Acid Rain and its Effects on Vehicle Paint Finish

A Report by the New York State Consumer Protection Board
July 1994

(FAQ AUTHOR'S NOTE:

The following is a report sent to me by the Consumer Protection Board of New York. I have retyped most of it for your reading enjoyment. I left out the footnotes citing articles and legal cases, and I left out the appendix which is a list of cars made by each manufacturer, and each companies response to the survey sent to them from the CPB of NYS. Any typos or misspellings are my fault. I typed this fast. Sorry! I hope it helps somebody out there!)

BEGIN REPORT:

Executive Summary

For most consumers, purchasing a new or used automobile is among the most significant decisions they will make in their lifetime. While numerous features and characteristics are taken into account prior to purchasing a car, such as price, appearance, warranty and performance, the paint finish and other factors impacting on the image of the vehicle are often highly significant to their purchase selection, and the satisfaction that they will derive from ownership. Additionally, the condition of the paint finish can adversely impact the resale value of the car.

In 1992, the New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) began to receive complaints from consumers regarding paint defects on newly purchased automobiles, alleged by the industry to be caused by acid rain. Due to the issues raised and the apparent exclusion of warranty coverage for such damage, the agency conducted an investigation, including a survey of auto manufacturers, to document the problem.

Highlights of the investigation follow:

- Of the 19 manufacturers responding to the survey, the majority (14) maintained that paint damage can, or has, resulted from the effects of environmental fallout including acid rain.

- Fourteen companies acknowledged receiving paint finish complaints during the survey period. Of these 14, 7 cited acid rain or environmental fallout as the cause of damage.

- Industry claims that staff can sufficiently document acid rain damage based on a visual examination. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal organization responsible for overseeing the Acid Rain Program nationwide, reported that the cause of paint damage is most effectively determined via a detailed chemical analysis rather than by visual inspection.

- The EPA advised that while there exists evidence to support the claim that acid rain can contribute to paint finish damage, the auto industry appears to be technologically equipped to resolve these issues at this time.

- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) states that auto manufacturers and dealers should not be allowed to use acid rain or other similar claims as an excuse where a vehicle's paint finish is inadequate to meet normal environmental conditions.

While there is little hard evidence as to acid rain's real impact on vehicle paint, the results of this study indicate that acid rain damage only occurs on vehicles which are exposed to rain prior to the time the paint is fully hardened or where an inferior quality of paint is used.

In light of these findings and the fact that acid rain is not a new phenomenon, it is unreasonable for manufacturers to place a product on the market that will become defective under normal use in Northeast states. Therefore, the CPB will propose legislation to require auto manufacturers to provide warranty coverage for damage to the exterior finish of a new motor vehicle purportedly due to acid rain, and to clarify that such damage is a basis for action under the New Car Lemon Law.

Additionally, the Consumer Protection Board recommends that the Federal Trade Commission investigate whether it is an unfair or deceptive practice in violation of the Federal Trade Commission to knowingly sell motor vehicles which have a substantial likelihood of exhibiting finish defects during the warranty period. Finally, the CPB will continue to monitor this issue to ensure that the industry resolves this problem and provides the appropriate remedies to consumers who own vehicles with defective paint finishes.

Introduction

For the overwhelming majority of consumers, purchasing a new or used automobile is one of the most significant financial decisions they will make in their lifetime. After a house, a car or truck is the most expensive item brought by a substantial number of consumers. Often, this decision will follow careful consideration by prospective car owners who have taken certain vehicle characteristics into account and comparison shopped with these variables in mind. Such variables include, but are not limited to price, mileage per gallon, performance, warranty coverage, appearance, construction and vehicle features.

For many consumers, vehicle appearance is equally important as MPG, performance and other factors in a consumer's decision as to whether to select an automobile. In particular, the color of the paint or the "image" of the car is extremely important and is worth the extra cost for a significant number of car purchasers.

In NY State, between January 1, 1993 to March 31, 1994 more than eight million 1993 and 1994 model automobiles and trucks were registered in the state. As consumers often spend in excess of $15,000 for a new car, the paint finish is an important component in the satisfaction that will be derived during the course of ownership. Additionally, the condition of the paint finish can adversely impact the resale value of the car.

In 1992, the NYS CPB began to receive complaints from consumers regarding paint defects on newly purchased automobiles, alleged by the industry to be cause by acid rain.

