Sunday

GM & Chrysler's New Car Design



GM and Chrysler engineers come up with a new car to compete with Mercedes. Well, maybe.





Burdge Law Office


Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons Since 1978

Saturday

Sign of the Times ?


Complaints about debt collectors are higher than any other type of complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, having increased higher in each of the last 6 years. It's a sign of the times.

As the economy tightens, credit card companies, banks, suppliers and companies of all types are fighting to collect on bills that they once might have written off. ANd their tactics are getting worse, even when the debt is not really owed at all.

And more often than ever the collection effort involves "old debt" that in many cases is legally barred from any collection at all (sometimes called zombie debt by lawyers who sue debt collectors). In other cases the debts being sued on are for claims that were dismissed before or already resolved but the "crumbs" of its existence in computer records are being bought up by third party debt buyers along with other legitimate debt.

These companies are called "bottom feeders" and usually pay pennies (or less) on the dollar to buy the debt or the chance to collect on the debt. Cash-strapped companies that have written the debt off long ago, on the other hand, see a chance to create income out of nothing so they have every incentive to brush the dust off old uncollectable accounts that they themselves have already closed out, given up, sued on, compromised, or written off.

It isn't unusual anymore to get debt collector calls (they rarely use ordinary dunning letters anymore) trying to collect on bills that are ten to fifteen years old and which, in many cases, the consumer settled with the merchant years earlier. The problem is the merchant may have written off the unpaid balance and it is that unpaid balance that is now showing up in the hands of bottom feeder debt collectors, who aren't shy about their aggressive collection tactics.

There are laws to control crazy debt collectors but many consumes don't know about them. They limit phone calls, for instance, to only a certain time frame in the day. They also ban threats and harassment, but that doesn't always stop it from happening.

For more on what your credit rights are if you're being harassed, check out www.OhioFairCredit.com. There you'll find explanations of
If they call and you don't owe it, you can stop the calls. Keeping debt collectors fair and honest is what the Fair Credit laws are all about.

Burdge Law Office
www.OhioFairCredit.com

Helping Consumers Protect Themselves Since 1978

Friday

After the Bailout, Now What?


So with a lot of strings likely to be attached, Detroit finally gets a bailout. The sweating is over but now what?

With free money passed out to bankers and insurance companies and stock brokers, there was really very little choice that President Bush could realistically make when it came to the auto industry. After all, at least they manufacture something that is real and don't just pass money around the table and skim some off the top for themselves with each pass. Those are the guys who got the last bailout and the Detroit bailout is only 2% of what those rich and powerful guys took home for Chistmas.

For now, what's the auto industry bailout going to mean for you?

The next focus of the media is likely to be what strings the administration attaches to the loans. Undoubtedly the unions are going to get the brunt of it since conservatives have a long and storied acrimony there. Suppliers will also likely have to take a hit on their price structuring. And the financial industry, that has millions on the hook with loans to the factories, will also find themselves being asked to hold off getting paid, but that won't likely bother them much since they probably are already standing at the federal bailout trough.

But the little guy will get hurt. Downsizing and belt-tightening always means someone gets laid off somewhere in the process and this will be no different.

Detroit got a reprieve today from an out-going President who passed the hot potato to an in-coming Presidential team. Let's hope the new team is brighter than the last one that got us into this mess.

For car buyers, it will mean skepticism building about the long-term health of Detroit and whether buying a car from there is still a good idea. Frankly, folks, we don't really have a lot of smart choice about that. If the public doesn't support the Big 3, no one else will. So, how important is Detroit?

The outsourcing philosophy of big business, encouraged by a decade of tax breaks that highly incentivized opening up manufacturing plants in Mexico, South America, New Zealand, Asia and elsewhere, has all but stripped this country of its heavy duty manufacturing capacity. Detroit is about all we have left. We can't all become Wall Street brokers while everything we use is built overseas somewhere. We need Detroit. In fact, we need a lot more towns like Detroit, where the small manufacturing plants still struggle to exist.

