June 19, 1978 12:00 PM

Five years ago Angelo Asciolla, a Laconia, N.H. motel owner, took a trip to Wisconsin in his gleaming new Oldsmobile sedan. Two weeks later he discovered the car had (1) rust on its underside, (2) ice in its transmission and (3) wouldn’t go forward or backward. A patch-up job got the ailing vehicle back to New England, but then Asciolla ran into trouble again. General Motors offered him a new transmission, but refused to provide a new car. “This car’s been flooded,” snapped Asciolla to his dealer. “I’ll see you in court.”

He fired off indignant letters to consumer protection officials—including Ralph Nader, who never replied. When nothing came of that, he hired a lawyer. One court awarded Asciolla $1,000 for damages and inconvenience, but no new car, and he appealed. Finally in January 1977 the New Hampshire supreme court ruled unanimously that he was entitled to a new car and damages. Last October a lower court implemented the ruling, ordering General Motors to give Asciolla a 1978 Olds plus $3,300. “But nothing happened,” says Asciolla, “so we got another hearing.” This time the court gave GM a deadline and imposed a $100-a-day penalty for failing to meet it. Only last month did the giant automaker turn over a handsome new Olds Delta 88 and a total of $6,148 in damages. “I think GM stretched out this case to discourage people from taking action if they have a lemon,” says Asciolla, 64, who in the meantime bought a Ford station wagon. “But I wasn’t going to give up. The reason we have such poor service is that most consumers won’t do anything.” And what of the new 88—will he keep it? “I didn’t want to,” he says with a sigh, “but Josephine, my wife, says we should. It’s a beautiful car. Works fine.”

You May Like