A consumer from California named Eric successfully got BMW to buyback his defective Mini Cooper. The vehicle drop-off occurred on November 19, 2009, seven days before Thanksgiving. Eric wrote a blog about his experiences and the steps he took to get BMW to repurchase his vehicle.
As rare as it is from my experience, it looks like BMW did the right thing in this case. I will say that the probability for car manufacturers to do the right thing in California is much higher than in Texas. The lemon laws, although named similarly, are both very different from state to state. California Lemon Law, specifically the Song-Beverly Act, is much more consumer friendly than the Texas Lemon Law.
Among other things, for one, California lemon law has an automatic attorney fee shifting provision that forces the car manufacturer to pay the plaintiff/consumer's attorney fees. In Texas, the attorney fee shifting is not automatic,...at the lemon law administrative hearing, the only way that the car manufacturer is required to pay the consumer's lemon law is if the car manufacturer obtained its own attorney and provide the consumer with proper notice. Quite often, the car manufacturer will not hire an attorney and instead, would hire car experts who are trained by attorneys and have attended these hearings on a regular basis.
For more details on Eric's experience, visit his blog here.
I must admit, I love to purchase small items on Ebay. However, when it comes to buying large tickets items, such as a house or automobile, I will most likely stick to the traditional realtor or car dealer. My reasoning stems from the concern that if something goes wrong (such as obtaining a lemon house or car), then it will be easier to hold a person or brick/mortar company responsible.
For years now, Ebay has been utilizing the pervasiveness of the Internet to auction vehicles through its website. Used or pre-owned car dealers will list their inventory on Ebay for a fee. The problem stems from the bad press that Ebay has been receiving regarding the vast amount of lemons that are being sold on Ebay's car auction site.
Just 2 years ago, I sat in on a lawsuit case about a buyer suing one of the car dealers who listed a lemon and wrecked car on Ebay. The car dealer's defense was that he knew nothing about the car's history, even though the facts were very clear that there was a history of tamper and accidents linked to the car. The dealer ended up losing and the car buyer was awarded several thousands in damages.
In an effort to avoid problems like the above and to gain consumer confidence, Ebay recently announced that it will offer the AutoCheck and Carfax service to online car buyers free of charge. Autocheck and Carfax are paid for services that gives you a report card on a vehicle's history. For example, if the vehicle has been subject to a major car accident, then the incident will most likely show up in the report.
One thing consumers should keep in mind is that Autocheck and Carfax is not 100% reliable. There has been numerous cases where tainted or lemon vehicles has shown up clean on Autocheck and Carfax. My suggestion is to be extremely cautious when purchasing large ticket items online. Sometimes, the traditional way of doing business may be the best way.
Last month, right before the inauguration, I helped a friend move from Texas to Maryland (yes, I did temporarily closed my lemon law office for a couple of days,...but, I stayed in touched with all of my clients via my laptop and cell phone,...hence, clients are happy). Once we arrived in Maryland, my friend needed to purchase a vehicle and we began shopping for a pre-owned car over that weekend.
From that experience, I proffer some tips that I've learned on ways to avoid a potentially problematic vehicle, aka, the lemon car. Please keep in mind that these tips are merely my personal bias opinion and not legal advice, by any means. Also, please DO NOT call my office if you are a victim of a pre-owned or used lemon car, as my office only handles new lemon cars.
Tip #1: If you have an Iphone, G1, or any smartphone with data or internet capabilities, then bring it along (make sure you enroll in autocheck.com before you go car shopping).
* We did so and I was able to pull up the vehicle's history report while my friend was test driving the vehicle. All I had to do was enter the car's VIN number into my Iphone and was able to determine if the vehicle was a lemon-designated or previously auctioned vehicle. Why do I recommend autocheck?...well, because most used car dealers will probably offer to provide you with a free carfax.com report, you'll need to cross reference the information on both reports to get a more complete picture of the car's history. Some information not found on carfax.com may be discovered on autocheck.com, as these companies obtain their information from different sources.
Tip #2: I don't care what the car salesperson say, if the vehicle has been purchased from an auction, then it may potentially have more problems than meets the eye. Cars that have been subjected to auctions may have been a pre-litigation lemon car buyback (where the manufacturer settles or voluntarily repurchases the car before the final adjudication of a state's lemon law decision). Auctioned cars are generally bad news, as the disclosure requirements found in the process of an auction are minimal, if not non-existent.
