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craigyirush 12-10-2014 11:07 AM

Dealer liability?
 
60 Attachment(s)
Bought an '05 Elise from Lotus of San Diego in early October (this is the new dealer, not Symbolic) and have a question about their legal liability.

I was told that the car had been fully inspected before sale. I was also left with the impression that it had been serviced. The salesman and the finance manager both said the car had been "gone through" or words to that effect, and that I had nothing to worry about.

But when I followed up with them post-sale, I found out that the car had not been serviced (not even an oil and filter), despite that fact that they had zero service records for it (other than they did the oil line recall last year).

So I reluctantly took it for a full service at the new West Covina dealer, and asked their tech to give it an inspection. Turns out the oil was very old and dirty, the brake fluid was (in his words) 'disgusting', the A/C compressor is leaking, the rotors are right at the point of needing replacement, and the rear suspension bushings have migrated out of the control arms.

Even if I eat the cost of a full service, I'm still going to be into the car for ~$2000 for the bushings, rotors, and A/C.

Their general manager has not replied to any of my e-mails so I'm going to go over his head to complain to their parent company. I will also contact Lotus USA.

My question for LTers is what legal liability do they have? The car was sold 'as is' and I didn't get an independent inspection. On the other hand, they made claims to me about the car's condition which were not true. And some of the worn parts impact the safety of the vehicle (brakes and suspension).

If I have a legal case, I would consider taking them to small claims court.

jds62f 12-10-2014 12:03 PM

IANAL

Do you have any documentation supporting your claims?

otherwise sounds like a case of caveat emptor to me. Vehicles are sold everyday with "service issues", not all of them known/disclosed to all parties involved. Unless you can prove the items on your list were beyond there service life at the time you purchased the vehicle, sounds like something that would be hard to prove to someone else to me.

Have you considered the notion that the new dealer is trying to up sell you on some service? If I'm selling a car I'm inclined *not* to see things as problems because it lowers profit margins. If I'm servicing a vehicle I'm more inclined to see things as problems because it increases profit margins.

You said the car was "fully inspected"... did you acquire the results of the inspection?

DealsGapCobra 12-10-2014 12:19 PM

I have no legal expertise but will share some thoughts:

Turns out the oil was very old and dirty

I think they indicated it was fresh oil and they owe you that.

the brake fluid was (in his words) 'disgusting'

I can see this either way. I would not have expected new fluid but can see an argument that it was implied.

the A/C compressor is leaking

How bad is it?

the rotors are right at the point of needing replacement

This implies that the are close to needing replacement. You bought a used car, the rotors are safe but worn, this is your responsibility.

and the rear suspension bushings have migrated out of the control arms.

Do you have a photo of this?

Overall, as you bought the car as-is, I don't think you have a legal argument. Having said that, I think it is 'right' for them to make good on the oil chants and maybe the A/C bad bushings but would need more info to make a judgement.

Good luck and don't let this sour you on the car. You are going to have a Blast!

sprocket3 12-10-2014 12:43 PM

Is there any chance the new shop is just coming up with a list of repair items in order to get you for $2,000 in services? Oil and brake fluid can look "dirty" in no time at all and these are largely subjective statements by both dealers. Did you see the filter and know that it's old, or this is based on the service writers statements. In some dealerships the "service writer" dude is just a service salesman who is paid based on the bills you agree to. I'm speaking in general terms and have no knowledge of either of the dealerships you're dealing with.

Is the AC working well?

Can you post of photo of the control arm bushings?

Honestly it sounds like you got a great 10 year old car, that only needs basic maintenance. Think of it as 80% full, not 20% empty and be happy you didn't get a total roach of a car.

craigyirush 12-10-2014 03:42 PM

60 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the replies/advice.

It's not the need for a full service that pisses me off, but the wear in the bushings and rotors after I was assured the car had been safety inspected. If I'd known that there was $2k in work to be done on the car I might not have bought it, or I would have negotiated that into the price.

They also were not able to provide me with any paperwork backing up the salesman's claims that the car was inspected.

I do have photos of the bushings (the tech at the new dealer took them). All of the fluid has leaked out of the A/C so I assume it's shot (car doesn't blow cold at all).

As for the honesty of the tech, I trust him. He works with Abe at the new dealer, has a good track record, and he documented the problems. I agree that there's a certain subjectivity to dirty oil and dirty brake fluid, but the selling dealer admitted that they have zero service records, so it's possible that it's been years and many miles since those fluids were replaced.

jds62f 12-10-2014 04:08 PM

Without having the details of whatever inspection they claim to have performed, you can't possibly have expected them to say "we looked it over and it won't be long before it needs new rotors, and it definitely needs new bushings."

How many used cars have you bought? How many dealerships have told you about problems you'll need to take care of after purchase? I can tell you how many have ever told me: zero. This past year I've visited quite a few dealerships looking at used cars (non lotus) and just about all of them had some super inspection they claimed to have performed, and just about all of them had me saying "what did you inspection say about this <insert problem that should have been noticed by inspection here>"

I'm not saying you don't have a legitimate complaint, but I am saying in my experience, seems like just about every dealer will tell you how they only get the best used cars, how they inspect everything to make sure its in tip top shape, blah blah blah. Its all just ammunition for the salesman to disarm buyers who aren't as informed as they could be.

