Friday

19 by 25 on Christmas Day

It’s a wonderful Christmas morning. The tree is still beautiful, even with torn wrapping paper and opened boxes scattered amidst some still-unwrapped presents intended for friends who haven’t yet arrived.

As things settled down, I wandered to the kitchen table with my coffee cup in hand, to read the morning newspaper, with Johnny Mathis and others singing in the background. The music isn’t my day-off morning ritual, but the paper is. It only took me a few minutes to see what I didn’t expect on Christmas Day.

This was never part of Christmas before, at least not that I know of.

As I sat down, I separated the paper by sections as I always do, pulling out the sports section and the want ad section to set them aside for later reading, after my customary read of the front sections. But I never read the front section. Separating the paper, that was when I saw a different section.

I counted. 19 pages. 25 listings or so on a page. The smell of the eggs and ham my wife was cooking on the stove top began to fill the kitchen but I couldn’t put this section of the paper aside. Something made me ignore the rest of the paper and start to read just this section. I had seen this section of the paper before, but never bothered to look at it. This was Christmas morning and it was just “different.”

The entire section was foreclosure notices by the sheriff of the auction sale next month. 19 pages. 25 or so on a page. About 500 homes. But they aren’t homes anymore though. Just houses. Each one was probably someone’s hope once. A dream gone bad.

I wondered how many families still lived in some of them this Christmas morning, waiting out the last few days before they, too, had to leave.

I wondered how many homes were empty already, from families that couldn’t stand the thought of staying any longer in a hopeless situation. I wondered how many of the homes weren’t home to anyone at all now. Just empty houses.

Taylor Swift sang a Christmas song in the background as I turned the page. And then another. I no longer smelled the eggs and ham cooking as I thought of all the big shot suited-up politicians I had seen on the evening television news this last year, blaming each other for the layoffs and lousy economy. But those 19 page made me realize that it didn’t really matter how we got here.

One sheriff’s sale. 19 by 25. It meant 500 homes just in my county alone. On Christmas Day, it bothered me. Homes that aren’t anymore. How many children lived in them? How many mothers and fathers have cried from the shame of their faultless failure? And even if there was fault for any failure, that really didn’t matter either. Foreclosure changes lives.

In a world of million dollar athletes and multi million dollar penthouses, this is not the Christmas I thought I would grow up to. It just never occurred to me that foreclosures would become such a natural part of America. Or that homeless would be so very real for those so very young.

We shouldn’t lose dreams in America. And the Christmas Day newspaper shouldn’t have 19 pages of foreclosed homes up for auction. It shouldn’t. But it does.

So what do we do? I don’t know but I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to have an answer for this big problem. I hope someone does.

For now, I’ll continue doing some volunteer work, donating to church, and putting all the loose change I get at the register into whatever “give a little” charity cup is nearby. I know it’s not much, but it’s kind of like just trying to help out in the smaller world that I walk and live in. It’s the reason I never walk by someone wanting a hand out anymore. I used to. But that was before I could see their faces.

Maybe if we all did a few little things like that, things would get better. I don’t know that for sure either though. But I do know one thing.

19 pages, by 25, is very sad. And sad just doesn’t seem like it should be part of Christmas Day.

Thursday

Ford Dealership becomes Sorority Headquarters in Detroit

The Detroit Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has a new headquarters building with lots of parking. Heck, they can even work on their cars in the garage. That's because they bought the former Kruse's Stark Hickey Ford dealership.

The acquired the dealership, with its 50,000 square feet and its 6.2 acres of land, in October, according to Crains Detroit Business newspaper.

Well, it's good to see the dealership lot, which closed last year, isn't going to waste.

Meanwhile, to show you just how much things have changed, where do you think one of the world's biggest maker of cars in its domestic market is located? Well, the one who made and sold the most vehicles is actually Volkswagen AG. But that's not the attention grabber. It's second place.

The second place holder is in a small Chinese city that no one has ever heard of. Located in the remote southwestern province of Guangxi is a relatively small city called Liuzhou. Few people have ever heard of it but in the first ten months of 2009, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Company built and sold 893,729 light vehicles on the domestic market. That's nearly 3,000 vehicles a day out of one maker.

The company is joint venture between Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. and GM and the city government and their plans are to keep growing by taking on the auto industry in India next.

So while US automaker executives were on their private jets and getting handouts from the federal government, and more dealerships have closed since any time going back to the 1950's, and college sororities are taking over empty dealerships, China's car makers are going like gang-busters.

Detroit? Is anyone listening up there?

Wednesday

Cars the Stars Drive

Just out of curiosity, just what are the cars that stars are driving? Well, we did some digging and although most stars own more than one car, this is what we came up with...

Actress Julia Roberts (and Meryl Streep too), a Toyota Prius. Price? Just under $23k
Supermodel Tyra Banks, Lexis SC, at $65k
Singer Bono, Maserati Quattroporte
Actor Kevin Costner (and Bill Murray and Mel Gibson and Jack Nicholson), Land Rovers all around
Singer Rihanna, Chevrolet Suburban
Heiress and Tv Personality Paris Hilton, Bentley Continental GT at $171k
Singer Britney Spears, Mercedes SLR McLaren at $452k
Singer Madonna (and Donald Trump), a Maybach 57 at $335k
Actress Charlize Theron, Land Rover Range Rover at just under $75k
Basketball legend Shaquille O'Neill, Rolls Royce Phantom at $328k
Actor Tom Cruise, Porsche 911 at $71k
Actress Lindsey Lohan, Mercedes SL65 AMG at $185
Musician 50 Cent, Dodge Charger at $23k
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio (and Cameron Diaz too), Toyota Prius at just under $23k

But we haven't been able to find out what kind of car Oral Roberts drove.

Notably, we can say that while we have had lemon Bentley, Mercedes, Land Rover, Dodge, Toyota and other lemon cars, we haven't had any of the above clients. Oh, we've had a couple of judges, an artist, a sheriff, some lawyers, a brain surgeon (it wasn't McDreamy), doctors and lots of others like that, but most of our clients are just ordinary people with ordinary cars that went bad or ordinary people who were ripped off.

Helping people is what we do. Since 1978.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to drive a bad car.

Sunday

US Rep Mike Turner Tries to Help

We live is some tough times. And some politicians aren't helping any. US Rep. Mike Turner, however, isn't one of those.

Too many policitians vote by party label first and people's needs second. That shows up early in the process too. Such as when they sign on as a sponsor of a bill or amendment. That sponsoring is important because it signals to other members of congress where they stand on an issue.

Maybe that's why Rep. Turner, a republican from Centerville, Ohio, signed on as the only republican as a sponsor of an amendment to help bankruptcy homeowners keep a roof over their heads.

Maybe he did it because he realized the much-ballyhooed government home loan program earlier this year (you know, the one that was supposed to help millions of homeowners modify their mortgages to keep their homes in hard times) had pretty much failed to accomplish anything at all. A good idea, badly implemented, which created lost of paperwork and frustration but accomplished no good. Only about 4% of homeowners whose homes were reworked thru the program have managed to get a permanent modification to save their home from foreclosure, reports USA Today writer Stephanie Armour.

Maybe he heard the defensive clamoring of near countless mortgage companies that said they were still "working on it" while hundreds of thousands of modifications remain tied up with their red tape. Why? Well, after all, lowering interest rates and reducing payments is not going to put any extra money in those mortgage company pockets. And, bottom line, that's what bankers are all about.

George Bailey may have been running his savings & loan to help folks out, but that's just a seasonal movie to be found on television once a year. George Bailey doesn't live on Wall Street.

Maybe Mike Turner did it because he's from one of the hard hit states that have suffered the loss of thousands and thousands of jobs, foreshadowing the foreclosure crisis that always follows on the heels of pink slips being passed out.

Whatever the reason, we say "Good for Mike." He appears to be the first republican to wake up and realize that the ultimate power to modify a mortgage is not to be found in a mortgage company's boardroom. It's to be found in the power of a federal bankruptcy judge.