It's time for big business to come home. Products built overseas need to be treated for what they are, products that have taken away an American's job.

At the end of the day, big business is about numbers. If it is cost effective to build it in America, then that's where big business will build it. The main factor in all this outsourcing has been the tax system that has made it more advantageous to go overseas. It isn't poor quality or lazy workers or even any insurance-company-proclaimed "litigation crisis".

Change the tax incentives and you change big business. And that's probably the only way big business will come home again.

We could certainly blame this administration or that politician for not seeing this train coming at us a hundred miles an hour, and undoubtedly a lot of people will and maybe we should, but for now we need to stop standing on the tracks.

Meanwhile there's a lot of people in Detroit that are breathing a sigh of relief. But when they go to bed tonight, the nightmare will still be there.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Fight Back Since 1978.

Thursday

100 mpg Cars Coming ?

The X Prize. It's goal is to build a viable, production-capable vehicle that can deliver in excess of 100 mpg or its equivalent fuel economy. And the prize? $10 million.

Now sponsored in part by Progressive, the contest began back in 2006 and holds out the prize to the first person to build a car capable of being mass produced in quantities of at least 10,000. The field of hot competitors has been whittled down to about 10 or so and Popular Mechanics has named what they think are the top ten contenders.

It's a curious mix of modified normal looking vehicles and space age styles that look like they are out of Star Trek, and everything in between.

There's the bunch of teenagers working on their plug in sports car-looking hybrid, aided by some Boeing engineers and some MBA types from Drexel University.

At the other end is cash-rich Tata Motors, who built the world's cheapest new car at $2,500 and dubbed the Nano and sold in India, the company's home country. These are the folks who bought up Jaguar and Land Rover and own Tetley Teas. What they have going for them more than anyone else in the race is lots of cash.

In between is a curious mix of marvelous cars. There's Tesla Motors, whose all electric roadster is already on sale. The VentureOne is a 3 wheel hybrid loosely based on the Carter One in Europe and using a gas or E-85 fuel.


But the one we love is the Aptera Tp-1, which projects mpg numbers at a remarkable 300 mpg. Its style is like nothing you have ever seen and nothing else out there. Popular Mechanics took one for a test drive and the video is seen by clicking here.

Better yet, the promo video for the Aptera is on YouTube here. You can actually place your order now for the car, which is expected to be delivered in 2009 and be a plug in electric that requires just an ordinary electrical outlet. This company is committed to delivery and looks likely to deliver regardless of whether or not they win the X Prize.

They all look and sound not just Green but also great, especially the Aptera. But if you've got a gas burner right now that's a lemon, we can help get rid of it and get your money back. Who knows ... you just might use the money to get one of these non-gas burners. That might be a step in the right direction in a lot of ways.

Burdge Law Office
www.BurdgeLaw.com

Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons Since 1978

Wednesday

Crooks Hire Crooks. So Do Car Dealers


If you think that car salesman ripped you off, you might be right. The dealership management might even know it because they caught the guy ripping them off before and thought he could do a good job for them too --- perhaps ripping you off?


Dealership embezzlers showing up working for other dealerships – sometimes even in the same town – it might be surprising but it actually is more common than you might think. But in this case, after conviction and while free on bail pending an appeal, apparently the dealer was so impressed that this convicted embezzler actually got his job back.


This story was detailed in the Sagit Valley Herald. In 2002, Frontier Ford in Anacortes, Washington (a small town north of Seattle) discovered that the general manager and the controller (the employee in charge of the financial books for the dealership) conspired to systematically steal $1.2 million of company money. That's called embezzlement, folks.


The newspaper reported that Kevin Dean had been working for the dealership for six years by the time he was charged with the theft and had risen to the General Manager position. Lisa Mullen served as the dealership controller and had worked at the dealership for 16 years. According to the newspaper, the theft of the $1.2 million took place over a six-year period.


