Monday

China Buys Saab - Are they buying everything?

Well, there's good news and, maybe, bad news.
Chinese companies, encouraged by government bureaucrats to expand ownership of foreign companies and assets, have now pledged to buy Saab, the Swedish auto maker that has been struggling to survive ever since GM cut them loose in the GM corporateUS  bankruptcy that closed down the Pontiac brand and wiped out the Saturn brand too.

The China companies that had long sought to take over the Swedish car company timed it pretty good, at times promising money and loans and million-dollar purchases, and at other times blaming government bureaucrats for blocking their corporate desires of conquest. The whole effort seems to have worked to break the back of union workers in Sweden who haven't been paid for weeks while dust gathers on factories of half-built Saab vehicles.

Meanwhile, Swedish court officials ran out of patience and threatened to drop Saab into the bankruptcy bucket for good - repeatedly.

Finally, up rides the white knight to save the day and, lo and behold, he's from China. That story had a different ending for sure.

We're just as much for free enterprise as the next guy, but Chinese companies and millionaires have been buying up real estate and companies and everything in between, on more than just one continent, for the last decade and it's getting to be a sore point. Granted there isn't much to be done about any of it, one could suppose.

On the other hand, you and I could start with the small places in our lives and start buying American products again. If Americans would stop looking at the price tag and start looking at the tiny tag that says where the product was made, and then buy products that are made in the US, it just might start to help put Americans back to work again.

While at the local Target store the other day, I decided to buy a box of pencils. Just ordinary pencils. I found a box of Ticonderoga brand - what we all used in grade school not so long ago - that cost nearly five dollars for a box of a dozen. Next to it was a larger box of two dozen pencils for a dollar. You can guess which one was made in China. It was the one I didn't buy.

The American economy can't run on the service industry alone. If we stop making products, we won't have the manufacturing capacity and knowledge necessary to remain independent of foreign influence. Yes, we realize this day and age is, to a large degree, a global economy. But there's something very wrong with a price structure that allows pencils shipped thousands of miles from China to cost so little that an American company can't stay in business making them when they ship them a few states away.

Part of the problem may be that politicians, bought by big business that shipped jobs overseas, not only gave tax incentives that wiped out jobs on US soil in favor of overseas jobs, but they also failed to create tariffs that could protect what little US jobs were left behind too. Money paid into a politician's pocket right now, means a dollar bill that never gets to a working man's pocket tomorrow.

Money is the root of the problem and it is not an issue for the President either because it is Congress that controls the playing board right now. If your Congressional representative and Senator don't act to protect your job, there is nothing the President can do. Congress has to pass the laws - no one else can do that in our political system.

Meanwhile, politicans bicker and blame each other and get nothing done and millions of jobs are shipped overseas and what few jobs don't disappear are in companies that are being gobbled up by foreign investors and government-backed companies - and who is watching out for you?

After all, when an American President said (long ago) that "the buck stops here" - he wasn't talking about the Yuan.
Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers live better lives everyday

Wednesday

Americans driving less miles than in almost a decade

You can tell the economy is still pinched tight. The Detroit Bureau is reporting that although car sales are creeping upward, Americans as a rule are driving less now than they have at any time since 2003 according to federal Dept of Transporation statistics.

That may be part of the reason that fuel prices a creeping down a little too, but they are still higher than recent times. But gas stations around here are still above $3.60, like most of the rest of the country.

Higher gas prices, joblessness, belt-tightening all around - it all adds up to the "hunker down" mentality that seems to have permeated US consumers. Driving is down in a down economy.

At the same time, recalls are still happening regularly.

Just this week Harley recalled bikes for brake lamp system defects, Daimler Trucks recalled buses for brake line dangers and fire dangers, Blue Bird recalled vehicles for passenger seat problems, Cruiser RV had its recall, along with Jayco travel trailers. Even fire trucks were recalled by Ferrara for steering problems that could cause a crash.

In the first 15 business days of this month there have been 25 recalls announced by federal safety investigators. Everything from Chevys to fire trucks and lots in between. Maybe all the recalls have something to do with less mileage too?

Remember, if you've got a lemon and your dealer isn't helping you out, call us on our Toll Free Lemon Law Help Hotline at 1.888.331.6422, or email us right now for a free case review. Getting rid of lemon vehicles is what we do. Everyday.

