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Often times, when our office files a lawsuit against a car manufacturer (such as Chrysler, Ford, or General Motors) and/or dealerships; we cite to both state and federal lemon laws. Both laws provide consumers with limited protection and recourse against the wrongdoer. The federal lemon law applies to all 50 states and the District of Columbia; while the Texas lemon law only applies to vehicles that generally has been purchased in the state of Texas.

One key difference between the federal Magnuson Moss Act and the Texas Lemon Law (found in the Texas Occupations Code and Texas Transportation Code) is the attorney fee shifting provision.

The federal law allows the prevailing consumer’s attorney to recover attorney fees and costs from the defendant (vehicle manufacturer/dealer). In other words, if your new car, truck, boat, motorhome, or recreational vehicle fails you multiple times and you win or settle your case, then manufacturers (such as Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, Kia, Coachmen, Gulfstream, Newmar, or Vogue) will have to pay for your attorney fees.

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Buying a new vehicle is statistically the second largest purchase that most consumers partake in their lifetime, behind purchasing a new home. Often times, the negotiation process itself is stressful enough. To avoid owning a lemon vehicle that will inconvenience and acquiring a headache down the road, it is important to be mindful of the following red flags… In the vehicle manufacturing business, there will be a small percentage of defects. Your goal is to avoid owning a lemon car in that small percentage; because taking a new Ford vehicle in the service center for warranty work is not the ideal situation to be in.

1) If the vehicle already has high mileages on it. A new car should not have over 300 miles on it. High mileage vehicles mean that other potential buyers test drove the vehicle and passed up on it, for a reason.

2) If the vehicle has visual defects or dings. Decline the vehicle and pick another vehicle from the lot, or go to a different dealership — even if the salesperson (who wants you to buy the vehicle to earn a commission so he/she can quickly work on another deal with another consumer) promises you that the dealership will repair it before they hand it to you.

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Question:

“After purchasing my new truck at the dealership, I took it into the Chrysler service center. After waiting for over 2 hours, they told me that they could not replicate the problem and to keep my eye out for the problem if it happens again. I noticed that they hardly drove my vehicle because my odometer didn’t change much when I got my truck back. On the repair order that they gave me, it says “NPF.” What does that mean and what can I do? Does the Texas Lemon Law apply? It took me a long time to save for this truck and I am really frustrated.”

Answer:

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Recognizing what country your vehicle was manufactured at is an important piece of knowledge. Often times, I have potential lemon law clients who contact my office for a free case review, stating to me that they were misled or misinformed by the car salesman or dealership — they were told that the subject vehicle was assembled in the USA or Japan, when in fact, the vehicle originated in Mexico. Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), this might be a viable plaintiff’s cause of action.

Every vehicle has a unique vehicle identification number, also known as a VIN. The VIN is the “social security” number for vehicles, as no two vehicle can have the same set of numbers. Standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the VIN contains specific characteristics about the specific vehicle and is 17 characters long. Tracking the VIN is the best way to identify cars that may have a history or potential of lemon law-related defects or problems.

To determine where the subject vehicle originates from, check the first digit of the seventeen character VIN. If the number starts with a 1, then it is from the USA (i.e.: General Motors, Chrysler, etc). If it starts with a 2, the it is from Canada…3 is from Mexico,…and, etc.

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Owners of 2009 and 2010 Chrysler Dodge Journeys should be on high a alert of a potential design defect in the vehicle’s braking system. Our law office is noticing a pattern of increase consumer concerns and complaints relating to premature defective brake rotors and pads.

The 2009 and 2010 Dodge Journey SUVs weigh approximately 3,800 pounds. Our research leads us to believe that the brake pads and rotors may be the ill-fitting (in terms of size and thickness) to handle the Journey’s weight and size. This will cause your brake to wear much sooner than normal and may potentially cause brake failure within the first 10,000 to 12,000 miles of driving.

When you take your Journey to an authorized Chrysler service center for warranty work, some possible “band-aid” repairs may include: shaving/ resurfacing brake rotors and replacing brake pads. Remember to keep all your repair invoices to document your repair attempts.

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September 28, 2011 marks an important day for consumers of used and pre-owned lemon vehicles in California. California lemon law has now been updated to require new and used car dealerships to cross reference the vehicles that are for sale on their lot against a federal lemon database. Any vehicles with a tainted history will be marked with a red warning sticker.

The federal lemon database is officially called the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). As of today, California is the only state to have such legislation to help consumers.

This new update in California law regarding lemon vehicles will be implemented starting July 1, 2012. Unfortunately, Texas currently does not have a lemon law that is as strong as California’s.

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Answer: Yes, as long as the vehicle was purchased within a Texas dealership, a “demo” or demonstrator vehicle is protected under the Texas Lemon Law.

Other vehicles that are protected under the Texas Lemon Law includes: trucks (Ford Ranger, F-150), cars (Chrysler 200 or 300), motorcycles, motor homes (Winnebago or Fleetwood), or ATVs.

While towable recreational vehicles are also covered under the lemon law, it is essential that towable RVs are titled and registered in Texas.

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The Texas Lemon Law is not just limited to vehicles such as cars, SUVs, or trucks; it also includes recreational vehicles (RVs) and motorhomes. Under the statute, the Texas Lemon Law refers to these vehicles as “towable recreational vehicles.”

If you have a lemon RV or motorhome, it is essential that you contact a lemon law attorney as soon as possible.

Under section 3201.002(32) of the Texas Occupations Code, a “towable recreational vehicle” is defined as a vehicle that is not motorized and: