Putting the squeeze on lemon dealers.Gayle Pena Labarrere had no reason to think that her 1989 I Chevrolet Suburban This article is about a type of vehicle. For other uses, see Suburb.
The Chevrolet Suburban is a large sport utility vehicle from Chevrolet. It is one of the longest-lived automobile nameplates in the United States, dating from 1935 and is likely to be produced pickup would have trouble hauling I a twenty-four-foot trailer. But in 1990, on a trip home to Cotati, California Cotati is a city in Sonoma County, California, United States. Cotati's hexagonal downtown plaza is listed as a California Historical Landmark, one of only two hexagonal town layouts in the United States. The population was 6,471 at the 2000 census. , after a week-long vacation in Lake Tahoe, Labarrere and her then-husband Greg Pena were driving down a winding Sierra Nevada Sierra Nevada, mountain range, Spain
Sierra Nevada (syā`rä nāvä`thä), chief mountain range of S Spain, in Granada prov., running from east to west for c.60 mi (100 km), parallel to the Mediterranean Sea. incline when the car's brakes brakes out.
Greg pressed the brake pedal to the floor, with no luck. Then he had to veer the car around a blind corner and into the opposite lane to get off the road.
"We had developed so much speed we could not stay in our own lane," Labarrere says. "On one side was a gravel pullout pull·out
1. A withdrawal, especially of troops.
2. Change from a dive to level flight. Used of an aircraft.
3. An object designed to be pulled out.
Noun 1. area for trucks. On the other side was a fifty-foot drop."
Fortunately, the couple got out alive--no thanks to the car dealer. Labarrere had bought the Suburban off the new car lot at a Santa Rosa, California Santa Rosa is the county seat of Sonoma County, California, USA. As of January 1 2007, the population of Santa Rosa was approximately 157,985 residents. Santa Rosa is the largest city in California's Wine Country and fifth largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, after San , dealership just four months earlier. The car had 10,500 miles on it, but the salesman told Labarrere that it was a General Motors executive vehicle, used exclusively by company management.
Soon after Labarrere bought the vehicle, she began experiencing unusual difficulties. "The next day it had a problem with one of the electric windows. From there on out there were multiple problems with the vehicle, from electrical problems, to windshield wipers
The Wipers were a punk rock group formed in Portland, Oregon in 1977 by guitarist Greg Sage, drummer Sam Henry and bassist Dave Koupal. not working, to door locks not working, and then we had a problem with the brakes," she says. "You put on the brakes, and the vehicle would dive to the left."
When Labarrere took her pickup back to the dealership after she and her husband were nearly killed, the staff assured her she must have been driving too fast. She left the vehicle with the shop, and when she got it back the dealers told her that there was nothing wrong with it. But the brakes still didn't work--Labarrere says they were even worse than when she had brought it in. After seven or eight similar repair attempts, Labarrere became suspicious. She called the General Motors toll-free number, asked for the original shipping information on her vehicle, and learned that the company had originally sold the car to a dealership in Napa, California
Napa is the county seat of Napa County, California. It is the principal city of the Napa county Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses Napa county. . When she drove to Napa and asked the dealer for the service records on her truck, she discovered that the previous owner--who was no G.M. executive--had attempted from eighteen to twenty repairs on the vehicle and had finally convinced the dealer to buy it back.
Instead of taking the truck to the "autopsy ground," the company sent it thirty five miles away to the Santa Rosa Santa Rosa, city, Argentina
Santa Rosa, city (1991 pop. 80,629), capital of La Pampa prov., central Argentina. It is a modern city and road junction surrounded by a rich agricultural and cattle-raising area. dealership. In uncovering this scam, Labarrere unearthed Unearthed is the name of a Triple J project to find and "dig up" (hence the name) hidden talent in regional Australia.
Unearthed has had three incarnations - they first visited each region of Australia where Triple J had a transmitter - 41 regions in all. one of the most profitable rackets rackets
Game for two or four players with ball and racket on a four-walled court. Rackets is played with a hard ball in a relatively large court (approximately 9 × 18 m), unlike the related games of squash and racquetball. in the automotive industry The automotive industry is the industry involved in the design, development, manufacture, marketing, and sale of motor vehicles. In 2006, more than 69 million motor vehicles, including cars and commercial vehicles were produced worldwide. lemon laundering.
Labarrere filed suit against General Motors, and the California Division of Motor Vehicles launched a statewide investigation into lemon laundering. As a result, in the early 1990s the state Division of Motor Vehicles filed two major lawsuits against G.M. and chrysler. Each alleged fraudulent resale of more than 100 vehicles. In 1994, G.M. settled the case, paying $330,000 in damages. The suit against Chrysler has yet to be resolved.
