Buying a car from a dealer in California may get even more hazardous to your financial health

When you buy a car at an auto dealership, you should be able to get all the terms in writing BEFORE you sign anything — right?  Right. But for California car buyers, that may change. Why? Because car dealers are aggressively lobbying to get rid of the consumer protection laws in California that currently prohibit them from using “e-contracting.”

The California New Car Dealers Association and Enterprise Holdings (one of the largest sellers of used cars) are pushing for passage of AB 380, authored by Assemblymember Matt Dababneh (D-Van Nuys), powerful chair of the California Assembly Committee on Banking.

But pro-consumer groups including Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, CALPIRG, the Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Action, Public Counsel, the California Reinvestment Coalition, the Center for Responsible Lending, and Public Good are fighting back, to preserve protections for California car buyers.

Who would benefit the most if AB 380 passes?

One of the biggest winners would be Credit Acceptance Corp. What’s their business model?

Mother Jones: “They Had Created this Remarkable System for Taking Every Last Dime from Their Customers: Welcome to the Lucrative, Predatory World of Subprime Auto Loans”

Here’s why groups that work on behalf of consumers and against powerful, crooked special interests are opposing AB 380:

Large coalition of pro-consumer, pro-economic justice organizations opposes AB 380

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety opposes AB 380 (Dababneh)

Consumer Federation of California

CALPIRG

What’s wrong with e-contracting in car transactions?

Unscrupulous car dealers and shady lenders LOVE “e-contracting.” A LOT. That’s because the combination of high-pressure sales tactics at the car dealership — aimed at consumers who are often tired and feeling rushed after hours of haggling and test-driving cars — and all-electronic transactions make it much easier for dealers and crooked lenders to get away with fraud, forgery, and other illicit (but oh-so profitable!) flim-flam.

Among crooked car dealers’ favorite e-contracting scams: selling cars in excess of the agreed-upon price, “packing” loans with thousands of dollars in unwanted, high-profit, worthless add-ons, overcharging for license fees and pocketing the difference, selling cars that fail to pass smog,  charging bogus “government” fees, and engaging in other types of fraud.

Unlike with home purchases, where there are strict, built-in protections, auto sales transactions fail to require the seller to provide you with a written, good faith estimate of all the costs three days in advance, before you sign.  Buying a car is much riskier. It’s also riskier than credit card transactions, where there are limits on your liability in the event of identity theft or fraud.

You have a lot to lose

Under the federal Truth in Lending Act, you are entitled to get all the disclosures about an auto loan in writing. BEFORE you sign anything. Like: What will the monthly payments be? How much will you have to pay in interest?  How long will the loan last? Up front. In your own hands. Then if you wish, you can leave the dealership and take that document with you and shop around, to see if you can find another dealer or lender who will beat that offer. You have that important right, thanks to federal law.

California law also prohibits dealers from using e-contracts. That means when you buy a car in California, the dealer should hand you a paper document, with everything in writing, all nicely filled in. You can look at the entire document at one time, or zero in on any part of it. You get to review the whole contract before you decide whether you want to agree to anything. You can tell that “friendly” F & I manager to stop hovering over you, while you read it. You can take it with you while you sip a cup of coffee in a quiet spot. You can show it to your spouse, or friends, or an attorney, or anyone you wish,  BEFORE you sign.

But if the dealers and lenders have their way, and gut California’s law against e-contracting in auto sales, dealers will be able to get away with concealing vital terms on a computer screen that you may not even be able to read. You certainly cannot take the computer or e-pad with you and shop around. It won’t be in your control. Instead, it will be in the dealership’s control.

If  AB 380 passes, car dealers can lure consumers into signing in advance that they agreed to let the dealer use e-contracting, to buy a car.  They can make it sound like it’s no big deal. Then they can use that against car buyers, if there are any disagreements over what they agreed upon. Making matters worse, “signing” can be done by anyone who has access to the computer — with the click of a mouse.  It would become virtually impossible to prove your signature was forged. Your “signature” could be added with a click. By anyone.