No one has seen more foreclosures, or the impact they cause, than the judges who sit on the nation's bankruptcy courts every day.

On December 11 Rep. Mike Turner signed on as a sponsor of an amendment to the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 that would give federal bankruptcy judges the power to modify mortgage terms on primary residences when the homeowner is in bankruptcy. In doing so, Turner acknowledged reality and, at the same time, necessity.

In the Dayton, Ohio area, Turner noted, it is estimated that some 10,000 housing "units" (let's just call them homes, or at least they used to be) have been abandoned because of the mortgage crisis (let's just call that a mortgage mess, which is what it is).

Ironically, bankruptcy judges already have the power to modify mortgage terms for people's vacation homes (that tells you something about who wrote that law, for sure). This new amendment would give them that power for primary residence homes. It's about time.

Meanwhile, the money-grubbing American Bankers Association came out against the amendment, shouting from the roof tops that the amendment will "impose unforeseeable costs on lenders." Gosh, folks, I just feel so very, very bad for them bankers.

Not surprisingly, another Ohio congressman, Rep John Boehner (looking remarkably well-tanned for someone from wintry cold-weathered Ohio), opposed the amendment. Clearly, while he knows where the tanning parlor is, Boehner's home is not in foreclosure. He just doesn't get it.

Helping banks and mortgage companies will not stop foreclosures. Creating government programs that they don't have to do anything about is not exactly going to keep roofs over the heads of the jobless victims of this economy.

Judges are notoriously conservative and almost always neutral. What's wrong with giving them the power to make a mortgage company accept a little less profit in order to keep another home from being abandoned, boarded up or not?

Abandoned homes are a major cause of crime increases, blight, and reduced home values for everyone. If you doubt that, then just call up the Detroit police chief and ask him.

Rep. Mike Turner has spoken his conscience. That's because he understands what he sees in his hometown.

It's too bad a lot of people in Congress don't get that. But then again, it's not their homes (or their neighbors) that are being foreclosed on. If it were, they'd be voting a lot differently.

Saturday

Car & Driver's 10 Best Cars for 2010

The list is out.

Every year, Car & Driver magazine announces its 10 best cars of the new model year and the list is out and once again US car companies only managed to get 2 cars onto the list, the Cadillac CTS and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Making the list for 2010: Audi S4, BMW 3 series and M3, Cadillac CTS - CTS-V, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord, Honda Fit, Mazda MX 5 - Miata, Mazda 3 - Mazdaspeed 3, Porsche Boxster - Cayman, VW GTI.

18 Car & Driver editors rated vehicles on a scale of 1 to 100, with a focus on performance, driving satisfaction and value. The only requirement was that the vehicles be available in the US in January 2009 and priced below $80,000.

We can't fault the selection, when viewed against our lemon car cases either. While the Cadillac line has had its lemons, the CTS is not one we've run across. Same for the rest of the roster, except for the Honda Accord, which has seen its share of lemons in our files. But the rest of the list we heartily agree with.

If you are looking at buying a new car and don't want to end up with a lemon, the Car and Driver Ten Best Cars list is a good place to start. Just watch out for that Accord.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to put up with a lemon.

Tuesday

China Buying Saab from GM ?

Auto News magazine's European publication is reporting that GM is talking to a Chinese company, Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp., BAIC, about buying chunks of the Saab business. BAIC is China's fifth largest automaker.

And why not? After all, it was a Chinese company that bought the Bummer. Sorry, I meant to say Hummer.

At this rate, GM will be left building parts for the Chinese companies that it has sold its business to. Meanwhile, China automakers reported their November sales doubled.

And Opel, General Motors' "other" soon-to-be orphaned company, now says it wants to give GM nearly half a billion dollars in annual wage concessions to stay alive.

Folks, GM's struggle to survive is a long way from over with.

Burdge Law Office
... because life's too short to drive a lemon.

Saab Sale Dies, and Saab With it


GM received word today that the only buyer for the Saab brand has backed out. It looks like the Saab sale will die and Saab with it.

GM had notified the Saab dealers that it would close Saab down if it didn't find a buyer and for months the only company interested, Sweden's supercar builder Koenigsegg AB, was working with GM to make a deal happen. That came to a screeching halt today.

Now, with Penske backing out of the Saturn sale, GM is left with two more brands to be shuttered, leaving hundreds of Saab dealers with empty stores and thousands of owners with no Saab store service department.

Just two weeks ago GM had warned the Saab dealers of the chance of Saab being shut down in a failed sale, but dealers kept a stiff upper lip, as Saab sales took a nose dive of 62% leading up to October. This is no time to be a Saab dealer, and no time to be a Saab owner.

If your Saab needs anything fixed, better get it in the shop while there still is a shop to get into.

Meanwhile, orphaned owners with evaporating warranties are left wondering what happens next. If you're one of those orphaned owners, now might be a good time to buy a Ford, or almost anything else. The trade in value of that Saab is not likely to be going anywhere but down.

Because life's too short to be driving a lemon.

Sunday

The best of times, the worst of times


Think you live in the state with the worst economy? Think again.

Everyone seems to know that California is in the biggest economic trouble, with an economy in the dumpster, high unemployment, and no easy way to fix any of it. What may surprise many is not California. It’s the other states that are so very close to their own economic abyss.

There’s a new study out that has looked at the economy of all 50 states and ranked them.

The PEW Charitable Trusts has crunched state numbers for more than a decade, with a goal of making state governments stronger in order to improve the services we all get for our tax dollars. Part of that includes reporting on the bad times and, as we all know, we are now in a blockbuster bad time.

They looked at numerous factors to come up with a scorecard for each state: foreclosures, budget gaps, loss of revenue, unemployment, how easy or hard it is for each state to raise its taxes in order to cover shortfalls, etc.

With a “30" score being the worst and a lower score being better, here’s the “top 10" of the worst state economies, in order: California, Arizona, Rhode Island, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa scored the best.

So where does your state fit? Ohio is almost the center of the list while Georgia’s budget gap put it just a hair behind the auto belt states of Michigan-Wisconsin-Illinois by one point.

The worst ten states account for nearly a third of the US population and economy, which is why those states in particular matter to all of us.

What the study shows is just how much farther the US economy has to go, although there are bright spots of how hard some states are trying. Wyoming, for instance, had a 19.7% drop in revenue but managed to come with 2% of balancing its budget.

We’ll all get through this as the economy starts to get better and better, but if history has shown anything, it’ll be a longer road than anyone wants it to be.

Friday

Rusty Toyota's Being Investigated

Federal safety officials have told Toyota to cough up more info on the rusted frame problems in the 2000 Toyota Tundra truck and the 2001 Toyota Tundra pickup truck.

Early stages of the federal safety investigation on the model’s rust problems apparently convinced the officials at NHTSA that they didn’t know enough to determine how bad the problem is, but Automotive News reports that safety investigators on focusing on one specific part of the frame, where the cross member supports the spare time and not the entire frame. Of course, that could change when more data is turned over by Toyota.

The cross member is the focal point at the moment because of at least 20 reports by consumers and police that spare times were falling off and brake systems were failing due to severe frame corrosion (rust) on the frames. In less than two months after opening an investigation, federal investigators received more than 70 complaints.

Other Tacoma trucks using the same supplier’s 750,000 frames that resulted in massive voluntary recalls and buybacks in 2008-09.

If you’ve got a rusty lemon Toyota Tundra, or a lemon Tacoma, don’t take a chance. Get a Burdge attorney. Getting rid of lemons is what we do. Everyday.

Burdge Law Office
www.NewCarLemonLaw.com
Because life’s too short to drive a rusty lemon pickup truck.

Thursday

$430.32 for an Rv?

It’s been over four years and the most expensive Rv albatross in US history is still around the federal government’s neck. Katrina was a disaster in far more than one way. What it did to the thousands of people in the Southeast, however, still isn’t over with.