* We found a car that checked out clean on carfax.com, but showed "auction" on the autocheck.com report. We asked the salesperson about it, and he changed his story about this vehicle being traded in last week by a senior citizen to "oh yeah, it may have been purchased at an auction of retired rental cars." We left that dealership quickly.
Tip #3: Check for mildew or signs of previous water damage inside and underneath the vehicle. Pull the front and back seat belts out all the way and see if there are stains on it. It is very difficult to stain the ends of a seat belt and if there are stains there, then it could have resulted from a vehicle that was trying to swim underwater during a flood. Check the rims and behind the wheels, does it seem corroded?
Often times, I am asked for referrals of attorneys who handles non-Texas lemon law related cases and do not know who to send the potential clients to. Recently, I discovered that lawlink.com provides a network that is designed exclusively for attorneys. It looks like I will be using the information found on their website to contact other attorneys practicing in other areas of law that is not lemon law related.
The seminars were great and I have picked up a few updated information regarding the status of federal and state case laws for auto fraud and Texas lemon law related claims. At the seminar, I also met lemon law attorneys from outside Texas. In the next couple of weeks, I will post the information that I have obtained and learned on here. Stay tuned!
One unfortunately common complain we hear from our clients is that their new car has a leak. Door seals leak, retractable roofs leak, sun roofs leak and so on. When you buy a new car, you should expect to be able to stay dry inside it, even if you are in a car wash. However, it is unreasonable to expect to be able to drive your car into the ocean and still have it function.
This is not true for the new Rinspeed sQuba which is scheduled to be displayed at the Geneva auto show in March 2008. At a push of a button, the sQuba changes from a land vehicle to an amphibious one. The sQuba is driven electrically, propelling the rear wheels while on land with a 37 kW engine and with two stern propellers and two bow jet drives while underwater. It is also ‘futuristic’ in that some components are made of carbon nano tubes and it is a zero emission vehicle. It has a maximum depth of about 33 feet. Unfortunately, no speed/performance data is currently being advertised.
Frank Rinderknecht, the CEO of Rinspeed admits that some of the inspiration for the sQuaba came from the classic James Bond movie “The Spy who loved me” which featured an aquatic-adaptable Lotus. Unfortunately, currently there are no plans to mass produce the squab.
Were this marvelous vehicle ever to make it to market, we would expect Rinspeed to exercise quality control and for our sQuba not to leak even if we drove it into a lake, In the mean time, if you are having problems with your new car leaking or otherwise not living up to the manufacturers specifications, you may have a lemon and may have some recourse. For more information, visit our site at www.texaslemon.com
This article was written by Carl Fischer. Mr. Fischer is a consultant to my office.
Yesterday morning, Nissan and Chrysler concurrently announced that Chrysler will begin selling Nissan cars in South America.
This is not considered the first time that both companies have worked together. In early 2004, an auto part maker affiliated with Nissan began selling transmission parts to Chrysler. (Perhaps that is why I have been receiving so many calls from potential clients complaining about Chrysler transmission defects under the Texas Lemon Law at my Dallas based law office recently?...)
This partnership between Nissan and Chrysler is occuring after General Motors (GM) rejected an alliance offerd by Nissan 15 months ago and after 80% of Chrysler's share was bought by a private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management LP.
Not all Nissans are made alike. That is because Nissan, a Japanese car manufacturer, have an assembly plant in Mexico. If a consumer were to purcahse a Nissan vehicle such as a Versa, then the chances are very high that the vehicle was a product born in Mexico and not Japan.
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.
After over a decade (since 1992) of Congress' passage of a nationwide database that tracks lemon and stolen cars, the tracking system still remains to be completely implemented.
The Justice Department, the governmental body responsible for overseeing the program, cites that the primary reason for non-implementation is money. The Justice Department further states that it may cost about $11 million dollars to create and manage such a robust interstate database.
The database is part of the Anti Car Theft Act and is intended to track cars and trucks based on its' vehicle identification number (VIN). The database will include comprehensive information about a vehicle's lemon status, whether it is a stolen vehicle or not, and etc. The goal of having such a database is to control lemon-car laundering and to provide businesses and consumers with accurate information about a vehicle's history.
