Back-Handed Compliments Given by Cars.com

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on September 3rd, 2009

Lists are always fun to peruse, and cars.com’s recent lists of the “Most Improved” and “Worst” cars of the 2000s are no exception. “Most improved” seems like a back-handed compliment at best, but it’s a unique twist that gives those that come out on the bottom a shot of redemption. Although, with automakers slashing the models they’ll be offering, some are doomed to the purgatories of these kinds of lists.

First, here is cars.com’s list of the worst cars of the decade:

10. Pontiac Azteck (2001-2005)
9. Daewoo Anything (1999-2002)
8. Isuzu VehiCross (1999-2002)
7. Jaguar X-Type (2002-2008)
6. Pontiac Sunfire (1995-2005)
5. Cadillac Catera (1997-2001)
4. Toyota Echo (2000-2005)
3. Jeep Compass (2007-present)
2. Chrysler Sebring (1995-present)
1. Smart ForTwo (2008-present)

Now, here’s their list of the most improved cars of the decade:

10. Saturn Vue (improved in 2008)
9. Cadillac Escalade (improved in 2001)
8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class (improved in 2008)
7. Cadillac CTS (improved in 2008-2009)
6. Kia Sportage (improved in 2005-2009)
5. Nissan Altima (improved in 2002 and 2007)
4. Hyundai Sonata (improved in 2006 and 2009)
3. Toyota Prius (improved 2004-2009)
2. Ford Mustang (improved 2005)
1. Chevrolet Malibu (improved 2008)

Texas Lemon Law Blog Points to Wisconsin Legal Twist

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 17th, 2008

I’m always interested in the perspective of other Lemon Law attorneys, and recently read a blog entry by Texas Lemon Law attorney Kevin Le that pointed out the perils associated with consumers filing spurious Lemon Law claims.

Kevin noted that, unlike some other states, Texas Lemon Law doesn’t allow dealerships or manufacturers to be liable for twice or three times the damages if they actively try to get out of refunding or repurchasing a lemon. He then pointed to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in which the shoe was on the other foot. In Wisconsin, manufacturers can face double damages if they don’t pay up within 30 days. In this case though, the consumer is on the hot seat for allegedly not providing Mercedes with the information it needed in order to give him a refund. The consumer supposedly didn’t give the manufacturer his car loan information, so Mercedes couldn’t write a check. The case is winding its way through the court system, but an appellate court ruled that the consumer now has to prove that he didn’t withhold the information on purpose so that he could force Mercedes to break the law and exceed the 30-day deadline – and then collect double the amount.

Thanks, Kevin, for the head’s up about Texas Lemon Law and the case in Wisconsin.

2 CarPros Come to the Rescue

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 6th, 2008

If you’ve ever wondered whether your mechanic is ripping you off, or whether the problem with your car is actually an easy, do-it-yourself fix, you’re not alone. That’s why Ken and Bob at 2CarPros.com are one of the greatest resources on the Web. These professional mechanics have been offering free online car repair information and advice for the past ten years… Happy anniversary, guys!

 There is so much great information on their site that it’s hard to know where to start. They have a database of thousands of answers to car repair questions that you can search by topic or by manufacturer. They offer a forum (with over 186,000 members!) that you can join for free and ask your own auto repair question. They’ve even created a car repair video series if you want to try a repair on your own. They have videos from the simplest maintenance procedures (“How to Change Wiper Blades”) to more complicated topics (“How to Change Front Brake Pads and Rotors”).

In between, Ken and Bob share online repair manuals, car repair troubleshooting tips, and diagnostic trouble codes. The bottom line is that, as car owners, we should all take a little more responsibility in understanding how cars work and what can go wrong. With a little knowledge, we’ll avoid getting ripped off and might even be pleasantly surprised at how much routine maintenance we can do ourselves. Remember, knowledge is power!

Getting Straight Answers About Car Problems

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on June 17th, 2008

When your car inexplicably stalls or overheats, or when you just know that something’s not right but can’t put your finger on it, you’re often in a quandary. Taking your car into the dealership or to a mechanic you picked out of the Yellow Pages can feel like a crapshoot. Are they trustworthy, or are they going to try and sell you repairs that you don’t need? Even when they show you old parts or a computer readout, it’s human nature to wonder if it’s all smoke and mirrors, as though they’re counting on your ignorance in order to jack up the cost of the repairs.

Austin Davis over at My Honest Mechanic  sums up the issue succinctly when he describes a woman who thought she had a transmission problem:

Our conclusion was a bad spark plug wire, but what should I tell her? She was prepared to pay me big bucks to fix her “transmission problem,” so would she be happy to pay me $250? Shouldn’t I be able to tell her ANYTHING as long as the car was fixed, and I saved her BIG bucks? I would be a hero to her if I fixed the car for only $250, and she would never have to know it was only a bad spark plug wire. No, of course I really didn’t do this, but I would not be so sure she would not have been taken advantage of elsewhere.


Although Austin claims that his expertise is “looking over the mechanic’s shoulder and monitoring quality control,” he’s really a consumer advocate – someone who helps people like us navigate the maze of auto repair and other vehicle issues. His site provides consumers with a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics – everything from common car repair issues to pictures of car parts to road trip tips.

Best of all, you can submit questions and Austin will answer them in his trademark no-nonsense style. He’s a straight shooter and a wonderful resource for anyone who has faced car troubles and not known where to turn.

VW Recalls Only the Latest in the Carmaker’s Shenanigans

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on June 13th, 2008

Over on the cars.com blog, Kicking Tires, David Thomas passed along a recall alert for the engine control modules on VW’s 2009 Tiguan compact SUV and 2008 Passat wagons. Apparently, the problem can cause an engine surge, and VW says owners should take their vehicles in for an inspection and possible replacement as soon as possible. In the meantime, new sales are at a standstill until dealers are able to inspect the modules.

My take on it? Dave, in Kicking Tires, you hit the nail on the head. Volkswagen isn’t known for its reliability, and this latest recall is the last in a long line of VW problems. Here’s a sampling of VW recalls for 2008 models:

• VW GTI, Jetta, R32, and Rabbit – Headlights can’t be adjusted, and could cause reduced road visibility, thus increasing the risk of a crash (340,000 vehicles potentially affected)
• New Beetle – The wrong glue was used to attach roof spoilers, meaning they could come loose or fall off the car and create an obstacle to other vehicles or hit a person outside of the car
• Touareg – A faulty fuel supply line could lead to a gas leak, which could cause a fire.

Recalls for 2007 included more headlight problems (GTI, Jetta, R32, and Rabbit), brake lights that could stop working (New Beetle), inoperative windshield wipers (Passat), and brake power assist problems that could lead to a crash (Passat and Passat Wagon).

Consumer complaints about 2007 models piled on to the recalls. Subframe bolt failures, braking problems, faulty fuel pumps, power train malfunctions, and a myriad of electrical system problems plagued 2007 VWs.

Worst of all? Volkswagen is notoriously uncooperative when it comes to settling Lemon Law cases. Nevertheless, we were able to help two of our clients to get Lemon Justice. In one case, a 2008 VW Jetta had a variety of electrical problems. After our client returned her vehicle to an authorized VW service center five times during the first two months of ownership, we were able to settle her case for $4,000.

In another case, our client had a 2007 VW Rabbit that had problems starting. After taking the car in four times, VW was finally able to resolve the problem. Our client had no problems with the vehicle for three months, but with tenacity, we were able to get VW to compensate our client with $3,000.