Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, June 15, 2006


Page 3


Local Car Dealer Brings $1.7 Million ‘Lemon’ Lawsuit


By TINA BAY, Staff Writer


Local luxury car dealer Mark Johnston sued  DaimlerChrysler in Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday, claiming that his $1.7 million Mercedes AMG CLK-GTR Limited Edition Roadster died the first time he drove it.

In what may be the biggest “lemon” lawsuit on record, the complaint names as defendants DaimlerChrysler AG, the car’s manufacturer; Mercedes-AMG GmbH, the German subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler that produced the car; H.W.A. GmbH, a German company with which Mercedes-AMG collaborated in building the car; and Mercedes-Benz USA, the DaimlerChrysler subsidiary that services warranties provided by Mercedes-AMG.

Johnston, co-owner of Grand Prix Motors in Mar Vista, alleges that he paid approximately $1.7 million to purchase the last of five Roadsters ever made and drove it only once for a short distance before it broke down.  He claims that defendants breached their contractual and warranty obligations, and seeks rescission of the purchase agreement along with a full refund and compensatory damages.  His complaint also includes claims for negligent misrepresentation, negligent repair, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

“Mr. Johnston has been attempting for the last two years to resolve these problems with the various entities, all to no avail,” attorney John O’Malley of the Los Angeles office of Fulbright & Jaworski told the MetNews, adding, “If you pay well over $1 million dollars for a car, it ought to be able to go for more than 10 blocks.”

The two-door sports car, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the most expensive production car ever built,” has a 6.9 liter engine with a 12-cylinder, 600 V-motor designed to enable acceleration from zero to 124 mph in 9.9 seconds.

But it lasted only 10 blocks during its first customer test drive, Johnson said in a press release.

“The car was absolutely gorgeous and we were excited about offering what we thought was a true gem to our customer base,” he said.  “Unfortunately, the car turned out to be ‘exotic’ in the worst possible way.”

According to his complaint, oil-pressure problems and failure of the car’s transmission and hydraulic jack caused the car to shut down, requiring it to be towed back to the dealership.

O’Malley said that Johnston’s purchase agreement stipulated that H.W.A. would correct any deficiencies, and that if it couldn’t, it would either reduce Johnston’s purchase price or give him his money back. 

Johnston alleges that the defendants belatedly sent a technician to Grand Prix Motors in 2005 to examine the car, and that the technician took oil samples for testing and removed several parts but never contacted Johnston or returned the parts.  Subsequently, Johnston at the defendants’ direction sent the car to Florida for further examination, and the defendants recommended a replacement engine but refused to pay for the evaluation and repair costs, he said in his complaint.

“I think there’s a clear case for liability here,” O’Malley said. “This is a clear case where the defendant should step up, and we hope the matter will be resolved.”

Mercedes-Benz USA could not be reached for comment on the case.


Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company