Currently, the database has been partially implemented in 9 states. Namely in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington. Texas has yet to be included in this database.
Under Texas lemon law, if a vehicle has been repurchased or replaced via the Texas Department of Transportation's (DOT) lemon law program, then the dealership is required to make appropriate disclosures about the lemon status of the vehicle. However, if the case has been settled outside of the program (for example, via a lawsuit), then it arguably may not require such disclosures.
For more information about the nationwide lemon car database, go here.
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.
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 lawattorney 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regardless of what sort of vehicle we have, whether it is new or old, a great car or a lemon, most of us speed. Some of the time we go with the traffic flow, a few miles an hour over the speed limit and occasionally zip around considerably faster. It is almost inevitable that eventually we get pulled over for speeding and may get a ticket. Here in Dallas and the surrounding Fort Worth and Arlington areas, these tend to be for a few hundred dollars.
There are a few places where this behavior is much costlier. Back in July, the state of Virginia implemented a new law which dramatically increases what offenders will be assessed for many traffic infractions. This new “civil remedial fee” dwarfs the normal penalty. For example, going 20 mph over the speed limit is considered “reckless driving” and carries a $1000 civil penalty in addition to the regular fine. Other examples are a $300 fee for failing to stop at a stop sign, and a $300 fee if an in car DVD player is playing a movie and an “obscene video image” is seen from outside the vehicle. The state expects to raise between $65-$120 million.
In the case of Virginia, the state legislature is trying to fill the state’s coffers from the pockets of drivers. In contrast, the Finnish system for penalizing misbehaving drivers can result in even bigger fines, - recently a wealthy internet entrepreneur was fined $71,400 for driving 43 mph in a 25 mph zone - but the rationale is very different. In Finland, the idea is that a penalty should impact everyone equally.
Recently, a concerned consumer in Houston, Texas contacted my law office about a new truck he had recently purchased. He was concerned that his vehicle might be a lemon because he had never been able to obtain the mileage that was shown on the information sticker when he purchased it. He wanted to know if there was any recourse under the state (Texas) lemon laws or fraud statutes because his vehicle appeared to fail to live up to the advertised specifications.
Without determining the strength or validity of any possible legal claims arising from this situation, lets take a few minutes to look at how those fuel efficiency numbers are obtained and why they are there.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), part of the federal government, requires that car manufactures test vehicles to determine their fuel consumption rate. Not every car produced is tested -- only a representative vehicle for the specific model. Typically the vehicle tested is a prototype -- before production is started. Some very large vehicles (as well as motorcycles) are currently exempt.
Vehicles are tested during simulated driving in a laboratory environment. The car is placed on a dynamometer (rollers under the wheels). The force needed to turn the dynamometer can be varied, thereby simulating different environmental conditions (e.g. headwind, uphill etc). While the car is on the dynamometer, the exhaust from the engine is collected and the amount of carbon emitted is measured. This amount is used to calculate the amount of fuel that is being consumed. The car is “driven” through a series of “courses” that are designed to mimic different types of driving conditions. Examples of the routes can be found at the Fuel Economy site.
You may have heard that red cars are ticketed more often and that owners of red cars are charged higher insurance rates. Different colors can have different effects on human behavior and elicit different emotional responses. Blue is sometimes considered a calming color while green may be thought of as refreshing and is easy on the eyes. Red is the most emotionally intense color. It can evoke passion, strength, speed, and even rage. Note that different colors have different meanings to different cultures, so these descriptions may not hold true globally.
(An aside: you may have seen matadors waving their red capes at a charging bull. A bull can not distinguish red from green, so, the red color may be more for the benefit of the spectators. The bull likely charges because of the motion).
Common wisdom has said that, because of differing reactions to color, police are more prone to notice and ticket red cars. Also, insurance companies charge higher rates for red cars- perhaps because they might think that a person who would choose red is one that would be more aggressive driver.
According to snopes.com, both these claims are false. They cite a small study showing that red cars did not receive a disproportionate share of attention from the police. This same study did find that the police seemed to cite white cars less than would be expected. According to insurance companies, the rate you pay depends on your driving record, location, and type of car you have. Red is a favorite color for sports cars though, and sports cars generally do cost more to insure.
So, whatever color you choose, I hope your car is not a lemon.