After being convicted, both Dean and Mullen have been free on bail pending an appeal of their convictions. This February, their convictions will be three years old!


The Sagit Valley Herald reports that Kevin Dean was rehired back to his General Manager job at Frontier Ford. It just goes to show you. The dealer reportedly said “He was good at his job.”


Okay, so the guy is a thief and a really good one. And that's the guy they want running the place? We don't live in the Seattle area, but if you do and you need a good local auto sales fraud lawyer, just click here for help.


Meanwhile, remember, if you are out for a drive north of Seattle and you see a Ford dealership, you might want to keep right on driving.


Monday

Mitch Says It Best


We've been commenting on Washington's poor attitude toward Detroit for some time now, but nothing can say it better than award-winning author and Detroiter Mitch Albom's Nov. 23 column says it best. Here's a piece of it, and follow the link to read the entire (and very thoughtful) column.

OK. It's a fantasy. But if I had five minutes in front of Congress last week, here's what I would've said:

"First of all, before you ask, I flew commercial. Northwest Airlines. Had a bag of peanuts for breakfast. Of course, that's Northwest, which just merged with Delta, a merger you, our government, approved -- and one which, inevitably, will lead to big bonuses for their executives and higher costs for us. You seem to be OK with that kind of business.

"Which makes me wonder why you're so against our kind of business? The kind we do in Detroit. The kind that gets your fingernails dirty. The kind where people use hammers and drills, not keystrokes. The kind where you get paid for making something, not moving money around a board and skimming a percentage.

You've already given hundreds of billions to banking and finance companies -- and hardly demanded anything. Yet you balk at the very idea of giving $25 billion to the Detroit Three. Heck, you shoveled that exact amount to Citigroup -- $25 billion -- just weeks ago, and that place is about to crumble anyhow.

Does the word "hypocrisy" ring a bell?"

Oh, how very true indeed. If you haven't read the column, it's well worth jumping over to read at this link here.

Albom then quite correctly points out how Washington literally threw money at Wall Street without requiring so much as a "pretty please."

More than anything else though, Albom points out that Detroit actually makes something and it's been hit by the same hard times that all of us have. He's right.

If most voters had been asked to choose between a bail out for Wall Street or a bail out for the Big 3 in Detroit, one or the other, I doubt that many would have voted for Wall Street at all. Albom's right.

In Detroit they build things. On Wall Street they move money around and just skim some off the top for themselves. Who do you think deserves a helping hand?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com and catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

The simple fact is that he's right and, like more than one person has said, conservative Congress people are just plain wrong.

Contact your Congressional representative and tell them so. Otherwise, they just won't listen.

As taxpayers, we are all going to be left holding the unemployment bag if GM or Chrysler or Ford fail. As consumers, we can't afford to have the people who made our cars erase our warranty rights from existence. And as voters, we can't afford the "head in the sand" approach promoted by conservative "let them fail" politicians.

It's time to be reasonable. It's time to help American workers keep their jobs.

Burdge Law Office

www.BurdgeLaw.com

Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Friday

Sen. Corker Kills GM



When the dismal history of the last few months of Auto Industry Woes is written, a special page needs to be written for Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn), who single-handedly killed the bipartisan financial aid bill that a Republican president worked out with the House of Representatives, quite possibly forcing GM into bankruptcy.

Toyota and Nissan have plants in Tennessee and Chatanooga is on track for construction of a major new automotive manufacturing facility. Heck, even Setco Automotive from India is there. Was it coincidence that a Tennessee Senator dealt the death blow to the hard work the House of Representatives and the White House put into saving Detroit? Well, Saturn has a plant there too, so nothing on the surface of this makes sense. Then again, a lot of this does not make sense.