According to certain automobile manufacturers, acid rain, the popular term for acid deposition, is caused when emissions of sulfate and nitrate gases, primarily from coal- burning power plants or motor vehicles, are chemically transformed by sunlight and water vapor, transported in the atmosphere, and deposited on the earth in the form of wet or dry deposition. These acid compounds form sulfuric and nitric acids which combine with moisture to create acid rain, snow, fog or dew. The compounds also combine with dust fall as dry deposition. The vehicle's finish can be damaged by concentrated acid either from acid rain falling and the water evaporating, or from dry acid deposition falling on the car and then combining with dew or rain.

Auto manufacturers further report that acid rain damage results in blemishes on vehicles which look very similar to hard water spotting. They advise that acid rain damage may cause ringlet shaped spots to develop or make slight depressions or form caters on the paint finish.

While the CPB has successfully mediated a few acid rain complaints on a case-by-case basis, due to the nature of the issues raised and the apparent absence of warranty coverage for such damage, the agency determined it would be prudent to conduct a survey of auto manufacturers to more thoroughly investigate the problem.

Beginning in September, 1993, the CPB disseminated surveys to the major automobile manufacturers to inquire whether they have received complaints regarding paint damage and to determine if any were attributable to acid rain. Additionally, the survey requested documentation for acid rain claims made by manufacturers and resolution specifics for consumer complaints.

Of the 22 companies contacted by the CPB, 3 manufacturers, Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Volvo failed to respond to the request for information. Companies contacted included:

The results of this report reflect responses of the 19 companies that participated in the survey.

Survey Results

1. Paint Finish Complaints, Experience, Claims and Warranties

Manufacturers were asked to provide the number of consumer complaints received regarding the paint finish on new vehicles for the period January 1992 to September 1993. Further, companies were asked whether particular models were the subject of complaints more than others, and if any of the reports were, in their opinion, the result of acid rain's effect on paint finish. Documentation for acid rain claims were requested, as well as complaint resolution specifics and warranty information.

a. General Paint Finish Complaints

Of the 19 auto manufacturers responding to the survey, the majority, 14 or (74%) , reported receiving complaints regarding paint finish. (Audi, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Isuzu, Jaguar, Lotus, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Rolls Royce, Saab, Toyota, Volkswagen). Three companies did not provide this information (GM, Honda and Subaru) and two manufacturers advised that no such problems were lodged during the survey period (Porsche and Suzuki). While companies were asked to provide specific complaint data, there was a lack of uniformity in the information provided, with several companies failing to submit these figures altogether. Therefore, the responses were determined to be inconclusive.

However, nearly 3000 paint finish related complaints were reported by the companies to the CPB, and several hundred were specifically attributed to "acid rain". Moreover, newspaper and trade magazines accounts document that the problem is far more widespread that reported by these manufacturers, affecting tens of thousands of vehicles.

Based on the information and responses submitted, it appears that complaints regarding paint finish on new vehicles have been received by all of the manufacturers, including companies that did not furnish information. (Reasons for not providing complaint data include: the information is proprietary and confidential (BMW); not categorized in a manner easy to obtain (GM); and not relevant because problems no longer exist (Honda).)

b. Product Line Experience

Eleven (79%) of the 14 manufacturers who reported that they have received paint finish complaints provided information as to whether one particular model was the subject of paint finish complaints more often than other models (Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Isuzu, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Toyota and Volkswagen). Four companies, Ford, Isuzu, Jaguar and Toyota, indicated that while one or more models may have received a larger number of complaints than others, this not necessarily attributable to or indicative of a product line problem.

Audi, Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce and Volkswagen reported that there was no evidence indicating that one model was subject to more complaints than others. Hyundai, Mazda and Saab stated that paint complaints were equally spread across their model lines.

c. Acid Rain Complaints

The majority of manufacturers, 74% (14 out of 19) asserted that paint damage can, or has resulted from the effects of environmental fallout including acid rain. Despite efforts by the CPB to obtain substantiation for claims made by manufacturers, documentation of the relationship between acid rain and vehicle paint finish was only provided by one company, General Motors. However, the overwhelming majority of the documents cited or provided were published prior to 1987. Further, while Mazda provided technical information, the material was produced by the company itself. Additionally, although Audi, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Saab and Volkswagen claimed their staff are company trained and qualified to inspect vehicles to determine acid rain damage, no specifics on these qualifications were provided.

Consumer complaint data regarding paint damage caused by acid rain was also not uniformly provided. Seven companies, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Isuzu, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Saab advised that they have received paint finish complaints resulting from acid rain environmental fallout.

