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Monday, July 25, 2016


If you’re like me and can’t understand why our federal and state governments don’t pass a law making it illegal to sell a car with defective airbags that can explode in your face killing and/or maiming you or a loved one, help us make this petition go viral.  

You see in the news every day that millions more vehicles equipped with Takata airbags are being recalled. Auto manufacturers cannot obtain safe airbags fast enough to fix the over 100 million vehicles that are already on our highways, and are actually knowingly building new cars with the very same unsafe airbags.  
Did you know that federal law makes it illegal for a car dealer or other company to rent you a car with a defective airbag, but the very same car dealer or rental company can legally SELL you the same car without disclosing the fact that it has a dangerous airbag? As you know, Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and most rental companies and car dealers retail their rental cars after they stop renting them. Are they taking the cars out of their rental fleets that are illegal to rent, and selling them to the public instead? 

Anna Werner is a well-known reporter for CBS national news, and she recently conducted several undercover mystery shops of car dealerships. The mystery shopper pretended to be interested in buying a used car that had been predetermined to have an unrepaired dangerous Takata airbag. This was aired a few weeks ago on the CBS news and in no case did the salesman disclose this fact. When I saw this on TV, I mystery shopped TWENTY-FOUR car dealerships in South Florida. In four cases I sent mystery shopper physically into the dealerships and in twenty others my mystery shopper called the dealer on the phone. In 23 out 24 mystery shops the sales people denied the truth that the car had an unsafe airbag. The sales people were asked specifically if there was any unfixed safety recall on the car the mystery shopper was buying. Only one car dealer told the truth…Mullinax Ford in North Palm Beach.  

The manufacturers, car dealers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) know that only ONE IN FOUR SAFETY RECALLS IS EVER REPAIRED! Tens of millions of used cars are being sold with unfixed dangerous safety recalls. For every new car sold in the US, there are 2.5 used cars sold. Last year there were over 17 million new cars sold but there were over 40 million used cars sold. Three out of four of those used cars with safety recalls have not been repaired. As I write this column, there are hundreds of unsuspecting used car buyers buying a used car with a dangerous safety recall.  

For all of the above reasons I implore you to, not only sign this petition,, but to tell your friends, family, work associates and anybody else who will listen. Please put this on your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, YouTube and email it to everyone you know. If you have access to anyone in Florida’s legislature, especially the governor’s office please let your voice be heard.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

The War between Insurance Companies and Body Shops

(That You Never Knew Was Being Waged)

I’ve written other articles about how insurance companies try to fix your car as cheaply as they can without showing the necessary concern for the quality and safety of the repairs. You can find them on this blog, “Collision Insurance and Your Rights” and “Coping with Body Shops and Insurance Companies”.

This new article was written by Alan Nappier, my body shop manager at Earl Stewart Toyota. Alan is, not only the best body shop manager I’ve employed in my 47 years as a car dealer, but one of the smartest, most articulate people I know. I’ll probably sound like I’m overdoing it but he also has an incredible sense of humor. I say all this so that when you read what he has to say below, please take it as the gospel. Alan is not a “smoke blower” or an exaggerator. He tells it like it is. You can ask Alan a question about repairing your car and your insurance company any Tuesday afternoon between 4 and 6. He appears on my live radio talk show, “Earl Stewart on Cars” on 900 AM, The Talk of the Palm Beaches. You can also stream this show live at

Your body shop is either at war with the insurance companies or they fight on their side. If your body shop is not fighting for you to protect your car from cheap, poor quality, and unsafe repairs you’re in a “heap of trouble”. The chances are that if your body shop is on your insurance company’s “approved repairer list” that its loyalty is not to you but to that insurance company. You should take your car to the body shop that you know and trust will fix your car with your interests paramount in their mind, not one who must “play ball” with your insurance company or lose their membership on the “approved repairer list”. One way to find out whose side your body shop is on is to ask them if they will be asking you to sign two forms. One is called a “Limited Power of Attorney” and the second is called an “Assignment of Proceeds”. Please read on and Alan will explain very clearly why this is so.

By Alan Nappier:

Getting an insurance company to “approve” proper repairs to a collision damaged automobile is the toughest part of the collision repair industry. First of all, in a legal sense, the insurance company really has no right to dictate or blueprint a repair process. Their responsibility to the customer is to pay for property damage, NOT determine HOW the vehicle is to be repaired. The insurance company makes money by taking in premiums and investing these premiums. Any damage claim payouts are EXPENSES and like any company, controlling expenses is a top priority. This creates a conflict of interest when the insurance company is allowed to participate in the repair process. Contrary to popular belief, insurance companies DO NOT look out for YOUR best interests; they look out for their OWN best interest. This scenario leads to an adversarial relationship between insurance companies and HONEST repair facilities. Dishonest or unethical repair facilities view the insurance company as their customer and you as a product. They will repair your vehicle however the insurance company instructs, regardless of quality or the resulting structural integrity of the automobile. They want to keep the insurance company happy so that they may keep getting business referred to them. It’s a great arrangement for everybody EXCEPT the vehicle owner. An ethical body shop will repair your vehicle properly REGARDLESS of the insurance companies’ suggestions otherwise. In the past, we would have to just “absorb” the difference between what the insurance company “allowed” and what it REALLY cost to repair your car.