And — you won’t get anything in writing, on paper, until AFTER the documents have already been “signed.” By then, it’s too late, and you may be held legally obligated to pay, even if you are the victim of a scam.

Consumers fight back

Some dealers in California have jumped the gun and are already acting as if it were legal for them to use e-contracts. With unfortunate but predictable results. Consumers are starting to complain they didn’t get to see the screen, and dealers are adding thousands of dollars extra, above the purchase price that was negotiated; giving the consumers thousands less than the agreed-upon value of their trade-ins; and adding in worthless, expensive service contracts  — even when the consumers rejected them, during negotiations. One dealer added over $4000 in multiple unwanted, worthless extra service contracts onto the purchase of a new car, plus “surface protection” costing over $1200 and “Lo Jack” costing $695 — extremely high-profit items for car dealers.

In some cases, consumers have won the right take these dealers to court, because the judges agreed that the contracts were not binding, citing the existing law that prohibits e-contracting. Otherwise, the consumers could be forced into arbitration, basically being compelled to surrender their Constitutional right to fight back in a court of law.

If the predatory dealers and lenders win, and AB 380 passes, consumers would be likely to lose those court challenges they are winning now, and could be forced to give up their ability to hold unscrupulous dealers accountable.

Winners and Losers

If AB 380 passes, the biggest winners will be large auto dealership chains like AutoNation, which took in over $19 billion in gross revenue in 2014. They are publicly traded on Wall Street. Their biggest investor? Bill Gates.

The biggest losers will be California’s new and used car buyers who can ill-afford to give away thousands of their hard-earned dollars to mega-dealers and big banks for the privilege of being ripped off.

What can you do to help stop AB 380, the crooked car dealers and fraudulent lenders’ favorite bill?

Call your Assemblymember and tell them to vote NO on AB 380. Buying a car from a car dealer in California is already dangerous enough.  Here’s where to find out who your Assemblymember in Sacramento is: Find Your Legislator

Thank you! Every call helps make a difference!

Read more:

Large coalition of pro-consumer, pro-economic justice organizations opposes AB 380

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety opposes AB 380 (Dababneh)

More pro-consumer organizations are also opposing AB 380:

Consumer Federation of California

CALPIRG

Public Counsel

Attorney David Valdez, who represents many victims of unscrupulous auto dealers and lenders

 

 

 

CarMax sells cars with recalled, defective airbags — as “CarMax Quality Certified” cars

CarMax advertises that all of its cars must pass a “125+ point inspection.” They even post a long list of components on their website that they supposedly inspect, check, and repair, before they decide that a car qualifies to be sold as “CarMax Quality Certified.”

But — don’t be fooled. CarMax is selling LOTS of cars with defects that have killed and maimed people. Including cars with the dangerous, exploding Takata airbags that have killed at least 11 people and injured about 180 others, sometimes causing blindness or brain damage.  Shockingly, CarMax does NOT bother to get the defects fixed before they sell the cars.

Because of an exploding Takata airbag, one college student in an otherwise survivable crash bled to death. Tragically, CarMax cares more about maximizing its profits than protecting its customers, or their families.  CarMax tries to shift the responsibility for getting safety recalls performed onto its customers. But purchasers who buy cars with recalled Takata airbags are faced with a serious problem. There is a huge shortage of repair parts. Automotive experts predict it may take months, or years, before owners of the recalled cars can get the repairs done. Meanwhile, they are stuck driving a car that is a ticking automotive time bomb.

Read more: NBC: U.S. Confirms 11th Death Linked to Faulty Airbag Inflator

 

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

 

Can’t get your car registered? Stopped by Police? You are not alone.