There's a car dealer named Jim Jackson whose letter to the editor of a local newspaper made big time news pointing out all the upside of American car makers and the big misconception that existed about their quality both inside and outside of the halls of Congress, among many other strong points. He rightly points out that what Detroit needs is only a tiny fraction of what Wall Street got with no strings attached and how Detroit is also a victim of the financial mess that all of us are in. He's right.

Meanwhile Senator Corker and his Republican cohorts freely admit that they want to see GM go into bankruptcy. In his address to the Senate, the transcript of which is proudly posted on the Senator's website, when it came to the possibility of GM's bankruptcy, he said "We have a lot of Republicans that would like to see that happen" including himself. Well that might be fine for Republicans, but it won't help the millions of workers who would find themselves in the unemployment and welfare lines if the only major manufacturing industry left in the US collapses.

As Jim Jackson wondered, perhaps these senators drive too many Mercedes cars and haven't "driven a Ford lately?"

Detroit needs financial help. It doesn't need Republican Senators like Corker deriding them and prodding them further into trouble.

It is beyond reason to think that "Corker & the Gang" can let Wall Street crooks get billions and billions of dollars with no oversight, and then think they know that bankruptcy is best for Detroit. I'm sure there's a lot of voters that may eventually be standing in welfare lines and thinking differently. Some of them might even end up being in Tennessee.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Protect Themselves Since 1978

Thursday

GM Death List of Dieing Models


In its restructuring plan, GM says it will drop 8 vehicle nameplates within the next 3 years. Is your car one of them?

In documents which Automotive News reported to be filed with the US Congress in early December, GM said that by 2012 it will reduce its nameplates from the current 48 (31 cars and "crossover" vehicles and 17 trucks) down to 40 (29 cars and crossover vehicles and 11 trucks). Although they didn't say which ones are being dropped, industry insiders noted that the Chevy Trailblazer and Uplander were already on the Death List.

In addition to the Trailblazer and Uplander, other nameplates believed to be on the Death List may include the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, GM's compact pickup trucks, and 2 Cadillacs.

One of the probable Death List Caddys is the two-seat sportscar, the XLR model. That idea harkens our memories of the demise of the Oldsmobile make some years ago. At the time we noted that the Olds line was, in our Lemon Law experience, the most reliable and trouble-free brand that GM had and it made no sense to us that they would kill it off. Now the Cadillac XLR? We have to say that we have never heard of a lemon Cadillac XLR. Once again, GM seems to prefer to kill off quality in the name of another brand's profit margin. Well, with the economy being what it is, maybe this time they had no choice.

GM did say that the Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands are "core" to its business and that Pontiac will become a "niche" builder with probably only 2 nameplated vehicle lines. GM publicly has said that Saab and Hummer are for sale and it is widely expected that Saturn's days are now numbered too. Elimination of those three makes alone would knock out 10 vehicle nameplates and meet its "reinvented" business model projection.

Keeping Buick certainly makes good sense, and Chevrolet too, given the huge sales of both that occur in China and the Far East. Losing that nameplate would be economic suicide for GM. No matter what one might say about the suits in the GM tower, they aren't that dumb.

Meanwhile, Chevrolet has plans in place to bring out a new young-market Camaro and the green-market Volt, and will replace the Chevrolet Cobalt with a new model called Cruze by 2012.

Chrysler and Ford have kept their plans much more secret for now, but they have to also be creating their own model Death List. Smaller in size, release of their Death Lists could create considerably more employee and industry unrest, so keeping their plans quiet for now is a smart management move. GM couldn't do that in light of the huge amount of continuing talk of the cost of GM's death, by bankruptcy or otherwise, and the blog speculation over GM's model line future (to say nothing about the speculation over GM's very survival).

So, if you're going car shopping in the next year, be careful that you don't end up with an orphan. Those models historically fade fast but their repair and service needs don't.

Burdge Law Office
www.NewCarLemonLaw.com


Helping Consumers Protect Themselves Since 1978.

