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Via snopes.com Message Board and here, and a similar question on mechanics.stackexchange.com:

Auto manufacturers are required by US Federal Law to have parts available for any models they sold for the period of 10 years.

I have also heard this claim from various people over the years, with numbers ranging from 5 years to 20. It seems reasonable, and was stated in one of the Snopes threads linked above, and implied in the mechanics.se answer (specifying California law), that manufacturers would need to provide parts necessary to fulfill their requirements under warranty. I can especially see the feds regulating availability of parts related to federal emissions and safety standards.

On the flip side an unresolved warranty claim is purely a civil matter, so the need for such a federal law eludes me. Additionally, a manufacturer most certainly would not want to irritate their customers by telling them to junk a brand new major financial investment because they do not have brake pads available. This logic makes me skeptical that a federal law (or at least that a broad 'all parts' law) would exist.

So is there or is there not a Federal law or regulation? If so, is this law/regulation for ALL parts, or just a subset of parts? References? I realize that it is almost impossible to prove the non-existence of something, but I would consider an answer to be legitimate if such a law used to exist but no longer does (as that would at least fortify the claim).

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I was also thinking (although technically a different question) there may be a non-federal law type of mandate that would make the basis of this claim accurate. For instance, I could see insurance companies mandating that the manufacturer assures auto body parts are available for a specific timeframe otherwise they will not provide collision insurance for the vehicle. I know I would not want to insure a $30k vehicle if you can't just replace a damaged bumper and had to total the car. –  Steven Bone Dec 14 '12 at 12:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Are Auto Manufacturers required under US Federal Law to provide parts ... for 10 years

"US Federal Law"

1) Warranties

Consumer products are not required to have warranties, but if one is given, it must comply with the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act

The act says that warranties must be "conspicuously designated" as either a Full Warranty or as a Limited Warranty. I believe the terms of the act mostly apply to full waranties. I note that makers tend to advertise "powertrain warranties" etc rather than "full warranties". (example)

See FTC advice for more on "Full" vs "Limited" warranties and other aspects of the act. A powertrain warranty can be either full or limited (as defined in the act).

"Parts"

A consequence is that vehicle manufacturers must be able to provide parts during the term of a warranty (if any) made at the time of sale. They need not make or stock these parts themselves.

Vehicle makers could choose not to do so, but then they would be required to provide a replacement vehicle or a full refund of the vehicle cost. In practice it is usually more cost effective for makers to procure replacement parts to effect a warranty repair.

A further consequence is therefore that replacement parts are also available to people who do not have a warranty claim.

"10 years"

It is unusual for auto warranty periods to exceed 5 years. Most are shorter. credit: Oddthinking in comment below

"Manufacturer"

The act does not mandate that manufacturers provide warranties, dealers/retailers could provide warranties, the terms of the act would then apply to those dealers/retailers not to the manufacturers.

"Auto"

The act applies to all consumer products, not just to automotive vehicles.


2) EPA

The EPA provide information on Federally required emission control warranties which says that

Manufacturers have been required by federal law to provide emission control coverage for vehicles since 1972.

But this just means that manufactureres must pay for repairs

  • if the emissions control system fails to meet performance requirements within two years of sale.
  • if a defect or design flaw in the emissions control system is found within eight years of sale.

The EPA list the parts covered but do not say that replacement parts must be manufactured, provided or sold by the auto manufacturer, only that the manufacturer must pay for any necessary repair.


Conclusion

The claim is false (or at least misleading) in almost all respects. However, as is often the case, it springs from a kernel of truth. Albeit a truth which is altogether rather more mundane and unremarkable in character.

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Might be worth emphasizing that warranty periods tend to be 1-3 years, not 5-20 years. –  Oddthinking Dec 14 '12 at 11:58
    
@Oddthinking: Warranty periods in the automotive industry may well be (substantially) different than in consumer electronics. It could certainly be interesting and relevant, but [citation needed]. –  Joel Rein Dec 14 '12 at 12:03
    
@Jivlain: I'm not claiming that car warranties are different to consumer electronics. No comment on that. I'm claiming they are shorter than the 5-20 years in the claim. This site suggests 3 or 4 years covers the majority. –  Oddthinking Dec 14 '12 at 12:08
    
@Oddthinking: I've added a note about typical warranty periods. I couldn't find a good reference myself but now that you've identified one I've included it. –  RedGrittyBrick Dec 14 '12 at 12:16
    
@RedGrittyBrick: Would I be correct in assuming your answer is that the manufacturer (who offers the warranty) MAY (as it is a 'limited' variety) only apply to parts required for them to honor the terms of the warranty? eg: Since brake pads are not covered in the limited warranty the manufacturer has no obligation to provide their availiability, but they would need to provide them for a transmission that is covered. Furthermore, there would be no requirement for them to sell the parts on the market. –  Steven Bone Dec 14 '12 at 12:45

This is not strictly an answer to your question, but the Israeli import requirement is for 7 year availability guarantee by the manufacturer - see http://he.mot.gov.il/index.php?option=com_content&id=953:2010-05-31-09-34-57&Itemid=161. I would imagine many other countries have similar requirements. So in practice, unless export is not planned, such legal requirement may apply even if not Bourne of federal law.

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yes, it's irrelevant to the legal question. Of course it may end up being a legal requirement if countries your vehicles end up being sold to require it by law, but the question is specifically about US federal law (so even if a US state had such a law, if the federal government doesn't the answer would still be "no"). –  jwenting Dec 23 '13 at 6:41

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