Lemon laws / “Zitronenauto”

Anscheinend hat das Landgericht Münster das Wort “Zitronenauto” eingeführt (amerikanisch “a lemon”, besonders für Autos benutzt). Vielleicht haben sie es von Autohändlern? Siehe Bericht:

bq. Münster (DAV). Wer ein so genanntes Zitronenauto mit zahlreichen Mängeln erwirbt, darf das Fahrzeug zurück geben und vom Händler einen fehlerfreien Wagen verlangen. Dies ergibt sich aus einem Urteil des Landgerichts Münster, auf das die Verkehrsrechts-Anwälte (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Verkehrsrecht im Deutschen Anwaltverein – DAV) hinweisen.

bq. Landgericht Münster
Urteil vom 7. Januar 2004
Aktenzeichen: 2 O 603/02

Das Urteil ist online: hier nach Landgericht Münster und 2 O 603/02 suchen.

I know about the lemon laws in US states, but is that any reason to use the word ‘Zitronenauto’ in German?

I don’t know if the Hamburger Abendblatt’s use of Montagsauto (Monday car) is any better.
It appears to be a recent borrowing.

Here is a definition of a lemon:

bq. A vehicle that continues to have a defect that substantially impairs its use, value, or safety. Generally, if the car has been repaired 4 or more times for the same Defect within the Warranty Period and the Defect has not been fixed, the car qualifies as a Lemon. All States differ so you should consult the Lemon Law Summary and the State Statutes for your particular State. Note that the warranty period may or may not coincide with the Manufacturer’s Warranty.

What’s the German law? No statute. The judges said that there were so many defects that subsequent improvement (Nachbesserung) would not be enough.

There was a Daihatsu Cuore ‘Lemon edition’ a few years ago, all yellow with yellow fittings. Picture borrowed from here (this reminds me of how much I could get done if I didn’t spend all my time trying to sort out software problems).

lemon ed 1 klein.jpg

5 thoughts on “Lemon laws / “Zitronenauto”

  1. Even 30 (or more) years ago, „Montagswagen“ or „Montagsauto“ was quite common (if I remember correctly). „Zitrone“ does not convey any of this.

  2. Actually, you’re right, Montagswagen does seem a good equivalent. Google finds cites like ‘Wandlung bei “Montagswagen”?’ I wasn’t sure if the term implied everything the English one does.
    Mind you, the meaning of ‘lemon’ seems to have shifted a bit, to judge from the OED. There was the old expression ‘The answer’s a lemon’ (I remember my mother thought this was pure nonsense, but it seems to have a meaning in the USA); then a lemon meant an old car worth hardly anything; but now, I take it to mean a kind of dud. I know second-hand cars can be lemons too, but the idea of a lemon law is that a car is so bad that the manufacturer has to give you a new one.

  3. And of course, sorry to hear about your car accident and glad you’re OK.

    (If you look at this article alone, via the Permalink, the Google ads pick up on the ‘lemon law’ reference).

  4. Pons Fachwörterbuch der KFZ-Technik (1992) does define Zitrone as lemon (ein Neu- oder Gebrauchtwagen mit vielen Mängeln. This would suggest that the expression has been around for a while in the industry.

  5. That sounds very convincing, Ann. I remember hearing Peter Schmitt, who wrote that dictionary (he’s a professor at Leipzig now, I think), talking about all the car dealers and manufacturers he had toured in Germany and abroad to collect vocabulary.
    I think I’ll start saying ‘Das ist eine Zitrone’ occasionally and see what looks I get.

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