Burdge Law Office
Because life is too short to drive a lemon.

Friday

Burdge addresses Hawaii military lawyers on consumer lemon laws

To help military legal personnel better understand Hawaii's consumer protection laws, Ron Burdge will join Hawaii's Lemon Lawyer Jeff Crabtree to provide base legal training at Schofield Barracks for all military branches today, covering the Hawaii Lemon Law, Hawaii's Unfair-Deceptive Acts statute, the Hawaii Commercial Sales Code and the federal Lemon Law, the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.
Jeff Crabtree, a premier Hawaii consumer law advocate and Ronald Burdge will provide legal training October 14 for the US Army Garrison at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Expected to attend will be military lawyers from both Army and Navy and the seminar is open to all island military legal offices.

Jeff Crabtree will discuss Hawaii consumer protection laws and focus on Hawaii's powerful consumer protection law, HRS 480-2 and HRS 480-13, and how it can be adapted to many different kinds of consumer protection needs to help consumer military members when they have been victims of consumer sales fraud and unfair or deceptive consumer transactions in Hawaii. Crabtree has extensive experience with Hawaii's "Udap" law - the state law that makes it illegal for most merchants to commit an unfair or deceptive act on a consumer during a sales or lease or service transaction.
Ron Burdge will discuss Hawaii's Lemon Car Laws and the four lemon vehicle laws that can help Hawaii consumer military members get rid of lemon motor vehicles and get their money back or a new vehicle.

Burdge will explain the Hawaii Lemon Law, the federal Lemon Law - called the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act - and how it also applies to lemon motor vehicles and even lemon used cars, and the Hawaii Commercial Sales Code and Hawaii's Udap law and how they also can help consumers get valuable consumer protection remedies in a lemon car or lemon truck or lemon Rv case.
The all-afternoon seminar is open to all branches of the military JAG offices in Hawaii and their personnel. Joining them will be Elizabeth Kent, head of the Hawaii State Judiciary's Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, to discuss alternative dispute options for Hawaii consumers, and Washington attorney Michael Kinkley, who will discuss debt collection practices.

The Consumer Law seminar was designed by attorney Crabtree to provide base legal personnel with updated information and advice on how they can use Hawaii's consumer protection laws to assist military personnel with their consumer problems.

Burdge Law Office
Because life is too short to drive a lemon

Thursday

Saab - it ain't over yet, folks. 70 million rolls in at last minute

The Swedes aren't doing it the way US government officials did. Their government isn't rushing to the aid of Saab with a taxpayer bailout. Instead the company is forced to scramble to find money in the marketplace to stay in business. No private jet trips to the capital for them.

Teetering on the brink of oblivion, Saab announced that it just received 70 million euro from a Chinese partner, according to Wall Street Journal news sources just minutes ago. It's the first payment in a badly needed restructuring loan deal intended to keep the Swedish automaker afloat.

Court officials were talking just days ago of the high likelihood of the automaker falling into bankruptcy and while the 70 million will get used up fast, it gives the car maker the ability to stave off creditors for now - and maybe just long enough to get the rest of its reorganization funding in order.

WSJ reported that "Saab Automobile needs the money to pay wages as Sweden's state wage guarantee—an insurance scheme providing salaries for employees of companies who are either bankrupt or undergoing a restructure—runs out on Oct. 21." Without the loan, Saab would have completely run out of time just days from now.

The Swedish factory for Saab has been closed for over 5 months while corporate officials sought loans and white knight buyout help from Russian and Chinese companies that often were promised but never materialized in the bank accounts. The 70 million just received is from a Chinese company that promises more if their government lets them - and that effort is still winding its way through Chinese red tape.

Whether the US made the right move, with its billions in taxpayer bailout money to US carmakers, or the Swedes have it right by turning a cold shoulder to Saab - only time will tell. The one thing we do know is that but for the bailout, the entire US economy would have been plunged into chaos with the auto company failures coming in the midst of the financial mess that investment bankers were brewing on Wall Street.

No question the US economy is heavily dependent on the auto industry. Meanwhile, in Sweden the economy is more broadly based on a variety of industries and technologies - even though their livelihood depends on exports of their goods and services more than imports. Out of the top 20 corporations in Sweden, only Volvo is known for its motor vehicle manufacturing. They build, sell, and do other things to keep their economy going.