According to the Associated Press, Minnesotan Philando Castile, who was shot and killed during an otherwise “routine” traffic stop, had been pulled over at least 52 times in recent years, in and around the Twin Cities, and cited for minor offenses. He had been assessed over $6500 in fines and fees, although many violations had been dismissed in court.

His tragic death is a stark and heartrending reminder of what can go horribly wrong when car drivers are pulled over by police. It should also raise serious, urgent questions about why some people are being pulled over at all.

Consumer and civil rights groups are raising alarms about a new law that was just enacted in California that will lead to many innocent people being pulled over by police, ticketed, having their cars impounded, and facing severe criminal sanctions. Why? Because car dealers failed to provide them with permanent license plates within the 90-day deadline for displaying permanent plates.

Governor Jerry Brown just signed the bill, AB 516, into law in the nation’s largest, most diverse state. It is now on track to take effect in January, 2019. So there is still time to change it before more innocent car buyers are harmed.

According to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area, “LCCR recently published, in collaboration with other groups, a report entitled Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California, which shows the many ways that low-income California drivers, and particularly communities of color, are impacted by unfair laws that result in license suspensions and hefty fines, and that lead people into an endless cycle of debt and court involvement from which they cannot extricate themselves. Rather than reverse this trend, AB 516 would contribute to it.”

Here’s why this obvious injustice keeps happening, and how AB 516 would make it worse:

Under California’s current law, car buyers who purchase new or used cars without permanent metal license plates, at a car dealership, pay the dealer $29 for an “electronic vehicle registration or transfer charge” plus an $80  “document processing charge” to handle the registration. Sometimes they pay an additional $100 or more for a “registration /transfer/titling fee.” Then they drive off the car lot with a document that is folded up and taped in the back window that shows the date of sale and other relevant information. The dealer is supposed to handle the registration, and send them the permanent plates, either directly or by hiring a company approved by the DMV.

Car buyers must install permanent plates as soon as they receive them, or within 90 days. There are no exceptions. The law says they have to put them on the car before the 91st day — even if they have not received them, through no fault of their own. No plates? Tough. Hapless car buyers still face being pulled over, ticketed, and having their car impounded.

The kicker: There is NO requirement for dealers to ensure that car buyers receive their permanent plates within the 90 days. Some dealers take advantage of this major loophole in the law to abuse the system and increase their profits. As a result, this scenario plays out all too often:

You pay good money to buy a car from a car dealer. You drive it home. You paid cash, or if you got a car loan, you are making the payments, in full and on time. Life is good. Until….

You are pulled over by the police. Why? Because the temporary registration has expired, and you have not received the permanent plates. Why not? Because the dealer failed to submit the registration documents to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As in, the dealer went out of business without paying the taxes he collected, or submitting documents to the DMV — some dealers do this to hundreds of people, then go belly up. OR —

  • The dealer entered the wrong Vehicle ID Number (VIN) into the system.
  • The dealer fired the person who handles vehicle registrations and hasn’t gotten around to hiring a replacement.
  • The dealer sold you a car that is registered in another state, which can take months to straighten out.
  • The dealer sold you a car with an unpaid lien, and the lender is demanding payment (which can run thousands of dollars) before it will release the title.
  • The dealer had the permanent plates sent to him, and not to you, so he can demand that you pay more, under threat of being pulled over again and again, and having your car impounded.
  • The DMV has a backlog in issuing permanent plates.
  • The DMV entered the wrong VIN.
  • Or — one of a myriad of other scenarios that are beyond your control.

None of that is your fault. You paid the fees for the dealer to properly register the car, when you bought it. It’s the dealer or the DMV who messed up. But who gets penalized? YOU.

According to consumer attorney Steven Simons, on July 19, 2014, Matthew Smith and his brother Luke bought a 2003 Acura for about $6900 (plus financing) from a dealership in Van Nuys, CA.  They paid the dealer the usual fees to handle the registration. But the dealer failed to follow through and do his job. Despite repeated attempts by the Smiths to get their car properly registered, and their fruitless attempts to get the DMV to assist them, to this day their Acura has not been properly registered, and they have not received their permanent plates. Meanwhile, police officers in several jurisdictions have repeatedly pulled Matthew over, including at gunpoint, and detained him for hours, searching him and his car.

