TELL THE FTC: NO MORE CAR DEALER JUNK FEES!

We have until January 8th, 2024 to submit comments to the FTC about proposed rules to BAN CAR DEALER JUNK FEES. Please visit https://www.regulations.gov/document/FTC-2023-0064-0001 to be heard!

Friday, May 31, 2024

Finally, Autonomous Driving is Here

My wife Nancy and I bought our first Tesla over 3 years ago. It’s a top-of-the-line Model S "Plaid" model, and the TSD (Tesla Self-Driving) package option was included. Even though the software for autonomous driving was included, Tesla would not enable it unless the driver demonstrated the ability to drive very safely.

This feature was the primary motivation for our purchase of the Tesla. Ironically, I'm a Toyota dealer in North Palm Beach, and we have always driven vehicles manufactured by Toyota. However, we’re both in our eighties now, and the sad reality that we may not be able to drive safely for much longer weighs heavily on our minds. How wonderful it would be, we thought, to be able to hop into our own car anytime and say, “Take us to Publix, Walgreens, or Taco Bell,” and be driven safely there and back home by an autonomous vehicle!

For over a year, we struggled to score high enough in safe driving to motivate Tesla to activate our (already paid for) autonomous software. Tesla has eight exterior cameras and one interior camera on our Plaid, and they “watch” how the driver operates the vehicle. After every drive, a score is registered. A 100% score was required over 30 days to activate the autonomous feature. Our scores got better, and Tesla lowered the minimum acceptable score. Once TSD was turned on, it could be turned off again for 30 days if you didn’t keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

We were very disappointed in the TSD when it was first activated. It was “flat scary”! There's an intersection we drive in and out of every day when we leave our home that's tricky. The 2-lane road is quite narrow, and there's an S-curve with two stop signs when we leave or enter. The main road we must drive on has another S-curve from the east and a tall bridge to the west. Cars coming over the bridge aren't visible until they come down from the rise of the bridge, and cars from the east aren't visible until they come around the curve. Our Tesla Plaid simply could not "figure out" how to drive out of our neighborhood. The steering wheel would turn wildly left and right, and the brake and accelerator would be applied “wildly.” After this frightening display, the TSD would suddenly disengage.

We gave up on even trying TSD to leave or re-enter our neighborhood and used it only on simple trips. We also experienced difficulty in different areas based on weather, traffic conditions, and the quality of road lines and traffic signals. For a smooth, safe autonomous ride, everything had to be just right for the TSD.

Happily, Tesla was working very hard to improve their TSD, and there were frequent software updates, sometimes weekly or more. At some point, Tesla began using the millions of videos recorded daily by millions of Tesla drivers to program their software. They select videos from only safe drivers, which contrasted with writing the computer code to teach the Tesla how to drive.

After almost every software update, we would try out the TSD, and even though we saw improvements, they were still not "ready for prime time" and still couldn’t safely let us leave or reenter our neighborhood. About a month ago, it happened! It was a quantum leap in improvement! We can now safely leave and enter our neighborhood or drive anywhere we want.

The TSD is still not perfect. Nancy and I do a weekly live radio talk show every Saturday morning, and we must leave for the radio station shortly after 7 AM, just after sunrise. Two Saturdays ago, on the way to the radio station, our Tesla “ran a red light” and almost made a dangerous lane change on I-95. I think what caused this rare but dangerous glitch was the “sun.” It was shortly after 7 AM EST when our Tesla ran the light. The Tesla was headed south, and the sun was at such an angle that it “blinded” the Tesla’s cameras. The second dangerous mistake the TSD made 5 minutes later was also because the sun did not allow the Tesla’s cameras to see.

I paused writing this column to go with Nancy to see her doctor relating to a test. On the way, our Tesla made another dangerous error in making a U-turn on a heavily trafficked road named Military Trail. In all three dangerous TSD incidents I’ve described, the driver (me this morning) was alert and able to avoid an accident. This rule should remain strictly enforced for a long time, even after the TSD is claimed to be “perfected.”

