Thursday

Is Ford Killing Off the Mercury Marque?



Things have been rough at the Mercury brand. Since 2000 the sales of Mercury motor vehicles have plummeted 74%. Rumor has it that Ford has had enough of the failing brand.

Automotive News reports that industry insiders are saying that top executives at Ford are planning the demise of the Mercury label, to be presented to company directors in July. Apparently the plan is to convince the Mercury dealers, who also sell the Lincoln brand, to merge the leftover Lincoln dealerships with the Ford dealerships.

The move by Ford follows in the wake of Ford's selling off the Volvo, Jaguar, Land rover and Aston Martin brands during the last three years.

Curiously enough, The Mercury brand was started by Edsel Ford, the son of company founder Henry Ford. The Edsel, of course, is a brand sold by Ford that died long ago.

Mercury's best days were in 1978 when it still only sold just under 600,000 vehicles, but by last year that number had been shaved to just barely over 92,000. As for market share, a mere 0.9 percent of all vehicles sold in the first quarter of 2010 bore the Mercury brand.

Of all the Ford-made vehicles sold (all Ford's, Lincoln's, and Mercury's combined), in our experience Mercury had far fewer lemons than the Ford or Lincoln brands. That follows the path led by GM when it killed off its most reliable product, the Oldsmobile years ago, and then followed that last year with the death of its second most reliable brand, Pontiac.

It's almost like they learn to build it right and then kill the brand because marketing is all hot to sell something else instead of reliability. Maybe Detroit just needs to kill off some of those marketers who are more interested in selling the sizzle than they are the reliable steak?

So, for now, be careful about buying a Mercury. You could be the last one on the road.

Tuesday

Proof Car Dealers Over Charge

Want to save yourself $300? Of course. There's an easy way to do it. Just stay away from car dealers.

That's the conclusion of AutoMD.com. By avoiding car dealership repair shops for non-warranty repair work and taking your business to independent repair shops, the average consumer can save themselves $300 a year according to a new study just out from AutoMD.

AutoMD crunched the numbers they got from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Federal Highway Administration and the Aftermarket Industry Association (the trade group representing parts makers and independent repair shops). When they got done, they found that car owners who went to dealers for repairs spend an average of $1,209 a year while those who don't only spend $903.

Notably, routine maintenance charges are the ones where the biggest difference can be, along with higher labor charges for their mechanics too. And don't believe it if a dealer tells you that you have to come back to them for your maintenance because your warranty requires it. In fact, federal law says they can't make you have your maintenance done there just to keep your warranty in effect.

Of course some things require returning to the dealer, like warranty work or recall work. And sometimes the computer hookups that the dealer has available can not be duplicated by independent repair shops who aren't willing to spend the high investment cost to buy some of the more "exotic" equipment needed for diagnosis of newer cars. CarMD can show you how to find the connecting point for your car's computer too, but you may not be able to find anyone with the equipment to hook up to it.

There is a bill pending in Congress to force manufacturers to give their secret computer codes to repair shops and make available unique tools that are necessary to be able to work on some aspects of new cars, but so far that bill isn't moving along. You can guess who is trying to stop it.

But for now, it seems that the repair costs of owning a car don't have to be so bad, if you stay away from the car dealer who sold it to you and go to the often-smaller independent repair shop with the good reputation and who often needs your business and is willing to be more honest with you on how to save your hard earned money.

But if you get ripped off by a car dealer, call us. Helping consumers to protect themselves and their families is what we do. Every day. Since 1978.

Friday

Big Banker Reforms Finally Approved by Senate

Last December the US House passed a financial reforms bill intended to fix the badly broken big financial firms and banks that nearly crashed the entire US economy and cost millions of people their jobs and retirement plans. Now the US Senate has joined in, but not without an angry fight.

When the US House passed the bill, tons of people and "analysts" said that the Senate would never go along with it. But after the military joined in the request for help to protect soldiers who were being ripped off by the same financial "products" that cost every day people too, the Senate gave in.

And the biggest rip off's affecting the military soldiers who stand on the line for all of us? Car dealers. That's right, car dealers.

Most people don't realize it but about 80% of the cars they sell are financed by the dealer and then the finance contract is sold off to those same big banks and investment companies at high interest rates that cost everyone thousands of dollars in excess charges that spell gouging. The excess charges come in the form of needlessly high interest rates (not everyone deserves a "subprime" loan rate), longer loans than necessary (that makes you pay more), and lots of extra things added to the sale that give little if any real benefit and which the buyer often does not even realize are being included (like prepaid maintenance plans that last longer than you'll even keep the car).

The car dealers sell the finance contracts to the banks, often as a package of loans. The banks then "securitize" them by bundling them into even larger packages that Wall Street thieves (sorry, I meant to say Wall Street investment houses and banks) buy up.

Well, the dealers didn't want their predatory financing practices to be subject to any oversight. They wanted it to keep being their form of lecherous business as usual. That's what got the military brass upset and that's what got the Senators worried, in spite of their huge donations from the car dealer lobbies.

The Senators weren't worried when it was just you and me getting ripped off. But the guys who have guns and go off to war to keep us safe? Well, that's a different thing.

Last night, in a 59 to 39 vote, the Senate passed the historic Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, S. 3217. It's a major victory for American families and small businesses and should help rebuild trust in the broken financial system that allowed all of us to get ripped off. Now we'll have a new consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that is focused on weeding out predatory lending and making sure that corporate greed doesn't get out of control again.

Still, the car dealers haven't given up. One Senator (running for governor back home, and in need of lots of corporate donations apparently), named Brownback, tried to get a loophole into the bill that would allow car dealers to avoid the law entirely. Lobbyists have vowed to now turn their work on the "reconcile" process in conference committee where the House version of the bill has to be "reconciled" with the Senate version in order to get the new law passed. That "end run" is expected to occur Monday morning, May 24. If they win, you lose.