Think this is wrong? We agree! Unfortunately, it’s going to get a lot worse, when AB 516 takes effect.

The author of AB 516 is Bay Area Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo). The most avid backers are toll authorities, who want temporary tags to be mandated, so they will rake in more revenue. Currently, they lose money when people who don’t have readily traceable plates drive through unattended toll booths without paying.

The other major backers are the car dealers. They keep pushing aggressively to shorten the amount of time car buyers have to install permanent plates, or face criminal penalties. California car buyers used to have 6 months to install permanent plates. Then in 2011, car dealers persuaded legislators to cut the time in half, to 90 days. Recently, car dealers tried to get lawmakers to slice the deadline in half again, to just 45 days. That bill has temporarily stalled, pending enactment of AB 516. But dealers are expected to bring it back.

The author claims that the first ticket you would get is supposedly just a “fix-it” ticket. So what’s the big deal?  Here’s the catch: you cannot fix it. Typically, people caught in this trap call the dealer and the DMV over and over again, file complaints, and even go in person and spend hours at the DMV and dealership waiting around, and pleading with them. What they discover is that getting the registration completed, so they can drive legally, is out of their hands. It is an exercise in extreme frustration.

Sometimes it takes over a year to get things straightened out. By then, many people are pulled over repeatedly and ticketed, and their cars are impounded. Even if they pay all the tickets and the hefty impound fees, they cannot get their cars back because they are not the registered owners.

What happens to many hard-working consumers when their cars are impounded? They often lose their only means of transportation to work, and their jobs. Then they default on the car loan. Guess who swoops in to take back the car? The dealer. Then he turns around and resells the same car, over and over again, making a profit each time. You, on the other hand, get stuck with no car, a repossession that harms your credit for at least 7 years, harassing phone calls from the lender demanding immediate payment of the remaining car loan, and no job.

The bottom line: the bill will play right into the hands of unscrupulous car dealers, who want customers to give up and default on car loans, because they can make bigger profits from reselling the cars, and trashing people’s lives. According to a major series of reports by Ken Bensinger at the Los Angeles Times, some dealers in California engage in the practice of “churning” cars — reselling the same car over and over again — as a regular business practice.

The bill would also make it easier for unscrupulous dealers to engage in an illegal practice known as “yo-yo” financing, which is very common, even among supposedly reputable car dealers. When dealers “yo-yo” a consumer, they sell them a car, hand them the keys, and encourage them drive it away. Weeks later, they reel them back in,  telling them the “financing fell through.” Then threaten to have the consumer arrested for driving with an expired registration, or to report the vehicle as “stolen.” They exploit the fear of criminal sanctions to extract a larger down payment, higher interest rate, or other terms more favorable to the dealer. They refuse to return the down payment or the traded-in vehicle, leaving car buyers over a barrel.

If AB 516 is enacted, dealers will be required to install temporary tags. Good idea. We are in favor of law enforcement agencies being able to properly identify the car and the car buyer. But — the temporary tags will be highly visible, and will have an expiration date that is easy to spot — and easy for a scanning device to pinpoint. Suddenly, people with expired temporary tags will become ridiculously easy to target. Enforcement of that 90-day deadline, which tends to be relatively spotty now, will skyrocket.

Here’s what will happen, only a vastly larger scale: In a village on Long Island, New York, “Since the scanners went live Nov. 2, they have been triggering an average of 700 alarms a day, mainly about cars on the road with expired or suspended registration stickers. Officers have impounded 500 vehicles. They’ve written more than 2,000 court summonses, mostly for minor violations.”

