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Peeling Paint on my Buick LeSabre

Posted Fri March 9, 2001, by Louise P. written to General Motors Corporation

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I hope you can help me. I have a complaint I'd like to register with you about the quality of a car made by General Motors Corporation. For your reference, the model of the vehicle is LeSabre. The VIN (vehicle identification number) is Ref Nbr C-01435633. This matter has left me extremely angry. I am also reponding to Ms. Mendoza who wrote me the original refusal letter and Mr. Howard Ain, the trouble shooter for WKRC News in Cincinnati who recently highlighted this same kind of issue on the evening news.

3/9/01

Attention:

Wendy Mendoza
Customer Relationship Manager
GM Internet Response Center

Dear Ms. Mendoza,

Some time ago I received an e-mail letter from you in response to my e-mail letter to General Motors regarding peeling paint. I didn't respond to your correspondance as I was very unhappy with the response you gave me.

After looking into this further, there are some facts you need to know that should stimulate you to get my 1995 Buick LeSabre (not Regal) painted by General Motors. A couple of these items do not directly affect the issue with the paint but rather the dealership.

Comment One: You said that you called Conley Buick and thanked them for their outstanding gesture to assist me. I think you were reading from a couple of different letters while you answered mine. Conley did not make any kind of outstanding gesture. Had you read my letter, you would have understood that Conley insulted me as a customer by assuming that I was not knowledgeable about this issue. You too are insulting me when you assume that I am not aware of the issues surrounding the problem with General Motors paint peeling.


Comment Two: The Bumper to Bumper coverage on your 1995 Regal is for 36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Our records show that this warranty has expired as of 7/27/1998 and over 89,000 miles ago.

Your comment is incorrect in that my car is a 1995 Buick LeSabre. The warranty time is probably correct. However, see passages below which describe the factory defect with a 6 year repaint clause.

Before I lose you in all the verbiage in this letter, I would like to explain what I would like from General Motors or from Schott Buick where I bought my car (or any other reputable Buick dealership in the Cincinnati area).

I would like to have my car repainted with full reparation from General Motors or the dealership. I expect that since this is a widely known problem in the industry and has been known since the late 1980's but not shared with owners, that I can expect that the damage began within the warranty period and even given that, the warranty was expanded to six years to cover situations such as this.

The damage, of course, did not show up until after the 3 year coverage but the forces were at work during this time.

I would also like to suggest that it would be prudent for General Motors to allow this, just to keep others from seeing the damage on my car and to keep them from asking about it. Word of mouth is a terrible tool in its' potential damage but a wonderful tool when the right thing is done.

I would appreciate a call or letter within a week with approval to get this taken care of.

Sincerely, Louise Peterson


PS: Shown below is a small selection of some of the material that I have researched on peeling paint and GM responsibilities.



General Motors paint

All models; all years. Problem: Faulty paint jobs that cause paint
to turn white and peel off of horizontal spanels. GM internal dealer
memo shows problem is a factory defect. Warranty coverage: GM will
repaint the vehicle for free up to 6 years with no mileage limitation.
Thereafter, the automaker plays out a "Let's make a Deal" scenario
and usually offers 50 percent refunds.

Confidential U.S. dealer service bulletins and memos confirm the
6-year/unlimited mileage benchmark that GM uses to accept or reject secret warranty paint claims (see p. 0). Delamination is a common condition. There were no warnings given to customers of such a problem. This bulletin is being issued to assure that the correct procedure is followed to repair a condition known as DELAMINATION.

Under certain conditions, ultraviolet light can penetrate the colourcoat, sometimes causing a reaction and separation of portions of the colourcoat from the ELPO (electrocoat) primer


Exhibit 2 is a memo to all Pontiac dealers dated October 16, 1992, from Perry White, Director of Service/Customer Satisfaction with Pontiac Division of General Motors (U.S.). This letter states in part as:

Following a recent review, Pontiac has decided to provide dealers' authorization for cases involving paint repairs for vehicles up
to six years from the date of delivery, without regard to mileage.


In cross examination, Mr. Greenwood stated that delamination is a common condition. He also acknowledged that there were no warnings given to customers of such a problem.

This bulletin is being issued to assure that the correct procedure is followed to repair a condition known as DELAMINATION.

