September 25, 2009

Ford's Third China Plant may inevitably produce some lemon cars

Amid a decline in car production and sales in the United States, Ford recently made the announcement and is currently working on building its third car plant in China. As in any car plant, the production of vehicles that may be lemon cars subject to the Texas Lemon Law is inevitable.

The real question is whether the number of defective lemon cars produced at this new car plant will be disproportionately higher than Ford cars made in other plants or countries. It is a matter of quality control and I hope that this new China plant will be better than most products I have experienced with that comes from China. Lead and toxic chemicals in children toys come to mind...

This new third Ford car plant has the capacity to build approximately 145,000 to 150,000 cars each years. As speculation, a percentage of those cars may eventually enter into Texas' stream of commerce.

If you drive a Ford that requires multiple visit to the dealership for repairs within the first 6 months of ownership, you may want to call up a lemon law attorney to learn what your rights are.

January 10, 2008

Texas Lemon Law issue for Tata's $2,500 car?

In September, I wrote about the comparison between the Chevrolet Aveo and Tata's sub $3,000 car. Today, Tata unveiled what is to be currently known as the world's cheapest car at the Auto Expo in New Deli, India.

The car is priced at $2,500 -- the equivalent cost of a modern day laptop, computer desktop, scooter, a moped, or arguably a car that has been designated a Texas lemon car. Of course, for such a low price, one would have to sacrifice convenience features such as air conditioning, power steering, anti-lock brakes, and electric windows. For those who are concerned with the car's gas efficiency...fret not, the car is estimated to achieve fifty to sixty (50-60) miles per gallon.

As to the answer to the million dollar question of this title? At this time, there would not be a Texas Lemon Law issue or any state lemon law issue in the United States. The reason is because the sub $3000 Tata vehicle is currently not available for sale in North America. Rumors have it that it will most likely not meet or pass US auto safety standards.

December 26, 2007

Will Toyota's effort to increase worldwide sales to 9.85 million in 2008 directly create more lemon in Texas?

Toyota has been a consistent reliable brand to drive, with diversified top selling models such as the Camry sedan, the subcompact Corolla, and the semi-environmentally conscious gas/electric hybrid Prius. Growing up, my family were loyal Toyota fans.

However, recently, I've noticed a sharp perceived decrease in the quality of Toyota vehicles. More recalls, more potential client calls under the Texas lemon law, more arbitrations with NCDS, and more complaints about car problems from acquaintances with preowned/used Toyota cars.

On Christmas day (Tuesday, December 25, 2007), Toyota announces that it plans to sell 9.85 million cars worldwide in 2008. According to most analysts, this figure is quite ambiguous due to concerns of a cooling U.S. auto market and a possible recession in the upcoming year.

If Toyota is successful in this endeavor, then it might permanently de-thrown General Motors (GM) in becoming the largest automobile manufacturer in the world. This year (2007), Toyota approximates that it will sell 9.36 million vehicles, as compared to GM's estimated 9.3 million.

It leads me to speculate,...will there be more lemon and defective cars driving on the roads now that Toyota is planning on producing more cars? Although I do not have a crystal ball, my hunch tells me that this will be an inevitable progression, unless Toyota prioritizes its quality control as aggressively as its intention to becoming the world's leading automobile manufacturer. We will wait for 2008 to come and speak for itself...

November 30, 2007

Autopilot SUV isn't a Texas lemon, but a winner of a robot car competition.

Almost less than four weeks before Thanksgiving, the Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored a robot car race. The winning robot car was an overly-accessorized Chevrolet Tahoe sports utility vehicle (SUV) with a brain of its own and the ability to drive itself on various roads and terrains.

Suffice to say, this robot SUV, unlike most of the other SUV cases I have handled, is clearly not a lemon. ...At least not yet.

