Safety Crusaders

Rosemary Shahan: from a lemon she made... lemon laws

By Caroline Mayer

Consumer activist Rosemary Shahan was at one time so inexperienced that the posters she used to picket an auto dealer were completely illegible. This is the same Shahan whose tireless campaigns have led to lemon laws around the country, airbag requirements for every car sold in the U.S., numerous auto recalls, and a car buyer’s Bill of Rights in California.

Since 1979, Shahan has worked aggressively to expose deceptive and illegal practices, recall unsafe or defective vehicles, and improve auto safety technology. (For example, we can thank Shahan for making car manufacturers install height adjusters for seat belts). Currently, she is working to get California and other states to participate in the National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System. This national  information-sharing database allows law enforcement agents, and buyers and sellers of motor vehicles to track car histories. Doing so could curtail fraud involving vehicles damaged in wrecks or floods as well as identify stolen vehicles.

Shahan well deserves to be on this blog’s list of Safety Crusaders. Like many of our previous crusaders, she didn’t deliberately set out to be a consumer activist. It all happened by chance—and somewhat spontaneously—after a California auto dealer repeatedly failed to fix her car, damaged in a collision, in a timely fashion. "They kept saying it would be done and it wasn't," Shahan recently recalled. “After three months, they admitted they hadn’t even ordered all the parts yet ... and said if we complained, they would put bad parts in the car. They even showed us samples of bad parts.” Shahan, then an English teacher, started to picket the dealership. “I was a terrible picketer. At first, people couldn’t read my signs.” But over time, her signs improved and more and more people approached Shahan to tell her their own car horror stories.

That was in 1980, when California’s state law said consumers had to give manufacturers a “reasonable” number of repair attempts before a car could be considered a lemon. “But nobody knew what was reasonable and at one hearing, Ford said it would take up to 30 tries” before it deemed a car a lemon, Shahan said.

That acknowledgement led to the drafting of a state lemon law in California that served as a model for similar laws across the country. Now, Shahan says, car manufacturers have four chances in California to repair a new car before it is labeled a lemon and the consumer is entitled to a full refund or replacement vehicle.

Shahan never got her wrecked car back, but she used a financial settlement from the dealer to launch a consumer advocacy group, now called CARS for Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, that has been on the leading edge of many auto-safety issues.

For the record, Shahan drives a 1988 Volvo, which she bought new because it had a driver's side airbag -- a new feature at the time. It now has 230,000 miles on it. “It’s a workhorse,” says Shahan. So too is Shahan -- and for that we are safer, and most grateful.

You can find out more about Shahan and her crusade at the CARS Web site:

Do you know any Safety Crusader candidates? Please let us know.

text resize Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size

C.A.R.S. Mission
CARS is a national, award-winning,
non-profit auto safety and consumer
advocacy organization working to
save lives, prevent injuries, and
protect consumers from
auto-related fraud and abuse.

to everyone who has supported CARS' work, including the more than 589,000 people who have contributed financially
to CARS, and signed or shared CARS' petitions. YOU are helping save precious lives!!

Donate here

Follow us on Twitter   Follow us on Twitter

Twitter blocked our
original CARS account
because we told the truth
about dangerous recalled cars,
Trump, and AutoNation

Follow us on Twitter
Here are the two tweets Twitter censored:


Read more at American Prospect:
"What's Up With Twitter's Content Moderation Policies?"  

CarMax sells cars with
deadly safety recall defects.
ABC's 20/20 went undercover and caught
CarMax up to their sneaky tricks.
More than 730,000 viewers have watched this video clip on CARS' YouTube channel
Help save lives -- share the link!

Take Action
Sign C.A.R.S.' petition (so far, signed
by over 117,000 people like you):
Tell CarMax to stop selling unsafe,
recalled cars to consumers
Take Action

Find us on Facebook
Learn more
about the
CARS Foundation
Follow us on Twitter
Help tell the
world that
We NEVER Surrender!
Follow us on Twitter
Visit today!

Buyer Beware! Auto dealers use
forced arbitration
to get away with cheating customers
Even when car dealers flagrantly violate consumer protection laws, you may not be able to get justice. That's because almost 100% of car dealers stick "forced arbitration" clauses into their contracts. If they cheat you, and you try to take them to court, they can just laugh at you. That's because they can get your case kicked into arbitration -- a secret, rigged process that favors big, corrupt lawbreakers. The dealer often gets to choose the arbitration firm, and even the arbitrator who hears your case. Unlike judges, arbitrators are perfectly free to ignore the law.

Dealers claim that arbitration is quick. But Jon Perz in San Diego had to wait over 8 years in "arbitration limbo" before he finally got justice, after Mossy Toyota sold him an unsafe car. CARS produced a short video exposing what happened. More than 1.3 million people have watched our video on YouTube:
See the billboard CARS displayed
right next to Mossy Toyota's car lot,
and read more about how Jon finally won.

Please Donate to CARS