They offered a warranty, and then the wheels came off her car

The wheels just came off Paul Hamel’s case, and he needs our help putting them back on – figuratively speaking.

Hamel bought a new Hyundai Elantra for his college-bound daughter in 2012. He wanted her to have reliable transportation.

“The car came with four 60,000 mile-Hankook tires,” he says. “I harped on my daughter to be sure she checks the pressure every two weeks or so and to also rotate the tires each time she gets the oil changed.”

Still, the tires only lasted half as long as they should have, even though his daughter had a record of maintaining and rotating them. Hamel returned to Orlando Hyundai, the dealership from which he purchased the car, and asked it to honor the 60,000-mile warranty.

Here’s what the warranty said:

LIMITED WARRANTY FOR ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT PASSENGER CAR & LIGHTTRUCK TIRES INCLUDING TEMPORARY TIRES.

1. WHAT IS COVERED AND FOR HOW LONG.

Hankook warrants that a tire manufactured by Hankook and equipped originally on the vehicle is free from defects in materials or workmanship in normal use for the life of the original usable tread.The life of the original usable tread ends when the tire tread has been worn down with only 1.6mm (2/32nds inch) remaining, at which point the tire is considered to be fully worn out. ?

PASSENGER CAR AND LIGHT TRUCK TIRES

A. Free replacement If Hankook Radial Passenger & Light Truck Tires fail as a result of defect in material and/or workmanship within the first 25% of treadwear, the tire will be replaced with a new, comparable Hankook Tire at no charge including mounting and balancing charges. B. Pro rata replacement Tires not qualifying for free replacement will be allowed a credit toward purchase of a new, comparable Hankook Tire based upon the amount of tread actually worn. The cost of mounting, balancing and any other service charges or applicable taxes shall be paid by the user. Otherwise adjustment for compensation will be made on a prorata basis calculated by multiplying the actual current dealer selling price by the percentage of remaining usable tread depth.

“Too bad,” a representative told him, “We don’t warranty these.”

The manufacturer declined to honor the warranty, too.

“Neither will stand behind their product,” says Hamel. “They won’t do anything.”

Here’s the final kiss-off from Hyundai:

We apologize for any inconvenience or frustration caused by this experience. The Hyundai Motor America written limited warranties cover repair or replacement of eligible components originally manufactured or installed by Hyundai that are found to be defective in material or workmanship under normal use and maintenance, as determined by your local authorized Hyundai dealership. We are unable to provide assistance in this matter.

If a non-Hyundai part causes failure in any component, the needed repairs to correct the failure would not be covered under the Hyundai warranty. You can find complete warranty information in your Owner’s Handbook and Warranty Information booklet. The Hyundai Limited Warranty information can also be accessed though our website at http://www.HyundaiUSA.com/assurance/america-best-warranty.aspx.

We hope we were able to address your concerns in a satisfactory manner; however, if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your Elantra that we can assist with, please feel free to reach out to us again. We can be reached again by email at [email protected] or by calling our toll-free customer service number, 1-800-633-5151.

How frustrating. Our advocacy team asked Hamel to send us the paper trail, and he says most of the conversations took place either by phone or in person. So he’s trying to get written proof that Hyundai and Hankook declined to honor a warranty that they should have.

If it turns out that Hamel was promised something that wasn’t delivered, I’m inclined to take this case. But I’m also inclined to say something right now: What the hell do we have warranties for, anyway?

It seems as if we receive regular complaints from consumers about promises that aren’t kept. Products that slip out of warranty. Warranty records lost. Warranties partially honored. Warranties ignored.

Even when a company honors a warranty, it often seems as if it does so grudgingly – because it “has to.”

Increasingly, companies have turned to two-tier warranties. A free “basic” warranty, which covers nothing, and an “extended” warranty, where you pay more money so the manufacturer will fix or replace the product in the event something happens.

But let’s take off our business defender, free-market hats for a moment, my friends. Let’s put on the consumer’s hat.

Shouldn’t a manufacturer stand behind its products? If I sell you a blender or a refrigerator or a tire, shouldn’t it come with an implicit guarantee that it’ll work, as advertised?

Why would you pay extra to “protect” your product? (I’m talkin’ to you, Apple!) Answer: You shouldn’t have to, at least from a consumer’s point of view. While it’s great to put a warranty promise in writing, customers assume you’ll do the right thing if a product breaks. The best companies don’t charge more for that. They do the right thing every time.

Our Good News Guy, Andrew Der, has documented several cases of companies doing right even without a warranty. And yes, that’s what customers expect.

So when I hear about a dealership and a tire manufacturer letting a customer down, I can almost hear the pro-business, laissez-faire commenters saying, “He was probably out of warranty. He deserved it.”

And you know what I’ll say, right?

I don’t care about the warranty. If someone told him his tires would last 60,000 miles, then they should have. Fine print be damned.

“For me, this is more of a principle issue,” says Hamel. “It’s hard to understand how or why they would act in this way, from a customer service standpoint.”

I agree.

Should we take Hamel's case?

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