The vehicle was able to drive on its own without human intervention for approximately six hours for sixty miles. I must say, I am thoroughly impressed, because my recent road trip from Dallas to Houston, Texas was only 4 hours and it was quite a long and stressful drive. Having an affordable consumer friendly robot car that takes you to your desired destinations might be such a far-fetched notion any longer.

The vehicle, named "Boss" and designed by the folks from Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburg, has been described as a super soccer mom because it "has a place to be -- aggressive but safe."

The competition is held annually and the prize for winning the competition is 2 million dollars. For more information, go here.

November 7, 2007

General Motors (GM) to incur a $39 billion charge

Although not directly related to Texas Lemon Law, it indirectly will affect the way that GM negotiates future lemon law claims for settlement. This morning, GM posted its largest quarterly net loss primarily due to a $39 billion charge related to unclaimed tax credits.

In a nutshell, General Motors reported a net loss of $1.6 billion ($2.80 per share). Other reasons that attributed to the loss includes losses in GM's other financially related companies such as GMAC and ResCap.

GM is currently considered the largest automaker in the United States. In this quarter, GM's auto revenue reached $43.1 billion and it sold $2.39 million dollars worth of cars and trucks. For more information, go here.

November 1, 2007

Chrysler will probably reduce its model line to be more competitive

Recently, the new CEO of Chrysler, LLC, Bob Nardelli, has hinted that he intends to reduce five of Chrysler's vehicle lineup. There are numerous speculation as to which models will meet its doom. However, suspicion is placed on the Pacifica, Dakota, Commander, and Compass.

As a lemon law attorney who handles defective car cases on a daily basis throughout the state of Texas, I personally would like to see the Chrysler 300 meet its fate on the guillotine. Don't get me wrong, the car looks great, but there has been so many known issues with it.

Asked why Chrysler is eliminating some of its models, the company answers that several models overlap each other and has arguably self-competed/cannabilized against each other.

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.

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”.

Continue reading "SUV crash test results -- substantial safety issue in Texas?" »

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?" »

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." »

September 28, 2007

Chrysler seeks refund on sales tax for Lemon Law repurchase and replacement settlements

Under most state lemon laws (including Texas Lemon Law), when a consumer gets a new repurchase or replacement settlement from the car manufacturer, they are also entitled to a reimbursement for sales tax, title, license (TTL), and other relevant fees. Thereafter, car manufacturers such as Mazda and General Motors (GM) will in turn apply to the state to get those TTL fees refunded back to it. However, such is not the case in the state of Connecticut.

Chrysler (LLC), once known as DaimlerChrysler Corporation, is appealing its case to the Connecticut Supreme Court on the issue presented above. Previously, the Connecticut tax department, along with the state's Superior Court both ruled against the private car manufacturer.

Although TTL fees may seem like small amounts to be fighting over -- especially to the state Supreme Court; when you consider the aggregate costs of all TTL fees involved in lemon law buybacks to all fifty states, then the amount may significantly reach the potential million of dollars.

For more information about Chrysler's fight, click here. For more details about TTL refunds for Texas lemon law buyback, click here.

September 26, 2007

Lemon cars (vehicles) in civilian and military environments

In a civilian context, when you buy your new car, chances are that you will drive it on paved highways and roads -- perhaps rarely on a dirt road or park it on the grass. (For example, I commute from Fort Worth to my office in downtown Dallas on a regular basis and normally drive on concrete roadways such as interstate 75 and 360). Most production cars are designed with this assumption in mind, although some are designed specifically or off-roading.

If you were to take your average economy sedan and start driving over hills and into ditches,…you would soon be in trouble. A car manufacturer would probably not be overly sympathetic if you claimed that your Kia Rio was a lemon because it experienced multiple system failures while you were creating your own path through the Amazon rain forest.

Vehicles used by the military have quite different requirements. Military vehicles need to be able to traverse unpaved paths and go cross-country. There are some vehicles that have made the transition from military to consumer use. A recent example of this is GM’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle HMMWV (aka Hummer). The model line was expanded for the civilian market with scaled down versions, the H2 and H3. In 2006, GM announced that it would no longer market the original full sized H1 Hummer.