But the good news is, even with these potentially dangerous anomalies in TSD, being driven by an autonomous car is a pleasure. The TSD software has “eight outside eyes” outside the cabin of the Tesla. It sees everything faster than a human driver and it sees 360 degrees simultaneously and instantaneously. It has a ninth camera inside to be sure the passenger in the driver’s seat is alert with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Think about how many places you have to turn your head to change lanes in heavy traffic on the expressway. Our Tesla gets us there faster and smarter than we do when we’re driving. The Tesla also doesn’t get angry at bad drivers on the road, doesn’t text, or talk on the telephone. It’s a better driver than Nancy or me and it’s getting better faster and faster.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Complain Effectively to Your Car Dealer

As many of my readers know, I’m perhaps the only car dealer that speaks regularly with his customers. My personal cell phone number is available to all my customers as well as my employees. In my other role as a consumer advocate, which is why I write this column, I hear often from my customers…compliments and complaints. I’ve found from this regular communication that it’s much easier for me to answer and resolve complaints when they’re brief and concise. The rest of this column was written by Artificial Intelligence, ChapGPT-4:

Both written and voicemail complaints have their own advantages and likelihood of response, depending on the context and the organization receiving them. However, whether these complaints are acted upon can vary widely based on several factors, including the length and clarity of the complaint:

1. **Brevity and Clarity**: Generally, shorter, clearer complaints are more likely to be responded to and acted upon. This is because they are easier for service representatives to quickly understand and address. A concise complaint that directly states the issue, how it has affected the customer, and what resolution is desired, is more effective. This principle applies to both written and voicemail formats.

2. **Written Complaints**: Written complaints, especially those that are well-organized and concise, often provide a permanent record that can be referred to, which can be advantageous for both the customer and the service provider. They allow the recipient to process the information at their own pace and to forward the complaint to the correct department or personnel.

3. **Voicemail Complaints**: While voicemail allows for the conveyance of tone and urgency, it may be less effective if the message is long and rambling. Important details can be missed or misunderstood. Voicemail complaints might be more likely to be overlooked, especially in high-volume settings, unless they are very concise and articulate clear action points.

In both cases, the likelihood of a response and action often depends on the organization's customer service policies and the specific issues being addressed. Shorter, clearer complaints are typically more successful because they allow the service provider to quickly understand the issue and begin formulating a response or solution.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Auto Manufacturers Don’t Want to Know How Much Their Dealers Charge You for a New Car

As you know, car dealers have sold virtually all their new cars at thousands of dollars above MSRP over the last three years. The prices were so high that car dealers made record profits over that time despite selling relatively few new cars because of manufacturing constraints. Most auto manufacturers also made record profits because, they too, raised their prices to the dealer by stopping dealer incentives and raising their prices to the dealers.

In a recent auto dealer and manufacturer trade journal, Automotive News, an article said that only 18% of new cars being sold in 2024 were above MSRP. While it’s true that new car prices have dropped precipitously since 2022, I assure you that nowhere near 18% of the actual transaction prices this year are below MSRP, (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price).

Auto News and the manufacturers are making this false assumption because their dealers are discounting prices below MSRP, but their dealers are also hiding thousands of dollars in junk fees and dealer preinstalled accessories that do not show on their financial statements in the price of the car. Their dealers hide this additional car markup and dealer profit under false headings like “miscellaneous income”. By doing this, the dealers also avoid having to pay their salespeople and managers a percentage of this additional new vehicle profit. The salespeople know this and are even more reluctant to remove junk fee from those added to the advertised price of the vehicle because it reduces their sales commission. To reduce price, the dealer does not allow the removal of junk fees. He allows only the reduction of the commissionable price of the car.
 
