Q - I bought a new car last October; it's a brand that I have always had good luck with. I have had problems with it that the service department can't seem to always replicate and it has been in for repairs a total of twelve days. Because of all of the repairs I only have eight thousand miles on it. Does this car meet the definition of a lemon?
Truly you have a troublesome car, but at this point your car has not met the definition of a vehicle with a nonconforming condition under the Alabama Lemon Law.
I am assuming this car was purchased from a dealer whose manufacturer has dealers in Alabama. Though not apparent in your case, if you ordered an obscure new vehicle you could have an additional problem in that it may not meet the definition of a Motor Vehicle Dealer under the definition of Alabama Code, 1975, §8-20A-1. which says “The person, firm, or corporation operating under a dealer agreement from a manufacturer, importer, or distributor and who is engaged regularly in the business of buying, selling or exchanging motor vehicles in this state and who has in this state an established place of business”.
It is necessary that the problem that you are having is covered under an express warranty of the car and the problems that you are having are not a result of abuse to the vehicle; the vehicle being used in an ordinary manner. Assuming that you have used the vehicle in an ordinary way, lets look at where you are based on the Lemon Law.
First, according to §8-20A-2(a)(2) it says, “The motor vehicle is out of service and in the custody of the manufacturer, its agent, or an authorized dealer due to repair attempts (including the final repair attempt), one of which occurred during the lemon law rights period, for a cumulative total of 30 calendar days, unless such repair could not be performed because of conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealers, such as war, invasion, strike, fire, flood, or other natural disaster.” Your cumulative time of having the vehicle unavailable is twelve days at this point and does not yet meet the thirty day requirement.
However, under §8-20A-1(8), the time period is tied to one year or twelve thousand miles since delivery, whichever occurs first. You have not met either condition and I would not expect you to hit the twelve thousand mile mark before you hit your twelve month mark in October. You are short on days in the shop though twelve days is a considerable amount of time, averaging a little over a day per month of ownership. If the difficulties persist you might still hit a cumulative thirty days before your twelve months run out. However, §8-20A-2(a) reads, “§ 8-20A-2. Obligations of manufacturer
(a) If a new motor vehicle does not conform to any applicable express warranty, and the consumer delivers the motor vehicle to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer, and gives notice of the nonconforming condition during the lemon law rights period, the manufacturer of the motor vehicle shall be obligated to make such repairs to the motor vehicle as shall be necessary to remedy any nonconforming condition thereof. Such repairs shall be required even after the expiration of the lemon law rights period provided that notice of the nonconforming condition was first given during the lemon law rights period and provided further that the manufacturer's obligation to repair the nonconforming condition shall not extend beyond the period of 24 months following delivery of the vehicle or 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first.”
Since you have put the manufacturer on notice via the dealer (you must do so in writing), then you may well have an extended time period of twenty-four months or twenty-four thousand miles, whichever occurs first.
If you eventually meet the definitions of the Lemon Law, the manufacturer has the following options and obligations under §8-20A-2(b), “
(b) If, after reasonable attempts, the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer is unable to conform the motor vehicle to any express warranty by repairing or correcting a nonconforming condition of the motor vehicle which first occurred during the lemon law rights period, the manufacturer shall, at the option of the consumer, replace the motor vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle or shall accept return of the vehicle from the consumer and refund to the consumer the following:
(1) The full contract price including, but not limited to, charges for undercoating, dealer preparation and transportation charges, and installed options, plus the nonrefundable portions of extended warranties and service contracts;
(2) All collateral charges, including but not limited to, sales tax, license and registration fees, and similar government charges;
(3) All finance charges incurred by the consumer after he first reported the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer; and
(4) Any incidental damages which shall include the reasonable cost of alternative transportation during the period that the consumer is without the use of the motor vehicle because of the nonconforming condition.”
The incidental damages are offset by a formula based on the number of miles that the consumer is able to enjoy (maybe enjoy is not the best word).
Finally, if the manufacturer or its agent is not resolving the ongoing vehicle problem, then you must send a letter to the manufacturer via United States Postal Service of your intent to bring an action under the Alabama Lemon Law. The manufacturer has seven days to respond and given an additional fourteen days to resolve the nonconforming condition.
I would certainly suggest if you reach the point where you have met the thirty days of having an inaccessible vehicle due to repair of the nonconforming condition, then you should contact an attorney knowledgeable in Lemon Law to make sure that you have met all conditions so that your attorney can proceed on your behalf for a final resolution.
I hope that this has helped with your question. If you need a lawyer you can contact the Alabama State Bar Lawyer Referral service or ask a trusted friend about a lawyer that they might recommend.
This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.
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Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq., Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC
7956 Vaughn Road, Box #124, Montgomery, AL 36116
(334) 220-3700 email@example.com