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Tesla Questions Motives Of Lemon Law King

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:00am
Todd Richmond, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Tesla Motors officials questioned Wisconsin's self-proclaimed lemon law king's motivations in suing over a Milwaukee-area doctor's electric car, saying the company did all it could to fix the car and suggesting someone may have tampered with it.

The Tesla blog post also notes that attorney Vince Megna filed a similar lemon claim against another carmaker on behalf of the same doctor last year.

"We never want someone to be unhappy in their ownership of a Model S," Tesla's blog said. "In this case, however, there are good reasons to be skeptical of the lawyer's motivations."

In a statement Wednesday, Megna said Tesla is legally required to fix defects.

"My client filed a lawsuit against Tesla. It remains obligated under the terms of the warranty to continue to repair defects with the Model S, not because of customer service, not because Tesla wants a happy customer, but because Tesla is required to by law," Magna said.

He filed a lawsuit Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court alleging Robert Montgomery of Franklin had a 2013 SP Sedan delivered in March 2013. The car cost $94,777, plus $4,738 in Wisconsin sales tax. The car, which was under warranty, was in the shop for more than 30 days to repair various problems, including failure to start, power up and charge at Montgomery's home, as well as inoperable door handles, fuse problems, malfunctioning defrost and paint defects, the lawsuit said.

Wisconsin's lemon law requires manufacturers to repair a warranty-covered defect after four tries in a year or provide a timely refund or replacement. The lawsuit claims Montgomery asked Tesla to refund his money in November but the company has done nothing. The version of the law that was in effect when Montgomery purchased the car would make him eligible for double damages.

Megna, who is fond of posting videos online lampooning Republican Gov. Scott Walker, posted a video on YouTube of himself inviting a cardboard cut-out of actor George Clooney to accompany him to the courthouse to file the lawsuit. Clooney was one of the first 100 people to purchase a Tesla in 2006; last year he complained his Tesla Roadster always left him stuck along the side of the road.

Officials with Palo Alto, Calif., based-Tesla wrote in the blog that the lawsuit surprised them. Tesla mechanics did everything reasonably possible to help Montgomery and were still working with him right up to the point Megna filed the lawsuit, the blog said.

Many of the car's problems have "elusive origins," the blog said. For example, mechanics weren't able to replicate the problem with the door handles but replaced them anyway.

Mechanics also weren't able to find any reason why the car's fuse blew three times but still replaced parts they thought could be related to the problem. The fuse kept blowing despite the new parts, leading engineers to think someone was tampering with the fuse. An investigation revealed the front trunk had been opened immediately before the fuse blew on those three occasions. Mechanics applied a non-tamper tape to the fuse switch and the problem stopped.

The blog noted Megna filed a lemon lawsuit against Volvo on Montgomery's behalf in Waukesha County in 2013. Online court records show the case was settled in August but don't offer any details.

Megna said that case involved a sport utility vehicle and was settled in only months, with Montgomery receiving a refund. Media relations officials with Volvo Group North America didn't immediately return messages Wednesday afternoon.

"We are continuing our efforts to work with the customer and are happy to address any legitimate concerns he has about his Model S," the Tesla blog said. "However, we would also like the public to be aware of the potential for lemon laws to be exploited by opportunist lawyers."

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