Wednesday

How an Economy Crashes

There's an interesting piece at The McKinsey Quarterly online right now about howthe economic forces of "creative destruction" are working in the current business environment. It's relatively short and worth a read.

It takes place in the context of an interview with Richard Foster, coauthor of the 2001 book Creative Destruction. In essence, he describes how there is a basic business cycle that has been repeating itself in American for many decades. It is one where, as he sees it, honest entrepreneurs and businesses find themselves in a marketplace collapse.

That collapse results in government placing blame and setting up a new institution or agency to deal with the perceived problem. Then honest entrepreneurs realize they can't do that business that way again so they come up with a new model for their business effort. It succeeds because it gets around current regulations.

"Eventually," he says, "all the truly good guys who are going to get into that business have done so. The opportunity starts drawing less savory figures—charlatans who overmarket, cut corners, establish usurious contracts, and do other clever things to generate profit for themselves. They end up bringing the system down." Then government steps in again, fixes blame, and sets up another agency to prevent it from occurring and the whole thing starts all over again.

He points to all the regulatory agencies whose birth occurred as a direct result of marketplace failures during the 20th century as evidence and he seems quite accurate.

So, what does that mean today? Well, it may just mean that there is more to this "car czar" idea than pundits will admit. Certainly taxpayers don't like any of this "bailout" talk when no one is bailing them out of their own problems and sooner or later taxpayers make known to politicians what they think and why and politicians, in turn, realize they need to deal with it or they could end up out on the street, like many of their unemployed constituents.

More to the point, perhaps, is how all this works at the retail level in the car business. Honest businesses can't compete with the predatory buy here pay here lots, so a few of them gloss up the operation and call it sub prime financing. That generates so much profit that sub prime goes "legit" and gets into the mortgage business. That generates so much profit that legit mortgage companies get into the business too, just like legit car dealers expanded their share of the subprime car sales business by pushing credit-borderline customers into subprime where the profit margin for the dealer was greater.

It all begins to look like it's feeding on itself and snowballing into a bigger and bigger mess.

We aren't "Ph.D" economists or anything like that, so maybe we're wrong on this. On the other hand, it doesn't take a genuis (or an economist) to realize that $700 billion dollars ought to be able to fix darn near anything if you use it right. So how come the marketplace is not much better now than it was a month or two ago? Could it be that the "entrepreneurs" figured out that the best way to get around the current regulations was to just dive straight into a federal no-strings-attached bailout that was driven by panic-stricken politicians who might have been crying wolf? When all the while the wolf was wearing a suit and tie and working on Wall Street?

A lot of people think something smells rotten in Denmark, or in Washington DC. That smell may be coming from Wall Street. Problem is, Detroit saw that it can work so why not make it work for them too?

You might want to watch your wallet. The smell seems to be getting stronger.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Sunday

Top Safe Vehicles 2009

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its pick of the Top Safety Vehicles for 2009.

The annual list is made of vehicles that earned top scores in front, side and rear crash tests and are also equipped with electronic stability and control systems. The big surprise? A record number of vehicles made the list, nearly doubling last year's total and three times the number from the 2007 list.

No doubt about it, cars are getting safer. In this soft economy, no one can afford to be off work due to accidental injury so if you are in the market for a new vehicle, finding a safer one is a wise buying decision.

Ford and Volvo and Mazda earned the most awards, but it was Acura whose entire model line made the list. Here's the rest of the list:

LARGE CARS: Acura RL, Audi A6, Cacillac CTS, Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS, Mercury Sable, Toyota Avalon, Volvo S80

MIDSIZE CARS: Acura TL and TSX, Audi A3 and A4, BMW 3 Series, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mercedes Benz C, Mercury Milan, Saab 9-3, Subaru Legacy, VW Jetta and Passat

MID SIZE CONVERTIBLES: Saab 9-3, VW Eos, Volvo C70

SMALL CARS: Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion xB, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, VW Rabbit

MINI-Car: Honda Fit (but only with the option ESC)

