By on August 19, 2010

We are not even considering abandoning our campaign. Like every guarantee offer, ours also has conditions and these conditions are presented very clearly.

Opel’s sales and marketing boss Alain Visser fires back at Germany’s Wettbewerbszentrale (competition authority), which recently accused Opel of misleading consumers with its newly-launched “Lifetime Guaranty.” The Wettbewerbzentrale had argued that Opel’s warranty was “a lie” because, despite having no time limit, it only applies for the first 160,000 kilometers… which by definition is less than a car’s lifetime, right? According to Opel’s Visser [via Automotive News [sub]], that might not be the case.

In defense of Opel’s guaranty, Visser went on the offensive, telling journalists

I challenge you to go out and find me a car with even 100,000 kilometers on the clock. Despite threats and some bad PR we do believe that a lifetime guarantee with no time-limit is the strongest statement we could possibly make — even if it does have some footnotes,

Needless to say, Europeans to tend to keep cars for much less time than American consumers, as European nations tend to require regular emissions and roadworthiness testing. Europeans also tend to put mileage on their vehicles at a much slower rate than Americans, who often drive distances on daily commutes that many Europeans would find hugely excessive. Still, surely Visser isn’t claiming that Opels only have a lifespan of 160k kilometers. Cars with that mileage may be difficult to find in Europe, but that doesn’t mean that the market has determined the definition of the word “lifetime.”

In short, Opel has tried to pull off some of the success that Hyundai enjoyed in the US-market starting when it introduced a 100k mile warranty. Problem is that Hyundai clearly benefited from a low-key approach to its warranty, instead of overselling it as a “lifetime” guaranty. Also, Hyundai had success with that program in the US market, where drivers regularly put over 100k miles on their cars. Besides, even if they had called it a “lifetime guaranty” there’s no Wettbewerbszentrale in the US. Opel’s approach, on the other hand, has been ham-fisted and tone-deaf, echoing General Motors gimmicks past.

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18 Comments on “Opel Fires Back On Lifetime Guarantee Controversy...”

  • avatar

    “I challenge you to go out and find me a car with even 100,000 kilometers on the clock.”

    Dear Herr Visser,
    I have two cars I bought new 13 and 14 years ago. They have 192,000km and 185,000km, respectively, on the clock. Routine maintenance has kept the 14 yr old in great running condition. Extensive DIY repairs and upkeep on the 13 yr old has been necessary (in process of a front end rebuild right now). Seeing as the 13 yr old is a product of your parent company, I could have used the “lifetime” warranty.

    Perhaps your challenge should be amended – “I challenge you to go out and find me an Opel car with even 100,000 kilometers on the clock.”

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It may mean Mechanical Mean Time to Failure (MTTF) has been precisely engineered to coincide with warranty expiry at 160,000 kilometers (100,000 miles), and Opel knows a warranty free of weasel clauses will have dire financial consequences.

    It should promote deep concern among North Americans contemplating an Opel-Buick purchase. Average vehicle service life here is 200,000 to 250,000 kilometers (125,000 to 155,000 miles).

  • avatar


  • avatar

    “Europeans to tend to keep cars for much less time than American consumers, as European nations tend to require regular emissions and roadworthiness testing. Europeans also tend to put mileage on their vehicles at a much slower rate than Americans, who often drive distances on daily commutes that many Europeans would find hugely excessive.”

    Perhapse that explains the reliablity issues with VW, BMW and Mercedes. The median European buyer has a much different ownership experience than the typical American buyer and as a result has different preferences and expectations.

  • avatar

    why are all my posts being eaten?

  • avatar

    Even in America, some people don’t drive their cars that much. My wife’s car probably may not see 100,000 miles before it turns 20.

    • 0 avatar

      If I were to buy a brand new car today, it’d take me 15 years or so. And my current 12-y-o car with 127k…well, a lot of its failure have been more related to age/cycles rather than pure mileage. Racking up mileage with lots of short trips is much harder than people who drive 25k+ each year.