Car manufacturers or dealers repurchase more than 50,000 vehicles with "serious safety defects" each year, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. a 1991 statement by the National Association of Attorneys General The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is an organization in the United States of U.S. state Attorneys General which, according to the organization itself, " . Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), a lobbyist group in Sacramento, estimates that the number of repurchased vehicles has since risen to more than 100,000 each year, based on information auto companies provided to the Federal Transportation Commission in July 1996.
The companies subsequently recycle many of these back into the marketplace--often to unsuspecting buyers. In 1991, the National Association of Attorneys General estimated that consumers spent $750 million on these faulty vehicles; CARS now estimates that cost to be closer to $2 billion. In 1991, the California Arbitration Review Program recorded almost 5,000 consumer requests for arbitration under the state's lemon law lemon law n. statutes adopted in some states to make it easier for a buyer of a new vehicle to sue for damages or replacement if the dealer or manufacturer cannot make it run properly after a reasonable number of attempts to fix the car. . According to CARS, only about 25 percent of Californians who seek relief are granted buy-backs.
"Corporations are dumping their dangerously defective products back into the market," says Rosemary Shahan, president of CARS. "They buy back [a defective car] from the first owner, who has the best chance of getting an attorney, and they resell it to someone who is more vulnerable and less able to fight. People who own these things "These Things" is an EP by She Wants Revenge, released in 2005 by Perfect Kiss, a subsidiary of Geffen Records. Music Video
The music video stars Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage. Track Listing
1. "These Things [Radio Edit]" - 3:17
2. don't even know what they have. They just know they have a car they can't seem to get fixed."
Philip Nowicki is the president of the national automotive research and consulting firm Noun 1. consulting firm - a firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee
business firm, firm, house - the members of a business organization that owns or operates one or more establishments; "he worked for a , P.R. Nowicki and Company, which specializes in motor-vehicle lemon laws Laws governing the rights of purchasers of new and used motor vehicles that do not function properly and which have to be returned repeatedly to the dealer for repairs. . As former director of the lemon-law program in the Florida attorney general's office, Nowicki completed one of the most comprehensive investigations of automobile laundering in Florida from 1993 to 1995. He discovered that auto companies had resold at least 3,400 irreparable vehicles in that state, and that lemon laundering was commonly practiced by "all the major manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Volkswagen, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai." Concludes Nowicki: "There's no stellar performance on anyone's part."
Not true, says Max Gates, communications manager for the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, which represents Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. In 1996, the association polled its companies in response to allegations of lemon laundering, said Gates. It found that "of the thousands of vehicles that are repurchased each year, only about 1 percent are repurchased as a result of lemon-law litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. ."
Reselling lemons "is not a common event," he says.
But Nowicki says most dealers involved in reselling faulty vehicles in his state failed to notify prospective buyers of the cars' trouble. In some cases, the dealers would simply sell the car as new. Nowicki estimates that consumers spend about $100 million each year on defective vehicles companies have resold under false pretenses False representations of material past or present facts, known by the wrongdoer to be false, and made with the intent to defraud a victim into passing title in property to the wrongdoer. .
That's what happened to Terri Skogebo, a kindergarten teacher in Antelope, California Antelope is an unincorporated area of Sacramento County, California, USA located approximately 18 miles (29 km) northeast of downtown Sacramento and 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Roseville. , who bought a 1988 Plymouth Colt Vista for $15,000 from Auto West Dodge in Roseville, California Roseville is a city in Placer County, California, located in the metropolitan area of Sacramento. As of January 1 2007 the population was 106,266. Interstate Highway 80 runs through Roseville and California Route 65 bisects the northern part of the city. , in 1989. Her "brand new" Chrysler minivan, it turned out, had already made a few trips to the shop in unsuccessful attempts to repair a defective frame. After driving the car for a year, Skogebo discovered that the "tires were wearing funny," and found that the vibrations at highway speeds made it "difficult to drive straight."
When she took the vehicle back to the dealership, Skogebo says the service manager told her, "We can't fix the car for an alignment problem because we worked on that before." Skogebo explained to the man that she was the first owner of the vehicle and had never taken it in for repairs. What he was saying couldn't possibly be true, she told him. "He immediately stopped talking to Noun 1. talking to - a lengthy rebuke; "a good lecture was my father's idea of discipline"; "the teacher gave him a talking to"
rebuke, reprehension, reprimand, reproof, reproval - an act or expression of criticism and censure; "he had to me, and then they wouldn't give me my car back," she said in an interview.
