Do I have any recourse for the deteriorating paint job on my Mercury?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1989 Mercury Sable with 80,000 miles and seriously deteriorating paint.
I bought the car new. The guy at the independent paint shop said that the car's
paint had been subject to a silent recall, and that Mercury would repaint the
car for me for free. He said the clear coat failed, and that this was common
with Sables. I must say, I've noticed several that look like mine.

However, the Mercury dealer's service manager told me that he did not know of a
recall, and that Mercury would not paint the car for me because it was out of
Do I have any further recourse? By the way, my son and son-in-law are both
litigation lawyers. -- Bob

RAY: Ah, TWO sharks in the family! Very good, Bob.

TOM: Actually, I'm not too optimistic about your situation. It's true that all
the domestic manufacturers had problems making paint stick to their cars in the
late 1980s, due mostly to environmental reformulation of the paints. It's also
true that the Ford Motor Co., which makes Mercurys, was painting some cars for
free at one time. But they're saying you're too late now, Bob. And nine years IS
a long time.

RAY: I'd have your son-in-law -- the one with the different last name -- contact
the dealership on your behalf. He can tell them that he's an attorney
representing you, and that he'd like to reach some sort of settlement on
repainting the car.

TOM: When they tell him to go fly a kite, have him contact the Ford "zone
manager" for your region, and see if the manager will offer you any help.

RAY: And while you're waiting for Ford's response, go over to your nearest Maaco
or Earl Scheib and get an estimate on a low-priced paint job. That might turn
out to be your best bet.

TOM: Even if Ford does settle with you, it probably is going to be for only part
of the repainting cost. They are likely to tell you that it will cost them
$2,000 to repaint your car and that they'll pay for, say, a third or half of it.
So, it still could cost you a thousand bucks or more.

RAY: Meanwhile, your local Earl Scheib outlet might want only $500 for the whole
thing. And while it might not be a factory-quality paint job, the car is going
on 10 years old and probably doesn't need that good a paint job.

TOM: And then, when it's all over and done with, you can get your son to sue
your son-in-law for legal malpractice, for not forcing Ford into a settlement.
Who knows? You might even make some money on the deal, Bob!

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