Plus — AB 516 would make altering even just the expiration date on a temporary tag a wobbler/ felony offense, subjecting car buyers to a potential prison sentence of 2-3 years. Imagine: you keep being pulled over by the police because you have not received your permanent plates. If you are detained one more time, making you late for work, you will lose your job. In your desperation you take a magic marker and change the expiration date. For this “horrible crime,” you will be at risk of having to do hard time in prison. Even though you have not altered the number of the temporary tag, and toll agencies and law enforcement can readily identify the car, for toll collection or public safety purposes.

Consumer groups and the California Police Officers Association worked together and drafted amendments to AB 516 that would have addressed these serious problems with the bill, and presented those to the author’s staff, at an in-person meeting. The amendments would have changed the bill so that:

  • When law enforcement officials detect that your car has a temporary tag with an expired date, they would have to check an existing law enforcement database, that they can already access electronically, to find out whether you were issued permanent plates. In a matter of seconds, they can tell. If the plates have not been sent to your address, you would not be issued a citation.
  • It would be an infraction, not a wobbler / felony, to alter just the expiration date on the temporary tag, leaving the rest of the tag unaltered and readily traceable.

The California Police Officers Association, to its credit, expressed the sentiment that its members are not overly eager to pull over and detain people who are already frustrated because they cannot get their permanent plates, so long as they properly display the temporary tags, and the car is readily identifiable for public safety purposes.

However, Assemblymember Mullin refused to accept those amendments. Instead, he added a “fig leaf” to the bill that would require consumers who have not received their permanent plates to prove their own innocence by obtaining a form from the DMV and showing it, if they are detained. That may sound easy, but in reality, it’s just another Catch-22. The form cited in the bill requires that you sign, under penalty of perjury, that you are the “registered owner of record.” But that’s the problem. You are not the registered owner. That is why you didn’t receive your permanent plates. Gotcha.

Read more — letters opposing  AB 516:

Courage Campaign

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Consumer Federation of California

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney and Judge Pro-Tem Steven Simons

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney David Valdez

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney Greg Babbitt

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney Balam Latona

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area

Citizens United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)

Law firm of Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Automobile Dealers Association in denial about safety

The President of the National Automobile Dealers Association, Colorado car dealer Jeff Carlson, claims that only 6% of recalled vehicles are “hazardous.” That means he thinks that cars like this one, that killed a 17-year-old Texas teenager, are NOT “hazardous.”

ABC News report: 17-year-old killed by exploding Takata air bag

Try telling that to her family.

That also means that he doesn’t consider any of these defects, which have killed and maimed many car drivers and their passengers, to be “hazardous”:

  • Stalling in traffic
  • Catching on fire
  • Faulty brakes
  • Steering loss
  • Seat belts that fail in a crash
  • Axles that break
  • Hoods that fly up while you’re driving in traffic
  • Sticking accelerator pedals
  • GM ignition switches that turn off and eliminate power steering and braking, and cause air bags to fail to deploy

Automotive News report: Carlson vows to press NADA’s fight against regulation

Bottom line: Carlson and NADA cannot be trusted to decide whether a car is safe to sell. When it comes to safety, they are absolutely clueless. And a real danger to American society.

CarMax – still selling unsafe cars with lethal safety defects

CarMax is the nation’s largest retailer of used cars. Unlike some of its competitors, it has a policy of deliberately selling its customers vehicles that it knows are unsafe. Consumers who buy cars from CarMax risk being sold cars with defects that have caused tragic deaths and injuries.  Defects like stalling in traffic, catching on fire, faulty brakes, air bags that spew metal fragments that cause blindness or bleeding to death, seat belts that fail in a crash, axles that break, steering loss, rolling away while supposedly parked, hoods that fly up in traffic, sticking accelerator pedals, and other dangerous defects.

Please warn your family and friends.  Check out these TV reports to find out more about how CarMax is deceiving and tricking people into buying unsafe cars — putting them and their families at risk, and endangering the lives of others who share the roads.

