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Lemon aware: A look at the 2018 car complaint index

The ads for model-year closeout sales on 2018 vehicles are showing up on television. This is the time when carmakers and dealers look to unload their remaining stock and make way for the next year's lineup.

Cost-sensitive consumers in California who have been biding their time on making a vehicle purchase might now be getting the itch to pull the trigger. Before that happens, it might be worth looking at a listing of the top 20 models of vehicles that have reportedly sparked the greatest number of complaints from drivers, as assembled by Jack Gillis, consumer advocate, and the Center for Auto Safety. The numbers show the number of complaints per sale of each model.

Some results might surprise you

If we were to follow the tradition of David Letterman countdowns we would start with number 20 and work our way to number one. But considering that the top five vehicles each have rates of complaint of more than 20,000 per units sold, we will set them out as a block first.

  • Mercedes-Benz B: Top complaints include electrical issues in the center control console. More disconcerting are reports of engine stalls and balky transmissions.
  • Chevrolet Volt: New features abound on this high-tech GM vehicle, but they are also the source of problems, particularly with steering and automated parallel parking capability.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Transmission issues are common complaints reported with these SUVs, but owners also have noted problems with alignment, cracking windshields and loose axles.
  • Chrysler Pacifica: The biggest issue with this vehicle has been problem noises from brakes, engines, steering wheels and doors.
  • Tesla Model S: Owners expect a lot for the price paid for these vehicles. Many complaints appear to be mainly cosmetic in nature, but some owners have reported report issues with reliability.

Other vehicles in the Top Ten by Jack Gillis in The Car Book include:

  1. Hyu8ndai Tucson
  2. Ford Fusion Energi
  3. Jeep Cherokee
  4. Dodge Journey
  5. Mercedes-Benz CLA

Inclusion on this list does not mean all such models are lemons. But consumers might want to exercise greater care if these units are on the potential wish list.

If you are leasing, own, or recently sold, a vehicle that has cost you significant time and frustration because of recurring problems, you may have a legitimate claim under California lemon law. Don't assume that's the case, however. Consult with an experienced attorney to learn what your rights are and options might be for seeking remedy.

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