Not only is the rebuilding still going on, but the financial loss to the taxpayers still isn’t over with either.

From Lumberton, Mississippi, comes news that the federal government is continuing its auctions of travel trailers left over after Hurricane Katrina.

The US General Services Administration is the agency charged with responsibility to sell them all off and they have put up a single lot of 465 trailers at Lumberton, Miss., for the highest bidder to take all in one bundle. So far the high bid is $430.32 each. No one is saying how much the feds paid when they bought those trailers, but odds are it was a whole lot more than that.

You can watch the bidding here: http://gsaauctions.gov/gsaauctions/aucindx/, where lots of other trailers are being auctioned off too.

These trailers were used as temporary housing in the aftermath of Katrina, which roared through South Mississippi in August 2005 and are reported to be part of the "formaldehyde problem" as some have called it. We talked about this before (click here).

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials had estimated that about 30,000 trailers remained at five Mississippi "staging" areas where government officials hope to sell them off to the highest bidder. And these aren’t the only FEMA formaldehyde trailers still unsold.

Weekly auctions started in late September and, two months later, the GSA had only been able to sell 2,316 trailers. Millions of taxpayer dollars went down the Katrina drain five years ago and it’s still happening.

The long term health hazards of formaldehyde are notorious, including higher cancer risks. there's a good blog about it here: http://injurylaw.reganfirm.com/2008/02/articles/consumer-safety/fema-trailers-formaldehyde-dangers/.

Meanwhile, be careful. That new smell in your new Rv might not be what you think.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to breathe formaldehyde in your motorhome.

Wednesday

Electric Cars For a Reason

The car makers are all abuzz about electric cars. Seems like everyone is trying to build one faster than the others are (or better than the others are planning to do). But the objective of all of them seems to be the existence of the car and not the purpose of the car. That's like saying no one needed pickup trucks or minivans. Every vehicle is designed for a purpose and car makers might do well to keep that in mind. Maybe, just maybe, one electric car design is not the best way to go for all of us.

At least that's the result of a recent study by McKinsey Quarterly that was just released. And it makes sense.

All consumers still want good value for their money, regardless of their "green" viewpoint. Fact is, if there was a car that fit your needs and was cheaper to own and use than a gasoline powered car, most people would buy it. Well, another fact is that most people want a vehicle that fits their needs too.

Detroit (and the rest of the world) would do well to design to fit the need first, since the engineers say that the tough part isn't coming up with an electric car --- it's coming up with one that fits the universal need of everyone. You know, one that can run to the mall or across the state. Adding that huge battery capacity to go across the state is vastly different than just the minor battery capacity needed for the trip to the mall.

And that directly affects cost because the cost of batteries is in direct proportion to their capacity size. "One implication is that companies offering only a plug-in hybrid with, for example, 40 miles of all-electric range may be undercut by manufacturers of much less expensive vehicles with just 10 or 20 miles of electric range and only marginally higher operating costs," reports McKinsey.

The folks at McKinsey have a good point. "By focusing on specific driving missions of consumers, a company can match a vehicle's energy storage requirements to a consumer's particular needs and thus design more economic vehicles." Translated, that means the car you want can cost less if it is designed from the start to fit the needs you have for it.

That makes sense. Figures. McKinsey's economists seem to have figured out what the global carmakers have not.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get their money's worth since 1978.

Monday

Top 10 Consumer Complaints

Every year the state Attorney Generals run their numbers to see what scams and rip off artists consumers are complaining about the most. This year they all got together and totalled the numbers on a national basis and the list is out with some old familiar and new faces on it.

In these tough times, it comes as no surprise that credit card complaints and predatory lending-mortgages made the list for the first time.

Back in their top 3 spots are the familiar con man favorites: debt collectors, car sales and home repair-construction outfits. They held the top 3 spots last year too. In fact, they have been on the list probably longer than there has even been a list.

A surprise is that complaints about credit card companies got so bad it tied for the #3 spot on the list, followed by internet goods and services, predatory lending-mortgages, telemarketing-do not call violations, auto repair, auto warranties, and telecom slamming-cramming.

The list is an unscientific list of the top consumer fraud spots and complaints compiled by the National Association of Attorney Generals, NAAG, and tells consumers and their lawyers what to watch out for.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Thursday

Is it identity theft or is it bank robbery --- and whose fault is it?


We've talked before about identity theft and its dangers and lots of people have. There's even a terrific British Youtube about it and the puzzling question of whether it is really identity theft at all (or is it just electronic bank robbery?). Well maybe we're about to find out.

Patco Construction Company, Inc. v People's United Bank dba Ocean Bank, no pending in state court in Maine, may tell us just whose fault it really is, besides the cyber criminal of course.

Patco was a long time customer of the bank but after losing hundreds of thousands of dollars from online theft and then getting a notice from the bank that they wanted Patco to pay it back, they decided they had enough. Patco sued the bank for the loss. 'bout time, some would say. So would I.

While the claims include negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and more (what, not bailment?), fundamentally the theory is that the bank failed to live up to its most basic obligation, which is to protect its customers' funds from theft. Patco's case is one to watch. With the increasing rise of cyber theft, sooner or later it may happen to you.

The Patco bank's claims of sophisticated "behind the scenes" security measures and computer programs didn't do much good to stop cyber thieves who dipped not only into Patco's accounts, but did so repeatedly, transferring money to accounts that Patco had never used before, and from internet addresses that Patco had never used before either. The thieves even managed to tap into Patco's line of credit for a hefty $200,000 transfer.

When you think about it, Patco's claims make sense. All banks are quick to point out, on their websites and in their paper brochures, how they have all these computer theft protection measures set up to protect your deposits from theft. Much of it is advertising directed at encouraging consumers to use the internet for electronic transfers and bill paying that are high-profit transactions for the banking industry. After all, there aren't many tellers working inside that big bank computer box. Heck, there's even fewer of them at the walk in windows nowadays.

A century or two ago people put their money under the mattress or buried it in the backyard because that was safe. Now when you put your money in the bank, it's because you think it's safe. Well, not quite as safe as it used to be.

Still, if you give a friend $50 to hold for you, it's only natural to expect that they'll have it on hand to give back to you when you ask for it later. Especially if that "friend" is a big bank that collects millions of dollars from thousands of people and then invests it and charges interest on loans and makes money off your money (which they keep). That's a simple idea that any person can grasp.

You expect the bank to protect your money and when they don't, it doesn't really matter whether they had one computer program to stop cyber thieves or a hundred of those programs. When the money is gone, it's gone. But it ought to be the bank's fault.

So let's stop calling it identity theft and call it what it is. Bank robbery. As soon as the banks are forced to stop charging customers for their own account keeping negligence, they will start trying to stop the problem. Sooner or later the bank will decide it needs to fix it so cyber theives can't get into your account.

So when will that happen? When we all make it happen. Banks don't like losing money and they don't like paying out money either. When it starts costing them money, they'll do something about it. Until then, they will keep tellling you that it's "your" identity theft problem and that it was "your" money that was stolen and not theirs.

How Patco's case comes out will be very interesting. But, one thing is for sure, the rest of us will be watching. And you can bet that the banks will really be watching.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themsevles since 1978.

Formaldehyde in the Fall, on sale now


Hurricane Katrina was a disaster for Mississippi and thousands are still affected, with populations shifted and the landscape scarred still. One thing it made the public more aware of, however, was not in the wind that day.

After Katrina left the coast and dissipated, and FEMA finally got into gear, the federal government bought thousands of trailers from RV manufacturers for temporary housing for the thousands of displaced homeless families who had lost everything in the storm. For everyone at the time, it seemed like a blessing. The reality was something else.
With most of the trailers, if not all of them, came the smell of death. Now, it's on sale.

Acres of trailers, 483 of them in Brooklyn, are being sold at an online auction by the federal agency charged with disposing of surplus government property. And the sale closes October 2.

