Friday, June 28, 2013

Is your Ford Truck a Lemon? - "Death Wobble"

Do you have a 2011-2013 Ford F150, F250, or F350 with a "death wobble"?  If so, you may be surprised to know that you're not alone. 

A quick "Google" search online reveals various online forums, blog postings, and similar postings specifically related to a "death wobble" in Ford trucks.   In fact, an excellent video on youtube shows a Ford truck "death wobble" from both outside a truck and inside.  If you think that you may have experienced a "death wobble" in your Ford truck, or just want to see what it looks like, then click on the video to the left.

From where I sit as a Lemon Law attorney in Ohio, I am also seeing an alarming number of these trucks come through my doors.  Typically, the consumers experience the "death wobble" or "death shake" after going over a small bump in the road or a bridge.  When it occurs, the vehicle is extremely hard to keep on the road, making the "death wobble" clearly a safety concern.      

Given the widespread existence of a "death wobble" in Ford trucks, and the fact that the problem is obviously a safety concern, one would expect the problem to be addressed immediately at an authorized Ford dealer.  However, most consumers that I am in contact with are simply told that the Ford dealership was "unable to duplicate" the concern, or that there was "no problem found", and the vehicle is returned to the consumer unrepaired and unsafe to drive.  Why?  Because Ford, like most manufacturers, requires its authorized dealers to verify or witness a defect occur before they can do any repairs under warranty. So, if the mechanic does not verify the "death wobble" in a short test drive, then the vehicle will inevitably be returned to the consumer unrepaired with "no problem found" written on the repair invoice.  It is no surprise that this can be both frustrating and frightening for a consumer, given the severity of the "death wobble" defect.
If your Ford truck has a "death wobble", you've been to the dealer for repairs, and it is still not fixed, consider taking your vehicle into the dealership and requesting that the service representative ride along with you.  Take the vehicle to a bump or bridge where you have experienced the "death wobble" before.  If that doesn't work, then consider talking to a lemon law attorney in your state. You may be able to get out of that"lemon" truck yet. Click here for a free online 50 state list of consumer law attorneys.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

GM Tops J.D. Power Study for Best in Quality

A new study rates General Motors as #1 in quality over all other automakers worldwide.  The results of the Initial Quality Study, released by J.D. Power and Associates on June 19, 2013, measures the number of problems on 2013 cars and light trucks that buyers report after 90 days of ownership.

General Motors, as a corporation, ranked #1 with an average of 98 problems per 100 vehicles between its four brands GMC (2nd), Lexus (3rd), Chevrolet (5th), and Cadillac (14th).  In fact, General Motors was the only automaker with fewer than one problem per car.  General Motors is at the top of this annual study for the first time, while GMC and Chevrolet have broken into the top 5 for the first time ever.  Porsche topped the study by brand, followed by GMC, Lexus, Infiniti, and Chevrolet.
The Lexus LS sedan was reported as the most trouble free vehicle, with just 59 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed.  The vehicle was redesigned for 2013, and obviously consumers approve.

Lowest rated brands were Toyota's Scion, Chrysler's Fiat, and Mitsubishi.

J.D. Power has been conducting their Initial Quality study for 27 years, and redesigned/modernized the study for 2013.  Outdated questions, such as questions about cassette players, were replaced with questions about modern technical features, such as voice recognition.  Additionally, instead of sending paper questionnaires, J.D. Power randomly selected owners to respond online.  The study was based on 83,000 customers who bought or leased a 2013 model car or light truck, and included 233 survey of questions.

According to the study, almost 2/3 of problems reported on 2013 models were related to design defects rather than manufacturing defects.  Top problem areas were: (1) built-in voice recognition frequently doesn't recognize or misinterprets commands, (2) built-in bluetooth mobile phone/device frequent pairing/connectivity issues, (3) excessive wind noise, (4) materials scuff and/or soil easily, and (5) navigation system is difficult to use or poorly located.  According to the study, customers that reported a manufacturing defect said that the defect was fixed in the first visit 43% of the time.

