Lexus, Toyota Floor Mats May be Deadly

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on September 29th, 2009

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an important safety alert today. Because this safety recall affects 3.8 million cars, we felt it important to reprint the NHTSA press release in its entirety:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today alerted Lexus and Toyota owners about conditions that could cause the accelerator to get stuck open under certain conditions. The agency strongly recommends taking out removable floor mats on the driver’s side in certain models and not to replace them with any other mat, either from Toyota or any other brand.

“This is an urgent matter,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “For everyone’s sake, we strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration.”

NHTSA notes that there continue to be reports of accelerator pedal clearance issues which provide the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position. A stuck accelerator may result in very high vehicle speeds and a crash, which could cause serious injury or death.

NHTSA said that Toyota has announced that it will soon launch a safety recall of various model year vehicles to redress the problem. However the safety agency warned owners to remove all driver-side floor mats from the models listed below immediately as an interim safety measure in advance of the recall.

Toyota and Lexus vehicles affected by this consumer alert are:

* 2007-2010 Camry
* 2005-2010 Avalon
* 2004-2009 Prius
* 2005-2010 Tacoma
* 2007-2010 Tundra
* 2007-2010 ES 350
* 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS350

In September 2007, Toyota recalled an accessory all-weather floor mat sold for use in some 2007 and 2008 model year Lexus ES 350 and Toyota Camry vehicles because of similar problems.

Today’s advisory was precipitated by continued reports of vehicles accelerating rapidly after release of the accelerator pedal. The incidents appear to be related to factors including the use of a variety of unsecured mats, the particular configuration of the accelerator pedals in these vehicles, and the unique steps needed to shut off the engines in some of these vehicles with keyless ignition.

For more information, consumers can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Hotline at 888-327-4236 or the Toyota Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331 or the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-255-3987. Information from Toyota is also posted at http://www.toyota.com and http://www.lexus.com.

Dealer Allegedly Broke Law with Cash for Clunkers

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on September 22nd, 2009

West Virginia Public Broadcasting recently covered a story about a local man who claims that a Nissan dealership ripped him off via the Cash for Clunkers program. The consumer wanted to trade in his Ford Explorer for an Altima hybrid, but says that the dealership didn’t play by the rules. Specifically, he claims that the dealership forced him to sign a $4,500 promissory note in the event that the dealer didn’t get the rebate from the government – something that Cash for Clunkers specifically prohibited. The program also required that the dealer disclose the salvage value of the vehicle, and that the amount be included in the negotiations; the consumer says the dealer told him he wasn’t entitled to the salvage value. Finally, they asked him to part with his clunker and wait for his new car until the dealer received the government rebate.

Did Staten Island Buy Lemon Ferries?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on September 15th, 2009

According to a report in the Staten Island Advance, the borough’s city council is questioning whether three new ferry boats might be lemons. Of course, New York’s lemon law doesn’t cover ferry boats, but the problems that the new boats have been having – one incident sent 15 people to the hospital – has at least one councilmember questioning whether they’re defective.

The city Department of Transportation’s ferry chief maintained that the raft of problems was normal for a new class of vessel, and that many of the issues have been resolved. He noted that extended warranties purchased by Staten Island covered the cost of repairs, and assured the City Council that if a latent defect comes to light, “we will proceed against the manufacturer.”

Arkansas Expands Lemon Law Protection

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on September 14th, 2009

Arkansas joined several other states this year by passing legislation that strengthens lemon laws. While lemon laws and their 2009 amendments vary from state to state, Arkansas moved toward covering more vehicles. According to a press release from Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel:

Previously, under Arkansas’s Lemon Law, vehicles that had a gross vehicle weight-rating of over 10,000 pounds were not covered. With the enactment of ACT 322, which took effect on July 31, 2009, coverage was expanded to include most vehicles with a weight-rating of up to 13,000 pounds. The one exception is that the 13,000 pound limitation does not apply to vehicles that are “substantially altered” after the initial sale.

“The practical effect of the change to our state’s Lemon Law is that it now provides protection for bigger trucks and SUVs, which many farmers, business owners, construction workers and families buy each year,” said McDaniel. “With this change, consumers in the market for a larger vehicle should feel more confident making a purchase.”

Congratulations, Arkansas for giving consumers added protection.

General Motors Offers Consumers a Money-Back Guarantee

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on September 12th, 2009

The Los Angeles Times reports that, in the midst of bankruptcy and slumping sales that weren’t even helped by the Cash for Clunkers program, General Motors is launching an ambitious campaign to woo car buyers: a money-back guarantee.

The advertising campaign, which is set to roll out this week, assures consumers that they can purchase a GM vehicle and return it for a refund within 60 days. A GM marketing executive said that what some are calling a Hail Mary pass is designed to close a “perception gap” and let people see for themselves that GM quality matches those of its foreign competitors.

The program starts on Monday and runs through November 30. According to the company, car buyers can return new vehicles between 31 and 60 days of purchase, providing the car has less than 4,000 miles and the payments are current.

It sounds legitimate, but before you take the plunge and buy a new GM, it pays to read the fine print. GM’s “Details and Limitations” can be found by clicking here.

There are a number of conditions you have to meet in order to return what they term an “eligible vehicle,” and there are several exceptions included. There’s also a lot of paperwork you have to produce. There are also what appear to be giant loopholes built into GM’s agreement, such as a requirement to produce “any other documentation GM or the Administrator may reasonably request” and a requirement that “your eligible vehicle must pass a purchase inspection conducted by GM or GM’s agent.” Caveat emptor.