Thursday

Just How Fast Do You Really Need to Go?


Rumor has it that the new 2008 Dodge Viper will be unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Here's some early info and pics...

First, some numbers. The Viper is reported to come with an 8.4 liter V-10 engine that can generate a screaming 600 hp and 560 "foot-pounds" of torque. That's a 117% increase from last year and means that the car will scream its way from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. Yeah, this is not your father's Oldsmobile, folks.

An engine that big needs bigger vents to expel the engine heat so the new Viper hood will have six big air intakes. Translation? It looks meaner (as if it needed it).

For enginerring types, word is that the old twin-disc clutch will be replaced by a single disc unit that will transmit power to the road more efficiently (but don't expect to ever get 24 mpg in one of these rockets).

The factory web site doesn't have any '08 model info out yet, but the '07 performance numbers certainly weren't shabby by any means. They never were for a Viper.

All of this begs the question, just how fast do you really need to go? Of course, that doesn't really matter to someone willing to plunk down a cool $100,000 for one of these iron missiles. After all, it isn't about speed (okay, maybe a little bit), it's all about appearance and making a statement. It's been said before: you are what you drive.

Regardless of the quantity or the quality, we can't think of a single model vehicle we haven't handled a lemon model of, including the Viper (you think that could be bad, how about a quarter million dollar Ferrari that Wall Street types are scrapping over?).

If you get a lemon, no matter how much it cost, you may have the right to get all your money back or a new one. So if that new Viper's fangs just suck, give us a call. We can help. We know what lemons are because we had one ... and we know how to squeeze them too.

Wednesday

George Clooney's 130 mph Electric Sports Car

Ever since the Who Killed the Electric Car? documentary, people have thought electric cars were dead. Well, not only are they still alive, they appear to be doing some real "kicking" to boot! There's one out there that'll even go 130 mph.

All 800 of GM's EV1 were pulled off the road and crushed back in 2004. Since then, things have been humming alone just fine, as private and small developers have gotten into the act, spurred on partly by California's Zero Emission Mandate and tax incentives and sometimes just plain desire to prove it can be done.

Interest in electric cars seems to go up and down with a direct link to the price of gas, but some interest always seems to be there. Even foreign countries have electric cars, like the Reva in Bangalore (where in the world is that place? It's India's Silicon Valley). There are even companies out there that will provide you with electric car conversion kits, if you really want to tackle this kind of project yourself (now that's a stupid idea).

Hollywood celebrities have been buying up electric cars, like George Clooney, who bought the first Tango electric sports car from Commuter Cars Corporation. That passenger car will go an incredible 130 mph.

Another high-speed electric demon is the Tesla Roadster, from a Silicon Valley start up company. This Lotus-like sports car will scream its way up to 60 mph in only 4 seconds but you may have to hold on for dear life if you don't get your foot off the pedal. This is not your father's Oldsmobile, folks.

Best of all, these cars are predicted to have low maintenance costs since there's no clutch, no oil, no muffler, no fluid to top off and no filters to change. You'll also never stop at a gas station unless you just want to pick up a Coke or Pepsi while you're cruising along. How electric cars work is really quite remarkable. Not to be left out, even Chrysler has its corporate finger in the electric "pie" with its Global Electric Motorcars, although (perhaps because of the corporate bohemith's mentality that is behind them) their cars just don't look as cool.

Okay, so you want something a little tamer, or maybe you just don't have an extra hundred grand laying around, well then there's plenty of less expensive electric cars to be had. Take the Xebra, a funky 3 wheeled four seater from ZAP, a 12 year old publicly traded California company that started out making electric scooters and just kept right on going. Zap doesn't stop there, though. They have available electric cars, electric trucks, electric atv's, electric scooters and even an electric powered "sea-scooter." They even have an electric version of the Smart Car that is the rage of Europe's younger set.

Then there's the 100 mph Porsche-looking electric car from World Class Exotics in West Palm Beach, Florida. They take the chassis and body of the car you want and convert it to an electric car, except without all the gasoline engine parts that wear and tear their way back into the repair shop. These guys will even take a Rolls Royce and turn it into an electric car, if you want to pay the price!

Electric cars don't have to be sluggish, dumb looking cars. The ones above are only some of them that aren't. Let's hope their trade organization (the Electric Auto Association) gets heard in Congress and their products become more well known. I know one thing for sure. If I had an extra hundred grand around, I'd gladly pop for one of those Clooney-mobiles!

With fewer moving parts to wear out or be manufactured wrong in the first place, these electric cars aren't likely to be sour Lemons and for that reason alone, Detroit ought to be very, very interested in them!

Monday

Toyota Keeps its Customers Longer Than Anyone Else

Quality counts.

As 2006 came to a close, toyota scored another prize. Automotive News announced that Toyota leads the industry in keeping new vehicle buyer customers coming back to Toyota products, according to a study just released by JD Power and Associates.

It has been Lexus that took the top honor before. Lexus is the luxury Toyota brand so it's not big surprise to see Toyota in the picture too.

The study measured the percent of new vehicle buyers and lessees who replacea a motor vehicle with another from the same brand. In this case, it turns out that Toyota owners replace their cars with another Toyota more often than anyone else.

Typically about half of the buying public replaces their vehicle with the same brand. In 2005, the most recent survey results at the time, it was 47.9%.

Toyota topped the survey results with a 63.9% loyalty rate. That may have something to do with Toyota's typically good resale value and often high quality, in our Lemon Law experience.

Honda is not far behind, with 60.3% loyalty. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, Cadillac tops the list at sixth place with a 55.5% loyalty rate. Chevrolet was next with 55.3%.

Still, many people think that if you buy the same kind of car often enough, sooner or late you will get a lemon. That may happen if the rumors of Toyota cheapening its product quality turn out to be true. If it happens to you, contact us. We can help.

Representing consumers against the manufacturers of defective vehicles is what we do.

Sunday

Pets are Part of What Makes Us a Little More Human


We recently lost Brandy, the family's cocker spaniel of 15 years. The sympathy and concern of may were encouraging and comforting for us.

The words of consolation below come from a surprising source and are being shared in our conviction that pets are part of what makes us all a little more human.


An old man and his dog were walking down this dirt road with fences on both sides, they came to a gate in the fence and looked in, it was nice - grassy, woody areas, just what a 'huntin' dog and man would like, but, it had a sign saying 'no trespassing' so they walked on.

They came to a beautiful gate with a person in white robes standing there. "Welcome to Heaven" he said. The old man was happy and started in with his dog following him.

The gatekeeper stopped him. "Dogs aren't allowed, I'm sorry but he can't come with you." "What kind of Heaven won't allow dogs? If He can't come in, then I will stay out with him. He's been my faithful companion all his life, I can't desert him now." "Suit yourself, but I have to warn you, the Devil's on this road and he'll try to sweet talk you into his area, he'll promise you anything, but, the dog can't go there either. If you won't leave the dog, you'll spend Eternity on this road " So the old man and dog went on.