Ford, who included the MyFordTouch system in their entire line of vehicles for 2013, was ranked #27.  Many owners find the system hard to use, and this is likely the reason for Ford's low ranking.  For this reason, it would certainly not be unexpected for Ford to take issue with the inclusion of design related defects in the study.

But, even the best manufacturers make mistakes.  So, regardless of where your car is ranked in this study, you may still have a "lemon" vehicle.  If you think that your 2013 car or truck is a "lemon" , then you should contact a consumer law attorney that specializes in Lemon Law to see if they can help get you out of your "lemon" car or truck.  Click here for a free online 50 state list of consumer law attorneys.   And act quickly- because for every legal right you have there is only a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit in court before your rights expire.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chrysler Reconsiders NHTSA Request to Recall Vehicles

On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, just hours before its deadline to reconsider NHTSA's recall request, Chrysler agreed to recall 1.56 million 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs.  

After 2 years of research, NHTSA recently requested that Chrysler recall 2.7 million vehicles, due to an alleged safety defect relating to the placement of the fuel tank on the vehicles.  According to NHTSA, the design of the vehicles is defective because the fuel tanks are mounted behind the rear axle which could lead to the rupture of the fuel tank and an increased risk of fire during severe rear end collisions.  In response, Chrysler claimed that the vehicles in question are safe and not any more unsafe than any other vehicle of that era. 

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee
NHTSA originally requested a recall of 2.7 vehicles, 1993-2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 model year Jeep Liberties.  However, in a deal apparently struck in a phone conversation between Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and NHTSA administrator David Strickland, Chrysler is only being required to recall about 1.56 million vehicles.  So which vehicles were excluded from the recall?  About 1.1 million 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees, which are a different design that the earlier models.  And the deal gets better for Chrysler-- they don't even have to say in their recall that the vehicles are defective and they need only say that the modifications being made are effective for "low-speed impacts", not high speed ones.  

But the 1.1 million 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees will not completely be left out.  Instead, Chrysler has agreed to perform a "customer service action" for these vehicles.  They will get similar treatment as the recalled vehicles, but Chrysler will not have to include them in its recall numbers.

Has Chrysler finally "seen the light"?  Not likely.  Chrysler seems to have an unshakable attitude that it never builds vehicles wrong.  So why the change in position?  By striking this deal, Chrysler will avoid the bad publicity brought on by public hearings and their ongoing battle with NHTSA.  And, the move apparently was not too late, because according to Kelley Blue Book, "shopper interest has been unaffected" by Chrysler's standoff with NHTSA.

Own a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Jeep Liberty included in the recall?  Click here for more information from NHTSA on the upcoming recall.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Friday, June 21, 2013

Car Shoppers Decisions Increasingly Driven by Social Media

Have you turned to your Facebook friends for comments before buying a car or deciding what dealership to go to?  If so, two recent studies suggest that you are not alone.  And, if these studies are on the mark, then the car buying and selling process may be in the middle of a significant evolution.
The first study, conducted by Digital Air Strike, a leading automotive social media and digital marketing service, surveyed more than 2000 car buyers and 650 automotive dealerships.  The study found that consumers nationwide are increasingly using online review sites before determining where to purchase a car.  In fact, 24% of consumers find online review sites the most helpful factor in deciding where to purchase a vehicle, while just 15% found car dealership websites most helpful.  The most popular review sites were at 61%, at 54% (most popular with older car shoppers), Google+ Local at 37% (dropping from a previous ranking in 2012 of 44%), Yelp at 14% (most popular with younger car buyers), and Yahoo at 11%.  The study found that there is a 43% probability that car shoppers will search for a local dealer on Facebook, and a 59% probability that a car shoppers will trust a review from a Facebook friend more than reviews on other sites. 
The second study, conducted by Ebay Motors, surveyed over 1,000 US adults.  The bottom line?  Generation Y, those born between 1980 and 2000, skip the showroom and turn to social media when purchasing a car.  In fact, a staggering 94% of Generation Y car shoppers turn to the internet when shopping for a new car or truck.  More than 33% use mobile devices, compared to 19% of older car shoppers.  And, only 13% prefer to visit dealerships when car shopping and 1 in 5 said that they would even be comfortable with going through the entire car buying process online.   