ABC’s 20/20’s investigative report

WCVB 5 Boston report

 

 

 

 

Buy a car, go to jail

California is on the brink of enacting an automotive Catch-22 that will cause more people to be pulled over by police and ticketed. For what? The crime of having expired  temporary license tags on their cars.  Even if they haven’t received their permanent license plates, through no fault of their own.

California allows car buyers only 90 days to put on their permanent plates. With NO exceptions. So — what happens when car dealers fail to submit the registration forms and go out of business, leaving dozens of consumers in the lurch? Or when the Department of Motor Vehicles messes up? Or when the plates are sent to the wrong address, or stolen?  YOU are out of luck.

In fact, the law says you have to put the plates on as soon as you get them, or within 90 days, whichever comes first. But what if you don’t get them within 90 days?  Tough. Try calling the DMV and the dealer. Good luck with that. And here’s the kicker: There is NO law that requires car dealers to ensure that the plates are sent to you within the 90 days. Gotcha. Catch-22.

If the dealer fails to submit the registration, YOU are subject to being pulled over and ticketed. If you get too many tickets, your car can be impounded.

What if you get desperate and alter the expiration date on the temporary tag, so you can get to work without being pulled over, while you try to get your permanent plates?  The bill would make altering a temporary tag a new FELONY offense, punishable by hefty fines and imprisonment of 2-3 years.

One hapless consumer bought a car from a major franchised new car dealership in Southern California. The dealer failed to submit the registration forms.  As a result, the car buyer got so many tickets, his car was impounded. He paid off all the tickets. But he was still unable to get his car back because the dealer still failed to submit the proper documentation so it could be registered. Until it was registered, he couldn’t get it back. He eventually sued the dealer and according to his attorney, he won. But should you have to file a lawsuit just to get back your own car?

The bill number is AB 516, and the author is Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-Burlingame). The bill is backed by — surprise!! — car dealers. Plus toll authorities, who stand to increase toll collections by millions of dollars.

Mullin’s bill is opposed by civil rights and consumer groups, including the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area writes:  “LLCR recently published, in collaboration with other groups, a report entitled Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California, which shows the many ways that low-income California drivers, and particularly communities of color, are impacted by unfair laws that result in license suspensions, and hefty fines, and that lead people into an endless cycle of debt and court involvement from which they cannot extricate themselves. Rather than reverse this trend, AB 516 would contribute to it.”

Adding insult to injury: the bill would raise the amount car dealers are allowed to charge car buyers as a “document fee” from $80 to $90.  If the bill passes, car buyers will  pay car dealers more, supposedly to handle the registration and spare them the hassle of dealing with the DMV. But guess what. The dealer still doesn’t have to get you the permanent plates in time for you to avoid being pulled over and ticketed. AHA. Catch-22.

Read more:

News report:  Car Dealers Making Yo-Yos out of CA Legislators

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: License Plate Bill Needs a Quick Fix

The Daily Journal: Temp License Plate bill moves forward

Letters opposing this bill:

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Law firm of Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg

 

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

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.

 

Has GM changed its stripes?

General Motors executives, rocked by revelations about GM’s failure to fix known defects in its 2005 -2007 Chevy Cobalts and other cars the manufacturer produced in 2005 – 2007, seek to portray the company in a more favorable light, claiming  that the mistakes of the past belong to the “Old GM” and the “New GM”  has changed its stripes and is now more responsible and caring.

But — is it? You be the judge. Here’s what’s happening:  At the same time GM struggles to be perceived as a kindler, gentler company that actually cares about its customers’ safety, it is actively blocking legislation in the US Senate to stop rental car companies from renting unsafe, recalled vehicles to consumers. In other words, if an unrepaired, recalled Cobalt happens to show up in a rental car fleet, they are perfectly willing to keep playing “recalled car roulette” with your life.