Granted Sweden has its minuses - a tax rate double the US rate, for one - but it is also one of the top places for new business opportunities according to many economists too.

Perhaps the US economy came to depend too much on the auto industry, unlike Sweden where the auto industry isn't the only thing impacting the daily lives of the public in so major a way.

Regardless, we're glad to see Saab get by for now. Lemon lawyers didn't get many Saab cases and their quality - and customer loyalty - was probably the reason.

Burdge Law Office
Because life is too short to drive a lemon 

Tuesday

Is Saab about to disappear? Bankruptcy "just hours away" Swedish press says

Once upon a time, Saab was a shining star in the sea of vehicles GM built or had a hand in building. Now, with Swedish creditors pounding on the doors and Swedish employees unpaid, the factory shuttered in Sweden (although the one in Mexico has its doors open), and the Chinese government saying the Chinese "white knight" money is doubtful - the "administrator" put in charge of the Swedish company appears to be fed up, according to news reports.

Saab dodged the bankruptcy bullet last month but without money to get by from day to day, it may be only a matter of time. That's a shame in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that reviewers like what they saw when Saab unveiled it new 9-4X model only weeks ago.

Orphaned by GM during the GM bankruptcy, and shuttled back and forth among suitors ever since while it struggled for cash flow, it likely now faces the end of the fight soon. Perhaps very soon.

As we have been saying for months, maybe you need to think hard before you buy a new or used Saab unless, of course, you can get a bunch of spare parts as part of the sale. You may not be able to find a dealer who has any when your Saab's parts wear out or break down.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978

Factory production up at car plants - what do they know that we don't?

North American car manufacturers (US, Canada and Mexico) increased their overall production of new cars and trucks by 9% in the last month to a high of just unde 1.2 million new vehicles, according to numbers just out from Automotive News magazine.

Do you think they see a better economy coming? Probably.

Motor vehicle manufacturers are not stupid. They watch the economy carefully and don't build what they can't sell and don't build when they can't sell it. A lousy economy means fewer buyers on car dealer lots and that means more old inventory sitting around - and manufacturers cut back when that happens. So what's up?

Granted the latest employment report (literally out just hours ago) showed an uptick in employment numbers that was higher than industry experts and doom-sayer pundits thought would happen - and that's good news. In spite of the President's call for the do-nothing Congress to pass his jobs bill - which would itself create thousands of new jobs and boost the economy because of it, conservatives and tea partiers in Washington are refusing to go along with the program, although they have no program of their own.

With employment numbers up, maybe the economy really is getting better.

When we look at inflation numbers reported by InflationData.com for the first 8 months of this year and compare them with the same 8 months from five years ago in 2006, the rate of inflation in every single month is LOWER now than it was then. Granted, the conservatives and tea partiers don't like the current President, but when they were in charge, back in 2006, inflation was a lot worse than it is now.

With inflation numbers actually down, maybe the economy really is getting better.

Looking at household income, there's no doubt that the average person's household income has dropped in the last year, so who are they building all those new cars and trucks for? Well, one answer comes from looking at the sector of the economy that is actually making more money than ever before.


Their profits are back up again
 While the average Joe has seen his paycheck get smaller, there is one segment of the economy that is back to its pre-recession boom times - in fact, their numbers are higher in the last year than they were before the financial meltdown that continues to worry the average Joe.

The rich investment bankers, it seems, are getting richer.

It's reports like that which are causing the sit-in protests that are spreading - but that doesn't explain the upsurge in new cars and trucks being built. All those rich people can't buy all the new cars being built.

The only logical answer is that the vehicle manufacturers have decided that the economy is doing better than the nay-sayers are saying.

Why else would BMW increase its production in one month by 82%? or GM by 20%? or Hyundai-Kia by 48%? or Nissan by 22%? Even Mexico's car plants are building 22% more cars than they did the month before.

Maybe, just maybe, the doom and gloom that the talking heads spew is not so accurate after all. So why is there so much negative talk about the economy making news? There's no doubt that the economy is coming back but the big headline seems to be that it isn't happening as fast as people want. That makes sense when you step back and realize that we have become a "I want it now" society in so many ways.

It takes time for the economy to come back, sure, but there is no way that all the car manufacturers are building and shipping out cars and trucks that they think are going to sit around on dealer lots and gather dust. Detroit (and Canada and Mexico) all seem to think that something very good is coming down the road and it's going to get here sooner than the talking heads on the boob tube are saying.