The dealership we ended up actually buying a car from gave me an inspection report and service records of the things they replaced as a result of an inspection. They also put the car up on a lift and let me verify everything I wanted to (including the things they claimed to have replaced).

sprocket3 12-10-2014 04:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by craigyirush (Post 3694089)
Thanks for the replies/advice.

It's not the need for a full service that pisses me off, but the wear in the bushings and rotors after I was assured the car had been safety inspected. If I'd known that there was $2k in work to be done on the car I might not have bought it, or I would have negotiated that into the price.

They also were not able to provide me with any paperwork backing up the salesman's claims that the car was inspected.

I do have photos of the bushings (the tech at the new dealer took them). All of the fluid has leaked out of the A/C so I assume it's shot (car doesn't blow cold at all).

As for the honesty of the tech, I trust him. He works with Abe at the new dealer, has a good track record, and he documented the problems. I agree that there's a certain subjectivity to dirty oil and dirty brake fluid, but the selling dealer admitted that they have zero service records, so it's possible that it's been years and many miles since those fluids were replaced.

Can you post the bushing photos? I've never heard of them backing out.

I don't think you have a claim on the brakes unless they are well below spec, not close to spec. It's not a safety issue at this time even after you've been driving the car. Seeing that's it's been a few months now they are going to argue that these issues occurred during your ownership anyway.

Aedo 12-10-2014 06:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by craigyirush (Post 3693329)
...
I was told that the car had been fully inspected before sale. I was also left with the impression that it had been serviced. The salesman and the finance manager both said the car had been "gone through" or words to that effect, and that I had nothing to worry about.
...

As you found out "gone through" and words to that effect really mean "we looked at it from a distance but didn't touch anything and certainly didn't service it"...

What that means to you is that when you have it serviced you will know exactly the status of the car!!

In terms of what you have found out:
  • Dirty oil... its a Toyota engine... as long as it has oil it should be fine!
  • Dirty brake fluid... this should be changed annually anyway so get it flushed and done
  • AC - did you know it didn't work when you bought the car?
  • bushes moving... never heard of that before... but good time to get a new alignment :)
  • Brake rotors... if they were legal when you bought the car three months ago they are all on you. That said OEM rotors and pads are expensive and not recommended. There are better and lower cost options out there.

Now get out there and enjoy your car!! :)

craigyirush 12-11-2014 08:13 AM

60 Attachment(s)
Will post the photos of the bushings once I figure out how to!

Is this not a common problem on the Elise?

Re dealer dishonesty - I naively expected more from a Lotus dealer.

4380r 12-11-2014 08:33 AM

Does California require any kind of state inspection of used cars before they can be registered/titled?

In Maryland, a shop that has been authorized by the state inspects used cars and certifies them as meeting minimum safety/condition standards before being permitted to be registered for tags.

Covers suspension, leaks, glass, electrics, air bag, brakes, rust, etc. etc.

Fairly thorough.

If your state has something like that, the certificate of inspection should have conveyed when you bought it, and/or the dealer should be able to produce it. But you would need to act very quickly, the longer you put it off the more the dealer can say the wear/damage occurred after you took possession.

If any of your issues are things that the inspection station certified as being fine (within a specified period of time from date of inspection) then the inspection station can be on the hook. If the dealer is a certified inspection station then the dealer is on the hook.

From what you describe, the rotors perhaps, and the suspension issues might qualify, at least in Maryland.

bri3d 12-11-2014 08:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sprocket3 (Post 3694297)
Can you post the bushing photos? I've never heard of them backing out.

Quote:

Originally Posted by craigyirush
Is this not a common problem on the Elise?

https://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f101...thread-109039/

I'm not a lawyer and if you're serious about liability you should talk to one. But I've never heard of a used car dealer being held liable for anything at all except fraudulent state inspections (in states that have them). Used cars are generally an "as is" kind of deal.

From a dealer ethics standpoint I think that if the dealer really did tell you the fluids were renewed and you can prove they weren't (i.e., old oil filter) I think you might be entitled to a free oil and brake fluid change.

Beyond that, I think it's on you. Rotors are a wear item and I'd expect them to have wear on a used car. The wishbone bushings could have happened after you bought the car and aren't something I'd expect an average dealer to even know exists, much less check and report on.

The moral of this story is to get an independent PPI if you're not comfortable checking stuff like brake rotors yourself.

khamai 12-11-2014 09:03 AM

Regarding dirty oil... Even after a oil change the oil will quickly look dirty because some "old" engine oil is retained in the oil lines and in the oil cooler(s). Once that "old" oil mixes in with the new, it will look dirty.

Cheers,
Kiyoshi

craigyirush 12-12-2014 09:22 AM

60 Attachment(s)
You may be right about "as is" sales. FWIW, I've put about 400 miles on the car so hard to argue that I've worn out the rotors or anything else on the car.