They came to a rundown fence with a gap in it, no gate, just a hole. Another old man was inside. "Scuse me Sir, my dog and I are getting mighty tired, mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?" "Of course, there's some cold water under that tree over there. Make yourselves comfortable " "You're sure my dog can come in? The man down the road said dogs weren't allowed anywhere." "Would you come in if you had to leave the dog?" " No sir, that's why I didn't go to Heaven, he said the dog couldn't come in. We'll be spending Eternity on this road, and a glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now. But, I won't come in if my buddy here can't come too, and that's final. "

The man smiled a big smile and said "Welcome to Heaven." "You mean this is Heaven? Dogs ARE allowed? How come that fellow down the road said they weren't?" "That was the Devil and he gets all the people who are willing to give up a life long companion for a comfortable place to stay. They soon find out their mistake, but, then it's too late. The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there. God wouldn't allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, He created them to be man's companions in life, why would he separate them in death?"

By Earl Hamner
Writer for The Twilight Zone




Thursday

Jaguar Best in Quality Survey

Jaguar comes in best, at the top of the heap, in the 2006 JD Power quality survey for customer satisfaction for the third year in a row.

The new car quality survey is based on more than 42,000 new vehicle buyers and looks at dealership facility, salesperson, the paperwork process, financing, the delivery process, and vehicle price.

Overall the entire new car sales industry score was 847 out of 1,000. Jaguar posted 912, Cadillac was 891, Porsche 889, Lexus 887, and Volvo at 883. Landing below average was Mitsubishi and Suzuki at 794 each and VW at 827.

The survey matters because studies show that nearly half of all car shoppers walk away from a dealership because they feel poorly treated. Given the way some dealers act, that's no surprise to many consumers. The score may be an indicator of how well some brand dealers treat their customers.

The average time at a dealership to buy a new car is now about 3 hours. Part of the process, of course, is designed to make sure the dealer is in control of every aspect of what's happening to the customer. They don't need 3 hours to sell you a car. You don't need 3 hours to buy one either. They keep you there so they can sell a lot more than just that shiney new car.

One of the most profitable parts of the process for the dealership, the finance department, takes just over half an hour to get through. There's a lot more going on there than just signing paperwork, although that's what dealers try to make it seem like, in order to get you to let down your guard so they can sell you lots of other stuff with that new car.

In the F&I department, car dealers often work the customer thru a "menu" of extra items (it's called menu selling), trying to sell high profit soft add on's like extended warranties, gap insurance (which isn't really insurance at all in most states), credit insurance, and the latest money maker --- tire and wheel "protection" (sort of like an extended warranty on your wheels!).

Curiously, nearly a third of new car sales happen on the weekend and customers are consistently less happy with their purchase when it occurs on a weekend. To top it off, it takes an average of 22 minutes longer to get thru the process on the weekend too.

Part of that time length may be because the dealership is trying to push more soft add on's into the deal in the F&I part of the process, largely because of the huge profit markups. Sometimes the customer might not even realize their deal is being packed with lots of costly items they probably don't need.

If a dealer rips you off, don't put up with it. Contact us for help. Representing consumers against dishonest and unfair car dealers is what we do!

Wednesday

Super Secret Safety Defect Files Your Govt Won't Tell You About

For nearly three years the major car makers have been shipping millions of pages of secret safety defect data to federal safety regulators that they don't want the public to get hold of, while your tax dollars are being used to organize and keep track of it all. Turns out you get to pay for it, but you don't get to know what's in there.

8 million consumer complaints. 138 million warranty claims. 5 million other reports which detail product malfunctions. It's all part of an "early warning program" set up by congress to prevent another Firestone tire failure type of scandal. And it's all kept secret by government officials at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration --- the same folks who are well paid by your tax dollars to keep the public informed of these very things. Sounds like someone's been sleeping with the enemy to me...

The Firestone mess occurred because of tread separations and other failures that were linked to at least 271 deaths and which resulted in the company recalling 10 million tires. Ford used millions of the tires and ended up redesigning their vehicles and facing huge lawsuit costs while Ford's reputation took a beating. Firestone also took a beating.

There was even a cartoon circulated that jokingly hinted the Concord airplane crash (that happened about that time) might have been the result of Firestone tires failing.

The "big 3" and some German and Japanese manufacturers have argued that this new "defect info" should be kept secret and federal investigators have been trying to do just that, even though it was originally thought that all this data would be available to the public.

The automakers trade group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, has fought hard to keep the quarterly reports classified as confidential business information so that the public can be kept in the dark. Federal safety officials, often appointed or hired by political appointees, agreed, claiming that if they disclosed the malfunction and failure reports then the car companies might stop telling them about vehicle defects.

Safety critics, including the former director of NHTSA Joan Claybrook, have complained that federal safety officials shouldn't keep the defect data secret and that the public has a right to know. Her organization, Public Citizen, filed suit in 2004 to force the secret records to come to light and last March a federal judge agreed. Meanwhile, the argument goes on.

In case you think the defect data is actually being used, it doesn't look like it. Turns out that safety officials opened about the same number of defect investigations in the five years since Congress created this "early warning system" as they did in the five years before it. That suggests that the data isn't resulting in anything unsual happening at all.

Seems to me that if tax dollars are being used to compile and track defect data, then taxpayers ought to be able to find out what the data says. It'd be a shame to find out later that the carmakers were telling the feds about serious safety defects that could kill, and no one was doing anything to make sure the public was being warned.

You can help. Complain to Congress. You can find your representative, and send them a quick email, by clicking here. Just say "the NHTSA early warning system data should be made public so please do something about it." That will help.

Meantime, if you think you've got a defective car or truck (and safety officials aren't warning any of us about what they are learning from this secret data), contact us. We can help.

Friday

Airbags Work --- Even in Airplanes

Airbags have been in cars for over a decade. In spite of some naysayers, anecdotal and other evidence indicates they clearly can save lives. Now, they are available for airplanes too.

With 9 US locations, AmSafe builds safety equipment and that includes airbags for airplanes. Building airplane airbags may sound like a fledgling market, but the Amsafe Aviation Inflatable Restraint system has probably already saved lives. In three different aviation accidents, five people walked away without help and with no life threatening injuries at all.

Bill Hagan, president of AmSafe, cites studies that say that half of all aviation accidents occur during taxi, takeoff or landing and survival often depends on staying conscious after the accident occurs. That's where AmSafe's airbags come in.

Working much like an automobile airbag, the bag can inflates in front of the occupant, providing the same safety cushion designed for cars and trucks over 20 years ago. That was roughly when the Insurance Institute and others began touting the safety aspects of what was then a still unproven design. Detroit fought airbags, claiming the extra cost was not worth it. Gradually, the scientists won the argument.

Nowadays, no one thinks twice about airbags. You expect there's one in your new car (and there is). Makes sense they'd work in airplanes too. You can watch some video footage of airplane airbags in action by clicking here.

I've travel thousands of air miles and never been an accident once. Then again, I can say that about motor vehicles too. Just like with seat belts, knowing the airbag is there makes you feel just a little safer in a car. No reason it wouldn't be the same in a plane.

Although the odds are still small, you are 60 times more likely to be injured in a general aviation accident than if you are riding in a scheduled US air carrier flight, according to federal investigators.

I don't know if we'll ever see airbags installed in a huge commercial airliner, but for smaller general aviation aircraft, they just make good sense. An airbag doesn't stop a car from being a lemon, but it can save your life. The same thing just might be true for airplanes.

Thursday

Dealers Improving Service


Car dealers are improving but they still keep some customers waiting, irritating them and costing them business.

