Posted On: October 29, 2007

Across America from East to West on a 2000 BMW M5

How long does it take to drive across North America? If you are Alex Roy and Dave Maher, the answer is 31:04 . Last year, that was all it took for them to drive their 2000 BMW M5 from New York City’s Classic Car Club to Santa Monica pier in California.

Their M5 had relatively few mechanical alterations. The speed limiter, was removed and the exhaust, shocks and clutch and brakes were replaced. An addition 16 gallon fuel tank added. There were, however, numerous electronic additions including a Valentine 1 radar and laser detector, Blinder laser jammer system, a Garmin 2730, a Garmin 2650 (used as a speedometer and backup system), Uniden 7960 scanner, Uniden BCT8 analog scanner, Uniden BC396 digital handheld scanner (their primary scanner), Uniden Pro520XL CB radio, L3 night vision system (thermal camera mounted in the car’s grill with an Alpine display in the cabin), Whalen siren and sound package with red, white, green, and blue strobes (front and back). In addition to all this in car equipment, they also had a spotter plane overhead watching for police activity and speed traps.

This was not some impulse trip. Alex Roy spent two years mapping out his route on Google Earth and marking detours, construction areas and speed traps. They took Vitamin Water, energy drinks and bars and nutritional supplements with them. Since stopping for bathroom breaks would have wasted precious time, they included a box of TravelJohns. Trip cost was about $150,000 (not including man hours).

The average sustained speed for the trip was 89 mph. Very impressive, especially since this was sustained for 31 hours. Of course since there is no where in the U.S. where the speed limit is as high as 89, they were speeding and breaking the law most of their trip (their top speed was 160 mph). Out in west Texas, you might be able to get away with that for a while – there is nothing to run into out there. (It is quite a feat to continue that for such a distance). Reckless driving and not stopping for adequate rest and you have a receipt for disaster. I definitely do not encourage anyone to try to repeat or top this milestone.

There have been many transcontinental driving records and many attempts to break them. The movie 32:07 – the previous record set by David Diem and Doug Turner in 1983 – documents this race, known as the U.S. Express. The 1981 movie Cannonball Run was loosely based on this. For more on the movie and this forgotten part of U.S. history, go to their website.

Posted On: October 27, 2007

SUV crash test results -- substantial safety issue in Texas?

Last week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released the results of tests to evaluate how well midsize SUVs (sports utility vehicles) protect their contents from front and side impacts. Here in Dallas, it seems that almost everyone drives an SUV of some size -- so, this testing was quite welcome.

Frontal safety was determined from examining injury (as modeled by a Hybrid III test dummy) and the amount of intrusion into the vehicle’s occupant compartment during a 40 mph offset front crash. In the case of side safety, a side impact was simulated by a mobile barrier impacting the vehicles with an object at 31 mph.

The models evaluated were the: Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner, and Ford Explorer. All these models received a rating of “good” for frontal crash protection with the exception of the TrailBlazer which was rated “acceptable”.

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Posted On: October 25, 2007

Bucks County: Philadelphia Lemon Law does not apply to used cars

Recently, the Philly Burbs posted a brief question and answer section addressing the fact that Philadelphia's lemon law does not apply to used or preowned vehicle, regardless of the manufacturer's certification status.

The article recommends that used or preowned car buyers should check the vehicle's history by going to carfax.com before buying the vehicle. Also, the article suggests that a buyer should bring a friend who is knowledgeable about cars or a mechanic along to inspect the vehicle before purchasing.

In Texas, the lemon law generally does not apply to used cars. However, there may be limited exceptions. If you purchased a used vehicle that still has existing manufacturer's warranty, then contact my office for a free over the phone consultation.

Posted On: October 21, 2007

New Jersey's former Lemon Law Unit Director now leads NJ'S Consumer League

Robert Russo, the former lemon law unit director of New Jersey now leads New Jersey's Consumer League. Russo is also a (former) mayor of Montclair, NJ and a former political science professor at Rutger and Montclair State University.

The Consumers League of New Jersey is a statewide consumer advocacy and educational group that is associated with its parent group, the National Consumers League.