Re: Warranties:

The questions to be decided therefore are as follows:

1. Did the vehicle have a "defect"?

2. If so, did the defect occur during the warranty period?

In my view, the vehicle did have a defect. While I acknowledge and accept Mr. Greenwood's evidence that the increase in ultraviolet rays has caused delamination, it is my view that the presence of ultraviolet light is an environmental condition to which the vehicle is subject. If it cannot withstand this environmental condition, it is defective, in my view. This is no different from a situation where a vehicle does not start in weather below 0 Celsius. Since motor vehicles are operated in such conditions on a regular basis, the failure of the vehicle to adequately operate in such temperatures is a defect, in my view.

To be precise, the defect is the failure to ensure proper bonding between the colourcoat and primer. In reviewing the Product Service Bulletin and hearing the evidence of Mr. Greenwood, it is clear to me that the lack of a primer surfacer was a defect as defined by the warranty.

3. Did this defect occur during the warranty period?

The answer to this question is yes. General Motors contended that the problem was caused by ultraviolet light. A logical inference is that they contend that the problem did not arise until sufficient exposure to ultraviolet light, the result being that the warranty period would have expired. I do not accept this contention.

The defect, which I have found, that is the lack of primer surfacer, occurred at the time that the vehicle was manufactured. At that point, however, the defect was latent. The defect became patent when the paint began to bubble, flake and then peel off of the vehicle. Having decided that the warranty responds to this loss, I grant judgment in favor of the Plaintiff in the amount of $1,205.72 plus costs.

Blues, Grays, Silvers, and Black Metallics are the colors that have the highest potential for this condition...may have delamination (peeling) of the paint colourcoat from the ELPO primer depending upon variable factors including prolonged exposure to sunlight and humidity. This condition may occur on vehicles produced in plants where the paint process does not call for application of a primer surfacer. Under certain conditions, ultraviolet light can penetrate the colourcoat, sometimes causing a reaction and separation of portions of the colourcoat from the ELPO (electrocoat primer). Other product service bulletins from the U.S. branch of the defendant indicate the paint delamination problem was not unique to cars in Canada. In the U.S., the Center for Auto Safety negotiated an agreement with GM to implement a post-warranty adjustment program for paint problems described as follows in letter dated February 5, 1993: broad dealer discretion:

- Six years coverage from date of delivery

- Unlimited mileage

- Deductibles may be waived

- Not just delamination



The nature of the delamination problem is such that once detected in a particular vehicle, spot repainting is not a viable remedy but rather the removal of the topcoat and primer surfaces is required. The purchase of this car by the claimants is a sale by description within the meaning of s. 17 of the Sale of Goods Act. Pursuant to s. 18 (b) of the Act there is an "...implied condition that the goods are of merchantable quality..." and further by virtue of s. 18 (c) an "...implied condition that goods will be durable for a reasonable period of time." I find that having regard to the type of car purchased by the claimants, the condition in which they have maintained it, the extent of the paint problem it suffers from and the reason for the problem that the claimants have established a breach of the section 18 (b) and (c) warranties. I consider the reasoning of O'Donnell J, in Thauberger v. Simon Fraser Sales Ltd. et al (1977) 3 B.C.L.R. 193 with respect to what was then s. 20 (b) of the Act to be directly on point in this case. I acknowledge that the paint surface in Thauberger failed after 21 months and not six years as here, however, I consider that the buyer of a new car in 1988 may reasonably expect its paint surface not to delaminate under normal use within 6 years. I find that the settlement GM (U.S.) negotiated with the Center for Auto Safety supports that position although not determinative of it. The claimants are entitled to judgment against the defendant in the sum of $1,229.70. They are entitled to Court Order interest on this amount from September 1, 1995, to the date of judgment to account for any increase in the present cost of a paint job from the date of the 1995 quote. The claimants will also have their costs in this matter for filing and service fees.

The above information shows that there are issues and that my issue should be re-considered.


As a result of this, I don't know whether I will ever buy a car from you in the future, and I don't know whether I can recommend your cars to people I know now.

Given that I am an excellent and loyal customer of General Motors, I would like to see you give my complaint the full attention it deserves. I'd estimate that the average amount I've spent on your cars to be $20000.00. My primary motive for buying a car from your company is because I have always owned General Motors cars and have appreciated the quality. Now that quality is an issue it would be an issue that I would have to re-consider.

How can you address this problem? I would like to have my car repainted with full reparation from General Motors. I expect that since this is a widely known problem in the industry and has been known since the late 1980's but not shared with owners, that I can expect that the damage began within the warranty period and even given that, the warranty was expanded to six years to cover situations such as this.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


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