GM’s position, argued in revealing testimony by Mitch Bainwol, Executive Director of the Auto Alliance, which includes GM, is that they don’t want to have to compensate rental car companies for the down time, when the manufacturers’ unsafe, defective products languish on rental car company lots while the manufacturers and their suppliers crank out the parts necessary to fix the safety defects. The fact the manufacturers are obviously responsible for making the defective products in the first place somehow doesn’t seem to register in their consciousness. To them, it’s all about avoiding any added costs, even if that means putting their customers’ safety at risk.

Adding fuel to suspicions about GM’s supposed change of heart: GM’s now offering concerned owners of the recalled cars a loaner, to be supplied by a GM dealer. However, they have not revealed what standards, if any, the loaner cars must meet. Is GM allowing its dealers to loan out vehicles that are under a safety recall?

If you think this scenario sounds far-fetched, think again. GM dealers are opposing the same federal legislation (S 921), named for Raechel and Jacqueline Houck —  two sisters, ages 20 and 24, who were killed by a recalled rental car. GM dealers are also fighting against a popular bill currently pending in California (SB 686) that would stop them from selling, renting, leasing, or loaning unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers.

Fe Lastrella, who lost her son, daughter, granddaughter (age 13) and son-in-law in a horrific crash near San Diego, after a Toyota dealer loaned her family a runaway Lexus while their new Lexus was in the dealership for routine maintenance, gave heartbreaking testimony in favor of the California loaner car safety measure.

Dealer lobbyists dismissed her testimony as irrelevant, because the crash involved a Lexus that had not yet been recalled — although her family’s tragedy raised public awareness and sparked a massive Toyota recall.  Instead, they argued that anytime there is a delay in getting repair parts, they should not be expected to stop loaning unsafe, recalled vehicles to consumers.

According to statewide polling, 88% of likely California voters disagree, and favor banning dealers from foisting unsafe, recalled vehicles into their customers. Of those, 78% “strongly” favor the restrictions.

Apparently GM and its dealers think the media can only focus on one auto safety disaster story at a time, and won’t connect the dots.

Video of US Senate hearing — GM represented by Mitch Bainwol, from Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, including GM

Senator Barbara Boxer asks: Should a rental car company be able to rent vehicles to the public when they’re under a safety recall?  Responses from auto manufacturers and dealers

Testimony of Fe Lastrella, who lost her daughter, son, granddaughter (age) 13 and son-in-law in horrific crash, due to an unsafe loaner car from Bob Baker Toyota / Lexus

Dealer lobbyists: Don’t stop us from renting, leasing, selling, or loaning unsafe recalled autos to consumers

Other vehicles besides the Chevy Cobalt included in the safety recall (so far):  2007 Pontiac G5s, 2003-7 Saturn Ions, 2006-7 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-7 Pontiac Solstices, and 2007 Saturn Skys,

Graco recalls child safety seats

Graco Children’s Products announced that it’s recalling almost 3.8 million car seats because faulty buckles can stick, leaving children trapped. Some parents have had to cut the straps in order to get their children out of the seats. In addition to being a pain to deal with, the child seats pose a serious hazard to infants and children if the vehicle is in a crash or catches fire.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the recall does not include an additional 1.8 million Graco child seats that have the same buckles, and should also be recalled and repaired. NHTSA has indicated that if Graco does not recall the rest of the affected seats, the agency may take legal action to force a wider recall.

The seats in the recall are the 2009 to 2013 model years of the Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite and Argos 70.

Read more: New York Times: Graco recalls child safety seats

WARNING!! Unfortunately, you can’t trust car dealers to make sure that safety recalls are performed before they sell you a used car. Dealers keep getting caught selling unsafe, recalled vehicles to consumers, claiming they’re perfectly safe, when they are not. Dealers are opposing legislation in Congress and in California that would help protect car buyers and their families from unsafe, recalled automobiles.

Read more:  Car dealers play “Used Car Roulette” with customers’ lives