      I hope Opel/GM is ready for this…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Perhaps this explains the consistently poor long term reliability showing of Euro branded cars vs. those from Japan and the US.

    • 0 avatar

      And further, how brands considered “marginal” in the US are often lauded as reliable in Europe. VW makes pretty solid running gear, but damn near everything else on the car breaks after 5-7 years. Plastics become very brittle, electronics fry, etc.

      I’m amazed Europeans don’t keep their cars longer and update them according to new standards, considering how much more expensive they are (even when adjusted for currency parity). I’d imagine TCO over there has to be over a dollar a mile, maybe even pushing $2, once you figure everything in…NOT including purchase.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree.

      You’d have to think that there’s nothing that Honda and Toyota knows about cars that VW and Mercedes doesn’t. If a Golf is less reliable than a Corolla it’s because VW and Toyota value different things when making design and engineering decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      Gardiner Westbound

      The numbers don’t support that hypothesis.

      Published statistics say average European car mileage is 169,000 kilometers (105,000 miles); Japan 113,000 kilometers(70,000 miles).

  • avatar

    Dear Herr Schmidt…We regret to inform you that your Opel has reached 159,995 kilometers – the end of its design life expectancy and it will be terminated. For your personal safety, please move away from the vehicle

    The information below isn’t directly related to Opel but does show that GM slowly awakened to the importance of ‘long term reliability’

    From 2006

    “GM’s warranty costs have fallen 40% in the last five years as GM has, among other things, increased the durability specifications on its cars. It used to be, for example, that key parts were designed to last only 80,000 miles. That has increased, say GM executives, to well over 100,000 miles, with many parts specified to last 120,000 miles.”

    From 2009
    10 Year Reliability by Brand

    As regards VW – a 10 year old Toyota is statistically as reliable as a 4 year old Toyota. (And can we please skip all the ‘you can’t trust CR’ stuff this time and stay on track for the basic point of the discussion?)

  • avatar

    On VW reliability: when I worked at a VW plant in Germany the guy giving me the intro told me that VW pays much attention to how the car looks under the hood when the owner opens it. unlike Toyota. Now i think to myself, why don’t they just build the cars ugly under hood, but more reliable so the owner doesn’t have to look under the hood???

    On warranty: the only warranty time that counts for me is when it covers:
    – bumper to bumper and full labor and material paid for
    – transferable at no charge to whoever I sell it to (that keeps resale value up)
    – free of charge to me (unless Opel)
    – the only fine print I want that I need to do reasonable maintenance at a shop of my choice, not necessarily dealer. And they are only allowed to void warranty for parts that are affected by neglected maintenance. Meaning, if I don’t change engine oil, my power seat still has warranty since the oil didn’t affect it. For service intervals there also needs to be some wiggle-time. If oil change is every 7,500 miles, they can’t void the engine warranty when I change oil after 7,800 miles.
    – regular wear items (i.e. brake pads) maybe excluded from warranty

    Everything else they call “warranty” is BS.

    With this definition Opel has zero years warranty. Toyota has 3, Hyundai has 5.

    Oh yeah, and his challenge to find a car with 100,000 km he should have known will haunt him since everyone is smart-ass enough to suggest that this limit applies to Opel cars only and other makes live longer. I’m the least politically correct person alive, but I wouldn’t even have said that as a defense.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Asian carmakers dominate Consumer Reports’ 2010 reliability ratings. Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Porsche are the top five in that order. Ford is middle ranked followed by most European manufacturers. GM is second from last and Chrysler is dead last.

    The Detroit Three say their cars are superior but won’t put their money where their mouths are. Why should a customer commit to a major purchase from a manufacturer notorious for atrocious product quality and horrendous customer care that won’t back up its reliability and durability claims with an honest, comprehensive 10-year warranty?

  • avatar

    Lifetime guarantee, eh? Only 100K miles? Laughable. I’m the original owner of a 2001 VW Golf TDI and I have over 417,000 miles on it. I plan on another 100K miles before even considering getting rid of it. If it had a lifetime guarantee, I’d keep it for, well, a lifetime.

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