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Arbitration plan upgraded to include diagnostic costs for faulty vehicles

Toshiyuki Shiga, COO of Nissan, receives the trophy for the "Car of the Year Japan" for Nissan's electric vehicle Leaf at the Tokyo Motor Show on December 3, 2011.


The only Canada-wide consumer arbitration plan that can force auto makers to buy back your vehicle is receiving an upgrade for 2012 – consumers are now eligible for money back in diagnostic costs as well as for pricey manufacturer-backed extended warranties under the CAMVAP plan.

The Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan hears cases of new-vehicle buyers unhappy with manufacturers that have denied or only partially covered warranty claims on new-to-four-year-old vehicles, with the aim of resolving disputes quicker and more cost effectively than in provincial courts. And unofficially, avoiding the strict lemon law legislation seen in many jurisdictions in the United States.

It is a fully auto manufacturer-funded program, with program fees paid based on a formula that reflects the auto maker's sales in Canada, as well as the recent number of cases brought before CAMVAP for its vehicles.

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As of Dec. 1, the program has been upgraded to potentially cover not only the cost of buying back the vehicle from the consumer – either with or without a reduction for usage – but also the manufacturer-backed extended warranties, which can range from $650 to more than $3,000.

Also new is the separate allocation of up to $500 for consumers who have paid for a technical inspection of their vehicle, and then gone on to successfully prove that a manufacturer issue was at fault.

"Before they were eligible, but it was buried under other costs, including towing, taxis, or car rentals," said Stephen Moody, general manager of the CAMVAP program. "So if you burned up your $500 on towing, you wouldn't have it."

Details on the free arbitration plan is available on CAMVAP's site at, which lists some interesting statistics about which vehicles and manufacturers were brought under the plan in the past year (Detroit Three products figure highly), the make, model and year of the vehicle, a general indication of the issue, and what the outcome was in each case. For example, there were 256 cases brought before CAMVAP in 2010, which the site points out is less than two-tenths of one per cent of all eligible vehicles and an example of the high level of automotive quality of cars on the market today.

On the other hand, CAMVAP is also only meant as a dispute resolution avenue of last resort, the site suggesting buyers talk to their dealers first, then perhaps other dealers of that make, and then the manufacturer directly.

The 2010 stats have not been broken down on the site in an annual report yet, but in 2009, about 10 per cent of all 287 cases led to a "Buyback with no reduction" decision (28 cases), 62 led to a "Buyback with reduction", another 62 went to "Make repairs," while 116 were decided in the auto maker's favour as "No liability."

Of all the major auto makers, a few don't participate in the CAMVAP program, including BMW, Mini, Mitsubishi and, as of last year, Suzuki. The Ontario Auto Dealers Association has sent letters to these manufacturers "stressing the value and importance of the program and have asked that they re-evaluate their position on CAMVAP membership," according to the OADA's latest newsletter. About 50 per cent of CAMVAP's cases are based in the province.

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For 2009, the average buyback award was $23,053, although the report noted this figure was inflated because of the program's first buyback award on a vehicle costing more than $200,000. Going through the site, this appears to be from a 2007 complaint with a 2005 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, a case which appears to have dragged on much longer than the 70 day goal listed on the site.

Leaf wins Japan COTY award

The Nissan Leaf has added the Japanese Car of The Year award to its European and World Car titles, while GM Canada confirmed that it will indeed offer to buy back the Volt, the 2011 North American Car of The Year winner.

After the NHTSA opened a formal investigation recently into the potential fire hazard of the Volt's battery after a severe crash, earlier reports suggested GM would provide loaner vehicles to concerned Volt owners in Canada, but not to buy the plug-in gas-electric car back, as GM chairman Dan Akerson promised to any concerned American Volt buyers.

"We would consider all options to meet customer expectations before taking that option, but if buying back the vehicle ultimately gives the customer peace of mind, we'll do it," said Adria MacKenzie this week, GM Canada's corporate communications manager. "We are serious about keeping customers happy."

Not so happy are some potential EV buyers that are finding it hard to test-drive the futuristic Leaf, Volt or other EVs in Ontario, where a 500-km limit on the mileage of vehicles eligible for the Ontario EV rebate of eight grand or so is leading at least some dealers to refuse to provide test drives of the cars.

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Maybach done as of 2013

The end is near for the ultra-luxury Maybach brand, as the Rolls-Royce rival will pull the plug as of early 2013, according to Mercedes-Benz officials.

A few weeks back, Autoweek magazine reported that the arrival of a new S-Class would mean the demise of the $400,000-plus luxury machine, citing various anonymous but "high-ranking Mercedes-Benz executives" that said Mercedes-Benz will come out with various versions of the S-Class instead, including an S600 Pullman to rival Rolls-Royce and Bentley offerings.

Dodge Dart to return

Chrysler confirmed this week that it will revive the Dodge Dart name for its new compact sedan that will debut at the Detroit auto show in January. The car will be based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but with Dodge-specific styling cues.

The 2013 Dart will offer three four-cylinder Multi-Air engines: a 2.0-litre, a 1.4-litre turbo and a 2.4-litre. Teaser shots show that it will feature headlights and full-width "race-track" LED taillights similar to its big-brother Charger sedan. The Dart will offer relatively sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension, Dodge promising a sporting entry that draws on both its European and American heritage.

It also promises a level of refinement not seen on its current compact entry, the Dodge Caliber, which will be discontinued. The new Dart will be available mid-2012, and will be built in Belvedere, Ill.

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