The true selling prices of new cars are readily available to the manufacturer and almost anybody if they truly want to know. “Transaction Prices” are a matter of public record when every car is sold. The profit/markup on a car is simply the difference between the true cost of the car paid by the dealer to the manufacturer and the delivery price, less government fees. The oft touted “dealer invoice” is a misnomer and contains thousands of dollars in hidden kickbacks to the dealer.
 
If the Federal Trade Commission wanted to make a simple rule that would solve almost all dealer deception, it would be that the out-the-door selling price, aka transaction price, must match the advertised or quoted price plus government fees only.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Help a Friend Buy a Car

www.EarlsVigilantes.com

You're reading this column now, and that tells me that you're probably an educated consumer. You hope to pick up a tip or two on how to buy or lease a car without getting ripped off by a car dealer. This is what educated consumers do. They read, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and communicate with others who share information.

As the old expression goes, "I'm preaching to the choir." Those who need this information the most are consumers who don't read columns like this or avail themselves of other sources of consumer information. I'll bet that the percentage of those who subscribe to Consumer Reports who are victimized by car dealers is very, very low.

This is why I'm asking you to share your expertise with others less fortunate than you. Those who are taken advantage of by unscrupulous car dealers are those who are very young, very old, or lacking in education, and those whose first language is not English. It also includes people who are simply too trusting, and not sophisticated in legalities or the art of negotiation. We all know people like this because they comprise most consumers and are all "fish in a barrel" for car dealers.

To thank you for joining Earl's Vigilantes, I'll send you a vigilante cap with the logo when you fill out the application at www.EarlsVigilantes.com.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Autonomous Cars Shouldn't Require a Driver's License

Seventeen years ago, I wrote a blog entitled "Grandma and Grandpa's Freedom Machine." I was 66 years old then and first began thinking of myself as a "senior citizen" aka "old guy." The gist of this article was inspired by my late "Uncle Charlie," who refused to give up his old Cadillac. He'd retired from operating his gas station in West Palm Beach, and his 20-year-old Cadillac sat in his driveway for 10 years after he could no longer drive it. He and Aunt Marion could see it from their living room rocking chairs, sitting on its flat tires. It made Uncle Charlie happy to think about driving it in past years on Sundays to "visit" friends and family, including my mother, father, sister, and me. They'd go to church first, all dressed up (Uncle Charlie always wore a Fedora hat).

As a car dealer, I sometimes must talk to my elder customers' children who intervene when their parents want to buy another car or drive it in for service. This is one of the most difficult times for a family to face. One could say, "One of the happiest moments in my life was when I got my driver's license and first car; one of the saddest was when they took them away from me."

This year U.S. Representatives Brian Mast from Florida and Greg Stanton from Arizona introduced a bipartisan Autonomous Vehicle Accessibility Act to help people with disabilities better access the mobility and independence benefits of autonomous vehicles. The elderly, of course, represent a high percentage of those with disabilities because this is part of aging.

We seniors think a lot about losing our driver's licenses when our sight, hearing, and other senses begin to fail us. Contemplating taking written tests and driving tests is scary. What if we don't pass? Doctors tell us that many of their elderly patients don't have current drivers' licenses. They continue to drive with expired licenses because they're afraid to take the driving tests. This is not just dangerous for them, but for everybody else on the road.

Call me a "cockeyed optimist," but I believe if we seniors can hang on a little while longer, we'll never have to give up our "freedom machines." We can buy an autonomous vehicle or buy a timeshare in one. We'll be able to summon our vehicle to pick us up in front of our residence and tell it to take us to Walgreens or Taco Bell. The big bonus to "time share" is we pay only for the time we use the vehicle. Today, our vehicle sits in the garage or out front of our homes 80% of the time... but we still must pay for all that idle time.

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Most Important Part of Your Car For Maintenance, Expense & Safety

Automotive technology has been advancing at warp speed for the past 20 years. Today’s new automobile is far superior in safety, comfort, ease of operation, maintenance, mechanical repair cost, and longevity. It seems like yesterday that we were all driving combustion engine cars that got 12 mpg and were well worn out at 50,000 to 100,000 miles. By today’s standards, they were “death traps” in an auto accident. Today, we’ve evolved to hybrid cars and are on the way to all-electric. Maintenance is almost non-existent, and we’re not that far away from fully autonomous cars.