Maybe that's why our parents called tv the boob tube in the first place. It's a shame more people in this generation don't remember that.

Burdge Law Office
When you get tired of looking down, it's time to look up

Sunday

Iowa Warns About Easy-to-Use Odometer Rollback Devices Running Rampant

Used odometers for sale on the internet
With two consumer complaints in the last week, odometer rollbacks appear to be increasing. And we aren't the only ones who think so.

At the end of September the Iowa Independent Automobile Dealer's Association issued a "Dealer Alert" to its members, warning them of a rise in odometer tampering. The alert includes a link to a revealing youtube video - one of a dozen or more video's that shows just how easy the electronic "gizmo" devices are that can quickly and easily change the odometer reading on cars with an electronic dash. As one video says, you can do it in two seconds.

The Iowa auto group notes that low mileage vehicles are very difficult to find these days and dealers re paying higher than normal prices for low mileage cars and trucks. Premium prices for low mileage vehicles means lots of opportunity for crooks to "roll" the odometer back and make a quick and easy buck - in fact, thousands of dollars.

The dealer alert warns dealers that the National Auto Auction Association has also issued several alerts about odometer programming devices being used to reset odometers to lower readings. Many of these devices are made overseas, often in China, and sell for a few hundred dollars up to as much as several thousands. Some are handheld devices that simply plug in while others require more work to get the numbers changed. Easy or hard - it's illegal in every state to tamper with an vehicle odometer.

Handheld Odometer tampering device for sale on the internet
We gave a speech three years ago at a conference of auto fraud lawyers in Texas, warning of the rise of these handy handheld odometer tampering devices.

They are relatively cheap and easily available. Here is a link to one that is on sale - half price - and only $215 and it looks like the one that appears in several of the YouTube videos online. This stuff is real and crooks are using it.

The youtube's even show how remarkably easy they are to operate.

And in a few minutes with one of these devices, a crook can crank back the odometer on a used car and increase its value on the resale market by an easy three to eight thousand dollars. Given the cost of the device itself, a crook can make a lot of money very fast and very easy.

These computer devices can tap into your car's onboard diagnostic computer and alter the odometer reading with just a few clicks. Moral of the story? If you are in the market for a used car, be very careful when you look at any low milage vehicles. In fact, it's easier to spin a high mileage commercial truck from 200,000 miles down to 100,000 and not get noticed - and the money is just as good.

So commercial or consumer vehicle, the danger is out there. Before you buy a used vehicle, protect yourself with these easy steps.

Run an AutoCheck or CarFax or NMVTIS report - better yet, run all three. Each of them get their data is slightly different ways and sometimes from different sources. Better safe than sorry and the cost isn't that much. But don't stop there.

Look at pedals for unusual wear
Check the vehicle out carefully for what you can see. Look for unusual pedal wear and floor mat wear, along with carpeting and seat wear.

Worn and thin places, combined with low mileage on the car or truck, is a sign that someone has rolled the odometer backwards to increase the vehicle's value. But don't stop here either.

Likely "target" vehicles are one-owner vehicle so be extra careful. Iowa's group points out that with one owner vehicles, the best thing to do is get sevice records to show real mileage number history. If the mileage seems suspiciously low and the seller has no service records, be careful.

Always get a pre-purchase vehicle inspection

Another way to minimize your problem later is to always insist on getting some kind of warranty from the seller. Even a 3 day warranty from the selling dealer will, in most states, trigger warranty rights that can help you later.

But of course, the best way to avoid a rollback vehicle is to always buy from someone you know. And that's not likely a car dealer.

Car dealers buy hundreds of vehicles at auto auctions all over the US and the auction yard is a crook's favorite place to unload a rollback vehicle. A quick sale and the thief is gone. Months later, long after the dealer has sold the vehicle, the consumer may find out the engine has a lot more wear than they thought when parts begin to fail. Complaining to the selling dealer won't do much good because they will just claim innocent lack of knowledge. And you get stuck.

Be careful out there. Thieves are everywhere. And some of them are car dealers who know what they are buying - and what they are selling.

If you get ripped off, call us. We can help you get even by getting your money back. It's what we do.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumer protect themselves for over 25 years.
Call our Toll Free Hotline, 1.888.331.6422