What does this mean for car dealerships?  If they want to keep or gain their market share, then they have no choice but to focus on online advertising, including Facebook.  Additionally, a car dealer's internet reputation may be just as important, if not more important, than word of mouth.  So, smart car dealers will likely begin focusing on online reputation management through firms like Digital Air Strike, if they have not already.      
Lesson learned for consumers?  Always consult online reviews of a local car dealership before purchasing a car.  This is especially true when purchasing a used car.  And, where you see negative reviews, be weary of similarly worded positive reviews that crop up around the same time-- there is nothing stopping a car dealership from posting "bogus" positive reviews in response to negative ones. 

So, before purchasing your new or used car or truck, take a look online at the reviews for your local car dealerships.  You may be surprised what you find.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Make Sure to Check a Used Car's Vehicle History Report Before Buying it

Are you in the market for a used car? If so, you are probably wondering whether it is worth getting a vehicle history report before making your purchase.  The answer is yes.  Getting an accurate vehicle history report online costs a few bucks initially, but it can save you money and headaches down the road.

So where do you start? There are three main sources of vehicle history reports online: Carfax, AutoCheck, and NMVTIS.
Carfax is probably the best known and most trusted of the three.  You can get a Carfax vehicle history report online for $39.99.  According to Carfax, their vehicle histort reports check for a long list of problems, including: prior accidents, mileage rollbacks or rollovers, multiple owners, structural damage, lease, taxi, or police use, salvage, rebuilt salvage, other vehicle brands, flood damage, total loss history, airbag deployment, hail damage, recall information, service and maintenance history, warranty information, and more.  Carfax claims to have the most extensive vehicle history database in North America, with over 6 billion records.  And, according to Carfax, they receive data from over 34,000 different sources.  Vehicle history reports can be viewed on your computer, tablet, or smart phone, and CarFax also offers a 100% money back guarantee.  To request a Carfax vehicle history report, click here.
AutoCheck is a slightly less well known, but widely used, competitor.  You can get an AutoCheck vehicle histort report online for $29.99.  According to AutoCheck, their database is built and maintained by Experian, who has exclusive data sharing relationships with many industry sources who provide Experian with access to exclusive data to available to AutoCheck's competitors.  AutoCheck also reports that industry leaders such as NADA guides, CarMaxx, eBay Motors, Kelly Blue Book, and have chosen to provide AutoCheck vehicle history reports to their customers.  AutoCheck recommends that you obtain and AutoCheck vehicle history report in conjunction with other reports to "fill in the gaps" in other vehicle history reports for issues that other providers do not cover.  To request an AutoCheck vehicle history report, click here.  

NMVTIS, or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, was developed by the federal govenment.  A vehicle history report from NMVTIS will cost you anywhere from $0.25 to $4.95.  NMVTIS is operated and managed by the US Department of Justice.  According to NMVTIS, their database provides records relating to current and previous state of title data, title issue dates, latest odometer data, theft history (if any), any title brands, salvage history, and total loss history.  To request a NMVTIS vehicle history report for just 25 cents, click here
A vehicle history report can help alert you before purchasing a problem vehicle.  And, when making such a major purchase like a motor vehicle, you should be armed with vehicle history reports from all 3 of the above providers.  This way, each report can fill in the gaps that the other may have missed and work together to give you the most accurate view of the vehicle's history available. 
Unfortunately, while in most cases they are extremely helpful, vehicle history reports are
only as good as the information that is reported to them. So if an accident or accident repair is unreported, then it will not show up on a vehicle history report.   Likewise, if information is inaccurately reported, then that inaccurate information will likely appear on the vehicle history report. 
So, if you find yourself with a vehicle with a title brand or accident history that you did not know about when you purchased the vehicle, then in most states you will have legal rights against the seller for damages and maybe even be able to cancel the sale if you act quickly enough.  Click here for a free online 50 state list of consumer law attorneys.  And act quickly- because for every legal right you have there is only a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit in court before your rights expire. 
Good luck car hunting!