The JD Power Sales Satisfaction Index analyzes the purchase "experience" based on reports from the car buying public. What people complain about most? Long waits for the paperwork process after negotiating the purchase and a general feeling of being poorly treated, according to the survey.

On average, the auto sales industry creeped up 5 points on a 1,000 point scale (barely a bubble), accoring to the survey, which measures satisfaction with the dealership facility, salesperson, paperwork/finance process, delivery process and vehicle price.

Nearly a third of all vehicle sales take place on a weekend, when consumers aren't at work, according to the survey.

Jaguar is the top dog when it comes to giving customers a pleasing buying experience, while Mazda Mitsubishi, Nissan and Suzuki tied for worst.

But not everything is the buying experience. Quality still counts and that's a whole different story. A lot of German and Japanese cars took took quality honors and have consistently done so.

Car dealers of all kinds have lots of ways of making money off you. Things like the negative equity ripoff, arbitration clauses that can keep you from suing them when you find out what they did to you, ourageously priced window etching so-called "security systems" that are nothing but some high priced window scratches, and outright fraud.

When it comes to getting rid of lemons, or getting your money back from ripoff car dealers, that's what we do best...in fact, that's about all we do and all we've done for nearly 30 years. If a car dealer ripped you off, if you got stuck with a lemon, call us. Chances are, we can help you get out of that mess they put you in.

Wednesday

California Sues Auto Companies over Global Warming

California is taking the global warming fight straight to the tailpipe!

Talk about creative government lawyering, for the first time a state is trying to hold car makers liable for the greenhouse gases that scientists believe are warming up the atmosphere and damaging the environment.

"Global warming is causing significant harm to California's environment, economy, agriculture and public health," California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a statement announcing the lawsuit his office was filing against GM, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

The lawsuit claims that the carmakers have created a public nuisance by turning out millions of vehicles that emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide. The car companies did not appear to be immediately worried, probably relying in part on a similar New York case that was filed against some utility companies there and was thrown out of court.

California and 11 other states also are involved in a lawsuit that challenges what they call the federal EPA's refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, now awaiting Supreme Court review.

Some people shake their head at California's decades-old struggle to clean up its air by battling Detroit, but it did establish the first air pollution control districts way back in 1947, in an attempt to help rid Los Angeles of the smog that was already being recognized even back then (the word "smog" didn't even exist then; they called it a "gas attack").

This new lawsuit may be political grandstanding by the Governator, but it certainly will at least get Detroit's attention for the moment.

Anything that makes Detroit think about building more fuel efficient and less polluting cars is a step in the right direction. People might put up with a few more defects (lemons?) if they got such good mileage that they couldn't resist it.

Tuesday

Federal Investigations and Lousy Financials Haunt Chrysler

DaimlerChrysler looks to be facing tough times and tough troubles.

Recently the company announced that it had immediately suspended some senior managers after a probe uncovered what it calls "unspecified irregularities" (corporate speak for "we aren't gonna tell you how bad it is").

The company is already under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that it used slush funds to bribe foreign officials, as US financial regulators and criminal investigators continue looking into potential violations of anit-corruption laws because of payments the company has said deal primarily with transaction involving government entities in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.

On top of that, the Chrysler group last month posted a $1.46 billion (with a "B") loss for the third quarter. Luckily, the Mercedes and Truck divisions are making up for it.

Meanwhile, rumors continue to float that the Chrysler group may be for sale. When asked, its Chief Financial Officer Uebber said "We don't exclude anything here," including structural changes as the company aims to improve its profit margins by a publicly announced $1,000 per vehicle.

Even at that, however, it's doing a lot better than GM and Ford, which are projected to be losing $1,271 and $451 respectively for each vehicle sold in the US while Chrysler squeezes out a narrow profit of $144. Even at that, all three are miles behind Nissan's $2,135 profit per vehicle Toyota's profit of $1,715 per vehicle and Honda's $1,259.

If you're in the market for a new car, the manufacturer's financial stability is something you might want to consider. When companies pinch pennies, quality control can be the first thing to go out the window. When that happens, the lemons start popping. If you get one, call or email or fax us.

Monday

Does Mike Ramirez have it right about Ford?


Kudos to Michael Ramirez for an insightful editorial cartoon that appeared in many major newspapers November 4th. You can see more of his great cartoons by clicking here.

I don't think the employee parking lot is quite as full of imported cars as the cartoon suggests, but there's no doubt that employee brand loyalty is way, way down. Either they aren't getting enough of a discount, or perhaps they suffer the same Lemon Law fatigue as other consumers?

Wednesday

New Web Site to Complain (or Applaud) Your Car Dealer


MyDealerandMe.com just might work. It can't hurt.

There's a new web site that promotes itself as the place where consumers can complain about the treatment they receive at their local car dealership. Or, they can applaud how their dealer treated them. The site was created for car dealers and their customers, the site's founders say, to provide a place where owners can rant or rave about dealers who are in the site's 18,000-dealer database.

Owners can also rate their car dealer experience on a scale of 1 to 5. When a consumer posts their comments, they are apparently forwarded to the dealer, who then gets a chance to respond. Failing to respond, the site says, will affect their rating on the site. That's the tricky part.

Nothing is said about whether the customer's remarks are publicly posted, to be viewed by anyone, or if this is a "private" system where the dealer gets to try to resolve consumer complaints first. Obviously, the very fear of a negative posting can have an impact on the way a car dealer treats future customers, just as much as the fear of not satisfying a complaining customer whose post was sent to the dealer for them to "head off at the pass" so to speak.

While MyDealerandMe.com appears at first glace to be slanted in favor of car dealer use, a competing web site, DealerRater.com, appears to be slanted in favor of consumer use and may be another place to check out your dealer's rating by consumers. Other consumer gripe sites are easy to locate too.

Time will tell. Still, just having the chance to communicate directly (hopefully) with someone "in charge" through the use of this new web site is enough to give us hope that car dealers will be listening. We'll have to wait and see. As we learn more, we'll update this post with more information. Like we said, MyDealerandMe.com just might work.

In the meantime, if you've been the victim of fraud committed by a car dealer or other merchant, you can find a lawyer to help you by clicking here.

Tuesday

Chrysler Learns Delphi's Number Games ?

Yesterday we talked about the numbers games that got bankrupt Delphi in hot water (and litigation) with the SEC. Today, we see that Chrysler is also up to some number games of its own.

WardsAuto.com is reporting that unlike other manufacturers, Chrysler has been building cars its dealers don't need and can't sell, and piling up a 100,000 vehicle backlog of unsold vehicles (parked out back?) that it just forgot to count as unsold inventory.

Of course, doing that made their public numbers look a lot better than they really were. Some say that little-used accounting practice disguised Chrysler's overall market picture at a time when it was really bleaker than the industry thought.

Now, we learn that at the end of September Chrysler's reported inventory neared 529,000 vehicles. With that glut, which some dealers don't like having to live with, now may be a good time to bargain yourself into a good deal ... or not.

In its defense, Chrysler says it's a common practice but Ford's George Pipas reportedly scoffed at the notion, saying "Absolutely false." The American Honda and Nissan officials also are reported to have said the same thing. Meanwhile, Chrysler says its practice keeps the factories "humming" at a time when the third quarter loss was reported at a staggering $1.5 billion. At that rate the corporate giant could end up humming its way into a one man band in an empty auditorium and falling flat on its face to boot.

