City Council member John Ray (D-At large) has introduced so-called "lemon" legislation that would provide relief to persons who have purchased defective cars and can't get the manufacturer to make adequate repairs.
The bill, similar to laws adopted by 16 other states, would force the manufacturer to replace a defective car or refund the purchase price after four unsuccessful attempts to repair it. Also, the bill would extend the standard car warranty from 12,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first, to 18,000 miles or two years.
"There have been instances when District citizens have been unable to obtain satisfactory repairs of manufacturing defects in their new cars, despite many trips to the dealer's mechanic," Ray, chairman of the council's Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said yesterday.
The bill would apply to automobiles purchased at any of the eight new-car dealerships operating in the District. Ray said his bill takes into account arbitration systems that some manufacturers have created to resolve disputes. He said his bill would require consumers to exhaust their rights under that system before attempting to sue for a new car or a refund.
The Big Three auto makers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, lobbied intensively against a "lemon law" that was approved in June by the New York legislature. A spokesman for General Motors said at the time that the law was unnecessary, since "there are existing procedures and remedies for consumers."
Gerry Murphy, president of the 150-member National Capital Area Automotive Trade Association, said yesterday that the manufacturers are generally "more uptight" about such laws than are car dealers.
"The dealers often find themselves in the middle of these warranty cases, just like the buyers," Murphy said. "Usually, the dealership has done everything it can to straighten out the problem, but can't."
Murphy said that if the City Council is determined to adopt such legislation, "We just want to make sure it's fairly construed."