Also, I bought it from the Lotus dealer in San Diego (as I indicated in the initial post).

I don't think CA has a state inspection for used cars.

Quote:

Originally Posted by bri3d (Post 3695721)
https://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f101...thread-109039/

I'm not a lawyer and if you're serious about liability you should talk to one. But I've never heard of a used car dealer being held liable for anything at all except fraudulent state inspections (in states that have them). Used cars are generally an "as is" kind of deal.

From a dealer ethics standpoint I think that if the dealer really did tell you the fluids were renewed and you can prove they weren't (i.e., old oil filter) I think you might be entitled to a free oil and brake fluid change.

Beyond that, I think it's on you. Rotors are a wear item and I'd expect them to have wear on a used car. The wishbone bushings could have happened after you bought the car and aren't something I'd expect an average dealer to even know exists, much less check and report on.

The moral of this story is to get an independent PPI if you're not comfortable checking stuff like brake rotors yourself.


craigyirush 12-12-2014 09:32 AM

60 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the Sector 111 link. Here are the photos of my rear suspension bushings.

To be clear - I didn't get a PPI b/c they told me the car had been thoroughly inspected and had no issues.

sprocket3 12-12-2014 09:59 AM

I don't see any signs of metal to metal contact. I'd jack up the car and see if you can get any movement in the joints. I haven't looked at this issue before, but I think this would be classified at normal wear. Others might have higher millage cars and be able to give better info though.

You could ask them to change oil, brake fluid, and fix the compressor for you as a customer courtesy. Most dealers change the oil before selling the car so it looks clean to the new buyers. Makes the buyer feel all warm and fuzzy to see nice fresh oil on the dipstick like the car was well maintained. It's the basics of sales on the lot as the cost is really low to them. I bet they did this for the $40 in materials, but you never know. I don't think you will get anywhere playing hardball though as you don't have any strong cards.

The disks are black and white. They are within spec, or out of spec. Close to replacement doesn't mean they needed to be replaced when you bought the car.

To me it sounds like the new tech nit-picked your car over and pointed out some very minor issues (or non-issues) on a 10 year old car.

Aside from the compressor you don't have any required repairs correct?

craigyirush 12-12-2014 03:53 PM

60 Attachment(s)
The tech said the bushings are close to metal to metal, but yes no contact yet. The front bushings are fine

He also knows I plan to track the car so his assessment of what is acceptable bushing migration might be based on that.

Would be interested to hear from others what they think of the condition/migration of the bushings.

One or more of the rotors was beyond the acceptable wear; the others just above (by a mm or less).

They told me the A/C had been recharged. I stupidly didn't try it on the lot. When I put it on on the way home, it just blew warm. I have a picture of the compressor with fluid leaking out.

I've already done the oil, brake fluid and transmission fluid. They had no service records for the car so afaik all those fluids could have been years/many miles past their best. My tech said the airfilter and serpentine belt are fine as are the brake pads.

sprocket3 12-15-2014 12:25 PM

I'd be more concerned about the tie-rod ends failing than those bushings. Have these been upgraded?

road racer 12-15-2014 12:37 PM

Doesn't sound to me like there's a legal case here, but I'm surprised at the general sentiment of the thread, that it's up to you to do due diligence, that the dealer owes you little if nothing, etc.

The whole point of buying used from a dealer (and paying more) and not private party is that you shouldn't have to do a PPI. The dealer would normally recondition the car to something they would be proud of. My brother runs a tiny boutique used car dealership (no Lotus) and something like this would never ever get out of his shop. It's disgusting and it speaks volumes as to the integrity of this dealership. Thanks for naming them.

road racer 12-15-2014 12:57 PM

I have to temper my last comment. You didn't tell us how much you paid for the car. If you got a real bargain, now you know why.

jds62f 12-15-2014 02:33 PM

The sentiment is that way because the OP asked about legal liability. The dealer charges more because they have significantly higher overhead costs than a private party. People pay more for the reasons you cite - that dealers have the facilities and knowledge to check out the car and sell them something that has had qualified eyes look it over. That doesn't mean that they do, and it certainly doesn't mean that they are legally liable.

Does it mean they're crappy? Well yea, but that wasn't the question. What the dealer 'owes' is a matter of negotiation, as OP is clearly not going to use them in the future and already has damaged their reputation. If 'owes' is bound by the law, they probably don't owe anything, as the sale was as-is. If 'owes' is bound by good customer service, then they probably should compensate some how, but it sounds like the OP should already know what to expect based on car condition and the fact that they never returned his call.

Quote:

Originally Posted by road racer (Post 3704721)
Doesn't sound to me like there's a legal case here, but I'm surprised at the general sentiment of the thread, that it's up to you to do due diligence, that the dealer owes you little if nothing, etc.

The whole point of buying used from a dealer (and paying more) and not private party is that you shouldn't have to do a PPI. The dealer would normally recondition the car to something they would be proud of. My brother runs a tiny boutique used car dealership (no Lotus) and something like this would never ever get out of his shop. It's disgusting and it speaks volumes as to the integrity of this dealership. Thanks for naming them.



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