Of the remaining companies that did not respond as to whether paint finish complaints resulting from acid rain had actually been received, seven manufacturers, Audi, Honda, GM, Mazda, Porsche, Rolls Royce, and Volkswagen advised that acid rain can damage paint finish. BMW and Nissan asserted that the information was proprietary and confidential, Subaru maintained that it could not furnish the data because it would require a manual search of the files, and Toyota failed to respond to this specific question. Mazda did not provide specifics despite their existing complaint category of "acid rain/industrial fallout".

Honda, instead of indicating how many complaints it had received, explained its vehicles are currently protected from such environmental damage. Honda maintains that company complaint data would prove meaningless because it is shielding all horizontal vehicle surfaces and vertical surfaces of the trunk with a plastic covering protecting the paint from environmental damage, no such reports have been received. Honda further advised that previous complaints, reported by dealers, were rectified or addressed with full disclosure to consumers prior to purchase.

Additionally, one manufacturer reported that it could not provide the information requested as the company is currently in a discovery battle specifically involving paint finish and acid rain and disclosure of any information could be detrimental.

d. Acid Rain Paint Damage Claims and Manufacturer Warranties

According to warranty booklets provided by the 19 manufacturers, 16 (84%) companies exclude warranty' coverage for paint damage resulting from the effects of acid rain on new vehicles. The polices of three companies, Honda, Jaguar and Saab could not be determined based on the warranty booklets provided.

However, two of the 19 manufacturers, Ford and GM, actually provide paint damage coverage pursuant to "company policy" rather than under their warranty. Ford's warranty booklet states that "airborne material (environmental fallout) " is covered as company policy for the first 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, but is not covered under the warranty. Further, Ford's warranty states that "surface rust and deterioration of paint, trim and appearance items that result from use and/or exposure to the elements" are not covered.

Similarly, GM's warranty explains that the company "will repair, at no charge to the owner, the painted surfaces of new vehicles damaged by this fallout condition within 12 months or 12,000 miles whichever comes first..." While the company elaborates that environmental paint damage is not a warranty repair because it is not caused by a defect, it is repaired at GM's expense and the reimbursement process for the dealer works essentially the same as warranty repairs.

Contrary to the language appearing in warranty booklets, five manufacturers, Honda, Isuzu, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Saab advised the CPB that they will repair paint damage resulting from acid rain on a case-by-case basis as a gesture of goodwill. While these manufacturers all claim they offer such coverage as a function of "company policy", it is not necessarily provided to every consumer as each case is individually reviewed and assessed. Moreover, only Mercedes Benz and Saab advised that every acid rain paint related complaint has been satisfactorily resolved.

Audi and Volkswagen maintained that all of their consumer complaints received, involving various matters are handled on a case by case basis.

While nine additional companies specifically exclude damage resulting from environmental conditions in their warranty booklets, they did not indicate whether they make any provisions for consumers who experience and report such problems (BMW, Hyundai, Lotus, Mazda, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota). [Lotus, Rolls Royce and Suzuki reported receiving zero paint finish or acid rain related complaints during the survey period.]

Finally, although Jaguar's warranty does not make any reference to environmental fallout or acid rain, it does state that the company may assume costs for any repair, at any time, independent of the new vehicle limited warranty.

The survey also revealed that the language used to refer to acid rain or environmental damage varies from company to company. For example, seven manufacturers actually use the words "acid rain", among others, in their warranty booklets (Audi, Hyundai, Mazda, Porsche, Suzuki, Toyota and Volkswagen). However, nine companies use exclusively one or more of the following terms in their warranty booklets: "airborne fallout", "chemical fallout", "environmental fallout", "industrial fallout", "environmental influences", or "exposure to elements" (BMW, Ford, GM, Isuzu, Lotus, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Rolls Royce and Subaru). Of the remaining 3 companies, Honda references "paint matching in its warranty booklet, Jaguar makes no mention of paint damage, Saabs literature simply states that the warranty excludes paint damage not caused by a manufacturing defect.

In addition, of the 5 manufacturers (Audi, GM, Isuzu, Toyota and Volkswagen) who provided owners manuals to the CPB, all of the booklets advise consumers to wash their vehicles frequently to protect their car's paint finish against environmental influences.