Now, rumor has it that Mercedes has shipped in executives under a program called "Project ReFocus" and whose aim is to cut costs and improve efficiency. As they said once before on the streets in Detroit, here come the Germans again!

It doesn't take a German rocket scientist to figure out that it's stupid to build 529,000 cars that aren't being sold. Apparently someone keeps replaying that line from the movie Field of Dreams... "if you build it they will come."

Fruit, like new cars, can't sit on the shelf too long or things can begin to go wrong. After all, fresh lemons can turn sour and rancid with too much age. Thank goodness we have a Lemon Law that's ready for the day when Chrysler ships all those cars out of its back "Field of Dreams."

Monday

Delphi Gets Away With Cooking the Books

After a 2 year probe of Delphi's accounting procedures, the SEC sued the bankrupt auto parts maker and 13 persons for fraud and other accounting violations on Oct. 30.

At the same time, Delphi Corp. and some of the individuals settled with the SEC, under which Delphi won't pay any fines or admit any wrongdoing. Last year Delphi restated 3 years of earnings to correct its accounting problems and only months later it filed for bankruptcy protection. Now Delphi successfully avoids getting fined by basically crying poverty.

Former CEO JT Battenberg III and 8 former Delphi executives were accused of fraud or aiding in accounting violations. 3 of the nine, including former Finance Chief Alan Dawes, agreed to pay fines.

The SEC justified its agreement with Delphi by saying that "Despite engaging in widespread fraudulent conduct, Delphi took significant remedial steps and cooperated extensively" said the SEC's Washington office.

Okay, so big business gets away with it again. Delphi cooks the books and, when they get caught, Delphi files bankruptcy and avoids having to pay any fines and doesn't even have to admit they did anything wrong. Sure, some of the players in the game got fined for helping Delphi use accounting tricks to inflate net income numbers by $202 million while hiding a $237 million claim, along with improper inventory accounting methods that bosted income numbers by $80 million. But most galling is the fact that high level executives and business people were in on the scam that inflated Delphi's numbers by hundreds of millions of dollars in nonexistent profit.

Not mentioned in any press release was how much money the "Delphi gang" was paid by Delphi to cook the books. Cooking the books is serious because investors rely on standard accounting practices and basic honesty in the decision to invest in a corporation's stock. Apparently some people at (or with) Delphi took a page from Enron's "playbook for accountants" and learned a trick or two.

So corporate shenanigans cost investors and consumers millions again while big government watches the back of big business, each one helping out the other at the expense of the rest of us. Something isn't just rotten in Denmark --- it's rotten in Detroit and Washington DC too. Maybe it's just all part of the GM Death Watch...

Delphi was spun off by GM several years ago and one can only hope that Delphi's accountants didn't learn their job from GM's accounting bosses, because if they did then this may be a good time to sell your GM stock!

If you've got a lemon GM car or truck, now may be the best time to do something about it (before someone counts the bean counters).

Sunday

Voting Can Be Easier Than You Think

How would you like a cup of coffee with that ballot? How would you like to vote in your morning robe ... or out of it? How would you like to cast your ballot after your eggs and before your bacon? And how about a refill on that orange juice while you cast your vote?

What, they don't serve breakfast with the ballots at your polling place? Then you should use an absentee ballot.

We just voted. We did it at the kitchen counter over a cup of coffee. We discussed each candidate and ballot issue. We read the local newspaper's Election Guide by the League of Women Voters, which outlined each candidate and each issue. We even had our laptop there, to do any last minute googling. I was expecting to be out of town and requested an absentee ballot, (never did that before).

Every vote was thoughtful and we didn't forget which way we wanted to vote on Issues 4 and 5 either. Those are Ohio's confusing and competing non-smoking measures. Issue 4 is actually supported by the tobacco industry while Issue 5 is not but both are worded to make it sound like they are a vote against the tobacco industry. Thank goodness we had time to read about them and figure out what was really going on --- something we couldn't do if we were standing in private little voting booths while someone else was waiting to get in right behind us.

Anyone is allowed to vote with an absentee ballot. You don't even need a reason. Lots of people use it to avoid long poll lines. Some people use it because they just don't trust electronic voting machines. After all, if Robin Williams can get elected President, there is some reason for doubt (and a lot of reason for humor). A quick google for "don't trust voting machines" shows that there is no shortage of news articles and web sites that have pointed out why easy it is to rig the computers and the results. The machines have even been banned in some places. A little caution can be a healthy thing.

But for me, what was the best part about how we voted this year? I had my slippers and robe on. Now, that's easy voting. If you didn't use an absentee ballot this election, remember to request one next time. But don't wait until it's too late. Do it early. Check out some Election Tips on how to vote so you can be sure you do it "legal" too because voting is the most important legal right you have.

Who you vote for is your own choice. Who did I vote for? Well, obviously Marc Dann for Ohio Attorney General. Why? Partly because I remember very well what his opponant did, and more importantly did not, do for Ohio consumers when she was Ohio's AG before, and I don't want to see that happen again. And, others have also recalled how The AG's office has been used, some say misused, in order to protect and even promote big business interests at the expense of Ohio's consumers.

Mostly, though, I voted for Marc Dann because I think it's time we got rid of the professional politicians who have been running Ohio (into the ground) for the last eight years. It's time we had an Attorney General who cared about children and consumers again.

We have a Lemon Law and other Consumer Protection Laws. What we need now is an Attorney General who wants to enforce them. That's Marc Dann.

Tuesday

Toledo Newspaper Endorses Marc Dann for Ohio Attorney General

We strongly support government officials who protect consumers, and we ask you to do the same. The Ohio Attorney General's office is in charge of protecting Ohio consumers and that is why this year's election is critically important to consumers everywhere.

That's also why the following Editorial article, published in the Toledo Blade newspaper on October 15, 2006, is presented here in its entirety as a public service announcement in favor of better government and better government officials.

Dann for Attorney General

Ohio needs a watchdog, not a partisan lapdog, as attorney general, which is why we emphatically endorse state Sen. Marc Dann for the post in the Nov. 7 election.

After The Blade exposed corruption in the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in 2005, a scandal that spread to Gov. Bob Taft’s office, Senator Dann, a Democrat from the Youngstown area, was among few legislators in the Republican-controlled General Assembly to speak out forcefully to further uncover what would become known as “Coingate.”

We believe that Senator Dann would serve a similarly vigilant role as attorney general. Based on his performance in helping to peel back the layers of official deceit that initially shrouded Coingate, we have no reason to doubt his claim that he would be as tough on Democrats who might be elected to state office as he would be on Republicans and their culture of corruption.

Senator Dann’s Republican opponent, Betty Montgomery, wants her old job as attorney general back, but she doesn’t deserve it. As the incumbent state auditor, and before that as attorney general, it was her job to blow the whistle on Tom Noe’s rare-coin investment deal as soon as she learned of it, but she did not.

Instead, Ms. Montgomery cruised along as an integral part of the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil cadre of GOP officeholders who have been running Ohio for the past 16 years. They looked the other way as workers’ compensation officials quietly handed Noe the breathtaking sum of $50 million, some of which, the state alleges, he converted to his personal use.