In his new capacity as president of New Jersey's Consumers League, Russo plans to advocate for stronger lemon laws for the state of New Jersey. Further, he intends to educate the public on their rights on what to do in the event that the new car they purchased is a lemon.

For more information about Russo, go here.

Posted On: October 19, 2007

Toyota Hilux = indestructible and anti-lemon law car?

Continuing on with the theme of cars that perform beyond the call of duty, today we look at a particular Toyota Hilux. Top Gear, a BBC automotive show, recently set out to test the commonly held belief that Toyota trucks are extremely durable. Top Gear is known for its creative and entertaining tests and this case was no exception.

The staff purchased a Toyota Hilux Diesel with 190,000 miles on it for approximately $2000. The vehicle had some body rust and was battered, but functioned well. They subjected this truck to numerous abuses.

First they drove it around Brsitol, sideswiped a stone wall and drove it into a tree. After prying the fender back, they kept on driving and tethered the truck onto the beach at low tide. The tide came in, the truck broke loose and was completely submerged. It was completely water logged and covered in silt. A mechanic working with only basic tools was able to get the truck drivable again in an hour (they did replace the windshield for safety).

Following the attempt to drown it, Top Gear ran the truck through a shed and dropped a caravan trailer on top of it and hit it with a wrecking ball. The truck sustained further body damage but was still functioning. Finally, they set the truck on fire. Even after this, once the fire burnt itself out, they were able to drive the truck into their set.

This has not been the show’s only encounter with the Hilux. In 2007, two presenters from the show became the first people to drive an automobile to the Magnetic north Pole (as determined by the 1996 measurement).

Continue reading " Toyota Hilux = indestructible and anti-lemon law car? " »

Posted On: October 16, 2007

A market for lemon cars?

Many of us have bought used or pre-own cars (I have bought three in Dallas Texas) and had the experience of wondering if the price you were paying was fair, or if the car was a lemon under the Texas lemon law.

Back in 1970, economist George Akerlof examined this issue. He wrote a paper entitled “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.” While he took the used car market as an example, his writing was applicable to many more buyer/seller situations.

Two aspects of the used car transaction were important to Akerlof. Not all used cars (or new cars) are of the same quality – some are in good condition and are solid vehicles, while others have many defects and are undesirable for potential buyers. This wide range of conditions reflects the quality heterogeneity of the pool of vehicles.

The second aspect was the asymmetry of information between the seller and the buyer. The seller may know a great deal about the vehicle being sold while the buyer knows very little. Additionally, some buyers will be able to more accurately assess the true condition of the vehicle that they are purchasing.

Continue reading " A market for lemon cars? " »

Posted On: October 14, 2007

Some cars last 1 million miles, while others may be lemons.

When you buy a new car, how long should you expect it to last? If you purchased a new car and it is a defective lemon and you are negotiating with the manufacturer for a settlement, the issue of how much value you have received from the car will arise. Simply put, for this purpose under the Texas lemon law, a car’s lifetime is presumed to be 120,000 miles.

In other words, if you used a car for 12,000 miles, then you have “used up” 1/10 the value of the car. In reality, there are more details that factor in, such as the first time you had a problem with the car. Ignoring this, we can broadly figure that the manufacturer expects the car to last 120,000 miles.

In the past, it might have been expected for a car to only last that long, but many modern cars can easily make it further. Currently, the US Department of Transportation reports that the lifespan of a car is 12 years and/or 128,000 miles. John Ibbotson, a supervisor with Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, says that this figure is so low because of failure of some owners to properly maintain their vehicles. With proper maintenance, you new car might easily make it to 200,000 miles.

Continue reading " Some cars last 1 million miles, while others may be lemons. " »

Posted On: October 9, 2007

Australian government invites feedback for its upcoming lemon law

At my Dallas based law office, I often refer to the Texas lemon law as the manufacturer's lemon law, because it is arguably apparent that the law favors car manufacturer more than consumers. For example, the mileage deduction that the manufacturers are entitled to in the event of a repurchase or replacement may often be so high that it causes consumers to be upside down; making the consumer worse off then a regular car trade in.

Last week, I posted an article comparing the "Texas Lemon Law" against the upcoming new Australian Lemon Law. This morning, I stumbled upon an update with Australia's drafting and legislation of the upcoming lemon law.