Regulatory Agencies

Due to the potential environmental impact of certain chemicals in the atmosphere and the intention of reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at manufacturing plats, in 1980 the US EPA imposed strict new limits on the amount of VOC. that paint operations may emit into the air.

While the auto industry has been responding to these regulations, some experts claim that many of the newly produced paints do not appear to provided the same level of protection against the environment as did the products used prior to the changes in the regulations. Specifically, these experts claim that waterborne high solid paints seem to be more adversely affected by the environment than their solvent-borne low solid counterparts. For this reason, many auto companies have been working closely with paint manufacturers to identify solutions.

The EPA advised the CPB of the following:

Literature Research

A literature search of articles, reports and laboratory studies was conducted and reviewed by the CPB. It appears from this research and the information submitted by auto manufacturers that, while there have been many studies performed documenting the presence of acid rain in various parts of the country and the specific chemicals contained therein, there are far fewer studies documenting the effects of acid rain on vehicle paint finish. Moreover, several of the paint finish related studies have been generally conducted in strictly controlled settings and states other than the Northeast.

One of the more recognized studies on the topic of acid rain's impact on vehicle finish, performed by GM Research Laboratories, consisted of a mobile atmosphere research laboratory in Jacksonville, Florida during the summer of 1988. The purpose of this study was to determine the cause of environmentally related damage on automotive paint finish in particular areas of the United States. This study concluded that a wetting event' (rain or dew) is a prerequisite for paint damage to occur and that sulfuric acid contained in the rain or dew was specifically the cause of the damage. Damage produced from multiple-day, multiple- even exposures was generally greater than that produced after single day, single-event exposures. Further, the study determined that damage was most prevalent during the summer months in warmer and more humid areas; occurred on all commercial paint applications and colors but particularly the darker colors; and that washing the affected areas within 24 hours reduced the degree of the damage.

In its 1992 Report To Congress, the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP), reported that paints formulated with alkyd resins represent the most widely used coating for metal bases, particularly carbon steel. According to NAPAP, this class of coating undergoes accelerated degradation in the presence of sulfur dioxide and condensation.

Coatings and their ability to sustain environmental conditions was the focus of another study, conducted by BASF Lacke and Farben AG of the Federal Republic of Germany and BASF Coatings and Colorants in Southfield, Michingan in 1991. This study revealed that while acid rain, water spotting or chemical degradation, alone or in combination with changes in temperature and relative humidity, may be reasons for some paint finish defects, there are other important contributors including variations in clearcoat technologies and their chemical resistance to acid rain. Such variations include resin formation, different monomers (i.e., a small molecule that is used to form larger molecules in coatings), differences in the molecular weight distribution and crosslinking agents like melamine (i.e., a white crystalline organic base with a high melting point) and olyisocynate. According to the study, based on the new formulations tested in the lab and in the field on panels and cars, two component polyisocyannate clearcoats showed superior resistance to these conditions.

In recent years, several auto manufacturers have pursued the conversion to low-solvent high-solid paint formulations, such as polyurethane coatings. In an article appearing in the August 19, 1991 issue of Modern Paints and Coatings, the author contends that polyurethane coatings resist weathering chemicals and stains and cure to a hard, durable surface at low temperature. High gloss and distinction of image are other claimed properties of polyurethane coatings. "The reduced solvent emissions of these high-solids polyurethane coatings not only help protect the environment, but also yield considerable savings in air treatment and waste purification costs."

It is important to note that this report reflects only auto manufacturer paint finish developments discovered through published accounts in trade magazines and newspapers, as survey respondents did not provide such information. For example, the reports indicate that Chrysler, Ford, GM and others have been working with suppliers and paint manufacturers to develop protecting coatings for their vehicles that will sustain the effects of the environment.

Although Chrysler failed to respond to the CPB's survey and did not furnish the requested information, newspaper and trade magazine accounts document that the company has in fact experienced acid rain related damage to paint finish. Specifically, in February 1991, Chrysler introduced the use of a clear protective coating in certain locations to go on top of paint in an effort to protect vehicles against acid rain.

Similarly, in the May 3, 1993 issue of Automotive News, it reported that a high-solid, single component clearcoat called Generation IV, purported to be 30% to 40% more resistant to acid rain than conventional acrylic melamine clearcoats, was being supplied to GM by DuPont. However, it required that it be used in combination with specially formulated DuPont colored basecoats.