Sadly, our cars’ tires got stuck in a time warp about twenty years ago and are pretty much the same tires you’ve always had on your car…just a lot more expensive. I’m not sure why this is because there’s nothing more dangerous than a tire blowing out at high speed, and there’s no other part of a car that has to be regularly replaced, repaired, and maintained like tires.

We used to have to have our oil changed, transmission-radiator-battery fluid levels checked and replaced regularly…no more. Now you can change your oil just once a year. The only good thing about all the other necessary maintenance back in the day was that your tires could also be checked, but checking your tires only once a year is very dangerous and can be very expensive.

Here are a few guidelines to keep you safe and save you money with your tires:
  • Inspect your tires at least monthly for inflation psi and uneven wear or road hazard debris like screws and nails.
  • Inflate your tires higher than the auto manufacturer’s recommendation but below the tire manufacturer’s recommendation (smoothest ride). The car manufacturer has the psi on the door jamb and/or owner’s manual, and the tire manufacturer has it stamped on the sidewall (maximum inflation) of your tire.
  • Have your tires rotated and balanced based on the manufacturer’s recommendation or anytime you experience a vibration or pull while driving.
  • Have all four wheels alignment checked whenever you have them otherwise checked. Almost all service departments will check your alignment free and provide you with a computer printout of the results.
  • Also, have your alignment checked whenever you notice a pull on your steering wheel, to the left or right.
  • Buy the best tire for your driving and environment based on Consumer Reports testing reports (See the February issue of CR or go online to www.CR.org). Do not buy tires because of the brand name. Some well-known tires are very good, but some aren’t. You’ll be surprised to find the best tires recommended by Consumer Reports are brands you haven’t heard about.
  • Finally, shop the price when buying tires and not what Consumer Reports says is fair. Be careful when buying tires to get the full price including mounting and balancing and “junk fees”. If you’re near a Costco warehouse, there’s no better place to buy new tires. Do not waste money adding “nitrogen” to our tires, but Costco inflates them with nitrogen at no charge. I think that this is because so many people are fooled into believing nitrogen is good to have in tires. It’s not unless you’re a NASCAR driver or an airline pilot.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Insider Car Buying Tips for the “Hardcore” Negotiator

Disclaimer: I advise 99% of car buyers not to negotiate for the lowest price when buying or leasing a car.

This column is for that 1% who are skilled at and enjoy the game and art of negotiation. Lawyers are often excellent negotiators, having been trained in law school to deal with judges, opposing lawyers, district attorneys, and the police. A few non-lawyers are good negotiators; it’s something they were born with and enjoy. My wife and partner, Nancy Stewart, loves to negotiate and is very good at it. Therefore, 99% of those reading this column should not attempt to negotiate with a car dealer. If you try, you're "playing his game" and are like someone who sits down at a poker table in Las Vegas. If you find yourself looking at each person around the table, wondering if there's a “sucker” playing in that game… YOU ARE THE SUCKER. Never play the other person's game; you will lose control. Follow my advice in my hundreds of other columns and use the Internet to buy online, using aids like Costco, Consumer Reports, and TrueCar.

FOR HARDCORE NEGOTIATORS ONLY:

1. Decide exactly what year, make, model, and MSRP car you want and never deviate from that choice.

2. Bring a friend along with you. Never car shop alone. Your friend can take notes for you, remind you about details, and there’s strength in numbers, both psychologically and legally.

3. Do not tell the dealer that you will trade in your old car, even if you plan to. You remove the dealer's ability to increase profit on the car you're buying and force him to negotiate on the price of the specific car you're buying. It's easier to sell your old car today at a higher price than ever before.

