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!