Enter now a powerful couple of legal documents called the “Limited Power of Attorney” (POA) and the “Assignment of Proceeds” (AOP). The POA is exactly what it says it is. It gives the repair facility the power to initiate legal action or collection efforts on your behalf. No, we can’t steal your house or take over your bank account, the LIMITED POA is specific to the insurance claim[Symbol] Remember, in a legal sense, the shop has NO legal connection with, or obligation to, the insurance company. Our contract (signed repair order) and responsibility is with YOU, the vehicle owner. Therefore, YOU are still financially obligated for the monetary difference between what the company allowed and the true cost of the repair. A POA allows me to repair the car properly, deliver the finished product to you and then begin collection efforts on your behalf. Odds are, you’ll never hear about the claim again.

The AOP is actually a document that “assigns” your contractual arrangement with the insurance company to the repair facility which then gives us legal standing to sue this insurance company directly. This “connection” must be established to allow the shop to sue for “breach of contract”. When an insurance company fails to adequately compensate for property damage, they have breached their contract with YOU. The AOP extends this contractual obligation to the repair facility.

With all of THAT being said, here’s the REALITY of the situation. We are most likely never going to use these documents. The power of these documents is the knowledge that they exist. Reaching an agreed repair dollar figure is a negotiation and a negotiation is a battle of wills. You don’t want to enter any “battle” without the proper weapons and knowledge. The AOP and POA are the most powerful weapons the repair facility has available to it. When confronted by a mugger with a knife, just showing the dirty no-good your gun is enough to deter further aggression and typically end an ugly situation and you walk away the victor, not with any illicit gains, but, just with what was rightfully yours to begin with. This is the EXACT same thing we use the AOP and POA for. Simply by brandishing these powerful weapons, the muggers (insurance companies in this case), recognize a losing battle and retreat. No insurance company wants to have their dirty little secrets exposed in court. They know they can’t win because the facts and truth are on our side. The end result is, these couple of signatures you gave me makes me David to the insurance companies Goliath.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Open Letter to Auto Manufacturers: Accept Your Responsibility for Takata Airbag Debacle

Dear Automobile Manufacturers,

As I write this letter, there are over 100 million vehicles on the road with defective Takata airbags. You selected Takata as the supplier for these airbags and you installed them in your vehicles. You then sold them to your dealers, and they sold them to over 100 million drivers.

Many of these airbags were installed more than a decade ago and many more are being installed today even though you know them to be dangerous. The metal inflator which contains an unstable explosive propellant, ammonium nitrate, can detonate too forcefully, causing the metal casing to explode into shrapnel, striking the car’s driver and/or passenger. There have been 10 deaths and over 100 injuries due to this in the United States, and many more worldwide.

Because Takata cannot manufacture safe airbag replacements fast enough, the drivers of your vehicles with unsafe airbags cannot have them replaced. They are faced with the dilemma of renting or buying a safe car or driving the dangerous one. Unfortunately, most can afford only the latter option. Car dealers are telling their customers that the waiting list for a safe airbag can be as long as one year.

As the manufacturer of these dangerous vehicles, you must immediately accept the responsibility for keeping their owners and drivers safe. Why? Because you should have been absolutely certain that the maker of one of the most important safety components on your vehicles, the airbag, was building a safe and reliable product. Your due diligence was clearly insufficient. Investigations have revealed that Takata has been aware of this safety problem for many years and covered up the fact that they were supplying you with millions of dangerously defective airbags every year.

You can point the finger of blame at Takata, and they certainly are guilty. However, Takata has not taken any meaningful actions whatsoever to protect the drivers of your vehicles and it’s highly unlikely that they will; their liability is so massive that they cannot afford to do so. Most industry observers believe that Takata will declare bankruptcy, or have their assets acquired absence any liability.

You must protect the drivers of your vehicles now, and take legal action against Takata to recover whatever you can!

As I write this letter, unsuspecting customers continue to buy the defective used cars you manufactured more than a decade ago. Virtually none of these have had their dangerous Takata airbags replaced. Car dealers are under no requirement to even disclose the fact that that the used cars they are selling contain a potentially lethal airbag. CBS News recently aired an exposé on this by sending mystery shoppers into several car dealerships in several different states. Their investigation revealed that no disclosure was offered to the customers. I mystery shopped twenty-four car dealerships in South Florida. I sent my mystery shopper into four and contacted twenty more by telephone. Twenty-three car dealers misrepresented the car the shoppers were buying as not having a recalled Takata airbag. I verified that the cars did, in fact, have dangerous airbags on the NHTSA website,

This is what you must do immediately to stop the deaths and injuries in the vehicles you manufactured:

(1) Order your car dealers not to sell, or allow to be driven, any of the vehicles you manufactured with an unsafe airbag: new or used.

(2) Provide free loaner cars to all owners and drivers of the cars you built with defective airbags until safe airbags can be installed. Honda is already doing this and all manufacturers should follow their example.

(3) Compensate your dealers as well as independent used car dealers for the financial loss they experience by being unable to sell your unsafe vehicles.

(4) Immediately stop manufacturing vehicles that you know to have unsafe airbags. Although you may anticipate eventually being able to replace the faulty airbags, many of these vehicles will find their way into the used vehicle market and in the driveways of unsuspecting consumers prior to being fixed. Millions of these vehicles will never be fixed and remain on the road for years. CarFax data shows that only one in four recalls are ever fixed.

(5) Lobby federal and state governments to pass laws making it illegal to sell a used or new car with an unsafe airbag. 


Earl Stewart