4. Tell the dealer that you're financing your car through him, even if you aren't, and probably shouldn't. Why? Historically, car dealers make more money on financing than on the markup of the car they sell. When they believe a profit opportunity exists, they're more likely to lower the car price because they can make up for it (and then some) on finance profit.

5. When you believe you've reached the lowest price you sought, ensure to get it in writing and ensure it includes all charges except government fees, namely sales tax and registration paid to the state government. To be perfectly safe, verify the “fees” listed do not have sales tax calculated on them. Government fees are non-taxable.

6. Make it clear that, even if they meet your price, you'll shop it with their competition. If they tell you the price is good only for today, tell them that’s too bad because you're going to compare it anyway. Don’t worry; if they would have sold you the car today for that price, they will tomorrow too.

7. If you get bogged down in negotiations, stand up, walk out the door, get in your car, and begin to drive away. Most of the time, the salesman and even his manager will intercept you before you get on the highway with a lower price than you have.

Monday, February 19, 2024

When, How, and Who? Complaining at a Car Dealership

The chances are that if you buy a car or have yours serviced by a car dealer, you’ll have something to complain about. For the past 50 years, the Gallup Annual Poll on Ethics and Honesty in Professions has ranked car dealers at, or very near, the bottom of all companies and professions.

The trick is knowing how to complain effectively so that the likely bad treatment you'll receive can be corrected. Car dealers will only pursue aggressive, unethical, and dishonest tactics when they believe that it's working to make more money on your purchase of a car or service. Once they believe that they’re dealing with an educated consumer who can't be scammed, they'll probably back off, become transparent, and do what they realize they must to make the sale, or even avoid being sued.

Complain only to the person who is authorized to correct the wrongs you’ve incurred. This is a real manager in charge of the department with which you’re dealing—new car, used car, service. I underlined "real" because rank-and-file salespeople will often claim to be managers. A true manager is identified on the dealership's website and on his business card (don’t settle for an assistant manager).

Speak to the highest-ranking manager you can find, ideally the General Manager of the entire dealership or the owner. These "higher-ups" often don't even know about the shenanigans going on at lower levels, but if they do, by speaking to you, they lose "deniability". This means they can't claim they didn’t know about all the dishonest and unethical behavior by their subordinates.

Speak calmly, politely, but firmly, and never raise your voice. Don’t come across as accusatory and threatening. Refer to the issues that caused you to complain as misunderstandings or mistakes, not dishonesty or deception (even if you suspect them).

Let it be known that you will be confirming this issue in writing via email, text, or letter. Tell them this is just to be sure you’ve clearly and completely stated your case, not because you're going to sue them (even though this is exactly why you should do this).

Include the auto dealer's manufacturer in the written summary of your complaint. If it’s a serious matter, also include your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Be sure to obtain the cell phone number of the person you’ve complained to. This is a good habit to have with all dealership personnel you meet. You’d be surprised, or may already know, how difficult it is to get responses on promises made to you in car dealerships. Phone calls, texts, and emails are not answered. Most everyone in a car dealership is paid on commission, and once that’s "in their pocket," there’s no time for returning phone calls.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Ways to Avoid Common (and costly) Mistakes Made Serving Your Car

