DO NOT drive these Honda cars. Get them fixed. NOW.

A 50-year-old Riverside, California woman was recently killed by a faulty, recalled airbag in her 2001 Honda Civic. Cutting corners on safety, airbag supplier Takata produced the airbag with cheap but volatile sodium nitrate.

In even a low-speed collision, the chemical explodes with excessive force, sending shards of metal into the passenger compartment. It’s been described as having a hand grenade go off in the car.

The woman, Delia Robles, was driving to get her flu shot when her Civic collided with a pickup truck. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been warning owners of the cars not to drive them, and to get them repaired immediately.  NHTSA found that in a collision where the airbags inflate, the odds of being killed are 50-50.  In other words, those cars are ticking time bombs.

Here are the cars that NHTSA has identified as posing the highest risk:

2001-2002 Honda Civic, 2001-2002 Honda Accord, 2002-2003 Acura TL, 2002 Honda CR-V, 2002 Honda Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL, 2003 Honda Pilot.

Honda is offering to tow these cars to dealerships for repairs. They should also offer to send roving mechanics to the owner’s home or workplace, since a leading barrier to getting repairs is the fact most people have only one car, and they depend on it to keep their job and get their kids to school. For many owners of recalled cars, the closest dealership may be a long distance away, and they may not be able to drop off their car on a weekday, and then get back home and back to work.

Owners of recalled cars may also have difficulty getting time off from work to drive a long distance for repairs. Many at-risk owners may not be proficient in English or Spanish, and may not understand the risks they face.

Some owners have also had bad experiences at car dealerships, and may be fearful of going to a dealership again. Unfortunately, some dealers may take advantage of the safety recalls to pressure them to buy another car, while holding their recalled car for repairs.

Where to check the safety recall status of your car, at a government website:

https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/

If you own one of these recalled cars, here’s what CARS recommends:

Contact Honda directly.  Here is Honda’s toll-free number:  1-888-234-2138

Take Honda’s offer to provide you with a loaner or rental car,  and also have them tow your car to the dealership for the FREE repairs.

Read more:

CNN report: Stop driving these cars NOW.

Daily News report: Many Southern California cars have dangerous airbags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Judge warns children not to buy from CarMax

During a hearing before the U.S. Federal District Court in Pasadena, California, Federal Judge Wardlaw tells CarMax’s attorney, “I have to tell you, having read what CarMax does, I have told both my children, don’t you buy a ‘certified’ car from CarMax.”

Watch video: Judge warns children about CarMax

Did CarMax sell you an unsafe recalled car?  We want to hear your story.  The only way to get CarMax to stop selling cars with lethal safety defects is for courageous consumers to speak up.  Contact us at:

http://carconsumers.org/contact.htm

 

Car Hop Ordered to cease harming consumers’ credit

So-called “Buy Here Pay Here” dealers like Car Hop often lure used car buyers onto their car lots with signs that scream:  “No Credit? No Problem!”  “Repo? No Problem!” “Bad Credit? No problem!”

They even promise that if you buy a car from them, and make your payments on time, they will help you restore or improve your credit. That’s one of the major reasons many car buyers shop there.

But all too often,what actually happens is another story.  American’s top consumer financial protection watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, just issued this announcement:

“CFPB Orders CarHop to Pay $6.4 Million Penalty for Jeopardizing Consumers’ Credit

One of Nation’s Biggest “Buy-Here, Pay-Here” Auto Dealers Provided Inaccurate Credit Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking action against CarHop, one of the country’s biggest “buy-here, pay-here” auto dealers, and its affiliated financing company, Universal Acceptance Corporation, for providing damaging, inaccurate consumer information to credit reporting companies. CarHop and its affiliate also failed to provide accurate, positive credit information that it promised consumers it would supply to the credit reporting companies. The CFPB’s investigation found that the companies inaccurately reported information for more than 84,000 accounts on a widespread and systemic basis. The CFPB is ordering the companies to cease their illegal activities and pay a $6,465,000 civil penalty.

“Many consumers went to CarHop because they needed transportation and wanted to build up a good record of paying their bills,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “But CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation thwarted those expectations by inaccurately furnishing negative credit information. The CFPB will not stand for companies whose sloppy actions jeopardize consumers’ credit.”

