Ford Motor Co. deceives consumers when it says its certified used vehicles get especially rigorous inspections, a California lawsuit alleges.
The suit was filed last month in Los Angeles. It asserts that dealership inspections of Ford certified vehicles are no different from those given to other used cars and trucks.
Buyers of certified Ford vehicles pay about $1,080 more, on average, than they would for comparable used vehicles that are not certified, the suit says.
The suit demands that Ford stop advertising its certified vehicles as specially inspected. It also wants the automaker to repay with interest what the suit calls the improper price premium for certification. California buyers of Ford certified vehicles since June 23, 2001, would qualify for the refund.
The automaker says the suit lacks merit. Spokesman Dan Bedore concedes that some dealers may inspect noncertified vehicles with the same standards as Ford's certified program.
"But that is not the same as purchasing a certified pre-owned car and getting the assurance that these things are done and getting the warranty that comes with it," Bedore says.
Ford certified vehicles come with a factory powertrain warranty of six years or 75,000 miles, whichever comes first, from when the vehicle was new.
The lawsuit's plaintiff, William Ray Kearns, bought a certified used 1999 Ford Explorer in 2003 from Claremont Ford in Claremont, Calif. His suit names the dealership as a defendant along with Ford.
Roger Hogan, owner of Claremont Ford, would not comment.
John Gomez, a lawyer representing Kearns, says consumers such as his client "pay more for certified pre-owned vehicles than they otherwise would, based on false representation."
Gomez says he is seeking class-action status for the state lawsuit.
Although Ford promotes the certified program as its own, the suit alleges, individual dealers decide which vehicles to certify. As a result, the suit contends, the program is inconsistent.
Ford Motor sold 92,280 certified used vehicles in the first five months of 2005, a 4.6 percent increase from the year-ago period.
The total includes Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.
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