Nearly 30 plaintiffs from 22 states allege FCA US unlawfully failed to disclose that its lifetime powertrain warranties for 2006-2009 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles sold and delivered on or after July 26, 2007 are contingent upon a powertrain “inspection clause."
Under Fiat Chrysler’s lifetime limited powertrain warranty, the automaker promised to repair or replace the powertrain components of 2006-2009 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles for the lifetime of the car’s owner or buyer, the lawsuit begins. The case claims, however, that FCA authorized dealers nationwide have systematically refused to diagnose and perform necessary repairs for each plaintiff, claiming that they failed to first undergo a powertrain inspection within 60 days of each five-year anniversary of its in-service date.
“As a result, Plaintiffs have been forced to incur significant out-of-pocket expenses for parts and labor to fix their vehicles,” the case says.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were not provided with reasonable notice of the existence of the inspection clause in FCA’s warranties at the time they bought or leased their vehicles. In all, the case claims the clause is unconscionable and was “snuck” into the warranty by the automaker.
Fiat Chrysler announced the introduction of its lifetime warranty in 2007 amid slumping sales and frustration from dealers nationwide over a host of issues. As the lawsuit tells it, FCA’s lifetime warranty was “THE selling point” of Chrysler-branded vehicles and was touted heavily in TV, print and online ad campaigns as “the best warranty coverage in the business.” Upon its introduction, the lifetime warranty covered 88 percent of the models in FCA’s fleet, the case says, and came with its own logo, an infinity symbol on four wheels.
The plaintiffs stress that FCA US sold hundreds of thousands of vehicles from 2007 to 2009 on the back of its lifetime warranty. Unfortunately for drivers, none of the defendant’s advertisements disclosed that the lifetime warranty was subject to an inspection requirement and would be void if said inspection did not occur.
“Indeed, ‘peace-of-mind reassurance’ was a hollow promise because an unconscionable provision was snuck into the Lifetime Warranty,” the complaint reads, claiming that Fiat Chrysler has routinely taken to voiding drivers’ warranties years after they acquired their vehicles due to their ignorance of the inspection clause.
The case contends the plaintiffs and proposed class members could not reasonably expect the defendant’s lifetime warranty would be subject to an inspection clause in that it is a one-sided, atypical provision that serves no commercial purpose. At any rate, the lawsuit continues, inspections, unlike scheduled maintenance, “do not affect the quality or fitness of powertrain parts and components.” Further, the question of who discovered a part failure, when such occurred and/or when it was discovered “bears no relevancy to the product’s defect,” according to the suit.
“Therefore, the lack of opportunity to conduct a powertrain inspection poses no additional risk,” the plaintiffs say. “It is clear that the Inspection Clause existed merely as a warranty cancellation ‘poison pill’ to snare unaware consumers years after their purchases."
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