MINIVANS: Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage (but if you buy one be sure that within 30 days you send them a registered letter saying you reject their binding arbitration or they automatically rip off your legal rights), and Kia Sedona

LARGE SUVs & CROSSOVERS: Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook

MIDSIZE SUVs & CROSSOVERS: Acura MDX and RDX, BMW X3 and X5 (our personal favorite for its remarkable navigation system and hidaway 3rd row of seats and rear climate control), Ford Edge and Flex and Taurus X, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Sante Fe and Veracruz (but if you buy one be sure that within 30 days you send them a registered letter saying you reject their binding arbitration or they automatically rip off your legal rights), Infiniti EX35, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes M Class, Nissan Murano, Saturn Vue, Subaru Tribeca, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Highlander, Volvo XC90

SMALL SUVs & CROSSOVERS: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Element, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, Mitsuibishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan (where do they get these VW names?)

LARGE PICKUP TRUCKS: Ford F-150 (in spite of its many, many defect issues and recalls over the years, it just keeps on selling), Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tundra

SMALL PICKUP TRUCKS: Toyota Tacoma

Out of 72 models on the list, here's the American Big 3 Scorecard: Ford 12, GM 6, and Chrysler -0-. That's only 25% of the vehicles on the list. Not a single Big 3 product made the Small Car or Small Truck category. Stranger yet is the fact that in the Large Pickup Truck list only Ford made the list and it only made it with one model.

What that shows is that the Big 3 make vehicles that are riskier to drive or ride in and riskier on taxpayers too, what with their beggin for a bailout. Detroit needs to turn that around, and quick. We went to the Moon and we can't build a small car or small truck that the insurance industry can say is among the safest made? What is wrong with that picture?

Well, until we do, don't waste your money. Don't just buy what looks good. Buy what's safe to drive too. And while you're at it, before you plunk down your hard earned money, check out the reliability record of the car and truck model lines before you buy too. No point in buying a lemon that is safe to drive only because it won't run.

Burdge Law Office
www.NewCarLemonLaw.com


Helping consumer get rid of lemons since 1978.

Monday

Too Many Lawsuits ?

There've been a lot of articles written about civil jury trials clogging the court system with frivolous cases and trials. The Ohio Supreme Court requires every court in Ohio to report its statistics every year for detailed analysis and, guess what, the urban legend of too many lawsuits turns out to be a lie. They just release the statistics for year 2007 and it proves that what we have been hearing in the media is just plain false.

It turns out that in Ohio there were less than 5 trials per Common Pleas Court Judge (there is one Common Pleas Court in each Ohio county). It actually works out to an average of 4.7. That's barely one trial every 3 months. Page 33 of the Report (click here to read it) showed that there were a lot more criminal trials (where someone is threatened with jail time) than civil trials (where corporations and people are suing other corporations and people for money).

When comes to what the court system defines as product liability trials, the stuff of "tort reform" claims by the insurance protection industry, it turns out that there were only 5 trials in the entire state in the entire year (see page 45 of the Report). Cleveland only had one. Columbus had none at all and neither did Cincinnati.

Hard line conservatives have joined the National Chamber of Commerce (a strong pro-business organization that has opposed consumer protection reforms) for years, in crying out that tort reform was needed to stop the lawsuit crisis. Well, it turns out there is no lawsuit crisis.

'course the problem is that Americans have been hearing the media cry wolf so long that everyone thinks there really is a wolf in the courthouse. There is, alright, but it's the insurance company that is the wolf in the courthouse.

And too many lawsuits? Well, it turns out that in truth there were actually fewer lawsuits at the end of the year than there were at the start of the year (see page 29 of the Report).

You can argue and debate all you like, but the numbers from Ohio's highest Court are the numbers that exist. So what does this teach us?

For one thing, when the insurance industry and the conservative pundits cry wolf, watch your wallet. I don't know about you, but my insurance rates didn't go down when the cries about wolf went up.