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Monday, June 17, 2013

How much will that repair cost when the check engine light comes on?

You likely know the dreaded feeling.  You are driving down the road and the check engine light illuminates.  What could be the problem and what will the repair cost you?  Well, believe it or not, the cost of repair will likely vary significantly based upon the state where the repairs are performed.  And, regardless of the state that you live in, you are likely to pay about 10% more on average for the repair than you would have a year ago.
On June 11, 2013, CarMD released its annual state-by-state ranking of repair costs for check engine light related repairs.  According to the study, the average cost for check engine light repairs went up 10% in 2012 to $367.84.  To see CarMD's full report, click here.    

The Northeast experienced the largest increase at 11.56%, likely at least partially attributable to the damage caused by Hurrican Sandy which uncovered unrepaired problems or repairs that may have been put off longer than they should have been.  New Jersey topped the list at an average repair cost of $392.99, with an increase in labor rates from 2011 of 20.7% and an increase in parts costs from 2011 of 8.2%.  But is was not all bad news for New Jersey, who paid the least to replace a hybrid battery at $2,005.05 on average. 
On the lower end, Vermont drivers paid the lowest on average of $269.72 for check engine light related repairs, with labor rates up from $90.85 in 2011 to $115.90 in 2012, and parts costs at an average $153.82.  

On the higher end of labor rates, Colorado topped the list for the second year in a row, with
an average labor rate of $150.75.

Ohio weighed in at 42nd place, with an average labor rate of $128.18 and an average parts cost of $200, for a combined total of $328.18. 

Kentucky, on the other hand, weighed in a bit higher at 17th place, with an average labor rate of $138.09 and an average parts cost of $228.73.

Lesson learned?  If you live nearby, you may want to venture across state lines when that check engine warning light illuminates.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Friday, June 14, 2013

Are you still waiting for title to your used vehicle more than 40 days after purchase?

Are you having trouble getting the title to your "new to you" used car or truck?  You may not be alone.

On June 7, 2013, the Ohio Attorney General annouced that it had filed lawsuits against 2 Ohio used car dealerships, seeking $56,000 in reimbursement claims paid by the Ohio Attorney General to Ohio consumers out of the Title Defect Rescission Fund.  The lawsuits allege that the used car dealers sold used vehicles to Ohio consumers but failed to timely transfer title to those vehicles as required by Ohio law.
The first lawsuit, filed on June 3, 2013, alleges that Buyers Choice Cars, in Columbus, entered into multiple motor vehicle transactions with consumers and failed to timely transfer title to the vehicles to the consumers within 40 days.   According to the Ohio Attorney General, $19,415.52 has been paid to consumers from the Title Defect Rescission Fund to resolve consumer complaints made by consumers against Buyers Choice Cars. Click here to read the Buyers Choice Cars lawsuit.

The second lawsuit, filed on June 7, 2013, alleges that Boasko's Rt. 4 Automall LLC, in Sandusky, also entered into multiple motor vehicle transactions with consumers and failed to timely transfer title to the vehicles to consumers wihtin 40 days.  According to the Ohio Attorney General, $37,465 has been paid to consumers from the Title Defect Rescission Fund to resolve consumer complaints made by 17 consumers against Boasko's Rt. 4 Automall LLC.  Click here to read the Boasko's Rt. 4 Automall LLC lawsuit.

Under Ohio law, a car dealer has 40 days to transfer title into a consumer's name.  And, Ohio consumers have an unconditional right to rescind the transaction
(i.e. make the dealer take the vehicle back and get their money back) where the used car dealer fails to timely transfer title. 

Licensed used car dealers in Ohio participate in a program called the Title Defect Rescission Fund, which allows dealers to sell used vehicles to consumers before obtaining title to those vehicles.  The Title Defect Rescission Fund is maintained by the Ohio Attorney General, who administers refunds to consumers who suffer damages from motor vehicle dealers who fail to timely transfer title within 40 days of sale.  And, if the Ohio Attorney General pays a consumer from the Title Defect Rescission Fund on behalf of a used car dealer, then the used car dealer must obtain a surety bond of at least $25,000.