So if you want to reform big bankers and make car dealers be honest, now is the time to call or email your Senators today. There's an easy way to do it.

The Center for Responsible Lending has a website where you just fill out your name, etc, and they'll send an email to your Senator saying that you want strong financial reform now and you want every one included, including car dealers.

Go to this link to tell your Senator you want the law to protect you: https://www.responsiblelending.org and look for the "TAKE ACTION" section where you'll see the link called "Senators: Are You for Wall Street or All Americans?" Click it and then just fill out the form.

Doing it only means keeping bad businesses a little more honest, so that good businesses can compete with them on a level playing field. That means a better deal for you.

Wednesday

BRP Sea Doo Recall Warning

Boating season is coming on strong so beware the recent recall of certain model year 2010 Sea-Doo personal watercraft and their "TEC" trailers. The recall is because the watercraft can slide off the trailer. That's not so good for the guy on the highway driving behind you, folks. Here's the recall notice:

Vehicle Make / Model: Model Year(s):
BRP / SEA-DOO ADVANCED TEC 2010
Manufacturer: BOMBARDIER RECREATIONAL PRODUCTS INC. Mfr's Report Date: APR 27, 2010
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 10V188000 NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: TRAILER HITCHES Potential Number of Units Affected: 381 Summary:
 BRP IS RECALLING CERTAIN MODEL YEAR 2010 SEA-DOO ADVANCED TEC TRAILERS MANUFACTURED FROM DECEMBER 10, 2009 THROUGH MARCH 22, 2010. THE LATCHING MECHANISM OF A SEA-DOO PERSONAL WATERCRAFT TO AN ADVANCED TEC TRAILER (KNOWN AS THE iCATCH) MAY BE MISADJUSTED AND NOT PROPERLY SECURE THE FRONT END OF THE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT BEING TRANSPORTED. WHEN THIS CONDITION EXISTS, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT ROAD OSCILLATIONS CAUSE THE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT TO JUMP OUT OF THE iCATCH HOOK PART OF THE MECHANISM. Consequence:
 IF THE REAR LATCHING STRAPS ARE NOT USED TO PROPERLY SECURE THE BACK END OF THE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT, IT MAY SLIDE OFF THE TRAILER INCREASING THE RISK OF A CRASH. Remedy:
 DEALERS WILL INSTALL A SAFETY CABLE ON THE FRONT LATCH MECHANISM, TO AFFIX AN UPDATED LABEL ON THE TRAILER AND TO GIVE TO THE OWNER AN UPDATED USER GUIDE

If you've got one of these potential lemon Sea Doo watercraft trailers, call your dealer and get the recall work done. If your dealer won't help you, call us. Getting rid of lemons, and getting your money back, is what we do. Every day. Since 1978.

Tuesday

Extended warranty ripoffs abound

We are seeing more and more high priced extended warranty rip offs in this slowly rebounding economy, as car dealers try to increase their profit margins any way they can. These service contract scams generate big bucks for the dealer and usually have a mark up from the cost of a hundred bucks or so and which the dealer then turns around and sells to the consumer for usually anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 and sometimes more.

And it's not just the extended warranties either.

Prepaid Maintenance Programs, often called something like "car care," are another example of high priced "soft add on" products that usually make the car dealer's finance center the most profitable and lucrative (and often slimy) part of the average dealer's operation. Basically, they are getting you to pay up front for oil changes you may not even keep the car long enough to have --- and all at a cost that is often higher than if you just pay for it when you need it. Of course, they don't tell you that part.

Credit life and credit disability insurance, often sold at extremely high costs with minimal coverage amounts, are another high priced rip off. You can almost always buy more ocverage for much less cost through your regular insurance agent. But people don't think of that and you can count on the dealer not to tell you either.

Then there's the window etching scam. It's how you turn 20 bucks into 300, 350 or more. For a price usually between a hundred and three hundred, you supposedly get a security program that really is nothing but some scratches on your car window that supposedly gives you extra security coverage and payout if your car is stolen. But if you look at the fine print, it's just another way of getting more money out of you and selling you something worth almost nothing at all. In fact, you can buy the same thing on the internet from any of a dozen or more web sites for about twenty bucks.

Then there's the unemployment program that'll make your car payment if you get laid off, at a hefty cost to you that you pay for up front, too. These rip off soft add-on's can add thousands of dollars of profit for your dealer and cost you even more than that.

It's one scam after another and all of them after the money in your wallet or your purse. Don't fall for it. If you've been the victim of a greedy car dealer, call us. We can help. It's what we do. We help consumers get their money back from car dealers who cheated them, and manufacturers who sold them a lemon. We do that too.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.

Friday

Should Wall Street Bankers Go to Jail?


My bet is that if you ask any ordinary guy on the street, you'd get a loud "sure" out of that question. Apparently I'm not the only one to think so, either. BNET agrees. Apparently other professionals do too.

A UC criminologist agrees that the fear of prison can keep white collar crime rates down. Others point out that rich wall street bankers don't have any fear of civil fines and penalties. For example Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein is a billionaire several times over, so getting hit with even a million dollar fine is peanuts.

An even better example is Maurice Greenberg, the former AIG chief, who paid a $15 million fine to settle federal charges that he had misrepresented the insurance giant's financial performance. In the process he admitted that if there had been jail time, he'd not have settled.


As far as most people are concerned, these rich wall street bankers drove our economy into the dumpster, cost thousands of people their homes, put several million people out of work, and they deserve some jail time.

Reports are that the mess at Goldman Sachs is being investigated for criminal charges. 'bout time.

Ron Burdge
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.