Minnesota-based CarHop, also known as Interstate Auto Group, is one of the largest buy-here, pay-here auto dealers in the nation. Buy-here, pay-here dealers sell cars and originate and service the auto loan. CarHop has approximately 50 retail locations in approximately 15 states. CarHop sells vehicles primarily to customers with nonexistent or poor credit histories in need of subprime or deep subprime credit. It markets itself as a way for these consumers to rebuild or build-up good credit by saying it will provide positive payment histories to the credit reporting companies. Consumers who buy from CarHop frequently do so because they suffer from poor credit scores and other financial challenges.

Universal Acceptance Corporation, on behalf of CarHop, furnishes consumer account information to all three major consumer reporting companies on a monthly basis. The CFPB found that the company reported information that it knew or had reasonable cause to believe was inaccurate. The company inaccurately furnished information for more than 84,000 accounts from about January 2009 until September 2013. With CarHop, consumers may not have even known about the damage to their credit profiles resulting from the erroneous reporting unless and until they checked their credit reports.

Almost all the information the companies inaccurately furnished to the credit reporting companies could potentially harm customers. The negative information could lower a consumer’s credit score, hamper their ability to obtain other credit, and hurt their job prospects. The CFPB found that CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act. Specifically, the companies:

  • Deceived consumers into believing they could build up good credit with CarHop: As part of its marketing and sales practices, CarHop represented in writing to consumers that it reports “good credit” to the credit reporting companies. CarHop also emphasized to consumers its part in helping them build and maintain good credit. This appealed to consumers trying to build up their credit profiles with a history of on-time payments. But the company, through Universal Acceptance Corporation, failed to furnish certain positive information, including information that would support “good credit,” for tens of thousands of consumers.
  • Provided inaccurate repossession information: CarHop customers had the right to voluntarily return their vehicles within 72 hours of purchase for a full refund without any penalties or additional obligations. But for some customers who returned their vehicles under this policy, Universal Acceptance Corporation did not accurately report to the credit reporting companies what really happened. Instead, the company inaccurately reported on numerous occasions that the cars had been repossessed or that the consumer still owed money.
  • Incorrectly reported previous customers as still owing money: For consumers 72 hours past purchase, CarHop often resolved disputes by having the customer return the vehicle. It then issued documentation to the customer saying they no longer had any financial obligations and had settled their account. But for hundreds of customers, in the months or even years that followed after they returned their vehicles, Universal Acceptance Corporation inaccurately furnished, on a monthly basis, information that said that the customer still had an outstanding balance. Sometimes, the company inaccurately reported the amount past due in continuously increasing amounts.
  • Failed to have reasonable written policies and procedures to ensure the accuracy of consumers’ credit information: Universal Acceptance Corporation had no written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the consumer information it furnished until early August 2013. The policies it adopted that month were not reasonable or appropriate to the nature, size, complexity, and scope of the company’s activities.

Enforcement Action

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions or individuals engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices or that otherwise violate federal consumer financial laws. Under the terms of the CFPB orders released today, CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation must:

  • Cease misrepresenting that they will report “good credit”: The companies must not misrepresent to customers that they will report “good credit” or other positive information to the credit reporting companies.
  • Correct credit reporting information: If Universal Acceptance Corporation furnished information to a credit reporting company that it knew or had reasonable cause to believe was inaccurate, it must notify the credit reporting company of the inaccuracy. When it does so, it must either provide corrected information or request that the company delete the wrong information from the consumer’s file if accurate information is not available.
  • Provide credit reports to harmed consumers: CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation must, for consumers who had incorrect information furnished about their accounts, arrange for consumers to obtain free credit reports from the credit reporting companies that received the inaccurate information.
  • Implement an audit program to ensure laws are followed: CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation must implement a process for auditing information that Universal Acceptance Corporation furnishes to the credit reporting companies on a monthly basis. This process must include monitoring and evaluating the disputes the companies receive. The audit is designed to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the information.
  • Pay a $6,465,000 civil penalty: CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation will pay a $6,465,000 penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.”

The consent order can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_carhop-consent-order.pdf

____

Actions like this one are why consumers all over America are growing to LOVE our consumer watchdog agency, the CFBP. And why car dealers are trying to get special favors from Congress to stop the CFPB from being able to do its job.

