LEMON SQUEEZE

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story -

Ac­cord­ing to the 2016 Lemon Car Re­port, pub­lished by consumer ad­vo­cate Choice, 68 per cent of Holden own­ers had a prob­lem with their new car in the first five years of own­er­ship, the high­est in the sur­vey, fol­lowed by Ford on 65 per cent. Mazda was the best brand in the Choice re­sults, with 44 per cent of own­ers hav­ing a prob­lem.

“Aus­tralian brands are ac­tu­ally get­ting a bit bet­ter,” ac­cord­ing to our ARMS source — cold com­fort given both are about to shut the fac­tory gates.

Choice’s re­port also backs up ARMS re­sults in iden­ti­fy­ing Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity as the most com­mon prob­lem area in new cars, fol­lowed by bat­tery and electrics, the in­te­rior then the en­gine.

The in­dus­try bench­mark in new car qual­ity an­a­lysts, US firm JD Power, runs an­nual sur­veys of more than 30,000 Amer­i­can new-car buy­ers to mea­sure ini­tial qual­ity — how their car per­forms over the first 90 days of own­er­ship — and re­li­a­bil­ity over the first three years.

JD Power cau­tions against us­ing its US re­sults in the Aus­tralian con­text. How­ever, its Ini­tial Qual­ity Study (IQS) and Ve­hi­cle De­pend­abil­ity Study (VDS) rank­ings, based on prob­lems per 100 ve­hi­cles, are the most ac­cu­rate pub­licly avail­able in­for­ma­tion about the rel­a­tive qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity per­for­mance of new cars.

Its 2016 VDS, which cov­ered 32 brands, also iden­ti­fied voice recog­ni­tion, Blue­tooth pair­ing, con­nec­tiv­ity, and nav­i­ga­tion is­sues as the most prob­lem­atic ar­eas on new ve­hi­cles. The Aus­tralian Consumer Law 2011 (ACL) says that if you buy a new car and it has a “ma­jor fail­ure” you are en­ti­tled to take it back to the dealer and claim a re­fund, or a re­place­ment — ei­ther an iden­ti­cal new car or a car of sim­i­lar value. The choice is yours.

A ma­jor fail­ure is when a rea­son­able consumer would not have bought the car if they had known about the prob­lem, or when the car is sub­stan­tially un­fit for its nor­mal pur­pose.

In other words, the car is a lemon.

To date, the Aus­tralian Consumer and Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion has not

Lexus was the most re­li­able brand in the sur­vey, for the fifth con­sec­u­tive year, fol­lowed by Porsche, Buick (a GM brand not sold here) and Toy­ota.

Dodge took the wooden spoon, be­hind Ford, smart, Land Rover and Jeep.

Consumer Re­ports in the US is feared by the car pros­e­cuted deal­ers or man­u­fac­tur­ers for breaches of the law.

It has the in­dus­try in its sights, though, par­tic­u­larly over the prac­tice of forc­ing con­sumers to sign con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments as a con­di­tion of re­fund­ing money or re­plac­ing a car.

This year, the com­mis­sion tells Cars­guide, it has made a pri­or­ity of “consumer is­sues aris­ing in re­la­tion to new car re­tail­ing, in­clud­ing re­sponses by re­tail­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers to consumer guar­an­tee claims”.

“The ACCC is aware that in some in­stances con­sumers have signed con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments as part of set­tle­ment agree­ments with com­pa­nies be­cause its opinions count among Amer­i­can car buy­ers. It anal­y­ses new cars based on road test per­for­mance, pre­dicted re­li­a­bil­ity, safety and owner sat­is­fac­tion, then pub­lishes the re­sults in its car brand Re­port Card.

In its April 2016 Re­port car man­u­fac­tur­ers,” it says.

“The ACCC would have some con­cerns when a busi­ness seeks to im­pose con­fi­den­tial­ity clauses as a con­di­tion of pro­vid­ing reme­dies a consumer is en­ti­tled to un­der the consumer guar­an­tee pro­vi­sions of the Aus­tralian Consumer Law.”

Tony We­ber of the Fed­eral Card, Consumer Re­ports also ranks Lexus as the most re­li­able brand, along with Toy­ota. Its “Worst” pre­dicted re­li­a­bil­ity rat­ing goes equally to Land Rover, Jeep and Fiat.

Choice found that 66 per cent of new-car buy­ers had prob­lems with their cars in the first five years of own­er­ship. Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries says that car buy­ers have ex­er­cised their rights un­der the consumer law in a “very low pro­por­tion” of new car sales.

A re­view is un­der way on the ef­fec­tive­ness of the leg­is­la­tion. Have your say — pub­lic sub­mis­sions are open un­til May 27. View con­sumer­law.gov.au. Given the ad­vanced, com­plex state of cur­rent au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, which has pro­duced cars that are in­fin­itely safer, more ef­fi­cient, re­fined and so­phis­ti­cated than ever be­fore, that’s not a bad re­sult.

But the lemons are still out there, pro­tected in Aus­tralia by the syn­di­cate’s code of si­lence.

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