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Lemon cars (vehicles) in civilian and military environments

In a civilian context, when you buy your new car, chances are that you will drive it on paved highways and roads — perhaps rarely on a dirt road or park it on the grass. (For example, I commute from Fort Worth to my office in downtown Dallas on a regular basis and normally drive on concrete roadways such as interstate 75 and 360). Most production cars are designed with this assumption in mind, although some are designed specifically or off-roading.

If you were to take your average economy sedan and start driving over hills and into ditches,…you would soon be in trouble. A car manufacturer would probably not be overly sympathetic if you claimed that your Kia Rio was a lemon because it experienced multiple system failures while you were creating your own path through the Amazon rain forest.

Vehicles used by the military have quite different requirements. Military vehicles need to be able to traverse unpaved paths and go cross-country. There are some vehicles that have made the transition from military to consumer use. A recent example of this is GM’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle HMMWV (aka Hummer). The model line was expanded for the civilian market with scaled down versions, the H2 and H3. In 2006, GM announced that it would no longer market the original full sized H1 Hummer.

Long before the Hummer, there was the Jeep. The Jeep was the prototypical army-to-civilian vehicle. The U.S. Army received its first shipment of Jeeps in 1941 and the vehicle proved instrumental in the successful outcome of the war for the Allies. In the years since, it has proved popular with civilians, spawning a long line of derivative vehicles. Now, once again, the Jeep is returning to military use.

At the 2007 Defense Systems & Equipment International trade show, a new model was unveiled that is designed for military applications: the Jeep J8 multipurpose vehicle. The J8 is based on the new 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The Wrangler’s frame, suspension, axels and brakes have been modified to better meet the more demanding military demands. Whether or not the J8 becomes as popular as past military models remains to be seen.

Having a lemon in your garage can be frustrating and dealing with multiple trips to the dealership can cause aggravation. Imagine how much worse it would be if you were in life threatening war situations and experienced vehicle failures. Like all vehicles, it is inevitable that there will be defective J8’s; let’s hope that Jeep can keep those to a minimum.

Back to the civilian context, if you have a new vehicle which is persistently defective, despite many repair attempts, you may have some recourse against the manufacturer or the dealer from whom you purchased it. There are state laws (lemon laws) as well as Federal laws which help protect you.

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