Seeking lemon aid
"No matter at what point the customer believes they have a lemon-for whatever reason-we want them to go to the dealer. They are the experts; they have the expertise, the training, the tools, and the parts to repair the customer's vehicle," says Scott Lawson, General Director for Customer and Relationship Services at General Motors. The instant you discover a problem, your first step should be to take it to the dealer-end of story. This ensures the problem is recorded in the system, and besides, the dealership is equipped with the latest procedures, technical bulletins, and repair experience.

"You as a consumer have but three real responsibilities under the lemon law: You must maintain the vehicle according the manufacturer's guidelines, you must immediately report any problems you have with the vehicle, and you must make the vehicle available for repair," says Lewis. If it isn't fixed the first time, take it back and report it again. The Magnusson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act of 1975 protects consumers under law from defective products while under the manufacturer's original warranty, including vehicles, and it "piggybacks on many state lemon laws and provides protection for consumers in most cases where a vehicle may not meet the state's lemon law criteria on time and mileage," explains Lewis. The dealership is required by "Mag-Moss" to honor a warranty.Still not fixed? Return a third time, but this time speak with the dealership's service manager, sales manager, or general manager, who will more than likely want more diagnostic time or will bring in a manufacturer's warranty representative to assist in the evaluation. Although you may be frustrated, do not seek out a third-party mechanic if your vehicle is still under warranty. What if the problem continues after this? Lewis advises having the service manager contact the district or regional manufacturer's representative: "Have a meeting, express your concerns, all the while remember that you need 'significant' issues [with the vehicle] to pursue this further. In many cases, the problem can be resolved with some technical guidance, or a vehicle buy-back or trade assistance rebate may be a possibility. Many cases are resolved at this point."

If you're not satisfied at the dealership level, contact the vehicle's manufacturer; a toll-free phone number for the automaker's customer-assistance center should be printed in the vehicle owner's manual. You'll also find a listing of manufacturer numbers in the sidebar at the end of this story. GM's Lawson suggests that when you contact the center you have available the Vehicle Identification Number, the mileage, a summary of what has happened to date, and, most importantly, what you are seeking, such as repairs, repurchase, money back, or an extended service contract. Also let them know the preferred way to correspond with you, such as by phone or e-mail.