Later, when Skogebo returned to the dealership to retrieve the paperwork on her Colt to take to the Division of Motor Vehicles, she says the dealer shredded all the papers in front of her. As she testified in court some years later, a Chrysler representative told her that "the car was defective before I bought it" and that "they were not able to get it back to specifications." She called the Chrysler customer service toll-free number and explained what had happened. The agent advised her to sue the dealership and the car manufacturer .
After she filed suit, Chrysler settled with Skogebo for $14,000 and the company agreed to buy the car back from her. But that wasn't the end of the 1988 Plymouth Colt Vista.
Two years later, a Sacramento couple Lourdes Sodari-Smith and Roger Smith. bought the same vehicle from Marin Dodge, a franchised Chrysler dealer. According to court papers, the couple received no notification that the vehicle had been a lemon buy-back. "Had we known it had been repurchased for faults, we would never have purchased the vehicle," Sodari-Smith told the California Division of Motor Vehicles during a hearing on Chrysler lemon-laundering charges in 1995.
Although the Smiths settled with Chrysler for $16,000, the car was still not taken off the roads. According to CARS president Shahan, the company sold it yet again. The state of California accused Chrysler of reselling 119 defective vehicles. It was the state's biggest lemon-laundering case ever. An administrative law judge administrative law judge n. a professional hearing officer who works for the government to preside over hearings and appeals involving governmental agencies. They are generally experienced in the particular subject matter of the agency involved or of several agencies. found that Chrysler had defrauded its customers, and in October 1996, the Division of Motor Vehicles revoked the manufacture's license for forty-five days and suspended the company's activities at 300 dealerships throughout the state. According to the Division of Motor Vehicles order, "Chrysler affirmatively misled consumers and dealers by failing to disclose material facts known to it regarding the condition of these vehicles."
But in August 1997, the New Motor Vehicle Board, a seven-member panel, overturned the DMV's decision and rescinded the suspension order. Lew Goldfarb, assistant general counsel for Chrysler Corporation, says the New Motor Vehicle Board found that the state Division of Motor Vehicles had engaged in misconduct during the trial because the agency had failed to notify Chrysler of administrative information that would have helped the auto manufacturer's case. "It's a pretty resounding re·sound
v. re·sound·ed, re·sound·ing, re·sounds
1. To be filled with sound; reverberate: The schoolyard resounded with the laughter of children.
2. turnaround," he says. Furthermore, says Goldfarb, lemon laundering may have been an issue in the early 1990s, but today it simply doesn't exist. "It's a non-issue," he says. "Not only Chrysler, but every other company around the country does it right and makes all the necessary disclosures. This is not a problem in California or the rest of the country."
California Division of Motor Vehicles spokesman Evan Nosoff says the case is still in the appeals process, and he's confident that Chrysler will be forced to change the way it does business. "We're pursuing our suit, and so far we have been upheld on the merits on the merits adj. referring to a judgment, decision or ruling of a court based upon the facts presented in evidence and the law applied to that evidence. A judge decides a case "on the merits" when he/she bases the decision on the fundamental issues and considers ," he says.
Bruce and Donna Gray, a publisher and a teacher's aide "Teacher's Aide" is an episode of the television series The New Twilight Zone. Cast
Gray was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Canadian parents. He was raised on the island until the age of ten when, in 1946, his parents relocated to Saginaw, Michigan then in , there were many more problems that were not disclosed, including the fact that the jeep would regularly stall while going fifty-five miles per hour.
"One thing was disclosed to us, but in fact the history of the car was that it had seven pages of flaws from day one," he said. "Seventy-five to a hundred things were wrong with it, and it had been in the shop more days than it had been out." Gray discovered that the car had been bought back from another customer, who was told that it would be crushed. The Grays are currently suing Chrysler.
Gates of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association says that if people like the Grays are being misled, it's not the automakers' doing. "Whenever these vehicles are repurchased for any reason, it is clearly documented," he says. "It is pretty clear to anyone purchasing that vehicle that it is a buy-back and why it is being bought back."
But Nowicki, who has prepared several national studies on lemon laundering for the Federal Trade Commission, claims the Grays' case is typical: Sometimes dealers reduce the price on defective vehicles and disclose some of the problems. But on average, a dealer makes about $4,000 more than it should by neglecting to disclose the vehicle's history. In some cases, the vehicles would have no value at all if the dealer told the truth. Up to several thousand cars each year may have defects that could be life-threatening, Nowicki says.