That Noe is now on trial on theft and racketeering charges stemming from Coingate does not diminish the culpability of those GOP officials, who turned a blind eye to this egregious waste of taxpayer dollars that were supposed to be used to help injured workers.

Incredibly, Ms. Montgomery has admitted that she knew about Noe’s seven-year investment deal for at least a year before the story broke. But there were no public pronouncements. Even after the scam was revealed, she kept her official head down and essentially took no action for 43 days until the public furor forced her hand.

Tom Noe was Ms. Montgomery’s friend and one of her generous political patrons. While that relationship might explain why she took no real action against him, it is certainly no excuse.

Bolstered by a fat campaign fund to pay for endless TV spots, Ms. Montgomery has been making much of a public reprimand handed Senator Dann by the Ohio Supreme Court for filing the wrong pleading as a private attorney in a divorce case.This was a far less serious matter than Ms. Montgomery would have voters believe. She undoubtedly doesn’t want anyone to recall that, as attorney general in 1996, the state Supreme Court threw out her own appeal of an open-records case after she failed to file a brief on time. At the time, she blamed this nonfeasance on a broken office copy machine.

With a law degree from Case-Western Reserve University School of Law, Senator Dann is a better-trained and far more energetic and articulate lawyer than Ms. Montgomery, and we believe he would better serve Ohioans in cleaning up the current Statehouse mess.

State officials who, like Betty Montgomery, wear partisan blinders and fail to do their job don’t deserve another chance, especially when there’s a better alternative. In our view, the better candidate for attorney general is clearly Marc Dann.
[end]

The Toledo newspaper has it right. There are lots of reasons to vote this year, including the chance to change government for the better. Marc Dann would be one of those better changes, where an elected official cares about consumer rights again.

Monday

23 Years and Nothing's Changed: 1982 mpg = 2005 mpg

What is going on? Motor vehicles are built better, more luxuries, a/c is everywhere, computers are stuck in practically every corner of a new car or truck and the miles per gallon? It's the same now as it was 23 years ago. What is going on?

The EPA documented the "no change" numbers in a report called "Light Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends 1975 through 2006." The result? Practically everything about motor vehicles has been improved by technology except for one thing --- miles per gallon.

Mileage was dramatically improved from 1975 to 1980 (recall the Arab oil embargo?), slowed down in the 1980's, actually decreased in the 1990's, and has been pretty much the same ever since. In 1982 it was 21 mpg. Same thing in 2005. What's going on?

The high point on the scale was back in 1987, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Engine technology has improved dramatically, but it apparently had no effect on miles per gallon. The reason? Some say it's the increased weight of motor vehicles. After all, when mpg was going up between 1975 and 1980, average vehicle weight was going down. Others say the engine advances were aimed at juicing up speed so that the "0 to 60" accelleration time would dramatically drop (which it has).

Okay, so the thrill of that big engine roar is directly related to lousy gas mileage. Shock, shock. The simple fact is that if you want better gas mileage, the first step is don't buy a big vehicle with a huge engine. We buy cars that give poor mpg because that's what Detroit (and the imports) build and sell us. If they built a good looking car that got good looking mileage numbers, most people would probably buy it.

Still you have to wonder if there isn't some correlation between the CAFE mileage standards mandated by Congress and the oil companies political donations (nearly half a billion dollars in 6 years, with 73% going to Republican coffers while nearly 900 US fuel subsidiaries are located in foreign-based tax havens with Congress' blessings).

Robin Williams was right ... "politicians are like diapers ... they need to be changed regularly, and for the same reason."

Saturday

Politicians are like Diapers


Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason. ~ Author Unknown

Just got back from watching Robin Williams' new movie, Man of the Year. Great flick. While some "critics" have been critical, others have liked the movie. We're in that last category...by far.

Granted I'm a huge fan of Robin Williams anyway ever since I saw a skit years ago with him and Billy Crystal doing stand up at some improv. They bounced lines off each other with a remarkable, and sometimes biting, snappy wit. Both are incredible comedians that rank with the very best.

The film, however, is full of some great lines of humor and no small dose of truth in more places than one. See the trailer here.

The best line of the film comes at the end when Williams says the quote above, politicians are like diapers. The both need changing regularly and for the same reason.

As the November election nears, that's a line worth remembering when you step into the voting booth this year. Ohio needs a new direction on practically every level of government, and particularly in the Attorney General's office, where the doors have been open to big business interests all too long, while consumer's needs have been all but ignored.

And now, a conservative who had the job once before (and did little with it) until time ran out and she had to change government jobs, and when time ran out there she thought she'd run for governor until her own party members wouldn't vote for her as governor, and then she thought she might as well go back to the soft cushion seat she put in her chair at the AG's office. Consumers don't need someone who just wants "another government job."

Consumers need Marc Dann for Ohio Attorney General, a family man who cares about the law and protecting consumers. After all, this is the government office that enforces the Ohio Lemon Law...or doesn't. This is the government office that enforces Ohio's Consumer Protection laws...or doesn't.

It's about time we elected an Attorney General who cares about consumers again. It's about time we elected Marc Dann.

Wednesday

The Employee - Friends Discount that Costs You Money


We're seeing it more and more often. Consumers who end up with a lemon and then find out that there may not be much they can do about it because they were tricked by the dealer into giving up their court rights without realizing it...in exchange for a couple of bucks being saved.

The dealer wants to sell you that new car. If they don't sell, they don't make money. Pure and simple. The hang up? They just can't get you to buy at their normal price. So what to do...

"Well how about we throw in an employee discount?"

"But I'm not an employee," you say. No problem. The dealer says they can give you a discount based on one of their own employees. Sounds too good to pass up? Remember what your mother told you: there's no such thing as a free lunch.

To get you a lower price on that new car, and get you to buy it, what's really happening can be a royal ripoff.

We've heard of one salesman who was "harvesting data" from dealer employee records so he could write up deals based on other employees' discount numbers and sell more cars, make more money, and never tell the co workers he was using their discounts.

We've heard of another finance man at a Chrysler dealership who opened a desk drawer and said "here's a guy who retired, we'll use his discount number."

Why should you care? Suppose that new car turns out to be a lemon.

What they aren't telling you is that by taking the employee discount you may get stuck with the employee discount rules. Those rules contain a "railroad" clause that says that if you have any dispute about that new car, you can't go to court. You can't sue them. You can't make them pay your attorney costs either.

In short, you get railroaded. You lose your rights. Kaput. Stuck. Ripped off. Shafted.

You got a beef? The only thing you can do is go ask their secret arbitrator what they might do for you. Oh yeah, did I mention who pays for the secret arbitration? Well, it isn't you. Why does that matter? Well if the secret arbitrator gets paid by the manufacturer, who do you think they are going to favor? Well, it isn't you.

So there you go. That employee discount can save you a hundred bucks or more, sure, but it can end up costing you thousands and thousands of dollars. Chrysler wins. You lose. Oh, but they aren't done with you!

Now when you go to trade it in, what do you think the dealer's going to say? "Negative equity" Now that lemon car is going to cost you thousands of more dollars to get rid of since you gave up all your legal rights just to save a few bucks. They get you going and coming if you don't watch out.