"We're trying it out to see how it goes," said Alicia Paris, an administrative assistant who transferred from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Gulfport office to help with trailer sales. Paris described the lot being sold at Carnes as "7's," which in government-talk means they think the formaldehyde-laden trailers are repairable and can be used as "temporary housing."

Of course, the folks who think these trailers are repairable and livable are the same folks who didn't even see Katrina coming, so you know what that's worth.

As sales go, this one is small. It's only 483 of the estimated 35,000 that were still left over earlier this year, nearly a third of which are located around Columbia, Mississippi. People stopped buying the trailers in 2007 when word leaked out about the heavy dose of formaldehyde that was used in the trailer construction and its ill effects on people living in the trailers without knowing about it.

Turns out, though, that this is all a bit of a blessing in disguise. Congressional investigations and lawsuits have now turned up evidence that the Rv industry has for decades used formaldehyde in construction of trailers, mobile homes, Rv's, motor coaches and other occupational use. None of it was widely known until Katrina came to town. The publicity was so bad that now one company has even started building Rv's that are "green" and promise no formaldehyde use at all and others have promised to cut back on formaldehyde use. That's good for everyone. Especially owners.

The long term health hazards of formaldehyde are notorious, including higher cancer risks. there's a good blog about it here: http://injurylaw.reganfirm.com/2008/02/articles/consumer-safety/fema-trailers-formaldehyde-dangers/.

Meanwhile, be careful. That new smell in your new Rv might not be what you think.

Burdge Law Office
Because life's too short to put up with a bad Rv.

Wednesday

Massive Toyota - Lexus Floor Mat Recall

Editor's Note: because of the dangerous and massive nature of the floor mat recall announced by Toyota yesterday, we are reprinting this article here to give it wide circulation.

Massive Toyota Floor Mat Recall and Lexus Floor Mat Recall

Toyota has recalled 3.8 million vehicles in what is the largest recall it has ever done. Apparently floor mats can get jammed at the gas pedal, causing the engine to accelerate uncontrollably, during which the engine can not be shut down.

Do you own one of these potential Toyota or potential Lexus lemons with a deadly defect or dangerous floor mat design?

2007 Camry
2008 Camry
2009 Camry
2010 Camry
2005 Avalon
2006 Avalon
2007 Avalon
2008 Avalon
2009 Avalon
2010 Avalon
2007 Tundra
2008 Tundra
2009 Tundra
2010 Tundra
2005 Tacoma
2006 Tacoma
2007 Tacoma
2008 Tacoma
2009 Tacoma
2010 Tacoma
2004 Prius
2005 Prius
2006 Prius
2007 Prius
2008 Prius
2009 Prius
2007 Lexus ES 350
2008 Lexus ES 350
2009 Lexus ES 350
2010 Lexus ES 350
2006 Lexus IS 250
2007 Lexus IS 250
2008 Lexus IS 250
2009 Lexus IS 250
2010 Lexus IS 250
2006 Lexus IS 350
2007 Lexus IS 350
2008 Lexus IS 350
2009 Lexus IS 350
2010 Lexis IS 350

The recall was prompted by years of runaway accelerator complaints and investigations that culminated in the August death of a highway patrolman and 4 passengers in a Lexus being driven by the officer. The passengers called 911 just minutes before their death in a violent 120 mph crash, saying that the accelerator had become stuck and the car would not shut off.

Officials suspect the driver side floor mat became lodged at the gas pedal with the accelerator in a wide open position.

Toyota admits to reports of the problem going back to its 2004 model year Prius. Federal safety officials say they received 102 reports of jammed accelerators in Toyota and Lexus models that resulted in at least 13 crashes and 17 injuries before the August crash that killed the off-duty California Highway Patrol officer.

Toyota reportedly has said that all driver side floor mats should be immediately removed from vehicles and nothing should be used, not even paper mats, until they come up with a solution.

We also maintain blogs covering vehicle recalls by vehicle type.

Car recalls are posted on this blog: http://carrecalls.blogspot.com/

Truck recalls can be found here: http://truckrecalls.blogspot.com/

Rv Recalls can be found here: http://rvrecalls.blogspot.com/

Motorcycle and Atv recalls are here: http://motorcycleatvrecalls.blogspot.com/

If you’ve got a lemon Toyota car or truck or a lemon Lexus car, or any other lemon vehicle, email us or call us at 1-888-331-6422 Toll Free. Helping consumers get rid of lemon cars is what we do. Every day.

Burdge Law Office
www.NewCarLemonLaw.com
Because life is too short to put up with a bad car.
Click here to see what your state Automobile Lemon Law says.

Sunday

Wizard of Oz Returns to Movie Screens One Night Only

This coming Wednesday, the classic Wizard of Oz Judy Garland film returns to the big screen for one night only. It's a digital remastering of the original film that restores it to all its glory and more, a quality level that the original film could not achieve because of the technology of its day.

There are few movies that stand the test of time and endure generations of audiences. This is one. Here's where to find the nearest theatre and where to get your movie tickets online: http://www.ncm.com/Fathom/Premiere/WizardofOz_Exclusive.aspx?utm_campaign=WizardofOz&utm_medium=exclusiveblast&utm_source=WarnerBros

Don't count on any tickets being left at the box office.

Originally released in 1939, this remastered high definition version of the classic will show at less than 500 theatres nationwide, but that's all. It's the 70th anniversary of the film's debut and the remastering of the classic gives a new generation a chance to see it with a clarity that no one has seen before.

MGM released the film in its heyday, when 49 other movies were released that year, including Gone With the Wind, but only this one became the classic that every parent wanted their children to see and which they themselves enjoyed again and again.

Rarely do classic films get back to the big screen, where they were intended to be shown. This time, the movie screen version will also show movie outakes and interviews of some of the actors too, something normally only seen on a movie's dvd release.

The Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that most people have seen but few have ever seen as it was intended to be seen, on a giant movie theater screen where it all comes alive.

Check the website and find a screen near you. Then grab the kids (or the grandkids) and go. I guarantee you will leave the theater with a smile and more smiles are a good thing nowadays.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumers Every Day Since 1978.

Tuesday

Tesla's Roadster Compared to Han Solo's Millennium Falcon


The Tesla Roadster is here. And is it ever unique.

Electric power that is virtually unheard of, both in its pickup and its range. Deemed quirky by some because of its odd fit and finish, but beautiful to behold and quiet enough to hold a conversation in with no noisey effects.

The best review of the new car yet to be seen has just showed up on the Ward's Auto .com website here: http://wardsauto.com/testdrive/drive_tesla_acceleration_090904/

If you haven't heard of the Tesla Roadster, you will. And if the company makes the interior as nice to be in as it has made the outside as nice to look at, this will be the electric car for all the others to beat. And that won't be easy, although the $128,500 starting price can buy a lot of gasoline.

Drop dead looks, 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds, and a range of over 200 miles on a single battery charge --- that's what the price buys you. Oh, and the ability to feel what han Solo felt when he kicked the Millennium Falcon into warp speed. Okay, that just might be worth it.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Saturday

Toyota Hid Evidence About Liability, Their ExLawyer Says

A lawyer who worked for Toyota says the manufacturer hid and destroyed evidence about accidents involving their vehicles from the courts, federal investigators and lawyers representing victims in lawsuits against the company.

Automotive News is reporting that Dimitrios Biller worked as an attorney for Toyota Motor Corp. for four years until 2007, including representing the automaker in accident litigation. In a lawsuit filed this summer in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Biller said Toyota did not listen to his urgings to disclose all the evidence it had in rollover lawsuits or for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations.

The lawsuit, a public record, was quickly met by an effort of Toyota to get the judge assigned to the case to "seal' the record so no one would see what Biller is saying. But for now, the court documents are public. And the possible existence of evidence that could harm Toyota in accident litigation has caused Dallas attorney Todd Tracy to plan to refile 15 rollover, frontal-impact and rear-impact suits against Toyota.