Long before the Hummer, there was the Jeep. The Jeep was the prototypical army-to-civilian vehicle. The U.S. Army received its first shipment of Jeeps in 1941 and the vehicle proved instrumental in the successful outcome of the war for the Allies. In the years since, it has proved popular with civilians, spawning a long line of derivative vehicles. Now, once again, the Jeep is returning to military use.

Continue reading "Lemon cars (vehicles) in civilian and military environments" »

September 22, 2007

Lemon Law Perspective: a comparison of Chevrolet's Aveo and Tata Motors Ltd's really cheap car

The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo has an EPA estimated rating of 24/34. It has a 1.6L 103 horsepower engine which gets you from 0 to 60 in a whiplash inducing 10.8 seconds. Standard equipment includes air conditioning (A/C). This vehicle can be yours for only $9,995 (base MSRP). Or -- if you haggle -- perhaps for a bit less. In the Houston and Austin area, that’s about all the new car you are going to get for under $10,000 (with the exception of arguably the Kia Rio). At minimum, the Aveo will be covered under the Texas lemon law in the event that there is a problem with its manufacturing.

But, cheaper cars are being produced.

Recently, Tata Motors Ltd. of Mumbai India announced that it would soon unveil a new car that would cost $2,472.18 (100,000 Rupees, as of 9/18/07). No name has been revealed yet. These will be manufactured at a plant in West Bengal.

This car is to have an engine with a displacement of .6L, generating 33 horsepower. Before you run and break open your piggy bank to see if you have enough pennies to buy one of these, be warned, this car will not conform to European safety and emissions requirements and is unlikely to meet US safety standards either. (Tata does claim that it will pass a crash test, but just what test was not specified).

In the unlikely event that you did procure one in the US and found it to be defective, you might have some difficulty holding Tata Motors Ltd. to the same standards that you are to which you are entitled to under existing Texas lemon law, products liability law, and consumer warranty law. While Tata will soon have dealerships in Kenya and Nigeria, it seems it had not opened for business in the US yet.

If you have a new car that is a lemon and you are within the state of Texas, then you have several possible avenues to obtain recourse. If you are in India, I would be unable to help you, but here is a start – good luck!

September 20, 2007

Jefferson County, Texas: Ford dealership sued over a lemon truck

Mike Stegall is suing Raiford Motors, an authorized Ford dealership, for selling him a lemon F50 pickup truck. According to the pleadings that was filed in the 136th Judicial District court, Stegall alleges that the vehicle was subject to repairs for at least 10 times since it was purchased. It appears that the case is currently pending in Judge Milton Shuffield's courtroom.

Stegall's causes of action stems from both the Texas Lemon Law and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Stegall is asking the court to award him damages in the cost of the truck, damages under the DTPA, and court costs.

To learn more about the suit, go here. If you are in a similar situation as Mr. Stegall, then feel free to contact my Texas lemon law office for a free case review.

September 11, 2007

Are used or preowned lemon cars covered under the Texas Lemon Law?

As a lemon law practice in Dallas, Texas, my office receive calls from potential clients with used or pre-owned lemon cars very often. The first question asked is whether the Texas lemon law applies to pre-own or used car cases. Unfortunately, the short answer to that question is that, generally, the Texas lemon law does not include used vehicles.

One exception to this rule is if the preowned vehicle is still covered under the car manufacturer's existing warranty (and not the extended warranty), then the Texas Lemon Law "may" be used to force the manufacturer to repair the problem.

Specifically, section 2301.602 of the Texas Occupations Code dealing with the Regulation of Motor Vehicles and Transportation (better known as the "Texas Lemon Law"), only refers to "new motor vehicle(s)."