Greedy car dealers and lenders are hell-bent on finding ways to keep profiting from the excessive interest charges paid by people who actually deserve to pay less, based on their credit histories.

Consumer protection groups like CARS are fighting back. If you were ripped off by Car Hop, we’d love to hear from you. Here’s where you can contact us:

http://carconsumers.org/contact.htm

Plus here are tips for how to get a good deal on a nice, safe used car — without getting scammed by a sleazy car dealer:

http://carconsumers.org/usedcarbuyingtips.htm

With best wishes for safe, happy motoring —

CARS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CA on track to have the worst auto safety recall law in the nation

Greedy, unscrupulous car dealers are high-fiving themselves, as Democratic and Republic legislators in California continue to vote unanimously to legalize dealers’ sales of unsafe, recalled used cars with lethal safety defects to consumers.

Testifying against the car dealers’ bill: Cally Houck, who lost her two daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, ages 24 and 20, due to a recalled car.  A steering hose leaked, causing an under-hood fire and a loss of steering control.  The two sisters ended up colliding head-on with an 18-wheeler truck.

As their mother, Cally Houck, told legislators:  AB 287, the car dealers bill, “would protect dealers, not consumers.” The bill is being authored by Assemblymember Richard Gordon, who has said that his father and grandfather were car dealers.

Also testifying against the bill:  Mark Anderson, who testified on behalf of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. According to NACA, if the dealers win, California will become a dumping ground for unsafe, recalled cars that would be illegal for dealers to sell in other states.  That would translate into more fatalities and injuries, and higher risk for everyone who shares the roads.

According to the car dealers’ bill, the defect that killed Raechel and Jacquie would not be considered “serious.”

Read more:

Orange County Register: A record 64 million cars were recalled last year: Here’s what’s being done to make buying safer used cars

Ventura County Star: Capps introduces rental car bill named for Ojai sisters killed in crash

Buy a car – surrender your rights?

One more reason not to buy a car from a car dealer:  when you do, they force you to give up your right to sue them if they cheat you.  So say good-bye to being able to take advantage of consumer protection laws.

Think a dealer wouldn’t dare roll back the odometer? Think again. They just slip a clause in your contract that says you can’t sue. Then when you find out your low-mileage car actually has over 100,000 extra miles that “disappeared” from the odometer — good luck trying to sue them under the Federal Odometer Act.

Car dealers used to face tough sanctions, including punitive damages, for ripping off consumers. But with rare exceptions, those days are gone.  That’s because car dealers insert “arbitration” clauses into their contracts. Then, after you’ve been shopping, test-driving cars, and negotiating for an average of 4 hours, they shove a stack of documents across a desk and tell you to “sign here, here and here.”

What they don’t tell you is that when you sign, you are giving up your rights under state and federal consumer protection laws. So forget hauling them before a judge or jury, who can throw the book at them. Instead, if you get any hearing at all, it’s before an “arbitrator” whose company just happens to be paid by — you guessed it — the dealer.

Under rulings by the Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, this is perfectly legal.

Ironically, the dealers got a special exemption from Congress that allows them to sue anyone they please. They’re free to use the courts. But you can’t.

Evidence is mounting about how biased and unfair arbitration is. Check out this new report, issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No wonder car dealers HATE this consumer watchdog agency. It shows how rigged the game is, when you buy a car from a dealer:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report

Don’t end up like Jon Perz, who has been waiting over 7 years for justice, after a car dealer in San Diego sold him an unsafe car.

YouTube Video of used car nightmare — over 1.3 million views

Be a smart shopper. Check out CARS’ car-buying tips for how to get a safe, reliable used car — without having the hassle or risk of buying from a dealer:

CARS Used Car Buying Tips

Happy, safe car shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CarMax – Too Risky for Wise Investors?

Thinking of investing in CarMax? You may want to take a close look at their breathtakingly risky practice of selling unsafe, recalled cars to consumers.

CarMax is already under fire from consumer groups,  faces potential action by the Federal Trade Commission, and has been repeatedly exposed in undercover investigations by TV news organizations, including ABC’s 20/20, over its sales of unsafe, recalled cars to consumers.

