“Is there anything I can do against the injustice?”

By | August 7th, 2016

After Daniela Martucci’s recent experience with Ford, she will probably never rent or purchase a Ford vehicle again. That’s because Ford apparently did everything in its power to drive her away as a customer.

First she says Ford leased her a bad car. Then it refused to pay for damage to the car that occurred while the car was in Ford’s care. And finally, it refused to cover the cost for the rental car Martucci was forced to use.

One month after Martucci leased a 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum, its transmission broke while Martucci was driving it from Miami to Orlando. The car was still under warranty. Ford’s Roadside Assistance service gave her a tow to the closest dealer, Tropical Ford in Orlando, where Martucci was told by a customer service representative that Tropical Ford would arrange for a rental car from Hertz to replace the Explorer while it was repaired.

The rental replacement car turned out to be a Ford Transit commercial use van — not a vehicle for personal use. And it had an exhaust problem. Martucci had to request a replacement for the rental vehicle — which turned out to be a Kia.

Martucci had to wait 27 days for her Explorer to be repaired. And when the Explorer was finally returned to Martucci, it had a dent in the rear passenger door and right rear wheel. According to written notation by the tow truck driver, Tropical Ford had told him that the dents were caused by the tow truck provided by Ford’s Roadside Assistance when it towed the Explorer to the dealership.

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But Martucci had documentation from Tropical Ford indicating that there was no damage to the car other than the broken transmission — and she had never received any notification from Tropical Ford of any damage caused by the tow truck.

Ford refused to pay for the second rental car because it was not a Ford, and to take any responsibility for the damage caused by the tow truck.

According to Ford’s Warranty Guide for the 2016 Explorer, “You [the owner/lessee] will not be charged for repairs covered by any applicable warranty during the stated coverage periods, unless specifically stated elsewhere in this guide.” It also holds that

You may have some implied warranties. For example, you may have an implied warranty of merchantability (that the car or light truck is reasonably fit for the general purpose for which it was sold) or an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose (that the car or light truck is suitable for your special purposes), if a special purpose was specifically disclosed to Ford itself not merely to the dealer before your purchase, and Ford itself not just the dealer told you the vehicle would be suitable for that purpose.

These implied warranties are limited, to the extent allowed by law, to the time period covered by the written warranties, or to the applicable time period provided by state law, whichever period is shorter.

Thus, Martucci should have had an implied warranty that her Explorer was reasonably fit for general use, including a road trip from Miami to Orlando one month after she acquired the vehicle. Also, the warranty specifically covers repairs to the transmission and roadside assistance, including the cost of towing the vehicle to the nearest Ford dealership.

But the warranty continues with: “Ford does not assume or authorize anyone to assume for it any other obligation or liability in connection with your vehicle or these warranties.”

So Ford made Martucci a number of promises. But because there are different possible interpretations of the language Ford used in its warranty, it isn’t clear whether Ford will honor those promises or disclaim responsibility for any or all of them.

Under Florida’s Lemon Law, “if the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle….If the manufacturer does not provide a refund or a replacement vehicle, consumers may invoke their rights through one or two arbitration programs.”

Since Martucci hasn’t received a new Ford Explorer or a refund, she could submit her dispute with Ford to a state-certified arbitration program in Florida. If the program doesn’t issue a ruling in 40 days or she isn’t satisfied with the program’s ruling, her next step would be to escalate her claim with Ford to the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, which is administered by the Florida Office of the Attorney General.

Martucci contacted our advocacy team to help her get reimbursement from Ford for the damage caused by the tow truck and for the rental car costs — as promised by Tropical Ford’s representative. And after everything she went through with Ford, that seems like the least they can do for her. As she asked us in her request for assistance, “Is there anything I can do against the injustice?”

Should we advocate with Ford for Daniela Martucci?

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Update: After sending a certified letter and email to the CEO of Ford, Mark Fields, Martucci finally got a reply from his office. Ford will be paying for the repairs to Martucci’s Explorer and will send her a reimbursement check for the rental.

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