Driving a hard bargain: A Fiat Chrysler discount will cost you your right to sue – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Friday, October 16, 2015

Each of Detroit’s Big Three automakers offer a discount on new vehicles for employees, their families and friends.

But only one, Fiat Chrysler, requires that those using the discount give up their constitutional right to a jury trial in return for a few hundred bucks in savings.

“It’s like they’re doing you a favor and, by the way, they’re taking away your right to sue,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of the Sacramento advocacy group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. “This discount is like the piece of cheese on the trap that kills the mouse.”

Fiat Chrysler defends the arbitration clause in its “friends and family” discount by saying employees and their family members are unlikely to sue the company and, in any case, the program isn’t intended for the general public.

“The purpose of this discount isn’t to trick people into not being able to litigate against us,” said Rick Deneau, a Fiat Chrysler spokesman. “We weren’t trying to figure out some diabolical way for people not to sue us.”

Nevertheless, at least some dealers are using the discount as a sales tool and thus stripping customers of their right to take the carmaker to court.

Jeremy Williams, a salesman at Motor Village LA, a Chrysler dealer near downtown L.A., said he’s never provided an employee discount to a customer, “but it’s definitely possible.”

“If a dealer really wants to sell a car, it’s not difficult” to arrange such a discount, he said.

Steve Lehto, a Michigan lawyer, told me that nearly a dozen of his clients are neither Fiat Chrysler workers nor acquainted with anyone who is, yet they were able to secure the carmaker’s discount from dealers.

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