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to protect yourself before you make a used car purchase. I always recommend that a purchaser of a used car do some homework before visiting the used car lot or used car seller. Run car history reports from multiple vehicle history service report providers, instead of just one provider. Often times, information from one provider may be incomplete and may not include information that you would want to know about the vehicle. Some examples of vehicle history report providers are AutoCheck and CarFax.

In the event that you are an owner of a used lemon car and the Texas Lemon Law does not protect you, there may be other laws such as the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that may help you with your situation.

September 5, 2007

Economic benefits of keeping a non-lemon car for a long time

Having a reliable vehicle to commute in the Dallas and Fort Worth area is essential. If you purchase a new car and it is defective, you may seek recourse under Lemon Laws or product warranty laws. However, the normal hope is that your new car will be perfect and last for years. Some people like to trade their car in every couple of years, but those who maintain their cars can save a great deal of money.

Consumer Reports writes that owners who keep their car for 15 years or 225,000 miles may save $31,000 compared to an owner who trades their car in every 5 years. Using the example of a Honda Civic and taking into account depreciation, taxes, fees, and insurance, an owner holding on to the car for 15 years would save $20,500. In addition to these savings, our hypothetical owner could make $10,300 by investing the money that would have been spent on new cars.

Consumer Reports also compiled a list of cars that are more likely to make it to 200,000 miles. Included in this list are many cars by Honda and Toyota (included are: Civic, Lexus ES, Lexus LS, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Land Cruiser). It also published a list of vehicles that were not such good bets to make it to 200K threshold. These included such popular (and pricey!) vehicles as the V8-powered Mercedes-Benz M-class, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 7-series, Infiniti QX56, Jaguar X-type, V8-powered Volkswagen Touareg, and the V6-powered Volvo XC90.

Proper maintenance and care can help increase your car’s lifespan and protect your financial investment in it. Read your owner’s manuals and maintenance guide. Change your oil regularly and make repairs when parts do fail. Of course, if you bought a new car in Texas, have multiple failures within the first two years or 24,000, then you may have a lemon.

August 23, 2007

Lemon Car: Toyota Prius may be a defective car by design

Consider the danger of driving a vehicle and having it suddenly surge or lunge forward uncontrollably. This is what happened to several Toyota Prius owners recently who described their experience as an "uncontrollable acceleration." One Prius owner stated that his lemon car "took off like a rocket."

According to two articles, published by ConsumerAffairs.com, despite repeated complaints and requests for repair by these owners, Toyota service centers minimized the concern and insisted that this was nothing more than "a carpet jamming the accelerator pedal or driver error."

If this has happened only once before, then this rationale may be a plausible reason for the abnormal defect. However, if there has been numerous complaints of similar problems by different Prius owners, then either Toyota or its technicians are careless in its diagnostics, or it seems, to me, that there may be intentional misrepresentations here. This is a products liability issue.

If you happen to be in a similar situation with your lemon vehicle, it is important to do the following to preserve your rights as a consumer:

First, get everything in writing. For example, if the service manager indicates to you that this is merely driver error, then ask him to write that on the repair invoice. Thereafter, remove the carpet from your vehicle and see if the same problem reoccurs. If it does, then it would be difficult for the same service manager to negate his or her diagnostic error when you bring the vehicle in again for the same problem.

Continue reading "Lemon Car: Toyota Prius may be a defective car by design" »

August 21, 2007

Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) lemon law arbitration program, an overview

Aside from the Texas lemon law, consumers of defective cars may file a claim against a car manufacturer through the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Lemon Law Arbitration Program. Usually, the BBB arbitration program is binding to the manufacturer and non-binding to the consumer.

This article will not discuss the benefits or disadvantages of participating in this program, as each case is different and it is best that you contact a lemon law attorney to determine which options may be best for you.

The first step in opening a claim with the BBB program is to determine if your car manufacturer participates in the arbitration program in your state. The second step is to file a claim with the BBB either by telephone or online at the BBB website.

