1988 - Volume #12, Issue #5, Page #14[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Kansas Farmer Fights To Return Lemon CombineEmmet Wichman of Valley Falls, Kan., bought a new 1987 Deere 7720 last year. He says it's been in the shop 1 1/2 hrs. for every hour it's been in the field.
"I paid over $106,000 for this combine, without any heads or platforms, and it's been out of order ever since I got it home," Wichman says. "We've had unbelievable problems. One of the wheels broke off, the main drive shaft broke, the unloading auger twisted apart damaging the grain tank, which had to be replaced, the 0-rings failed, the radio and air conditioning failed, and the cab was not sealed. Just about everything that could possibly go wrong with a combine went wrong on this machine," says Wichman.
The dealer who sold Wichman the combine has been obliging about the problems and has made all of the repairs under Deere's warranty at no charge to Wichman.
"It's a very unfortunate situation, but we got Emmett right back into the field as quickly as possible. He got all of his grain cut," says Martin Caldwell at Caldwell, Inc., in Topeka, Kan., who pointed out that combines are the most complex implement used on the farm.
He added that any new combine has more problems than other machinery. "The bro-: ken axle weld must have been caused by a defective weld; and the shaft breaking was a freak thing and may also have also been caused by a poor weld," Caldwell says. He considered the other problems, such as the radio.quitting and the air conditioner breaking down, as only minor.
Wichman says, "My Deere dealer has been 'completely cooperative. They have over $20,000 invested in labor and repairs, but the problems have never ceased. This combine is just a lemon."
Whenever a problem comes up on the machine, Caldwell says he contacts factory officials before starting the repairs. "They say fix the combine right and make the farmer happy. Deere is proud of its warranty and stands behind it completely," he emphasized.
Pointing out that he isn't hard on machinery or prejudiced against the company, Wichman says, "I run all of my equipment myself and do most of the repairs myself. I have a 5-year old Deere 8650 tractor that is a fine piece of equipment."
Caldwell adds, "Emmett is a good farmer; he does a fine job taking care of his machinery."
However, Wichman has had major problems with other equipment in the past, and there have been lawsuits before the situations were settled. "I had problems with a Case tractor, but it wasn't as bad as this combine. I also had a Chevy pickup that wouldn't stop vibrating. GM bought it back and that was before Kansas had a lemon law for cars and pickups," he says.
"When I spend this kind of money on a new piece of equipment, I expect it to work. If it doesn't I'm going to see that it's made right," Wichman says. "I farm 900 acres by myself which is why I buy new equipment. I don't have time for broken down machinery."
Wichman thinks Deere should give him a new combine. "They will keep repairing this one, but that's as far as it goes," he says. "They'd sell me a new one now for $15,000 difference but I'd be better off hiring some-one to harvest my 800 acres than to do that."
When he contacted the state attorney general, Wichman was told there was nothing that could be done as long as the company continued to repair the combine.
However, he went beyond that reply. "I found out through my lawyer that there is a law in Kansas that protects farmers in situations like this. It states that if a piece of farm equipment doesn't do what it's sup-
posed to do, the purchaser can revoke acceptance of that machine."
His attorney set up an appointment with Deere's lawyer to discuss replacement of the combine, but several appointments have been cancelled. "I'm just getting the run- around," he says.
Tim Harrington, Deere's attorney at the Moline, Ill., admitted that there have been meeting conflicts.
Deere officials have agreed to extend the one-year warranty on the combine for an-other year, but Wichman says he's certain the problems will continue and he doesn't want to have to cope with continuous break-downs.
Caldwell says Deere factory officials are co
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