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Monday, August 23, 2010

Earl’s List of the Best and Worst Car Dealers: Treasure Coast to Northern Broward County

I must explain that those dealers listed as “Good Guys” are far from perfect. I urge you to shop and compare prices, stick up for your rights, and do your homework in preparing to buy. South Florida is the Sodom and Gomorrah of the retail car business. Listing the best dealers is like listing the most honest inmates in Attica or Leavenworth.

I arrived at my opinion of these dealers, the good and the bad, from my constant interaction with you, the car buyers of South Florida. You call my weekly Saturday morning talk show, Earl Stewart on Cars, my cell phone, you send me emails and you write me letters about your experiences in buying and servicing your cars. You post comments on my blog, www.EarlStewartOnCars.com.

This list is not static and I will vary it regularly, adding more “good guys” and dropping the undeserving from the list. Hopefully, I will not have to add to the “bad buy” list but I will if I have to. These dealerships are the worst of the worst and should be totally avoided at all costs. You would be better served to drive an extra 50 miles to buy the make car you seek than buy it from one of these dealers. In fact, you would be better served to buy a different make from a good dealer.

I know I’ve angered a lot of car dealers (so what else is new?) by leaving them off the “good guy” list and especially the bad guys. I urge those of you who are sincere to call me personally and I will be glad to discuss with you what your customers told me about you that led me to omit you from the “good guy” lists. The “bad guys” won’t call me because they know exactly what they are doing and how they are premeditatedly deceiving their customers.

If the make car you are seeking does not show a dealer, it’s probably because not many people by that make. I listed only the most popular. I suggest that you choose a dealer a “good dealer” who is listed that also sells your make. For example, Schumacher also sells Mitsubishi and Infiniti and he is listed as a good dealer for Chevy and Buick.

The Bad Guys:

West Palm Beach Kia in West Palm Beach
Arrigo Chrysler Jeep Dodge in West Palm Beach
Delray Mazda-Kia in Delray
Ft. Pierce Nissan in Ft. Pierce
Palm Beach Acura in West Palm Beach
Napleton Nissan in Riviera Beach
Napleton Hyundai in North Palm Beach and West Palm Beach
Napleton Kia in Riviera Beach
Napleton Lincoln in North Palm Beach
Napleton North Lake Suzuki in North Palm Beach
North Jeep in North Palm Beach
Northlake Dodge in North Palm Beach

The Good Guys:

Acura
Coggin Acura in Ft. Pierce
Phil Smith Acura in Pompano

BMW
Coggin Motor Cars in Ft. Pierce
Vista Motor Company in Pompano Beach

Chevy
Maroone in Greenacres/Lake Worth
Maroone in Delray
Schumacher in North Palm Beach

Buick
Schumacher in North Palm Beach
Schumacher in West Palm Beach

Cadillac
Wallace in Stuart
Maroone in West Palm Beach
Coral in Pompano

Ford
Mullinax in North Palm Beach
Maroone in Delray

Honda
Coggin Ft. Pierce
Delray Honda in Delray
Pompano Honda in Pompano

Hyundai
Wallace Hyundai in Stuart
Delray Hyundai in Delray

Lexus
JM Lexus Coral Springs
Palm Beach Lexus West Palm Beach

Mercedes
Mercedes of Delray in Delray
Mercedes Benz of Ft. Pierce in Ft. Pierce

Nissan
Wallace in Stuart
Maroone in Delray

Toyota
Because I own and operate a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, I don’t feel objective if I name myself to this list and I don’t want to be perceived as unfairly biased by eliminating some of my close competition from this list. Please feel free to call me personally (cell phone 561 358-1474) for advice on the Toyota dealers nearest you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Did Congress “Beat” a Confession out of Toyota with a Rubber Hose?

You may have read that in 25% of those cases involving innocent people imprisoned and later exonerated by DNA testing, those falsely imprisoned had “confessed” to a crime they did not commit. Since the discovery and implementation of DNA testing, hundreds of thousands of innocent men and women have been freed from our prisons, some on the verge of being executed. Unfortunately we will never know how many innocent people we have executed or how many are still in prison because there was no DNA evidence.

DNA testing of accused criminals is the result of applying the surging scientific knowledge we didn’t have only a few years ago. Analogous to DNA is the “black box” which used to be only in airplanes but now is being used increasingly in automobiles. This box contains scientific instruments that record the seconds and minutes before and after accidents. This black box can tell if the brake was applied and, if so, how long and how hard. It can tell us the same about the accelerator. Of course it can tell the speed, acceleration or deceleration and the direction the car is traveling.

Scientific tests like DNA have shown that, what we relied on most before for evidence, confessions and eye-witness accounts are extremely unreliable. How many innocent people were imprisoned or executed over the years by eye-witnesses or false confessions? We will never know.

If you’re a regular reader, you know where I’m going with this. The media has recently, but reluctantly, released the finding of the NHTSA that all of the black box tests on Toyotas so far have shown the crashes to be driver error. There is no evidence of any kind showing the electronic throttle controls or sticky accelerators to have caused one single crash or injury. In fact, the tests prove that the many drivers who swore their accelerators stuck and they could not brake to slow down or stop, never once applied the brake, clearly proving that they thought they were but instead were holding down the accelerator to the floor. I’m not suggesting that all of these drivers are lying so that they can sue Toyota, although there certainly some of that going on. I believe that these people firmly believe their foot was on the brake and not the accelerator the whole time. One woman was quoted as saying, I don’t care what the scientific evidence says, I know where my foot was. Similar statements have been made by eye-witnesses to crimes who were proven wrong by DNA tests.

