The Associated Press reports that New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs has just filed a lawsuit against Nissan
OK, to be fair, that's not precisely how New Jersey phrased its complaint. The story actually goes like this: Some versions of Nissan's Maxima sedan are equipped with Xenon headlights, which are apparently pretty valuable on the chop-shop market. Over the past couple of years, the state has documented 756 thefts of Xenon headlights from Nissan Maximas. When sold as an option, Xenon headlights add only $150 to the cost of a 2004 Maxima. But once stolen, Nissan dealers charge about $1,800 to replace them.
So, New Jersey is upset about three things: First, Nissan is profiting from replacing stolen headlights. Second, Nissan did not warn buyers that the headlights were popular with thieves. Third, Nissan promised to affix special brackets to make the headlights more difficult for thieves to detach from the cars, for free -- then charged customers for the service.
Of these three points, the last one is the most serious. If Nissan deceived its customers, it deserves to be sued. The first point also sounds serious, but probably is not. The company can certainly argue that it costs significantly more to add back a part that has been stolen from a complete car than to integrate the part during manufacture.
The second accusation seems just plain silly, if it weren't serious. If producers can be sued for selling expensive stuff that thieves will recognize as expensive, then this cannot end with Nissan. Toyota
So, it is the second accusation that troubles me. I understand that New Jersey is simply trying to protect its citizens. But does it really have to impute to them a total lack of common sense in order to do so?
Let's take this as a given: If you want to pay a lot of money for something, other people will want it, too. Even people who do not necessarily want to pay for it.
Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any companies mentioned in this article.