Here’s the rub:  CarMax advertises that all their cars must pass a “rigorous 125+ point inspection” before they can be sold as “CarMax Quality Certified” cars.  But how can a car with a killer defect possibly pass a rigorous inspection and meet their standards?

Despite the mounting scrutiny, CarMax recklessly persists in selling “CarMax Quality Certified” unsafe, recalled cars at retail to consumers. Case in point:  Even when competitors like AutoNation have wisely announced their decision to cease selling used cars with unrepaired Takata air bags, CarMax continues to sell them anyway.

Defying common sense and responsible business practices, CarMax somehow seems unable to bring itself to stop selling consumers cars with the notoriously defective air bags, which can explode on impact, hurling shrapnel at the driver and front-seat passenger’s face and neck..  In cases that are making global headlines, the defective air bags have caused  serious injuries, including blindness, while other hapless victims have bled to death.

This particular defect  remains the focus of Congressional investigations in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Takata also faces possible legal action by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and by the US Department of Justice.

So — what does AutoNation know and take into account that CarMax doesn’t seem to grasp?

Is CarMax waiting for a total PR catastrophe, before they stop making that added bit of profit by selling lots of unsafe, defective, recalled cars to consumers, instead of having them repaired or selling them for a somewhat lower price, at wholesale?

Whatever CarMax’s motivation, wise investors may wish to rethink the company’s self-inflicted level of exposure.

 

“Regional” auto safety recalls place military families at risk

The refusal by Takata and some manufacturers to expand the safety recall of defective, exploding air bags to cover the entire nation is jeopardizing the safety of many of America’s military families.

If you are a member of the Armed Forces, under Federal law, you are allowed to register your car in your official state of residence. Regardless where you are stationed, or the state where you and your family members are actually driving your car.

Auto manufacturers use data from RL Polk to identify owners of recalled vehicles and send them notices. But that data is based on where their vehicles are registered.

So if you are serving  in the military, and register your car in New York, but are stationed in a high-humidity state like Florida, you may not receive the safety recall notice for your car.  Even though  Honda, Toyota, and other manufacturers, as well as the air bag supplier Takata, now acknowledge the air bags should be recalled in high-humidity states like Florida.

That’s because, as far as RL Polk and the manufacturer are concerned, cars that are registered in New York are being driven in New York. They fail to account for the fact that if you’re serving in the military, you may have registered your car in New York, but be stationed for years in a high-humidity state like Florida.

Florida is home to at least 29 Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Coast Guard bases, with over 50,000 active duty personnel.  No doubt many of them have chosen to register their cars in their official state of residence, where the taxes may be lower, or it is simply more convenient.

What are Takata and auto manufacturers who installed the potentially deadly air bags in their cars doing to protect military families?  It appears that the answer is nothing.

We hope that Members of Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will pressure the manufacturers to ensure that members of the Armed Forces and their families are alerted to the hazards, and their cars are repaired, regardless where they are stationed, or where their cars are registered.

Better yet, all auto manufacturers and Takata should make the safety recall national, so all owners and their families can have the safety recall repairs performed, without having to pay out of pocket for the mistakes made by Takata and the manufacturers — and without being injured or killed by flying shrapnel from the defective air bags.

One more reason NOT to buy a car from a car dealer

Even the auto dealers themselves have to admit:  many car buyers dread buying cars from auto dealers. Young people are especially wary.  And for good reason.

Car dealers keep selling unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers, putting them, their friends and family, and other motorists at risk of death or serious, debilitating injuries.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, they also insist that you surrender your Constitutional rights as part of the price of buying a car from them.

Good luck trying to buy a car from a dealer without a “gotcha” clause hidden in the contract that says you give up your Constitutional right to take them to court, and benefit from  our nation’s hard-won consumer protection laws. Like laws against rolling back odometers, selling “junk” cars that are advertised as being “in mint condition,” or engaging in other forms of cheating, lying, fraud, and thievery.

And get this:  the dealers got a special exemption from Congress — just for car dealers —  that allows them to keep THEIR Constitutional rights. So they can take anyone they want to court, and use the laws that benefit THEM. But they killed a bill that would have protected YOU from losing your rights when you sign on the dotted line to buy a car from them.

