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By Jordan W. Charness

Peter got a letter from his car manufacturer the other day. It began with the usual platitudes: “As part of our ongoing efforts to increase customer satisfaction…” and continued to introduce the fact that Peter would be getting additional coverage and an extended warranty free of charge.

It had all those neat buzz words like “free,” “customer service,” and “commitment to your satisfaction.” Nonetheless Peter found the letter quite disturbing.

The letter described the fact that on his model of vehicle, portions of the front coil springs may not have received adequate corrosion protection during the manufacturing process. It went on to say that inadequate corrosion protection might eventually lead to a fracture of the spring. A spring fracture could result in suspension noise and even a sagging of the vehicle.

The letter was very reassuring in that it alleged that only a small percentage of the affected vehicles were expected to experience this problem. In order to maintain customer satisfaction the car company was offering a free extended warranty on that part for a total of 10 years or 240,000 km from the original warranty start date, whichever occurred first.

Since manufacturers and retailers are legally responsible to provide a product that is fit for the purpose for which it was intended, the car company should provide a car with springs that have been adequately corrosion protected. If not it would have to replace that part free of charge. This is essentially what the company was offering to do by extending the warranty for such a long period of time. If that part should rust through, it would be replaced free of charge even though the original guarantee had long expired.

Peter was still upset. As it turned out, he had had the exact same problem in his previous car, which was of the same, make and model as the one being covered by this letter.

A few years ago the right front end of his car collapsed, piercing a tire. There was no advance warning and Peter felt lucky that it had happened while the car was in his garage rather than while he was travelling down the highway at 100 km/h.

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