.
Ready to start filing your claim? Call us and we will connect you with a Lemon Law attorney in your area.
CA Lemon Law and Manufacturers
While the California Lemon Law serves as a model, it’s essential to understand its specific provisions and how they apply within the state. The CA Lemon Law has been instrumental in ensuring that roads in California remain safe by holding manufacturers accountable for their vehicles’ quality and safety.
How long can a dealership hold your car for repair in California?
In California, a dealership cannot keep your car for more than 30 days for repeated repairs. The CA lemon law states that an authorized dealership has 2 to 3 opportunities to fix your defective vehicle or 30 days.
The Impact on Car Manufacturers
Research into California’s electronic court filings offers a glimpse into the frequency with which consumers end up in court due to their Lemon Law Claim. Notably, there are significant variations among manufacturers.
Toyota, for instance, faces the least number of lawsuits relative to its market share, while General Motors faces the most.
The California Lemon Law doesn’t just serve as a protective measure for consumers; it also has profound implications for manufacturers. Here’s how it affects them:
⭐Accountability: The law ensures that manufacturers are held directly responsible for the quality of their vehicles. This accountability pushes them to maintain high standards and avoid potential legal repercussions.
⭐Reputation Management: Brands that frequently face lemon law claims can suffer reputational damage. In an age where information travels fast, consistent claims can deter potential buyers, impacting sales and brand loyalty.
⭐Financial Implications: Beyond refunds or replacements, manufacturers might find themselves burdened with legal fees, especially if consumers win their cases. This can result in significant financial losses.
⭐Incentive for Quality Control: The law indirectly promotes rigorous quality control checks. Manufacturers are more likely to invest in thorough testing and quality assurance to prevent defects and avoid lemon law claims.
⭐Transparency Requirement: Manufacturers are mandated to provide clear and comprehensive information about repurchased “lemons,” ensuring future buyers are informed. This transparency can influence a brand’s image and trustworthiness in the market.
By imposing these requirements and consequences, the California Lemon Law ensures that manufacturers prioritize quality, transparency, and consumer satisfaction in their operations.
The Spectrum of Defects
Consumers who have initiated litigation under the CA Lemon Law have reported a wide array of vehicle defects, ranging from brake failures and transmission issues to electrical malfunctions. These defects not only pose a risk to the vehicle owner but also to other road users.
Here’s a closer look at the variety of issues consumers have reported:
❌Mechanical Failures: These encompass issues like engine malfunctions, transmission glitches, and brake system failures. Such defects can severely impact a vehicle’s performance and safety.
❌Electrical Issues: Modern cars rely heavily on electronics. Problems can range from malfunctioning infotainment systems to more serious concerns like faulty wiring that might lead to fires.
❌Safety Concerns: Some defects directly compromise the safety of the vehicle’s occupants, such as malfunctioning airbags, seatbelt failures, or ineffective anti-lock braking systems.
❌Fuel System Problems: Issues like fuel leaks or problems with the fuel injection system can not only affect performance but also pose safety risks.
❌Structural Defects: These relate to the physical structure of the vehicle, like a compromised chassis or issues with the vehicle’s suspension system.
❌Environmental Impact: Some defects, like those causing excessive emissions, can have environmental implications, violating emission standards and contributing to pollution.
By understanding the breadth of potential defects, consumers can be more vigilant and proactive in seeking remedies when faced with a problematic vehicle. The California Lemon Law serves as a crucial tool in addressing these varied issues, ensuring manufacturers rectify them promptly.
California Lemon Law Cases
Over the years, numerous cases have emerged that highlight the importance of the California Lemon Law. These cases underscore the challenges consumers face and the vital role the law plays in ensuring justice.
A Glimpse into a Real-life Case
The true impact of the California Lemon Law comes to light when we delve into real-life cases that everyday consumers have faced. These stories underscore the challenges and the vital role the law plays in ensuring justice:
🚩Alvin Ruis vs GM
Alvin purchased a 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 from his local dealership. Despite the vehicle being under warranty (5 years/60K miles), he experienced significant transmission and brake system issues.
The problem escalated once the GM dealership was not able to repair the problem after multiple attempts and the manufacturer refused to give a refund or replace the vehicle. Alvin hired a Lemon Law attorney in February 2021 and proceeded to file a lawsuit on his behalf.
In April 2021, the traction control features plus the brake and transmission problems allegedly caused Alvin to lose control of the vehicle and landed him in the hospital with two broken vertebrae in his back and an injured shoulder.
As of the writing of this article, the case is still pending in court.
This case, among countless others, highlights the diverse challenges consumers face when dealing with defective vehicles. They emphasize the importance of the California Lemon Law in providing a platform for redressal and holding manufacturers accountable for their products.
Brands Under the Spotlight: Who Has The Most Lemon Law Claims in CA?
The landscape of California Lemon Law cases offers a revealing insight into the automotive industry. While some brands have managed to uphold their reputation for quality, others have found themselves more frequently on the receiving end of consumer complaints.
General Motors: A Frequent Offender
General Motors, an iconic American automaker, has unfortunately emerged as one of the brands with the highest number of lemon law claims relative to its market share. Consumers have reported a myriad of issues, from transmission glitches to electrical malfunctions. T
he sheer volume of claims suggests that while GM has a storied history of automotive excellence, there are areas where it needs to bolster its quality control measures.
Toyota: Setting the Benchmark
On the other end of the spectrum, Toyota stands out as a brand with the least number of lawsuits in relation to its market share. This Japanese automaker’s commitment to quality and reliability seems to be paying off in the context of California’s Lemon Law. Toyota’s consistent performance in this arena serves as a testament to its dedication to consumer satisfaction and vehicle safety.
The California Lemon Law serves as a mirror, reflecting the quality standards upheld by various automakers. While some brands, like General Motors, need to introspect and address recurring issues, others like Toyota can take pride in their consistent track record. As consumers, it’s crucial to stay informed and make choices that prioritize safety and reliability.
As vehicles continue to evolve, so too must the laws that govern their safety and reliability. For now, Californians can take solace in the fact that they have one of the strongest legal protections in the country when it comes to defective vehicles.