Moreover, a second article within the same issue of Automotive News, highlighted a bulletin released by GM to Chevrolet dealers cautioning against using aggressive car wash equipment and to avoid polishing the exterior of new Corvettes built since April 1993 because of a new two- component clearcoat. It was asserted that the new clearcoat was more resistant to environmental damage, had a higher gloss, and may take up to 30 days to fully harden.

Additionally, in 1993, Toyota announced its plan to switch to an exterior body paint resistant to acid rain. While Toyota has apparently been using this paint on one of its luxury models since 1992 and began extending its use to other luxury models in 1992, it will be applied to the entire product line by 1996.

It also became evident from conducting the literature search that auto manufacturers have been fully aware of paint finish complaints and have a clear sense of the number of cases attributed to acid rain damage. In fact, it appears that Chrysler, Ford GM, Honda, Nissan and Toyota have all taken some type of action to address this problem.

In addition, in 1992, Nissan sold more than 20,000 new cars and trucks as used' because they were damaged by acid rain. These vehicles were sold at a discounted price without paint warranties. Along these same lines, in 1991, Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A. Inc. in Georgetown, Kentucky has hundreds of new Camrys" affected by acidic weather conditions, and just four years prior, Ford had to repaint approximately 2,000 escorts due to such problems.

Additionally, in 1991, Acura extended the paint warranty on certain Acura NSX sports cars due to acid rain damage. Acura extended the paint warranty on these cars from three years or 36,000 miles to five years or 50,000 miles (whichever comes first). Also Honda reported that all 1994 model Honda and Acura vehicles are being shipped with a white plastic wrap on the horizontal surfaces and vertical surfaces of the trunk to protect that vehicle from environmental damage. The company contends that the "Paint Guard Wrap" is easier to remove and does not require the use of strong solvents which are otherwise needed to remove other protectants (e.g. waxes). Honda initially began using this wrap in 1992 on selective models.

Ford Motor Company has also been using a similar protective wrap and GM has been testing its use on Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds. Moreover, in 1992, GM Chevrolet began shipping Corvettes wrapped in giant plastic bags.

There are also reports that in 1990, paint problems caused by acid rain cost Ford approximately $60 million a year in dealer damage and consumer warranty claims. To address this problem, Ford began to spray the hood, trunks and roofs of most of its vehicles with a special waterborne, water soluble solution before they leave the factories. Ford advised dealers to leave the solution on until they sell the cars or up to six months, and provided the cleaning product and compensated dealers for the time it takes to remove the substance.

While Ford did apparently release the financial impact figures of acid rain related claims to Automotive News, according to a November 9, 1991 New York Times article, Chrysler, Ford, Honda and GM declined to release data concerning recent warranty claims for pollution-related paint damage, despite their assertions that acid rain poses paint problems to their cars. Moreover, this information was deleted from an internal company document provided by GM to the CPB on the grounds that it is "highly proprietary".

The New York Times article reported that some car dealers are adding or offering as an option, sealants that are supposed to protect car finishes against acid rain and other pollutants for a price ranging from $200 to $600. However, the CPB has been unable to confirm this information in New York State.

Summary and Conclusions

Fourteen of the 19 manufacturers to the survey reported receiving complaints regarding paint finish. However, only 7 cited acid rain or environmental fallout as a cause of damage (BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Isuzu, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Saab). While 7 additional companies failed to indicated whether any paint finish damage complaints attributed to acid rain had been received, all claimed that acid rain can result in such damage (Audi, Honda, GM, Mazda, Porsche, Rolls Royce and Volkswagen).

Further, although consumer complaint data was not uniformly provided by manufacturers, nearly 3,000 paint finish related cases were reported to the CPB, several hundred of which were specifically categorized as a acid rain or environmental fallout damage.

However, a review of newspaper and trade magazine accounts collectively report that acid rain and environmental fallout is alleged to have damaged tens of thousands of vehicles in recent years. These accounts confirm that the auto industry has had paint finish damage problems for several years and has attempted to address the problem through various means including the use of new coatings, delivering vehicles in plastic bags and selling cars at discounted prices without paint warranties. Yet the industry maintains that this problem is not a manufacturing defect. Specific references to environmental fallout were cited in publications involving vehicles manufactured by Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

The majority of manufacturers responding to the survey asserted that paint damage can, or has resulted from the effects of environmental fallout including acid rain. However, despite efforts by the CPB to obtain documentation regarding the relationship between acid rain and paint finish from the manufacturer only one company (GM) provided such information.

