Critique on Modern Car Companies + request for community outreach. HELP!


Many of us come to this forum (and site) because we are motivated and passionate about vehicles/technology. Some are engineers, some are just gear heads. Some crave v8 power, some can't wait to go electric. No matter the fringe, we are connected by an overarching passion.

But what happens when that passion goes awry? When the product you herald so much lets you down?

If you don't like your new iPhone, you can return it before two weeks. If you new iPhone breaks after 5 months, you can pay a small fee (or nothing) and swap it out for a new one. But what about your car, which can cost hundreds of times more than a phone? What happens when your three month old car breaks down?

Do we as the consumer have the right to an experience with our cars similar to our phones? And whilst that may be an extreme, is it too much to expect a car maker to have greater focus on customer service and care for your investment?

I began to contemplate this and more, especially after Ziegler's piece About how automakers need to figure out how to continually update our cars - but thats mainly software. What about hardware?

Cars continue to get more expensive, but this is partly rationalized by the idea that they are also getting: safer, faster, more "connected", and more reliable. But if one buys a new car today, how long can we reasonably expect that car to last us? 10 years? 5? Less? More? What if your car proves a lemon, or simply unreliable and problematic. Are you owed something by the company that made the car? Should you be?

My example and request for outreach

My car is a 2013 BMW 328i. For the longest time, it has been my dream to get this car - I worked part time all throughout college so that I could afford this car when I went to graduate school. Picking up the car was one of the happiest days of my life, now I look at it and feel like I wasted so much money.

Three months after picking up the car, the rear tail light fell out. I panicked and took it to the dealer, only to discover this was a known issue with the model. The dealer "fixed it" over the course of a few days, and I went on my way. A few weeks later the tail light fell out.... again. This time another dealer fixed it, and for a few months it stayed put. However every so often I go out to find the tail light a little loose, I have to push it back into place and listen for the clips to click back into place.

Since then I had issues ranging from being unable to update my navigation system (took 5 days and an consultation with the BMW engineering team to fix this) to my seat heaters not heating evenly, to weatherproofing warping, etc. Even pieces of plastic within the car's dashboard broke and began to rattle inside the car, requiring another 3 day trip to the dealer.

More recently - more seriously issues have occurred. I spent Summer 2015, in Southern California, with no AC while driving on the freeway. Literally, once the car would go above 65 MPH, the AC would cut out. In 95 degree average heat. A family road trip was ruined because my GF began to show signs of heatstroke and so we had to pull over to make sure she was ok. It took 3 months and multiple trips to the dealer for them to finally find the issue, they replaced the part and claimed it was fixed.

However, 6 months later, the AC is broken again and the dealer cannot figure out what is causing it.

Furthermore, since that time, the car has presented issues with the check engine light coming and going. Most recently (few weeks ago) at a red light the car began shaking violently and then displayed a message that the car was not safe to drive. The car spent 3 days at the dealer whilst they investigated the entire engine bay to find the issue. They couldn't find anything, cleared the codes, and sent back the car. The check engine light still comes and goes.

Finally is the issue that for the last two months I have not been able to lock the drivers door properly, and have gotten trapped in the car a few times. I would park the car and be unable to open the drivers door, and could only get out of the car by using the key fob to remotely unlock all doors. At the same time, close the drivers door and it would hit something internally, making a terrible noise, and swing back open. Or it would close but then a few seconds later open again. Meaning the only way to make sure the door is closed is to hold it closed and lock the entire car with the key fob.

The car was with the dealer for a few days whilst the entire lock mechanism was replace, and now the door opens, but it will not close completely without a lot of force.

Does BMW owe me something?

As a law student, my education tells me they might, as consumer protection laws are incredibly strong in the United States. Two consultations with lemon law attorneys confirms that I have a right to pursue something against BMW.

But BMW literally says they owe me nothing. That my tail light is a known and "insignificant" issue. That my car still drives so the engine is fine. That unless they can diagnose my AC, they can't consider the issue.

In fact, it seems like BMW does not even listen to me. I initially asked them to consider ending my lease early as I no longer trusted the car. BMW's reply was that my issues were not severe enough for them to buy the car back from me (even though the car is leased and they obviously know this). BMW claims to be considering "financial assistance" for this, but it has been over 20 days since this was mentioned. Their "resolution specialist" does not even pick up the phone, she only emails me every few days to say my claim is being review by a team, and that I still need to make my payments.

Before the issue is raised: BMW knows my issues are real because they have all been recognized by a BMW dealership, have been provided the entire repair history of the car, as well as statements from myself, my gf, and some other family members (my mom was trapped in the car for 20 minutes before the valet at work realized she couldn't get out of the car).

In light of this - my critique is that Car Companies are not prepared for the future that technology companies are forcing upon them. Whilst my problems may be unique, longevity is an issue for any car owner, and increasingly it is an issue for the car makers - who benefit most from the shortest possible buy cycle.

My request for help and what you can do to help:

My dream of owning this car has been ruined, and the future seems challenging for both consumers and manufacturers.

Finally if you have found this interesting, outrageous, infuriating, etc. I implore you to please use the power of social media to help my claim.

My twitter feed has been my strongest tool in my spar with BMW, and social media complaints were the only thing that got them to even answer the phone. A favorite, a retweet, or even a tweet - goes a long way to bringing issues (which could affect anyone) to light. Awareness is the first step towards progress, and I thank everyone in advance for any help they might provide.

Thank you for reading, I hope to speak with you in the comments below!