The moral of the story? If you aren't entitled to an employee discount in the first place, don't fall for the scam when the dealer says they can set you up with one, because that's exactly what they are doing, setting you up.

If the dealer offers to give you a "friend" discount of an employee, don't fall for that either. We've seen some of these "friends and family" discounts that are only $150 or so. Believe us, that discount isn't worth it. For a puny $150 or so, you can get stuck big time.

But it isn't completely hopeless. You can still sue the dealer for stealing your Lemon Law rights! If you've been ripped off, contact us. We sue car dealers for sales fraud, too. We do it every day.

Recalls, Safety Warnings, & Research Links

The job of a lemon lawyer is to hold manufacturers responsible when they build a defective product. The links below provide information about motor vehicle recalls, safety warnings and research and tips to help keep you and your family safe. Find the facts out for yourself.

Recalls: what they are and how they work
Recalls on motor vehicles
Repair Bulletin warnings from vehicle manufacturers
Current Federal investigations of vehicle defects
Owner's complaints about vehicle defects
Ohio's Vehicle Repair Law
Safest cars ranked by insurance companies
Government vehicle rollover ratings
Lemon Laws in 50 states
Motorcycle Lemon Laws in 50 states
Rv and motorhome Lemon Laws in 50 states
Assistive Device Lemon Laws in 50 states
Car Talk's Guide to Auto Safety
Get the Ohio ownership history of any used motor vehicle from Ohio state records
Get the national ownership history of any used motor vehicle from Carfax
A car dealer's dictionary of car dealer terminology and slang
Manufacturer's phone and fax numbers
Car Dealer Ratings by consumers
Lemon vehicle Complaint Letter Generator program
How car dealer arbitration clauses can rip you off

Thursday

Another Child Dies from ATV Crash

When will regulators wake up? Exactly a week ago I wrote an article about how Atv accidents kill our children. The front page of this morning's newspaper talked of a 13 year old Ohio child who died when his Atv overturned, slid down an embankment and trapped the child in a creek.

About 30 percent of all Atv deaths and injuries involve kids under 16 according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. They have proposed new rules that can help but, like many government regulations in the last 6 years, they are watered down and industry friendly.

Let's take an example. When Atv's were first introduced they were 3 wheelers. Those are 3 times riskier to use than the more modern 4 wheeler Atv's. So what does CPSC do? They recommend banning them. Problem is, almost all manufacturers agreed not to sell 3 wheeler Atv's in the US several years ago. Like many of these new CPSC recommendations, it sounds good but it has little real value.

Every four minutes, someone is treated in an emergency room for injuries received in an Atv accident. And more than one of them dies every day. 365 days a year. 24 hours a day. That's the numbers.

That's just for starters, but no matter what we do there are two fundamental problems. First, parents need to just say no when children who can't drive a car say they want an Atv instead. With all the disposable income most parents have (and probably some guilt from all the hours spent working to earn that income), it's hard to say no. I was one of those parents too, once upon a time, so how do you say no? Try this. When little Johnny asks for an Atv, pause for a minute and imagine what Johnny looks like in a coffin. Disgusting thought? Right. Scary? You bet. Parents, however, need to be parents.

Second thing we can do? Kick out the politicians who have no backbone to protect our kids. You know, the same ones who have been catering to big business for the last 6 years (or longer), choosing not to enforce consumer protection laws, watering down long-standing safety regulations and bending over backwards to give big business tax breaks while you and I watch the national debt go up and the economy go down.

Let's start with the elected government officials who are in charge of enforcing the law. The state attorney generals. In Ohio, for too long that office has been occupied by business-friendly politicians who have shirked helping consumers and instead did practically everything they could to help out car dealers and their ilk who made big campaign donations.

Atv Lemon Laws are nice, but what we need right now in Ohio is an attorney general who will enforce the law and who cares about kids. That's Marc Dann. He has 3 kids and he cares. Law enforcement supports Dann for attorney general for a good reason, too. After all, they are the ones who deal with enforcement every day and they have seen how useless a career politician can be as Ohio's chief law enforcer.

This blog didn't start out to be about politics, but then again yesterday a 13 year old boy in Fort Recovery, Ohio, was just another 13 year old boy and not a statistic.

Next month, vote for change in the Ohio Attorney General's office. Why? Because kids don't look good in coffins. It's that simple.

Wednesday

Who Do You Trust?

We've all heard for years about the professions that are the most, and the least, trusted. Teachers and doctors have historically topped the list while, rumor has it, car dealers and lawyers usually pull up the rear of the list.

So this year's list, reported by the Institute for Global Ethics, has no surprises. As usual, Doctors top the list, followed by teachers, scientists, police officers and professors.

The Harris Poll reported that members of congress were distrusted by 63% of people (no surprise). Obviously, people elect people they think they can trust and learn not to trust them after that. Something wrong with the system there, I suspect. It just might be things like the recent vote by the House of Representatives to throw out broad ethics reforms in favor of a narrow measure that some called "one small step" toward partial honesty with voters.

And what politician dropped the most? That's right, the President, with a 17% drop down to an all time low of 48%. Regardless of your political stripes, and that's no tip off on mine, that drop should concern us all because it means that people across this country are losing faith in our elected officials. On the other hand maybe it just means that more people think it's time for a change. That isn't necessarily bad.

Meanwhile lawyers have gone up slightly (now that's a surpise), with 27% of people trusting attorneys. Only thing I can figure out of that is that most people deal with defense attorneys because that's about the percentage of defense attorneys that I would trust, frankly. Okay, that rating isn't great, but as a profession attorneys are ahead of actors and car salesmen are so low they didn't even make the list!

So how do you find a lawyer that you can trust? Talk to other people. Look for a track record in handling your kind of case. After all, you wouldn't hire a dentist to do heart surgery. Don't hire a probate attorney to handle a Lemon Car case either. Not surprisingly, many Consumer Law attorneys know each other. For a national list of Consumer Law and Lemon Law attorneys, click here.

Thursday

Doctors Call for Tougher ATV Rules

An all terrain vehicle can be fun, but it can also be dangerous (even for an experienced adult driver). The danger is even greater for a child.

After a 10 year study on ATV injuries, doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine are calling for a ban on use of all terrain vehicles by children under age 16.

We agree. Young kids usually have no experience or training in driving vehicles and the power and speed of an ATV just begs for dangerous use on equally dangerous terrain. The doctors say the result of kids using ATV's has been increasing numbers of child deaths and injuries. In 1/3 of the cases seen, children suffered serious neurological injuries, including cerebral hemorrhages and skull fractures.

The doctors also condemn 3 wheel ATV's. Those are obviously even more dangerously unstable than their 4 wheel counterparts. The danger was detailed by the Consumer Federation of America in 2002 in their "ATV Safety Crisis" report.

All terrain vehicles were first introduced in 1971 and since then they have led to over a quarter million injuries and 600 deaths. What is worse is the fact that 40% of all ATV deaths are estimated to be children.

Not surprisingly, Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer Reports magazine) and practically everyone else agrees. In fact, ATV dangers have been talked about for years. Consumers Union reported on the data released by federal investigators in 2003 but legislators have done nothing but talk. Meantime, more kids are maimed and injured.

While ATV's are covered by the Lemon Law in many states, the problem here isn't mechanical. It's the fact that the industry just doesn't care who it sells them to or how old the intended drivers are.