After you have submitted your basic information, the BBB mails you a “Customer Claim Form.” You will need to complete the form and mail it back to the BBB within a certain amount of time. Thereafter, the BBB will use the information that you have provided to determine whether your vehicle is eligible to participate in the program or not – this is normally based on the current mileage on your vehicle and how long it has been since the time that you purchased the alleged lemon car.

The next step involves the BBB case handler contacting you and the manufacturer to informally resolve the “lemon dispute” on your car. Typically, the manufacturer will take on the position of denying your claim and possibly offering you an extended warranty. If you do not accept the extended warranty offer, then you may request or move to have your claim proceed to arbitration.

Continue reading "Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) lemon law arbitration program, an overview" »

August 15, 2007

Porsche and the lemon law

The owner of a Porsche with a defective spoiler deployment system was awarded $226,160 – plus he gets to keep the car. (Notice: I did not handle this case. Please read further).

This case involves Bruce Tammi’s 2003 Porsche 911 Turbo coupe. Mr Tammi originally leased his Porsche. During the first year of the lease, Tammi brought the vehicle in for repairs six times for a spoiler which would not properly deploy and retract. After making $57,458 in lease payments (and having experienced this problem) he opted to buy the car for $75,622.

Tammi, himself a lawyer, undertook lemon law proceedings against Porsche. At trial, in Federal court, Porsche unsuccessfully argued that the malfunctioning spoiler represented only an inconvenience and did not impair the use or operation of the vehicle. Tammi prevailed at trial and a jury awarded him $26,000. Judge Charles Clevert Jr, the U.S. District Court judge who presided over the trial, determined that the jury’s award was improper under Wisconsin’s lemon law. He changed the award to $266,160. Judge Clevert arrived at this figure by taking the total amount that Tammi had paid – both in lease payments and in purchase price, and doubling that value. Clevert stated that "Tammi's receipt of double damages plus his retention of the car together do not seem unreasonably harsh in light of the purposes of the lemon law statute. If they appear too harsh for Porsche, Porsche should direct its concerns to the state legislature."

Tammi indicated that he would have settled the case for much less, had Porsche been receptive to his earlier offers. Porsche is considering their appellate options

Manufacturers and dealers are required to provide a product that performs as advertised. If they do not, they are required to repair it within the terms of the provided warranty. Under existing lemon laws, when this fails to happen, the purchaser is entitled to some compensation such as cash or a replacement vehicle. The goal is to be fair to all parties.

If you think that you have a lemon vehicle, you may want to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

June 15, 2007

Mercedes car dealer owner sues its own manufacturer for selling lemons

A Mercedes-Benz car dealership is suing its own manufacturer over a defective lemon car. Plaintiff Mark Johnston, co-owner of the dealership, alleged that the Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK-GTR Limited Edition Roadster (retail at 2.5 million and bought at 1.7 million) is a defective vehicle, wrought with problems.

Specifically, some of the alleged defects in the car include: the illumination of the oil light, improper shifting, failed hydraulic jack system, and unglued car windows. As of the date of writing this blog, Mercedes claimed that they cannot refund the vehicle.

For more information, go here.

June 14, 2007

Five Least Reliable (possible lemon) Luxury Cars on the Market

Thinking about buying a new luxury car? Here are 5 least reliable luxury cars that are currently on the market. These are cars that may become possible lemons down the road.

Dan Liebert from Forbes.com wrote an article last year about some of the least reliable luxury cars in the market. He compiled his “top five list” from data obtained from the Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates. The award for top five least reliable luxury cars go to...

Land Rover LR3 SUV - Base Price: $39,000

Land Rover Range Rover SUV - Base Price: $75,750

Lincoln Navigator SUV - Base Price: $50,145

Saab 9-3 - Base Price: $26,620

Volkswagen Touareg SUV - Base Price: $37,410

For more information on the article, go here.