No matter how egregious the fraud, it can be difficult to fight car manufacturers and dealers and recoup financial losses. The cost of bringing a suit can run anywhere from $15,000 to $500,000, says Bryan Kemnitzer, a lawyer in San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden who specializes in consumer litigation. The plaintiff could win from $25,000 to $300,000 in damages, depending on the severity of the defect. But, in most cases, the manufacturers are willing to expend resources far beyond the consumers' means, and many lemon owners would rather make a deal with the manufacturers. "I'm one consumer who fought back, but there are a million who just roll over," says Labarrere, who joined the board of CARS after her experience with Chrysler. "They don't have the resources or the tenacity to fight, and they let the company buy back the vehicle for much less than they paid."
When consumers don't pursue legal remedies to the bitter end to the last extremity, however calamitous.
See also: Bitter , however, manufacturers sometimes claim that they bought the car back, not because it was faulty, but "to promote customer satisfaction." In this way, the automakers can circumvent disclosure requirements outlined in state lemon laws.
According to consumer groups, car manufacturers also avoid compliance by moving vehicles from state to state. "We've tracked lemons from Hawaii to Virginia," Shahan says. "We've tracked Vermont's lemons and found that they were being sent to Massachusetts and New Hampshire New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut R. forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E). . It's like old lemons never die ... they just get shipped around."
Although all fifty states have lemon laws that apply to the first buyer of a vehicle, only thirty-eight states require disclosure to the second owner. Those thirty-eight offer varying degrees of protection to consumers. For example, California requires manufacturers to brand the titles of faulty vehicles with the words, "Lemon Law Buyback," while South Dakota requires a brand that reads, "This vehicle was returned to the manufacturer because it did not conform to its warranty." Twelve states don't have any branding or disclosure requirements at all--Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
"There's nothing illegal about interstate commerce interstate commerce
In the U.S., any commercial transaction or traffic that crosses state boundaries or that involves more than one state. Government regulation of interstate commerce is founded on the commerce clause of the Constitution (Article I, section 8), which ," contends Gates, who says that auto manufacturers may sometimes be confused because there are so many different lemon-law requirements in different states. "The question is, does the appropriate paperwork follow?"
Though wary of weakening some of the nation's strongest state lemon laws, many consumer groups now recognize the need for uniform rules that will govern car manufacturers and dealers no matter where they do business. The automakers also say they favor national guidelines.
"We have been strong supporters of uniform federal guidelines on the disclosure requirements," says Gates. "Our preference would be to see it done through legislation in Congress."
Shahan says car-safety advocates are afraid to seek help from Congress, since auto manufacturers are a powerful lobby in the nation's capital. According to the Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Times
Morning daily newspaper. Established in 1881, it was purchased and incorporated in 1884 by Harrison Gray Otis (1837–1917) under The Times-Mirror Co. (the hyphen was later dropped from the name). of September 21, 1997, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler were among the top eighty-five Fortune 500 contributors to 1995-1996 federal campaigns. Together, the big three donated more than $1.5 million to federal election campaigns. Shahan says that as a result, there has been a "power vacuum" in Congress around automotive issues.
Meanwhile, car manufacturers are becoming more brazen about asserting their power. Both General Motors and Chrysler have included confidentiality agreements, or gag orders, in their buy-back agreements. Chrysler's reads: "Except as permitted by law, I agree not to talk about the details of this agreement and release to anyone." A November 26 letter to the Federal Trade Commission from General Motors legal staff member George Velez defends the practice. "Confidentiality agreements have their legitimate place," he writes. General Motors asked Gayle Pena Labarrere to sign a gag agreement as part of her settlement. She agreed not to disclose the amount of the settlement, but the company pursued a blanket gag. "I got up and walked out and told them to forget it," says Labarrere.
But the pressure didn't stop there. When Labarrere became a witness in the California Division of Motor Vehicles case against General Motors, she says the car manufacturer and dealer came after her. "It was really horrific, very hot and heavy for a long time," she says. "We had to testify and we were told that it would be a `good time to take a vacation."' Later, she says, General Motors attorneys told her, "Just remember, we are very big and you are very small." She claims she also received explicit death threats. In the end, the case proved both financially and emotionally devastating dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. . Fearful and exhausted, the couple decided to move to Arizona. "It had become such an ugly thing, we decided it would be better to get up and move out of state," she says.
Nina Siegal is senior staff reporter with the San Francisco Bay Guardian The San Francisco Bay Guardian (also known as the SF Bay Guardian, Bay Guardian, and the Guardian) is a free alternative newspaper published weekly in San Francisco, California. The paper is owned mostly by its publisher, Bruce B. , and a San Francisco-based stringer for The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times.