Tracy, who fought against Biller in Toyota cases, has said he can not imagine Biller is making it up and he's not the only attorney who is getting ready to refile their cases.

Meanwhile, what is Toyota's response? Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said the company was "concerned" with Biller's breach of attorney-client privilege and contracts in disclosing information from when he worked at Toyota.

Notice that they didn't deny hiding evidence, they didn't deny destroying evidence, they just said he shouldn't be allowed to tell anyone about it. The whole thing sounds like a lawyer with a conscience and most people would be quick to say there's nothing wrong with that.

Courts will be looking to see if the allegations are true and if they are, Toyota may face some huge penalties and fines and dozens of new lawsuits on old cases that they thought they had won already. And rightly so.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves from lemon cars, and lying manufacturers.
Every day since 1978.

Thursday

Is it Identity Theft or a Bank Robbery?

Okay, so you get a call from the bank saying your identity was stolen and they took the money out of your account. Is it identity theft, or is it really just a bank robbery?

Of course, the bank says it's identity theft and it was your money that got stolen. On the other hand, your money is still in your pocket. The money you gave the bank to hold onto, though, is gone. So, isn't it really just a bank robbery? How did that get to be our problem instead of the bank's problem?

Here's a link (below) to a great comedy spoof explaining the whole thing. By the time you get finished listening, you just might wonder too.

Is it Identity Theft or a Bank Robbery? Click here. Then you decide.

Burdge Law Office
Helping people protect themselves, even from the bank, every day since 1978.

The Cash for Clunkers Car Dealer Rip Off

Some car dealers are having consumers sign "waiver" forms that say if their trade in doesn't get "approved" for the Cash for Clunkers program, then the consumer will pay the dealer the difference. Well, now the government is telling consumers not to do it.

Bloomberg News is reporting that the U.S. Department of Transportation is advising consumers taking advantage of the "Cash for Clunkers" program not to sign contingency agreements promising to pay back up to $4,500 if dealers don’t receive payment from the government.
No contingency agreement is required to participate, the Transportation Department, which administers the $3 billion Car Allowance Rebate System, is reported to have said on its Web site.

To enable its dealers to get more money out of consumers, the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association apparently posted a form on its Web site that car dealers can use to make new car buyers reimburse the dealership the incentive amount if the dealer is unable to obtain the credit from the government "for any reason." The consumer can also return the car to the dealership and pay "a reasonable charge" for use of the new vehicle, according to the form.
Consumers signing the agreement also acknowledge their trade-in vehicle may have been destroyed and can’t be returned. The result? You sign and you're stuck. You give them back the new car and get zippo in return.

Be careful with this Cash for Clunkers program. We are hearing stories of car dealers getting consumers to sign everything and then calling the consumer up days later and saying their trade in wasn't "approved" for the program and now the consumer has to either come up with more cash or return the new car and (surprise, surprise) the consumer's trade in is already been sent off to the crusher and can't be returned.

The whole thing reminds us of the spot delivery yo-yo "your financing wasn't approved" rip off scam where the only thing that really wasn't approved was the amount of greed running rampant at the dealership.

The simple fact is that if the car dealer does it right, they should know immediately whether or not you will get approval and a credit. So don't trust any car dealer who calls you back and wants more money down, no matter what the excuse.

If you think you're the victim of a Cash for Clunkers rip off, call us. We help consumer protect themselves every day. It's what we do.

Burdge Law Office
Because someone needs to be on your, side for a change.

Tuesday

The Rip Off Introductory Rate Scam

We've come across a Rip off Introductory Rate Scam that we are seeing several motorcycle dealerships using. Since several dealers are doing the same thing in different areas, the source of the problem is outside of the dealership itself. Maybe it's at GE Money Bank? Maybe they aren't the only ones doing it either.

Here's how it seems to work and what happens later because of it.

Dealers advertise a "come on" low monthly payment for a brand new motorcycle and maybe they say it's an "introductory" rate for 2 years or maybe they don't. The part they don't seem to tell the buyer is that the payments are paying interest on the loan balance only. Dealers seem to routinely give the same sales pitch. They sell the buyer on the idea with something like this: "most people trade their bike in every two years, which is how long your payments will be low, so you'll be able to afford it and come out okay when you trade it in before the payment goes up."

What they don’t tell you is that if all you pay is interest then after two years you still owe the same amount on your motorcycle that you started out with but your bike isn't worth the same amount any more. The result?

You can’t trade it in and break even because it isn’t worth what you bought it for, which is also what you still owe on it. But now you're faced with a sudden jump in your required monthly payment amount.

At end of two years, the interest rate jumps to a much higher rate and your payments can triple or quadruple, so you can’t afford the payments then either. You are stuck in a loan that you can't afford and if you try to trade in your bike you can't get enough to pay it off either.

This introductory rate scam virtually forces you to trade it in and either come up with a down payment you weren't counting on or else "roll" the debt off the old bike and onto the new loan for the new bike. In other words, you go deeper in debt on the next bike. Do that a couple of times and you can't get out of the loan alive. In other words you will be stuck in a debt rut.

If you are thinking of buying a motorcycle and your dealer tries to sell you on this rip off introductory rate scam, be extra careful. The paperwork we've seen is confusing and misleading and the dealer's sales presentation is slick and smooth. If you aren't careful you will never know what happened to you until two years later when reality sinks in.

And the worst part? The strongest consumer protection law that most states have (they are called "Udap" laws) usually has a 2 year time limit to file a claim in court. So by the time you find out you are really stuck, your legal rights have already expired.

Gee, does anyone think that's a coincidence?

If you are the victim of this rip off scam, don't wait to find out your rights. Talk to a Burdge attorney now.

Burdge Law Office
Helping bikers protect themselves since 1978.

Free Lemon Law and Auto Sales Legal Guides


Wednesday

What cars have the best resale values?

A good way to realize that the conomy is rebounding is when you start seeing more positive articles about car ownership again. Let's face it. Car sales are a major driving force in the economy, perhaps even moreso than home sales. Well, if that's true then there's good news coming.

The folks who determine automotive resale values have released a new list of the best car resale values by class. These cars and trucks are the ones predicted by the experts to be able to get the best resale value later, which can make them a good buy right now. The list is compiled by Automotive Lease Guide and here are the winners.

Compact car: Honda Fit
Mid compact car: Scion xB
Midsize car: Honda Accord
Fullsize car: Nissan Maxima
Sporty car: Mini cooper
Near luxury car: BMW 1 Series
Luxury car: Lexus LS 460
Luxury sports car: Nissan GT-R
Compact utility vehicle: Jeep Wrangler ties with Subaru Forester
Midsize utility vehicle: Nissan Murano
Large utility vehicle: Toyota Sequoia
Near luxury utility vehicle: Land Rover LR2
Luxury utility veicle: Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Compact midsize pickup: Toyota Tacoma
Minivan: Toyota Sienna
Hybrid: Toyota Prius
Full size pickup: Ford F150
Commercial van: Dodge Sprinter

If you're looking for what car can give you the best return on your money, one of these is probably it. The only sad part is how few of Detroit's models made the list. That's something they still have to work on.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers save money every day.

Friday

Is arbitration fair? Can I sue NAF? Is arbitration a ripoff?

We've talked before about how forced arbitration sucks and now it appears that maybe, but only maybe, someone is doing something about it.

The Center for Responsible Lending is reporting that Minnesota's attorney general may have scored a victory for consumers nationwide in the "forced arbitration wars." A Minnesota Attorney General lawsuit against the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) ended forced arbitration in credit card contracts in that state. You can read more about it here: Credit-Card Disputes Tossed into Disarray.

NAF had processed what is estimated to be 200,000 forced arbitrations a year so it clearly was the "king" of the forced arbitration game.

