Typically, we think of a lemon car as a sketchy vehicle that a person is swindled into buying from a shady car salesman – but you may be surprised to learn that some of the most well-known and well-respected vehicle brands have been guilty of producing and selling “lemons.”
Since these vehicles come with such a large price tag, one would assume that they are truly the best of the best in every sense of the word – but especially in terms of functionality. And while many luxury car brands have received numerous awards for design, reliability, and overall performance, even the most notable companies are not immune to embarrassing and scandalous vehicle recalls.
But before we start listing off the issues that have forced these brands into pulling their cars off the road, let’s explain first what exactly qualifies a vehicle as a “lemon”. Generally a vehicle needs to meet the following criteria to be certified as a lemon:
- Exhibits a substantial defect(s) which inhibit the vehicle’s functionality, value, or safety.
- Defect(s) occur within a certain time after the purchase (typically within the warranty period).
- Defects reoccur after a “reasonable number” of repair attempts.
If a car meets all of these criteria, the owner will need to reach out to an attorney. Now, the details of the law vary slightly from state-to-state.
For instance, lemon law in California applies to used cars in addition to new. This is where things can get a bit murky, and victims would need to seek out a specialized California lemon law lawyer to receive full benefits.
Every year, there are about 150,000 cars that are qualified as lemons – here are some of the ones that come with the highest price tags.
BMW is highly regarded for the quality of their vehicles and innovative designs.
However, they actually announced one of the largest recalls in 2012 of their 5 Series and 6 Series models for major electrical issues. This recall was for numerous models ranging from 2003 all the way through 2010 for faulty battery mounting – of which caused electrical system malfunctions, including overheating battery cables and electrical issues that sparked fires.
Some other models that have been involved in lemon law cases include:
- X6 xDrive351
- 335i, 135i, and 535i
- Z4 Roadsters
More recently, BMW has been included in the long list of airbag recalls – which affected many of their models from 2002 to 2015.
Unfortunately, BMW has a reputation for being difficult and unreasonable when it comes to lemon law reimbursements.
There was a well-known court case in 2014 that was filed against BMW for a 2014 428i – due to a laundry list of defects, including fuel gauge problems. A lemon law attorney attempted to reach out to BMW for a settlement, but the manufacturer was unresponsive. After several attempts, the case was taken to court, where a jury ruled that BMW owed the owner $170,000 in damages.
Even though Tesla prides itself on having incredible innovation and top-tier technology for features like autopilot, several of their two luxury models have been called into question. In 2017, Tesla recalled over 50,000 of their vehicles due to issues with the parking brake.
There was also a lemon law court case filed against Tesla for a Model X for dangerous autopilot malfunctions and issues with the auto-park features. The owner was able to reach a settlement with Tesla and was reimbursed for the purchase price as well as additional repair fees.
Tesla doesn’t have a history of handling lemon law cases well. Back in 2014, Tesla published a blog post on their company site publicly bashing a customer who claimed they had a defective Model S. Many lemon law lawyers have had issues in getting justice for clients with defective Teslas – if you find yourself in this situation, brace yourself for a battle!
While Mercedes is best known for its sleek and sexy sports cars, coupes, and sedans, it is important to remember that they also manufacture larger vehicles, including buses and trucks. In fact, they have had the highest sales of luxury vehicles for the past nine years due to their wide range of offerings.
But, this also means that they have experienced numerous issues with many of their models – and the manufacturer has also been involved in dozens of lemon law cases. Some of the more notable models that have been involved in safety recalls and lemon lawsuits include:
- C-Class and E-Class for front seat instability
- 2018 GLE and GLS SUVs for brake failure
- 2019 CLA for door malfunctions
- Takata for airbag recalls
Since Mercedes is known for being an expensive vehicle – not just to purchase but also to maintain and repair, the manufacturer has had to reimburse customers with some fairly large payouts for lemons.
In 2005, one owner was reimbursed over $480,000 for damages and legal fees after a lengthy lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz for an issue with the E320. This was actually the largest payout for any lemon law case!
Rolls-Royce is often viewed as the peak of luxury. Many would assume that this extremely expensive brand would offer only the highest quality vehicles. While most of their models are certainly top performers, this brand is no stranger to lemon law court cases.
In 2012, Rolls-Royce issued a recall for the 2010-2011 Ghost for an issue with the auxiliary water pump, which was causing vehicles to overheat and increased the risk of a fire.
Unfortunately, the company did not learn from their mistakes and issued the same recall for their 2018 models as well. The company is currently involved in several cases, including one for a faulty 2012 Ghost EW.
Just last year, Lamborghini issued a major recall for 2017-2019 Aventador S Coupes and Aventador S Roadsters after several vehicles experienced issues with the engine management software. Clearly, this company had learned from past cases that it is far better to recall these models, rather than trying to fight it out in the court room.
One of the most well-known lemon law cases involving Lamborghini occurred in 2011, when the company was ordered to reimburse a customer $240,000 for his Gallardo after the owner brought the vehicle in eight times for issues with the brakes.
Another brand you would never expect to see served with legal papers is Ferrari. In 2018, one of their dealerships had to cut a $5.8 million-dollar check after they were convicted of fraud for selling vehicles with undisclosed issues – like suspension problems and leaky fuel pumps.
Lemons are nothing new to Ferrari, unfortunately. Back in 1992, a Ferrari owner was awarded $106,000 in a lemon law case for a 1990 348-TS.
Just because a vehicle comes with a high price-tag does not mean it won’t have major mechanical issues. Even the most well-respected brands have made some major mistakes – and paid for them big-time.
No brand or passenger is safe from a lemon. If you’ve purchased a vehicle that you believe is defective, don’t waste any more time and get in touch with a specialized attorney.