For more on your rights as a consumer for timely transfer of title under Ohio law, or a used car dealer's duties, click here.

If you purchased a used vehicle and the used car dealer has failed to timely transfer title into your name within 40 days, you can file a consumer complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office

Or, click here and let me know about it - I'll get right to work to help you!

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chrysler refuses to recall 2.7 million vehicles that the Federal Government has labeled unsafe

Chrysler refuses to recall 2.7 million vehicles that the Federal Government has labeled unsafe

After over 2 years of research and data sharing with Chrysler, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has requested that Chrysler recall all 1993-2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 model year Jeep Liberties, a total of approximately 2.7 million vehicles, due to an alleged safety defect relating to the placement of the fuel tank on the vehicles.

On June 4, 2013, in a rare, defiant response, Chrysler refused to recall the vehicles.

According to NHTSA, the design of the vehicles is defective because the fuel tanks are mounted behind the rear axle, which could lead to the rapture of the fuel tank, and an increased risk of fire during severe rear-end collisions. NHTSA claims that this defective design has resulted in 51 deaths, which is at a much higher rate of incidence than similar vehicles of that same era.

In response, Chrysler claims that the vehicles in question are safe, that they met the fuel safety standards when they were manufactured, and that they still meet the current fuel safety standards today. According to Chrysler, NHTSA’s analysis is incomplete, NHTSA uses unrepresented comparisons, and the vast majority of accidents in question involved "high energy crashes" where the injuries would have been sustained regardless of the location of the fuel tank.

So what will happen next?  NHTSA will wait until June 18, 2013 to see if Chrysler reconsiders.  If Chrysler continues to defy NHTSA’s request, NHTSA will hold a public hearing and then decide whether to issue an involuntary recall within 30-60 days.  If Chrysler still refuses, then NHTSA can request the Department of Justice to sue Chrysler on its behalf to force the recall.
Will Chrysler give in without a fight? Not likely. Although recalls like this are typically dealt with behind closed doors, and NHTSA’s authority to protect the lives of motorists is rarely questioned, Chrysler has a history of questioning NHTSA’s conclusions. In fact, in 1997, the Department of Justice sued Chrysler to force recall of 91,000 defective seatbelt anchors in Dodge Cirrus and Stratus sedans. Chrysler was forced to recall the seatbelt anchors and pay a $800,000 fine. A year later an appellate court overturned the ruling, but Chrysler had already replaced the seatbelt anchors.
So, whether it is fueled by the steep cost of instituting the recall of 2.7 million vehicles, or a strong belief that the vehicles in question are not defective, you can be sure that Chrysler is in for a fight.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ready To Turn Over The Wheel To Your Car?

Are you ready to turn over the wheel, gas pedal, and brake pedal to your car?  The time to do so may be closer than you think.

On May 30, 2013, the National Highway Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced its new policy on automated vehicle development.  The policy outlines the types of vehicle automation that offer significant potential for reduction in highway crashes and deaths, summarizes NHTSA’s ongoing and future automated vehicle research, and outlines NHTSA's recommendations for states that have already authorized operation of self-driving vehicles for test purposes.

According to NHTSA, autonomous vehicles should only be used for testing purposes until the technology is more advanced and additional safety features are added.  But ultimately, it is expected that self driving vehicles will save thousands of lives every year, as most auto accidents are the result of human error. 

Some autonomous vehicle features include: adaptive cruise control, which allows the vehicle to adjust its speed to maintain a safe distance between vehicles, automatic braking, where the car jumps in and applies the brakes before a crash can occur, and vehicle to vehicle communications, where vehicles provide each other with safety and traffic information. 

Autonomous vehicles are now being licensed for testing purposes only in Nevada, California, and Florida.  In fact, in May, Nevada issued its first license plate to an autonomous vehicle.

Right now, Google is leading the way in the autonomous vehicle industry, but companies like GM, Audi, Toyota, and Ford are getting into the game and already have some autonomous features in their vehicles. 

Ready to turn over the wheel?  Don't get too excited-- fully self driving vehicles are not expected to be on the road and in use by the general public until 2025.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running