At the same time, the Minn. AG lawsuit was strangely settled almost immediately with a press release announcement that came out the Sunday after the case was filed in court and just days before a Congressional committee release its findings which scalded NAF's forced arbitration program. It appears that the lawsuit, and the settlement, may actually have been intended to take some of the "bite" out of the Congressional committee's report. It would be a shame if the Minn. AG was somehow party to actually aiding NAF's agenda, but we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Meanwhile, apparently the American Arbitration Association (AAA, another private group that, like NAF did, also claims to be independent) told the Minn. AG that they did almost no credit card debt forced arbitrations and had put their own 'safeguards' in place to try to avoid some of the obvious bias and self-interest problems that rampantly ran behind the scenes, suspected but unproven, to consumers. Still AAA said it would no longer handle credit card debt forced arbitrations.

Meanwhile a class action was filed in Illinois on behalf of Illinois consumers who lost their "rigged" forced arbitration cases since 2007, sueing credit card gian MBNA/FIA and the debt collection law firm Mann Bracken. According to allegations NAF had direct ties to both the debt collection industry and the Mann Bracken law firm, and even had special nick names for the debt collectors that it routinely favored with its arbitration decisions against consumers.

If you're a victim of the NAF forced arbitration game, contact us about your legal rights.

It appears that millions of consumers may have been forced to pay millions of dollars to debt collectors who had paid NAF handsomely to give them money judgments against consumers, in the NAF forced arbitration ripoff.

These forced arbitration companies aren't going away any time soon. There's too much money to be had, so you can expect the forced arbitration game to continue to be rigged in favor of big business. Like we have said many a time before, forced arbitration simply sucks.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get even, since 1978.

Wednesday

Is Arbitration Fair? Proof that Arbitration is Unfair

The Minnesota Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against one of the big private arbitration companies, the National Arbitration Forum (NAF), alleging their arbitration process is rigged in favor of big businesses who pay it big bucks.

Minnesota-based NAF is the largest consumer credit private arbitration company which recently came under fire for its extensive "back room" relationships with the very companies that hire it to get favorable judgments against consumers. The AG alleges that NAF "secretly worked alongside creditors, and against consumer interests, in seeking to have mandatory, predispute arbitration clauses inserted in credit agreements signed by consumers" and appears to have good proof of it.

NAF has long claimed it was "independent and neutral" but it turns out that a group of New York hedge funds invested in the arbitration company and also acquired a majority stake in a debt collection agency which acquired the collection operations of the law firm Mann Bracken. So, it appears that the whole operation is run, from front to back, by debt collectors who, quite obviously, have a vested interest in getting money out of consumers and not in finding out whether or not consumers actually owe the money.

The case caption is State of Minnesota v. National Arbitration Forum, No. 27-09-18550, and appears to be filed in state court with claims that NAF committed consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and made false advertising statements.



Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is to be commended for calling a spade a spade and going after NAF, which has been the target of consumer advocates for years with claims of bias and favoritism toward the debt collectors that hire it.

The whole NAF back-room favoritism and bias more clearly came to light when Deanna Richert, a former manager at NAF, filed a federal lawsuit against NAF claiming she was denied promotions and terminated last year because of her gender and age, which were, respectively, female and over 40. In the lawsuit she also revealed how NAF had a policy of favoring its big client companies and even had a nickname for them ("famous parties"). The lawsuit was picked up by the Wall Street Journal and consumer advocates quickly realized that the truth about NAF's arbitration had come out. NAF, of course, says it was doing nothing wrong.

Apparently that was the smoking gun that caused Swanson to go after NAF.

We've said for years that arbitration sucks and both Richert's lawsuit and Swanson's lawsuit are now revealing more of the truth that anyone ever did before. Maybe now people will realize that arbitration is like playing poker with a stacked deck --- and it isn't stacked in your favor, folks.

There are ways to fight back against unfair arbitration and you can read more about it here: http://www.arbitrationsucks.com/.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers fight back since 1978.

Monday

Madoff Gets 150 Yrs of Justice

Bernard Madoff, who ruined the lives of several thousands of consumer victims from all walks of life, will be spending the rest of his life in jail.

At his sentencing hearing on Monday morning June 29, 2009, he was given a 150 year sentence.

Madoff pulled off what is probably the greatest Ponzi scheme fraud in history and has been the subject of tons of press that you can read at your leisure elsewhere on the internet.

The scale of his fraud and deceit certainly seems to easily justify the harshest of sentences. Still, one has to wonder where all the money went and why others didn't get arrested too. It seems very hard to believe that no one knew what he was up to in his entire operation --- not even his relatives who worked for him. Perhaps that's another day's justice.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves from fraud, and get their money back, since 1978.

New GM Promises to Honor Warranties

Good news for owners of GM cars and trucks --- reports are that the "new" GM which comes out of bankruptcy will honor the "old" GM's warranty on the millions of cars and trucks on the road.

That announcement, although a promise yet to be fulfilled, puts it ahead of Chrysler, which issued only an ambiguous statement of possible warranty plans for the millions of Chrysler vehicle owners who still don't know where they stand for sure.

If you've got a GM or a Chrysler vehicle, and you have any defects or problems, get it in the shop right away, while your dealer is still around and willing to try to help you.

For now, GM owners can breathe a sigh of relief.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Is Fraud Increasing?



The answer is yes according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). And, worse yet, it is expected to continue in the near future as the rescession takes its toll on jobs and wages.



The ACFE is the world's largest anti-fraud organization, dedicated to reducing business fraud. In their 2008 Report to the Nation, they found that nearly a trillion dollars of business annual revenues were siphoned off due to fraud. Now, their newest report indicates the level of business fraud is rising.



Rising faster than the Wall Street churning fraud of the late 80-early-1990's, that spawned Glenn Frey's hit song "I've Got Mine", the fraud investigators at ACFE said the expect fraud to continue to increase during the next 12 months too.



Their latest report is based on a survey of fraud investigators, who reported an increase in fraudulent activities in the last year over past years. The report, "Occupational
Fraud: A Study of the Impact of an Economic Recession", blames the increase on "intense financial pressures during the economic crisis." There mere existence of an opportunity for fraud to occur was not enough, according to ACFE.

As the ACFE President said, "Desperate people do desperate things."

These are tough times and they're right. The fear of personal disaster can cause many otherwise honest merchants and business people to consider and do things that might not occur in a normal economy. The result for you? Be more careful than ever. After all, the only thing that makes Bernie Madoff unusual nowadays, may be the sheer size of his fraud. The more ordinary acts of fraud may be happening all around you in ordinary small ways.

A fourth of the fraud discovered in the ACFE's 2008 Report was just plain overbilling. That could be as simple as bogus charge card billing or phone bill statement in small amounts of $15 or $20 which adds up to millions of dollars because many people don't look over their charge card bills carefully or just don't complain long enough or loud enough about the suspicious small charge on their account.

Don't waste your money. If you see a charge you didn't authorize on your account statement, call and demand that it be removed and don't take "no" for an answer. Then, report it to your state Attorney General's Consumer Fraud department and demand that they investigate.

Crooks will always be crooks, but these hard times are causing many near-crooks to turn the corner, costing consumers millions of their hard earned dollars.

Burdge Law Office

www.OhioConsumerLaw.com

Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Friday

Penske Buys Saturn

The Penske Auto Group has inked a deal with GM to buy Saturn. Included in the deal will be the brand itself, the parts inventory, and the right to distribute the Saturn vehicle line, which GM apparently will continue to build for another 2 years.

In addition to moving things along for GM, it also means a big sigh of relief for the roughly 360 Saturn dealers who General Motors had announced would be orphaned if a sale did not occur.

A Chinese company has announced its intention to buy the Hummer operation, But that still leaves Pontiac to contend with as GM keeps heading to a leaner operation that it hopes will be more profitable too.

There's no word yet on whether the sales would mean that the new owners would continue to honor the old GM warranties but under bankruptcy law the sales could occur in such a way that all old warranty rights were liquidated. Or not. We'll have to wait and see.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves everyday since 1978.

