Get Gephardt helps Lehi man to get help from electric carmaker’s warranty after battery fails
Oct 3, 2023, 11:49 PM | Updated: Oct 4, 2023, 12:00 am
LEHI — Adam Garfield bought his 2016 Fiat 500e used in 2019 for around $9,000.
“I love the car,” he said. “It’s a great A to B car. It gets us where we want to go. It’s great for around town.”
But when it hit 49,960 miles this past spring, it went kaput.
“I came out one morning to start it and the battery was dead,” Garfield said. “And I couldn’t get a response from it.”
He says he did what he could to resuscitate it.
“I tried a number of different ways to troubleshoot it and to get it started. And that entailed putting the charger on it for a great a good period of time,” Garfield said.
After several failed attempts, nothing worked. So, he turned his Fiat over to an authorized dealer. He says they confirmed the battery had failed. But no sweat, there’s a warranty.
In fact, Federal law says carmakers must warranty EV batteries for at least eight years or a hundred thousand miles. Whichever comes first. The clock starts at the date and mileage when the car is first sold. Garfield’s Fiat was still under the limits on both counts.
The thing is, Fiat Chrysler shot down his claim. The reason given? Neglect.
“Chrysler said I did not charge it. That I didn’t charge it for more than 30 days, which is not at all true.”
Garfield says even the dealership told him to try his warranty claim again. He did and his claim was denied – two more times. He says Fiat told him he had no further recourse. He was on his own to replace the battery. The cost? Staggering.
“Chrysler’s replacement battery for that Fiat is about $30,000,” he said. “So, I understand why maybe they’re hesitant to fulfill their warranty obligations.”
Garfield refuses to spend $30,000 to fix a car worth less than a third of that. Worried he would be stuck with a one-and-a-half-ton paperweight, he contacted us.
We spoke to Brian Moody of Kelley Blue Book about EV batteries.
“The concern comes for people who buy the car used,” Moody said.
Fiat isn’t the only car with a pricy fix. The owner of any EV should expect to pay $5,000 to $20,000 to replace a battery. Sometimes more.
“For most cars, it’s going to be prohibitively expensive,” said Moody. “Worth more than the actual value of the entire car.”
And while battery warranties are long, lots of things can void them such as: using a nonstandard charger, weather, towing someone, a collision, using aftermarket parks and missing software updates.
“I wouldn’t want to be in the position of having to replace an electric only car battery,” said Moody.
So, we reached out to Stellantis, the automaker that now owns Fiat Chrysler, and asked what proof they have that Garfield neglected his battery. While we didn’t get an answer to that, after nearly three months of back and forth with us and Garfield, we got this in an email:
“Customers have been at the core of the FIAT brand for 124 years, and we are pleased to have resolved this matter to the owner’s satisfaction.”
And Garfield confirmed with us that Stellantis has agreed to buy back his car.
“I’ve done everything I can,” he said. “I haven’t done anything that was wrong.”
Just like your cell phone’s battery, an EV battery will slowly lose the amount of energy it can store over time. That degradation isn’t always covered though many automakers say they’ll replace the battery if its max falls below 70% capacity while under warranty. And those warranties often can be transferred to new owners but not always. So, if you are going to buy an EV used, it is crucial you have the battery tested before buying. And that you contact the automaker first to see what sort of warranty that specific car has left.