Despite industry claims that staff can sufficiently document acid rain damage based on a visual examination, the US EPA reported that the cause of paint damage is most effectively determined via a detailed chemical analysis rather than by visual inspection.

The survey also revealed that the language used to refer to acid rain or environmental damage in car warranty booklets varies from company to company. For example, while several companies may actually use the words "acid rain", among alternatives in their warranty booklets, other manufacturers may use terms including but not limited to "airborne fallout", "environmental fallout", "environmental influences" or "exposure to elements".

Based upon a review of each company's warranty booklet, the overwhelming majority exclude warranty coverage for paint damage resulting from the effects of acid rain on newly purchased vehicles. However, two manufacturers, GM and Ford, provide such paint damage coverage as a company policy rather than under "warranty", five (Honda, Isuzu, Mercedes Benz, Nissan and Saab) will repair such problems on a case by case basis as a gesture of goodwill, two (Audi and Volkswagen) review all complaints individually and one company (Jaguar) reports that it may assume costs at any time, independent of the new vehicle warranty.

It is therefore evident that most motor vehicle warranties expressly exclude coverage for damage to a vehicle's finish allegedly caused by acid rain and other environmental factors. However, manufacturers often will resolve complaints regarding such defects on a goodwill basis' -- companies will customarily offer to repaint a consumer's vehicle at no charge or propose an alternative settlement. Typically, only consumers who complain are afforded a remedy.

These goodwill programs are an example of what consumer representatives and other experts refer to as "secret warranties" -- internal commitments by manufacturers to take responsibility for some product defects without disclosing this fact to all consumers. This practice is unfair to the many buyers who fail to complain strenuously enough and therefore do not receive any remedy. Covering all reported consumer problems involving paint finish defects through manufacturer warranties is the most equitable solution.

To date, no solid substantiation exists for auto industry claims that exposure to acid rain is the primary cause of paint damage to properly prepared automobiles. The limited number of studies performed point to the fact that the type of coatings applied to the vehicle may be as much or more of a contributor to paint finish damage than environmental influences.

Moreover, the EPA confirms that though acid rain can contribute to paint finish damage, improvements in the formulation and application of automotive coatings and other protective measures appear to be currently available for the auto industry to resolve these issues.

Similarly, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation states that auto manufacturers and dealers should not be allowed to use acid rain or other similar claims as an excuse where a vehicle's paint finish is inadequate to meet normal environmental conditions.

In short, since auto manufacturers have presented no solid evidence that acid rain damage occurs following proper paint application and hardening, this assertion should not be permitted to avoid warranty coverage.

While it is true that society is becoming increasingly aware of the existence and potential effects of acid rain, acid rain is not a new phenomenon. Even assuming that acid rain is in part responsible for damage to auto finishes, it is unreasonable for manufacturers to place a product on the market that will become defective under normal use in the Northeast states.

Equally important, since many manufacturers have already instituted coating changes on certain models, primarily luxury cars, it appears evident that the industry is readily capable of expeditiously eliminating this problem in the marketplace.

For these reasons, the Consumer Protection Board will propose legislation to require auto manufacturers to provide warranty coverage for damage to the exterior finish of a new motor vehicle, even if purportedly due to acid rain, and to clarify that such damage is a basis for New Car Lemon Law action. The bill will also prohibit the unsubstantiated defense in a Lemon Law action that a defect was due to the impact of acid rain on the finish.

Additionally, the CPB recommends that the FTC investigates whether it is an unfair or deceptive practice in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act to knowingly sell motor vehicles which have a substantial likelihood of exhibiting paint defects during the warranty period. An accumulating line of legal authority indicates that a manufacturer which knows that a warranted part will fail either prior to the expiration of its warranty or shortly thereafter and fails to inform consumers of the problem, or alternatively, excludes it from a warranty without such disclosure is in violation of federal and state laws with regard to unfair or deceptive practices.

This report documents that several auto manufacturers have placed automobiles on the market knowing that the finish of some of these vehicles would or may become defective under normal use in certain parts of the nation and that their warranties were therefore inadequate. Therefore, this information warrants an investigation by the FTC.

The Consumer Protection Board will continue to monitor consumer complaints in this area and support State legislation to ensure that the industry adequately addresses this problem and provides appropriate remedies to the many consumers who own vehicles with defective paint finishes.

END REPORT

So there you have it! I suggest you write to the Consumer Protection Board in your state. You may want to mention the work that the NYS CPB has done so they can have something to refer to.

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