Wednesday

Now, Let's Turn the Page

With GM having finally filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, maybe the auto industry and our whole economy can finally stop the dreading and nay-saying and move on. It's about time.

6,000 GM dealers received one of two letters from GM this week, the good one and the bad one. The bad one said "so long" basically. The good one, if you can call it that, set out new expectations for surviving dealers and new requirements too and gave a June 12 deadline to agree "or else" they'd find themselves being included in the bankruptcy and not invited along for the "survival ride" so to speak. Ok, so do it already, GM.

What this economy needs, we suspect, is for everyone to stop talking the doom and gloom trash and start getting over it and moving on.

At a concert in Dayton last night, the musician thanked the crowd for coming out and went on for another half minute or so to talk about the fact that we live in a resilient society in this country and that we will all survive the current economic mess and, perhaps, just keeping that in mind can help us to cope with the present and have more faith in the future. To be sure, we still need to be careful on this rocky road, but he had a good point about keeping in mind that the road does eventually lead us to a better spot.

It's time that Detroit, and the rest of us, turned the page. That starts with each of us. Then, maybe the media will realize that all of us regular folks have heard enough of the negative and tone it down too.

Friday

More GM Dealers to Get Chopped

Last month 1,124 GM dealers got their notice that they were being chopped. Now GM has come up with a plan to axe even more.

Seems that there are another 450 GM dealers whose franchises will expire within the next year that GM has decided will not be renewed. That has the same effect as shutting them down.

Reportedly, GM decided who to chop based on dealership profitability, its capitalization, its sales "effectiveness", and the dealer's customer-satisfaction scores. All of those are long-standing criteria used by manufacturers to score financially successful dealership operations.

All of this comes as GM is putting the finishing touches on what is expected to be the largest business bankruptcy ever filed in the US, which analysts predict will probably be filed Monday, June 1st, 2009.

On top of this new round of chop notices, when GM gets rid of Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and its involvement with Saab, there will probably be several hundred other dealers that will be out of the picture.

The story now is the same as before. If you've got a lemon GM car, or any lemon car or lemon truck, you need a good attorney now more than ever. Don't put up with any repair shop run around either.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get rid of lemon cars since 1978.

Tuesday

GM Predicted to File Bankruptcy Any Day


As of late afternoon on May 26, 2009, sources involved with the GM restructuring are saying it's all but over with.

GM had to get 90% of its bondholders to accept its "debt for equity" swap to avoid filing the largest ever industrial bankruptcy in US history by the end of the month and the final deadline is midnight. The tally? GM won't release the actual numbers but Reuters News is reporting that "a source" on the inside is saying the percentage is in the low single digits.

That means it's all but done for GM.

With no way to avoid reality, it seems it will now be impossible for GM to avoid filing bankruptcy any day now.

If you've got a GM built car, still under warranty, now's the time to get it in the shop, while the dealer might still honor the GM warranty work that you need. Pretty soon, that may not be the answer you get.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Thursday

List of Chrysler Dealers Being Chopped


On May 14, 2009 Chrysler notified 789 of its dealers that they were being chopped. That's about 25% of the total Chrysler dealer network. Reports are that the list was created largely with instructions of Fiat, who is expected to be the new owner in the coming weeks.

Fiat understandably would not likely sell well in the rural US, which may explain why many dealers on the chopping block are located in rural areas of the country. By closing the nearly 800 stores, the vast majority of remaining Chrysler dealerships are stores that sell all 3 brands under one roof --- Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler --- and that has been the goal of Chrysler for years. Too bad it took financial collapse to get it done.

To find out if a dealer near you is on the "you've been chopped" list, check out the Wall Street Journal's list posted here: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/Chryslerdealerlist05142009.pdf

If that link doesn't work, try here: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/CNBC/Sections/News_And_Analysis/_News/__EDIT%20Englewood%20Cliffs/ChryslerDealership.pdf

Meanwhile, if you've got a Chrysler with defects, a Dodge that won't run, or a Jeep that won't beep, you better get it back to your dealer right away and try to get warranty work done while they are still around.

The Chrysler Bankruptcy actually involves about 25 corporations that Chrysler "owns" and here's the list along with their bankruptcy case number, for the curious crowd:

Petitions:
09-50000 Chrysler Realty Company LLC 09-50001 Peapod Mobility LLC09-50002 Chrysler LLC 09-50003 Chrysler Aviation Inc.09-50004 Chrysler Dutch Holding LLC09-50005 Chrysler Dutch Investment LLC 09-50006 Chrysler Dutch Operating Group LLC09-50007 Chrysler Institute of Engineering 09-50008 Chrysler International Corporation09-50009 Chrysler International Limited, L.L.C. 09-50010 Chrysler International Services, S.A.09-50011 Chrysler Motors LLC 09-50012 Chrysler Service Contracts Florida, Inc.
09-50013 Chrysler Service Contracts Inc.09-50014 Chrysler Technologies Middle East Ltd.09-50015 Chrysler Transport Inc.09-50016 Chrysler Vans LLC09-50017 DCC 929, Inc. 09-50018 Dealer Capital, Inc.09-50019 Global Electric Motorcars, LLC 09-50020 NEV Mobile Service, LLC09-50021 NEV Service, LLC 09-50022 TPF Asset, LLC09-50023 TPF Note, LLC09

You can monitor the Chrysler bankruptcy filings in Court at this website here: http://www.chryslerrestructuring.com/

If you've got a lemon Chrysler or a lemon Jeep or a lemon Dodge, now's the time to cross your fingers and try to get your dealer to agree to fix defects for free, while they are still there and while Chrysler might still pay them.

Today it was 25% of Chrysler dealers who got chopped. And tomorrow? General Motors says it will release its list of GM dealers who'll be chopped and reports are the numbers are only going to be bigger.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get rid of lemons since 1978.

Saturday

Big Sam & Boxes on Wheels


There was a time when cars were king. Every model was a wondrous work of art, styling, and powerful engineering. Maybe it was because we were young. Maybe it was because they were just a different kind of car.

Back then I had one of these. A '59 Chevy Impala that I modestly called "Big Sam." It wasn't new when I got it, not by a long shot. But it was something else.

The jet style fins jumped into a short-lived automobile fashion with the General Motors 1959 models, although hints of what was coming sneaked into a couple of concept cars and the subtle model lines of several mid and late 50's cars. But with the '59, GM just went wild, admirably so.

Big Sam was a car I had back in my college days. It had a trunk that was bigger than whole cars I would later own and an engine compartment that was so big and roomy that you could actually climb in to work on the engine and you actually could work on the engine too. And when you pressed on the gas pedal, there was no turbo hesitating to get up to speed and there was no 4 cylinders looking for the rest of the engine either. It just got up and went. Fast.

I named Big Sam after an old grizzled man who frequented a family neighborhood bar nearby, named Sam. His face was time-worn and his hunched over stance, leaning forward slightly, reflected his sixty some years of a hard struggling life that led to his then-current daytime job as a mechanic for a local family amusement park, at a time when there still were such things.

He looked older than his years, but every day he quietly left his small two room dusty cabin next to the park and walked over to start his day changing oil and tightening chains on kids' rides that were easily as old as him. At the end of each day he just as quietly left the park to walk to Andy's Bar, where he'd drink a small bottle of cheap red wine, or two, before the night air turned dark and damp and he'd start his walk home.

Sam was a tired man but he was kind too. He tried to be friendly with everyone and seemed to understand when occassionally his time-roughened appearance caused strangers to ignore his soft "howdy." It was a greeting that marked his exit from another place in time no one else remembered. He had a warm smile that he seldom found a reason to show, but when he did, you knew it was real. He was a lot like that big old lumbering 59 Chevy Impala I had. It was a remarkable aged icon of another, earlier time that still was unique with a well-worn sort of dignity too. It was so like him that I got some paint and painted "Big Sam" in small print just beside the door handle. I never named a car before that one. I never named one after that either.