All of this begs the question, why would Toyota or any innocent person or company confess to something they did not do. Back in the old days, that was an easy question to answer. Before we had the Miranda Act and before we videotaped confessions, all the cops had to do was “beat it out” of the accused. The cops can’t use rubber hoses anymore, but they can use psychological rubber hoses. They can make deals for shorter sentences or probation suggesting that if they are found guilty by a jury the sentence will be much, much worse. They can tell the accused that, if they don’t confess to this crime, the police will make a major effort to investigate them on a multitude of other possible crimes until they find something. The police can exert a large amount of duress without violating the rules. They can pretend that they have evidence they don’t, they can question an accused for long periods and repeatedly, they can suggest that they will let it be known on the street that the accused “ratted out” his friends, and they can shout and scream as much as they like. A big cop with a big gun can be pretty terrifying.

Scientific studies on false confessions have all come to the same conclusion. They all have one thing in common and that is a decision at some point during the interrogation process that confessing will be more beneficial to them than continuing to maintain their innocence. So there we have it. Jim Lentz, the President of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Yoshi Inabla the President of Toyota of North America, and Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota all felt they had far more to lose by telling the truth than by falsely confessing.

With the U.S. Congress and the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) fueled by a biased media on the attack, it would have been corporate PR hari kari for Toyota to blame their customers for the reported crashes. They had no choice but to apologize to Congress and the public and confess to a crime they didn’t commit because “confessing will be more beneficial to them than continuing to maintain their innocence”.

Now that Toyota’s innocence has been proven by scientific tests, you would think that somebody would apologize. Like Ray LaHood, chairman of NHTSA, who advised everybody driving a Toyota to “pull over to the side of the road and get out of the car”? How about Bart Stupak and John Dingell, the Congressmen from Michigan who are “in the tank” for the UAW who shouted at Jim Lentz to apologize to those families of those who his defective Toyotas had killed. The media will never apologize. In fact, they won’t even give the exoneration anywhere near the coverage they gave the erroneous allegations.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Journalistic Ethics in Car Advertising

Does a newspaper, TV or radio station have a social or ethical responsibility to screen out advertisement obviously designed to trick their audience? How about an illegal advertisement? Should a newspaper print an advertisement and accept payment for this ad knowing that the ad violates the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act or the Federal Truth in Lending?

Back in the eighties, a magazine titled Soldier of Fortune regularly ran help wanted ads for people looking for “hit men” and assassins. The ads were worded in such a way that no one could miss their implication. “Ex Green Beret, trained to kill, will do anything for $5,000”. Bob Spearman was the friend of a good friend of mine. Bob hired two men to kill his wife, Anita, through a Soldier of Fortune advertisement. They successfully killed his wife Anita, but bungled the job so badly that they were caught and spilled the beans on Bob Spearman. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Should Soldier of Fortune Magazine been charged in this crime? They were sued and have since stopped running “murderer wanted” classified ads.

I’m writing this article on Monday, August 2nd and on page 8E of today’s PB Post is a full page color advertisement for Napleton Nissan VIEW AD HERE Napleton probably spends more money advertising in the PB Post than any other car dealer and may be the paper’s largest advertiser. This ad and many similar do it run over and over, not just in the PB Post, but other newspapers and local TV and radio stations. This ad says you can buy a new Nissan Altima for $99 per month. In the fine print it says that the $99 payment is “subsidized by the dealer for the first 6 months”. It doesn’t say how much it’s subsidized and it doesn’t suggest the “source’ of the subsidy. This is deceptive enough, but what really grabbed my attention is that nowhere in the ad does it state the interest rate (Annual Percentage Rate), the number of monthly payments, or the amount of the down payment. Federal law, Truth in Lending, Regulation Z, requires that when an advertiser quotes a monthly payment he must also disclose the interest rate, number of payments, and down payment. Otherwise, how would a prospective buyer have any idea how much she was paying? Here’s some icing on the cake, the ad also increases the advertised price for “freight” but doesn’t say for how much (In past ads it was shown as $750). Of course, Nissan includes the freight cost in the price of the car. When Napleton charges you for the freight, you have paid for the freight twice! This is a violation of the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

I blasted Bill McCollum for not using his office as Attorney General to police and regulate ads like this. His excuse is that he doesn’t have the manpower to do so. OK, Bill, how about making it the responsibility of the media to refuse to print obviously illegal or deceptive advertisements? This reduces the manpower requirement because there are far fewer major media outlets than car dealers.

The media righteously declares that “it’s not their job” to act as a police force. I guess that’s the defense Soldier of Fortune Magazine used too. What gripes me is that the media enjoys special protection, rights, and privileges that other businesses don’t under our Constitution. This is because they are supposed to help protect us by telling the truth about crooked politicians, businessmen, and bad guys in general. Another nonsense excuse I hear from the media is that the advertising department is separate. The guys and gals in the news and editorial departments claim to have no knowledge of what’s going on. Of course they do know that they would be out of job if the advertising department didn’t sell a lot of advertising. How could they be expected to tell Ed Napleton to clean up his act when he’s one of their largest advertisers? Of course, the top management of a newspaper, the publisher, has authority over all departments, news, editorial, and advertising. That’s why I personally met with a recent past publisher of the PB Post and voiced my views. Privately and off the record, he confessed that the survival of the paper via ad revenues “trumped’ doing the right thing.

Do me a favor. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and tell him your views on those illegal and deceptive car ads that he continues to run. Saturday is a good day to find the most ammunition.