It looks like Tony Robinson, Australia's Consumer Affairs Minister will invite both consumers and industry representatives to provide feedback and input on the new law. Those who are interested in participating in drafting the new Australian lemon law has until November 23, 2007 to write to the ministry.

Hopefully, Australian consumers and the public will provide adequate feedback in a way that would make the new Australian lemon law more favorable to consumers than the current Texas lemon law. Perhaps one day, the Texas lemon law will be amended in a way that would be better for car buyers.


Posted On: October 7, 2007

Lemon Law: consumer sues Aston Martin for making defective luxury car

A consumer in Missouri is suing British car manufacturer, Aston Martin, for selling him a defective lemon car. His theory of recovery is derived from Missouri Lemon Law, federal warranty laws, and state consumer protection laws.

Like most of my clients throughout Texas ranging from the Houston, Austin, Laredo, and Dallas area, Gary Mathes paid full price for a new vehicle and later found out that the vehicle is defective. The vehicle has been subject to 12 separate repair attempts for engine, brakes, electrical, and miscellaneous other issues.

The difference between this situation and a typical lemon law case is that only a limited number of this particular Aston Martin vehicle is sold each year. This means that if the Aston Martin vehicle is deemed a lemon, then the remedy of replacement will not be available to Mr. Mathes. Alternatively, the remedy of repurchase or a monetary settlement is certainly an option.

The case is currently pending in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, go here.

Posted On: October 4, 2007

Texas Lemon Law coverage in the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper

Too often, when faced with a new broken car, consumers are unfamiliar with their lemon law rights. Burdened with frustration and the runaround from car dealerships and the manufacturer, some consumers resort to trading in their vehicle at a substantial loss.

Recently, the Fort Worth Star Telegram wrote a brief summary about the Texas lemon law. Personally, I think that this public announcement is a very commendable thing that our local newspaper is doing.

In summary, the newspaper article accurately states that a consumer with a suspected lemon should contact the Texas Department of Transportation by calling the local toll free number immediately. In addition, there is a $35 fee, which is refundable to the consumer if the consumer wins the lemon case via the Texas DOT.

However, the article is silent on the deadline for filing a lemon law complaint. The statute of limitation for Texas lemon cases is usually 24,000 miles or 24 months from the date of purchase, whichever occurs first. If you have missed this deadline, then all hope is not lost, as other laws such as the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) or Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may still help you.

Please contact a local Texas lemon law attorney for more information. Most lemon law attorneys practice statewide. For example, although my office is based in Dallas and a consumer with a problem car may live in Weatherford or Hillsboro, as long as the vehicle was purchased in Texas, then my office may be able to assist.

Posted On: October 1, 2007

Will new Australian Lemon Laws be better than the Texas Lemon Law?

Update: See 10/9/07.

Often times, my lemon law practice in Dallas receives potential client calls from consumers who purchase defective cars from out of state. In such cases, I would direct them to find a lemon law attorney in that particular state -- as the vehicle's state of purchase is often the proper jurisdiction for these type of claims. Interestingly, I have not run into a situation where the consumer purchased the vehicle from out of the country....such as Australia.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), the Australian Government will soon join the ranks of other states and countries in providing its citizens with consumer lemon law protections. The proposed Australian lemon law is currently being drafted and is tentative.

It is speculated that the law, similar to the Texas lemon law, will require car buyers to bring the vehicle in for repeated repair attempts. The law will most likely have a provision for vehicles that have been at the service center for over a period of time -- such as 30 days or more. Other issues that remain uncertain are: (1) the statute of limitation (deadline to filing a lemon law claim), (2) safety defects, (3) warranty disclosures, and (4) attorney fee shifting provisions.

As a comparison, in Texas, in order to meet the rebuttable presumption on a lemon law case, the consumer must meet one of the following: (1) four unsuccessful attempts for the same defect, (2) 30 days or more at the service center without a comparable loaner vehicle, or (3) two unsuccessful attempts for a serious safety issue.

Please note that the Texas lemon law is much more complex than the information that has been summarized above. If you suspect that you have a potential lemon vehicle, it is important to contact a lemon law attorney as soon as possible.