A lot of things have come and gone over the years. Some have hung around. Honesty. People trying to do what's right. That still matters. Being proud of what you do, that does too. And doing your job right, that still matters too. The line workers in Detroit and elsewhere, they know that too. Somewhere along the way, though, the bosses became bean counters and the only thing that mattered was profit. When that happened, the Big Three started to slide. They've been sliding ever since.

What we need from GM, and Chrysler too for that matter, is some of what used to matter in Detroit. A sense that people matter --- more than profit or the cost-cutting machines that replace them. Efficiency matters, but quality matters more. And maybe not forgetting that quality is something that starts with the hands that work the assembly line. And we need cars that are a thing of beauty again. It has taken GM decades to realize that maybe we don't really need cookie cutter boxes with wheels on them that have interchangeable labels, some Buick, some Pontiac, some Chevrolet, some Oldsmobile.

Motor vehicles have aged in the last 100+ years from a thing of convenience and necessity, to Beautiful Art on Wheels and then back to convenience and necessity again. There is a place, I'm sure, where cars are still a work of art that stirs emotion. If GM and Chrysler can find where that is, they'll survive and probably prosper. If they don't, well they'll probably survive anyway.

That place is what made the cars of another generation fun to drive, amazing to just look at, and sell with excitement. And it wasn't all that bad either.

I still remember Big Sam. Somewhere along the way I went on to other cars and other bars. I never knew what happened to Sam. Not him. Not the car. Years later I went by the street corner where Andy's Bar had been and it was gone too.

My wife and I don't drive a GM or a Chrysler now. Sometimes I wish I did. Whether I will in the future depends on them more than me. Still, I'd hate to lose GM or Chrysler. They're sort of like that uncle that everyone in the family talks about but doesn't know what to do about.

I'm a lawyer who has spent his entire career representing consumers against motor vehicle manufacturers and dealers. If manufacturers just built them right in the first place, and their dealers were just honest folks, I probably would have spent my career doing something else. I still wouldn't mind it now, but I suspect neither of them will change anytime too soon. Unfortunately, hard economic times don't get rid of all the crooked car dealers or the bumbling manufacturers. In the meantime, consumers need to be careful out there. And if something bad happens to you, call us. Getting rid of lemons is still what we do. Everyday. Since 1978.

Because life is too short to put up with a bad car or a bad dealer.

Friday

GM Parties on Government Money

Literally weeks before a government deadline to avoid bankruptcy, GM threw a Resort Getaway party for 500 of its biggest customers. Well, it's good to see that last billion dollar bailout is being put to good use (sarcasm intended).

CBS' KPHO television station reported that GM paid for airfare and treated 500 guests to a two night stay at the Phoenix lux resort Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa.

The GM guests work for rental car companies, government agencies and businesses that buy GM vehicles. To help them get around during their stay, GM reportedly shipped in 150 vehicles for them to use.

But not all the sun, fun, games, golf, and spa time is on GM. Apparently golf and spa costs aren't being covered by GM. Well, that's certainly reasonable, folks (more sarcasm intended).

Local tv station CBS 5 News wanted to get on the property to ask more questions about the event but the resort would not allow media inside. Here's a link to the station's news piece about it: http://www.kpho.com/video/19400972/index.html

GM bleeds and borrows and then parties on taxpayer loans. And then DFO Ray Young said GM will need almost $3 billion more of government loan money now and probably $9 billion more during the rest of the year. It makes you wonder what these bozo's are thinking.

"We cannot cut costs fast enough to offset that revenue loss," Young is reported to have said. "People are concerned about bankruptcy, and that's the reason why we want to avoid it if at all possible." He might as well have added, "cutting those greens fees and spa treatments really helped, too."

Well, there's certainly nothing like a good party to chase away those bankruptcy blues, that's for sure.

Detroit auto workers need help and that means the company needs help, but luxury weekend resort time on the government tab is not a good PR move. It doesn't take a genuis to realize it either. Stunts like this are a good example of why GM is sliding toward bankruptcy and more and more likely to land smack dab in the middle of a bankruptcy courtroom.

Meanwhile, if you've got a GM product and it needs warranty repair work, you better get it in the shop quick. Some dealers are already reported to be refusing to do warranty work out of fear that they won't get reimbursed for it by the factory. Gee, I guess those resort weekends can get expensive.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves in tough times.

Wednesday

Best Buy to Sell Motorcycles



Motorcycles for sale at your local Best Buy? The deal has been inked and they are set to go on sale first in the West Coast's Best Buy stores. It could go national after that.

And if the quality turns out to be accurate, normal modest sized motorcycles will be up against some stiff competition. They're electric powered and not bad looking at all.


For a new company to create a network of dealers from scratch is a huge hurdle. Craig Bramscher, CEO of electric motorcycle maker Brammo, made a really smart move, though. He made a deal with Best Buy.

The Brammo Enertia model is a carbon fiber urban commuter motorbike with a top speed of 50 mph and a 40 mile range. What helps get past its small range is its cool looks. It doesn't hurt that the company founder is a "car guy" either, starting out at a parts store in Kansas City and building a media company that works with media industry giants now.

Later this spring, the first Brammo EV bike model (there are 3 models planned) will go on sale online, but you can pick up one at some Best Buy stores later this spring too. Details are sketchy at this early stage but the Best Buy models are set to include the Brammo.

Although Brammo started out to build super cars, the rage for electric vehicles turned his thoughts to electric cars but he quickly realized that the start up costs would be impossible. However, building an electric motorcycle from scratch was a whole different thing.


Brammo’s goal is nothing less than being the first profitable pure "EV" company, and the plan is that motorcycles will make that happen. The Enertia is priced at $12,000, and reports are that an upscale version is already sold out. A federal ten percent tax credit actuallly can take the price down to $10,000.

“This is a super-efficient motorcycle,” company founder Bramscher is reported by Bnet Auto to have said. “It can travel 7,500 miles on $50 worth of energy. Existing motorcycles can do, at best, 80 mpg. We are orders of magnitude more efficient—and 10 times as efficient as a Prius, too.”

Tax credits, a reasonable price, terrific mileage, and wide market availability --- these are the makings of success and Bramscher could have a terrific product on his hands. If you want a motorcycle that will get you around town at a modest cost and that'll let you just drive right on by every gas station, then this just might be it.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get rid of lemons everyday. Since 1978.

Monday

GM Gets Surgical

Doubt continues to grow on whether or not GM can avoid bankruptcy very soon. GM is backed into a corner with its well-heeled bond holders not budging and too many creditors clamoring for cash while the feds while away the hours on the doomsday clock.

People's jobs are at stake, to say nothing for Detroit prestige, and money is all that seems to matter to the bond holders who could save it all.

GM and others are pushing for a "surgical" bankruptcy that could put GM into bankruptcy court on a "preplanned" approach that would go into court with the intention of getting, in advance, the agreement of enough creditors to quickly pull livable pieces of the corporation out of bankruptcy and leave unprofitable pieces to their bankruptcy fate. The goal would be to get the profitable pieces out of court control in a matter of weeks.

But bankruptcy experts are saying it likely wouldn't be less than 6 months before bankruptcy court lets go of any pieces of the GM pie. A good example? The musings of many when Delphi was headed into bankruptcy court just before it filed in October 2005. It's still there.

GM wants its monied bond holders to cut two thirds of the debt by swapping bonds for GM shares but they aren't buying it. Given the recent trading history of GM stock, no one can blame them. A buck sixty eight a share in the afternoon of April 20, 2009. Whoddathunk?

None of this is shaking out too good for GM or Detroit. It won't be pretty for GM owners either. If your car is still covered by warranty, and you've got defects, better get it to the shop pretty soon, while dealers are still willing to honor the GM warranty. Once a bankruptcy is filed by GM, it's anyone's bet on what will happen next.