If parents don't care, the industry certainly won't. And if federal safety officials don't force changes in the law, many parents will visit their kids in hospitals and some will bury them. Yes, that sounds dramatic but it isn't over dramatic. The death or maiming of a child never is, especially when it is preventable.

Friday

4,700 Mazda Cars Go Down the Drain


A boat load of 4,700 "zoom zoom" cars got waterlogged in July off the Alaskan coast on their way to the US and Canadian markets when the cargo ship tipped some 60 degrees to the side.

The Cougar Ace car carrying ship is nearly 7 football fields long and was loaded with 14 levels of Mazda vehicles (90% are Mazda 3 and CX 7 models) and on its way to Vancouver (British Columbia) and Tacoma (WA) with a stop in California.

Huge ships like this use water as a ballast to distribute cargo weight evenly and when the crew was shifting water into ballast compartments, things apparently got out of hand. At night, 230 miles from the nearest land, the next thing the 23 crew members knew, in less than 10 minutes the ship listed more than 60 degrees to the side. The Coast Guard took the photo above, amidst speculation that water tight compartments were the only reason the ship didn't sink.

The US Coast Guard rescued the crew and the boat was towed to a port in Alaska, where it was uprighted to an even keel before being towed on to Portland, where it was to arrive on Sept. 12. The entire cargo was to be unloaded and then evaluated, Mazda reported.

Mazda's North American President has stated that none of the vehicles will be sold as new and no decision on disposition will be made until the vehicles are gone over to see what can be salvaged and what gets scrapped.

To satisfy customer concerns, Mazda says it will post the vehicle indentification numbers of the vehicles on its US sales website and its Canada sales website. If you are car shopping for a low mileage 2007 Mazda next year, you might want to check Mazda's web site before you buy.

Mazda is to be applauded for not just playing it safe, but for also publishing the VIN numbers so that there will be no temptation by any of its dealers to try to pawn off the water soaked cars as low mileage cream puffs (not that they would, but let's admit just how tempting it would be for a car dealer to give it a try).

Flood cars, like those from Katrina, are nearly worthless but unscrupulous dealers can be sorely tempted to dry out the cars, clean them up, and pass them off for something that they just aren't. For tips on how to avoid buying a flooded Mazda, click here.

Tuesday

The Best Safety Lexus Has to Offer, Isn't for US

The new Lexus LS 460 that goes on sale this fall be able to parallel park itself without the driver touching the steering wheel. Pretty slick! Only problem is, some of the car's best high tech safety features won't be put on cars shipped to the US. They're being kept out of the US market.

Asian and European manufacturers are increasingly at the leading edge of sophisticated automotive safety technologies. Surprisingly, the new Lexus self parker can be had with some amazing safety devices in Japan and elsewhere but not in the US, although engineers in Japan say decisions about which features will hit US shores are still being made.

Cool safety technologies that are not likely to make it to US shores:

1. An advanced obstacle detection system. It's a series of cameras that can detect objects in the road the size of a small child. A forward looking radar detects reflective objects while two cameras detect shapes and distances. The two cameras work together to determine the size of the object also. The system then alerts the driver to the object and starts a precrash system that pumps ujp the power brakes. If the driver begins a panic evasive maneuver, it alters the gear ratio to increase the car's responsiveness. On the US cars the dual cameras are expected to be eliminated or deactivated.

2. A rear precrash safety system. It's a radar system on the rear bumper that determines if the car is going to be rear ended within 1.5 seconds. If so, it flashes the car's hazard lights. If the approaching car doesn't slow down, then it activates an intelligent headrest on the driver's seat within one second of the anticipated impact, to be certain the driver avoids a whiplash injury. The headrest uses sensors to determine the location of the driver's head and then extends the headrest forward to a point close to touching the driver's head.

3. An all speed adaptive cruise control. It works seamlessly from 0 to 85 mph and uses sensors and radar to allow a vehicle to slow down when approaching slower traffic in front and to speed up once traffic clears, all without driver participation in the process. In the US, part of the system will be disabled.

C'mon, Lexus, if it's good enough for everyone else, why not us too? Given the high quality level of Lexus products (after all, who else would recall 29,000 cars just because the seat belt buckles don't unfasten fast enough to suit the designers?), Lexus owners expect the best, so why not give it to us?

Saturday

Big 3 Warranty Repair Costs Reflect Quality

Ford's 2005 warranty repair costs were $3.986 Billion, which was 2.6% of product sales. Maybe a small percentage, but it's a really huge number.

GM's 2005 warranty repair costs were $4.696 Billion, which was 3% of product sales. The only good news for GM is that the warranty tab dropped in the first quarter of '06 to less than Ford's.

Compared with Ford and GM, DaimlerChrysler's warranty claims have been all over the map, but almost always hugely above the other two. From Warranty Week, here's the warranty claims rates for the big 5 automakers from 2003 to 2006:

The chart shows that the perception of Toyota and Honda quality is borne out by the reality of their warranty claims rates: flat. Then take a look at Chrysler. The numbers are significantly higher and erratic. That matches their perception of quality too.

When Chrysler, Ford and GM get their quality up, their warranty costs will go down. And that will mean their profits will go up. After all, you don't hear Toyota crying the financial blues like GM.

Until the quality goes up, if you've got a lemon, don't go it alone. Know your Lemon Law rights and don't let Detroit run over you!

GM Warranties Get Longer

It's about time.

Warranties are about confidence. They are the manufacturer's way of proving to the customer that they built it right and they'll stand behind it if something goes wrong. When you think about the price of a new car or truck nowadays, that's only fair.

In the 1980's Hyundai was the laugh of the auto industry with cheap cars and lousy quality. It was so bad they almost pulled out of the US market. Then they upped the quality but Hyundai also realized that quality alone wouldn't get them invited into the American buyer's garage, so they backed their vehicles up with a 10 year - 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. The result? It took a little time, but buyer's bought and other manufacturer's took notice as their market share started to erode.

Now GM has joined the warranty stretch game. In July Ford increased its powertrain warranty to 5 years - 60,000 miles, in an effort to boost consumer confidence and take market share. It was only a matter of time before GM had to go them one better.

On Sept 7 GM announced that all new 2007 model year vehicles future sales (in all 8 GM lines) would come with a 5 year - 1000,000 mile power train warranty. That's a logical step if GM wants to boost confidence in their product lines again. Just matching Ford would only make GM look like "Johnny come lately" to the warranty party. They had to go one better.

What is curious in all this is DaimlerChrysler. Where are they?

Years ago they were the first Big 3 company to give a longer powertrain warranty, 7 years - 100,000 miles. In their zeal to cut costs everywhere they could, no doubt, they cut the warranty too, eventually all the way back to 3 years - 36,000 miles. Now it's time for them to play catch up, and they probably will.

So if you are bound and determined to buy a new Chrysler, we suggest you wait it out. Sooner or later Chrysler will have to match (or beat) the longer warranty coverage everybody else seems to be offering. Why? Because they know that smart buyers always take reliability over style and a longer warranty promises better reliability.

After all, nobody wants a great looking car that is just another lemon. To find out more about the Lemon Law in your state, click here.

Monday

12 Rules to Avoid Online Auction Ripoff's


Ebay Online Car Sales: Deals or Steals?