If you’re fed up with car dealers and their scams, check this out:

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Arbitration: What you don’t know about fine print can hurt you

And let your local car dealers know you’re not buying from them until they clean up their act, and you don’t have to surrender your rights to buy a car from them.

CarMax sells unsafe, recalled used cars

CarMax advertises that each vehicle they offer for sale must pass a rigorous 125+ point inspection. But — does that include ensuring that safety recall repairs have been performed? The answer may surprise you.

Check out this recent news report:

WFMY-TV: Consumer Groups Warn CarMax Has Misleading Ads

Bottom line:  Don’t get snookered by those CarMax ads claiming that all their cars are “CarMax Quality Certified” and passed a “125+ point” inspection.  Unless you don’t mind the fact it could be a certified 125+ point ticking time bomb.

Did CarMax sell you a recalled used car? CARS wants to hear your story. Here’s how to get in touch:

Contact CARS

P.S. Even if you think your CarMax car is safe, it’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website for safety recalls, and enter in your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Odometer fraud — the “Fountain of Youth” for high-mileage cars

A lot of people think that odometer fraud is a thing of the past, thanks to digital odometers. Unfortunately, that’s just wishful thinking. In reality — crooks have found ways to hack into vehicle computer systems and re-set odometers. All it takes is a simple gadget that you can buy online — and a lack of scruples.

Making matters worse:  thanks to incredibly stupid rules the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued years ago under the Federal Odometer Act, vehicles more than 10 years old are exempt from key provisions of the law. That never did make sense, since all it does is encourage fraud that hits low-income used car buyers the hardest. It makes even less sense now, when RL Polk says that the average age of all light vehicles on the road in the US has hit a record 11.4 years.

One of the worst things about odometer fraud:  an altered odometer can make the warranty void, or make any service contract you buy with the car worthless and void.

According to AOL Autos, a New York man was alerted by friends that his used car miraculously showed less mileage after he sold it on Craigslist:

http://autos.aol.com/article/buying-used-car-tips-odometer-fraud/

How can you avoid getting scammed by an odometer fraudster?

1. Insist on seeing the work orders showing past repairs — and look carefully at the mileage.

2. Call repair shops that worked on the car and are listed on the work orders to confirm the numbers.

3. Have the vehicle inspected by your own independent auto expert BEFORE you agree to buy it. They can hook it up to diagnostic equipment that will access the onboard computer systems — which may reveal telltale records of higher mileage.

Here’s a good place to find a good mechanic:

Car Talk Mechanics Files

 

 

 

 

 

Car dealerships — fertile ground for ID thieves

How common is identity theft at auto dealerships?  According to a report in Automotive News, “Dealerships are targets for identity thieves — those working from both the inside and outside.” *  The report quotes Dave Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals:

“It’s still a major problem, but it’s not growing as fast.”

The report also quotes Maryann McKessy, Chief of the Fraud and Identity Theft Bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, regarding auto dealerships:

“I hate to say it, but it’s a pretty common ground where information is breached.”

The FTC has issued “Red Flag” rules to try to curb identity theft at auto dealerships and among other creditors who handle people’s personal financial information. Dealers are being urged to train their employees to be on the lookout for identity thieves, including checking to see if the person in front of them looks like the photo on their driver’s license.

* Automotive News, Dec. 5, 2011

 

 

New car dealers’ hidden ties to “buy-here, pay-here” dealerships

New car dealers like to project the image that they are above engaging in shady practices prevalent at “buy-here pay here” auto dealerships. Among the shameful litany: charging exorbitant interest rates and selling junk cars  that break down soon after purchase, only to be repossessed when the hapless owners can’t drive them, lose income, and fall behind on payments. Then re-selling the same cars over and over again — a practice known as “churning”  —  making a killing on each transaction, and often trapping multiple consumers into paying for the same car.

“Buy-here, pay-here” sales tactics were painstakingly documented in an award-winning series by Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Bensinger, who examined over 2 million records and exposed who the worst “churners” are among “buy-here, pay-here” dealers in California.

But — the reality is that thousands of new car dealers own “buy-here, pay-here” car lots. According to Automotive News, of 20,000 members of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, ” ‘just under 10%’ are franchised new-car dealers who have joined under their franchised dealership name or under the names of their separate buy-here, pay-here operations.” — Automotive News, July 22, 2013