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New report shows which car companies are sued most using California’s Lemon Law


In California, cars — and trucks — are king, with tens of millions out on the road. And in San Diego, many residents have to own one to be able to live and work.

But what happens when you buy a new car or truck, and it turns out to be a “lemon?” KPBS asked Clairemont resident Kim Lane.

“We came home one night, we were out in my car and the truck was in the driveway and the dashboard was lit up,” Lane said.

Lane was talking about the dashboard on their recently purchased 2018 Dodge pickup. They couldn’t get it to turn off.

“It happened again and it happened again, and the last time it was in the shop, it was gone for six weeks,” Lane said.

California’s Lemon Law actually came into effect in 1970 under then Gov. Ronald Reagan. But it was strengthened into the law we have now by 1982.

Today, three nonprofit public interest research groups published a report showing which auto manufacturers were sued most often under the law from 2018 to 2021. Topping the list is General Motors with one lawsuit for every 78 cars sold in the state. Toyota was sued the least with one suit for every 2,029 cars sold here.

“The auto manufacturers constantly are attacking California’s Lemon Law,” Rosemary Shahan said during a webinar held on Tuesday to announce the findings of the report.

After buying a car that turned out to be a lemon back in 1982, Shahan successfully pressured lawmakers to put more teeth into California’s Lemon Law. She said the automakers that are sued the most under the law are the ones who try on a regular basis to get it repealed. But Shahan added that lemon lawsuits are filed on less than 1% of the vehicles sold in California.

“When you hear from auto manufacturers that there’s too much lemon litigation, it should be taken with an enormous, enormous grain of salt,” she said.

Eventually, Lane and her husband were successful in their lemon lawsuit, but they had to hire a lawyer, and it took more than a year.

“These auto manufacturers are taking advantage of this misfortune with people to punish them for speaking out and that’s not right, it’s not fair,” Lane said.





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