We've seen cases where people paid thousands of dollars for used cars based on nothing but some online photos and a seller's fancy talk. Don't be a victim. To avoid getting a lemon, use common sense and follow some basic rules.

Rule # 1: If it sounds too good to be true, it is
(yes, your mother was right).

Rule # 2: Read Rule # 1 again.

Rule # 3. It's real money. Treat every online purchase as though you are paying for it by putting cash money in an ordinary mail envelope and sending it off, because that's how much you are trusting them.

Rule # 4. Don't do it all online. If you want to buy a used vehicle online, travel to the seller and actually see the vehicle. Test drive it, get it inspected. Meet the person who is going to take your hard earned money from you and satisfy yourself that they are honest and you are getting a fair deal.

Rule # 5. Know your seller. Don't buy from any seller who doesn't already have a good online reputation with lots of satisfied buyers. Check it out carefully before your turn over your hard-earned money.

Rule # 6. Get an inspection. If you can't travel to the seller to actually see the vehicle before you buy it, consider contacting a local franchised new car dealer for that brand (if you are thinking of buying a Chevy, call the service department at the Chevy dealer nearest the auction seller's location) and arrange for them to do an independent vehicle inspection before you buy.

Rule # 7. Make a contingent bid. If you have to bid before you see the vehicle in person, try to make your bid contingent on a satisfactory vehicle inspection. That way you can back out of it (or renegotiate the price) if you learn that it needs a new engine or some other major repair.

Rule # 8. Get an Auction Guarantee. Find out if the online auction gives you its own guarantee before you buy. If they don't, go elsewhere. If they do, read the terms carefully to make sure it isn't just fancy words that mean nothing.

Rule # 9. Do your homework. Before you buy any vehicle, check out the vehicle's recalls and known defects. That'll tell you something about the vehicle's reliability, even if the seller hasn't had any problems yet.

Rule # 10. Don't take a risky deal. If the dealer won't give you any guarantee, or doesn't have a good auction reputation, don't send them your money. If you really want to give your money away, you can send it to me.

Rule # 11. Don't sign a blank contract. Make the dealer fill it out and sign it and send it to you. Only after you get it, already signed by the dealer, should you even think about signing it. In most states, a contract is not complete until both sides sign it. If you sign a blank form and send it to the dealer, then when the dealer signs it (in their own home state) the contract is often considered to be legally complete in the state where the last signature is signed to the contract. If it's your home town, and anything goes wrong, you can probably sue the dealer right in your home town and that's alot easier than having to drive a thousand miles to file a lawsuit or hire a lawyer in some distant city to do it for you. Of course, you can avoid this problem by always buying only from a seller who is located in your home state, and the closer to you the better.

Rule # 12. Look, see, touch, feel, drive. Don't pay your money until you see the car and, even then, don't pay your money until you have it inspected carefully. Why? Because once you turn over your money, it's gone.

Ebay car sales can mean a good deal, but be careful. Online auction car sales can be a great opportunity for a crook to steal your money by promising you a cream puff car and leaving you with a piece of junk.

And don't forget that some state Lemon Laws cover used cars and trucks, too. Check with an attorney to find out about your rights.

If you've been ripped off by a car dealer, don't put up with it. You have more legal rights than you probably think you do, so protect yourself.

Wednesday

Mazda To Kill Its Rebates & Sales Incentives

Mazda has just announced that it is going to kill off US rebates and sales incentives in order to stabilize its prices and profits, according to Automotive News magazine. Frankly, it's an approach Detroit might want to consider.

Mazda says it will gradually reduce and then eliminate its incentive programs, including its reduced lease program, on its new models. Its profits had been improving in the face of reduced incentives ($1,800 per vehicle in 2nd quarter this year) from a year ago ($2,000).

Meanwhile, the Big 3 have taken the opposite approach. They've been offering discounts and incentives for the last 5 years under the theory that selling more vehicles would increase profitability. The first half of this year saw incentives averaging $3,400 per US-built new car. To stay competitive with Detroit's incentive advertising, Honda and Toyota offered something too but it was less than $900 in sales incentive money.

So, who's right? Depends on how you look at it, I suppose. One thing seems obvious though: it's probably all smoke and mirrors anyway.

Anyone who thinks that the incentives aren't being paid for by the customer in one way or another is probably ripe for PT Barnum's pickings. Personally, I think we'd all be better off if Detroit just priced their vehicles at the lowest price point that would allow for a reasonable profit and then forget about the rebate and incentive shell game. At least then, we'd all the numbers are "real."

After all, if Detroit can afford to cut $3,400 out of its profit on a new car, then they must be priced too high in the first place. Kind of makes you wonder if they haven't been gouging us all along, doesn't it? Come to think of it, they could just keep the prices where they are and put that rebate money into building higher quality and reliability into the product in the first place. Or, they could answer industry critics, and let their dealers make a little bit more of the profit and still keep the prices the same or lower.

I think most people would rather pay more and know they aren't buying a lemon, than to pay less and then find out that their new car fails The Lemon Test.

Tuesday

Univ Michigan's Customer Satisfaction Survey Chooses Toyota #1

Since 1994 the University of Michigan's School of Business has been conducting its "American Customer Satisfaction Index" and new results have just been released. For the second year in a row, Toyota came out on top.

The study measures consumer attitudes about businesses and the economy and covers much more than just motor vehicle satisfaction, including such things as government web sites and covering a whole range of goods and services, from appliances to news to search engines, etc. Apple tops the computer list; Dell's #2 ranking was obviously taken before news of their long-term flammable and bursting batteries broke and their 4 million battery recall was announced.

The results can be fascinating. Sometimes surprising, sometimes not.

For instance, other consumer studies have also shown the imports to rank higher in customer satisfaction and quality, so it's no surprise to see this one list Toyota on top. Buick, Honda and Lexus tie for second place. Buick is the surprise there for most people, ranking above every other US make and above the likes of BMW and Mercedes. However, in our experience litigating lemons for nearly 30 years, we'd have to agree with this top 4 ranking.

Historically, we've always seen more consumers complaining about Mercedes and BMW than any Buick model. In fact, the only GM model better than a Buick was the Oldsmobile. Never could figure out why they pulled the plug on the Olds line, which historically seemed to be the best in GM quality.

In the 50's, Chevrolet was touted by Dina Shore to be the ideal average family car and that may explain why their satisfaction rating sits dead center on the industry average (which was an improvement over last year's Chevy rating). Meanwhile, Hyundai has spent the last decade increasing its satisfaction rating by more than 20% and now ties with Cadillac. That's a remarkable improvement for a product that was at the bottom of the list just ten years ago. Obviously someone woke up.

Ford, Jeep and Kia trailed in a tie for dead last on the Satisfaction index. Ford and Chrysler's Jeep have certainly had their share of troubles, but Hyundai's control of Kia has caused huge strides in style and quality in the last few years. I guess they are still trying to shake off that haunting "the Sportage is nothing but a modern Yugo" reputation.

If you're satisfied with your car, then you're ahead of the game. If you've got a lemon, though, check out this Summary of US Lemon Laws and do something about it. You can write a letter to the manufacturer complaining about your lemon. Those complaints made a difference at Hyundai ten years ago, and they can make a difference at Ford and Jeep and Kia today.