Wednesday

"We need the money more than the consumer does"

Well, now I've heard it all.

In a recent final pretrial in a case, the manufacturer's attorney didn't argue about whether or not the car was a lemon, he didn't even argue about whether or not it had been in the shop too many times or the defects weren't really there.

No, he came up with a new argument entirely: "We need the money more than your client does." Never mind the fact that the Lemon Law says they have to buy it back and make a total refund. Never mind the fact that the courts say the same thing, too. "We need the money" is not a defense to the Lemon Law. Never has been; not likely it ever will be.

"Needing money" so to speak, should have nothing to do with lawsuits or lemon cars and it shouldn't have anything to do with any manufacturer's attitude about them either. Matter of fact, taking care of their customers is what manufacturers should be thinking about. If they did that, then maybe they'd build the cars right in the first place and, when they didn't, maybe they'd just do what the law says they are supposed to do: just buy it back.

Until then, when a client says they've got a lemon, we'll keep doing what we have been doing since 1978 . . . helping people get a fair result.

Monday

GM Tightens Its Belt

GM is reported to have lost over 8 and a half billion dollars last year. That's "b" with a capital "B", to say the least. Advertising budgets ($1.3 Billion for US ads alone) and health care ($1.9 Billion for prescription drugs) and pension costs ($17 Billion underfunded) are high on GM's list of money saving targets. But it won't stop there.

The effect of GM's cost cutting measures will be seen everywhere and it will hurt consumers who are stuck with GM-built lemons worst of all. These are the people that GM already owes something to, in order to help make up for having sold them a lemon car or truck. They are also the people that GM needs to keep as customers, now more than ever.

Most Lemon Laws say that if you've got a lemon then you can make the manufacturer buy it back and give you back all or nearly all your money. Now, however, with GM crying the Bankruptcy Blues, they are cutting corners everywhere they can and it looks like lemon car settlements is high on the list of vulnerable targets where GM thinks it can save money.

One of GM's pre-lawsuit settlement offices received "shut down" orders in Florida recently and the case load shifted to its Texas settlement office. For GM, that means company costs are skimped on in Florida. For consumers, that means an overload of work going on in Texas. The likely effect is that it will take longer to get a decent GM lemon car dispute settled.

Perhaps that is some bean-counter's idea of keeping the money in GM's pocket as long as they can. For consumers that ought to mean thinking twice before settling on a GM nameplate on the front of your next new car.

Still, the answer is the same now as it has always been. Those consumers who hang tough, and wait it out to get a fair settlement, those are the ones who usually get it. The ones who can't wait, no matter what the reason, are usually the ones who don't really get as fair (or good) a settlement in the long run. It's tough to put up with a lemon while going thru the negotiation process, but it's often more worthwhile, too.