It's easy to make a mistake and agree to services for your car that you just might not need. Arm yourself with this information and you can forget about making these costly errors:
  • You are not required to take your car to the dealer from whom you bought your car for service. Any dealer franchised for your make of car can perform warranty work and all other work.
  • Buy your next car from the dealer with the best price and service it with the dealer that offers the best service.
  • You are required only to have warranty work done at a dealer for your make of car. All other repairs and maintenance can be performed by any qualified mechanic or service company. Always save receipts for the work performed when you have work done by someone other than a franchised dealer for your make.
  • Always get at least two bids on any service or repair that’s costly, or you aren’t sure is necessary.
  • Always get a written estimate of the cost of a service or repair. Many states, including Florida, require that the dealer remain within 10% of the written estimated cost.
  • My rule of thumb on an extended warranty or service contract is not to buy one. Assuming you bought a reliable car and maintained it properly, the odds are against you saving money on repairs by buying a warranty or service contract. The fine print in these contracts excludes most of the more likely and expensive repairs. The only valid reason for buying one is for "peace of mind," which is a psychological issue that only you can decide.
  • Ask for a more qualified technician to be assigned to work on your car, even if you must wait a little longer. One of my favorite jokes is, "What do they call the doctor who graduated last in his medical school class? A Doctor." Ensure your technician is ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified in the skills required to work on your car, such as transmission, engine, air-conditioning, etc.
  • Be sure to have all the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance done, according to their time schedule, and don’t buy anything else recommended only by the dealer. The service advisors are commissioned service salespeople. The more they can sell you, the more money they make. Today’s cars are far ahead of the cars you bought 10-15 years ago in terms of maintenance requirements. Most manufacturers offer free maintenance for periods of time, and the required maintenance is negligible—mainly tires and oil changes. Many dealer’s service departments will try to sell you more maintenance than you need to make money.
  • Be sure that the service advisor, or, even better, the technician, road tests your car with you before and after the repair or service. One of the most common problems in service departments is telling the customer the service was done or the problem was fixed when it wasn’t. This often happens because the service salesman didn’t understand the problem, or the technician didn’t understand the service salesman.

Monday, February 05, 2024

How to Buy a New Car With the Least Effort and Stress

Below is the suggested format for a written communication to the car dealers who sell the make of the new car you want to buy. You can choose how many new car dealers you contact. I suggest "the more the merrier." The average new vehicle today sells for about $50,000, and the discounts can be substantial. You decide how many prices from how far away you want to contact. The more dealers you ask, the lower the prices will range.

I suggest you use another email address, phone number, or address than yours; otherwise, you risk lots of salespeople harassment. Free email addresses are readily available, probably the best way; post office boxes and burner phones are also available but have a small cost.

Dear sales manager, 

I’m going to buy a new (fill in the year-make-model and MSRP) within the next 30 days. I will either pay cash or finance it through my bank or credit union. Please give me your out-the-door selling price for this new vehicle. My definition of "out-the-door" selling price is the price which adds only government fees, sales tax, and license tag and registration. I’m sending this email/text/letter to several (name of make) dealers in this area. Some may not respond, some will respond without complying precisely with my request, but some will comply completely. I will buy my new vehicle from the dealer that fully complies and has the lowest out-the-door price. If I were in your shoes, I’d rather have a chance to sell me a car than no chance at all. You have no chance if you don’t give me your out-the-door price in a timely fashion. If you respond with questions, suggestions, but do not include an out-the-door price, you’ll never hear from me again. The choice is yours.

Thanks very much for reading this,


“Maybe” your next customer



If you have a trade-in, shop it with CarMax, WeBuyAnyCar.com, Carvana.com, or at the used car lot of the dealer that sells that make new. If the dealer you decided to buy your new car from wants your trade, tell him he can have it if he’ll match the best price you've been offered by CarMax, etc.

This method of buying a new car will not only get you a much lower price but save you enormous time and aggravation. You can get prices from a dozen or more dealers in less time than visiting one dealership. You don’t have to play the car salesman’s game of running back and forth to his manager or endure the constant follow-up phone calls, emails, and texts.

Earl Stewart

Monday, January 29, 2024

Open Letter to Honest Car Dealers Supporting FTC, Combating Auto Retail Scams (CARS)

Dear Honest Car Dealer,

I just got off the phone with Jamie Brooks, an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission. I called her for an update on the implementation of the FTC regulation, CARS (Combating Auto Retail Scams). As you know, this regulation was scheduled to go into effect on July 30. However, the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) teamed up with the Texas Auto Dealers Association (TADA) to petition the Texas Federal Court to stop it. Consequently, the July 30th implementation date has been postponed.

I’m just one of many honest dealers who is supporting this regulation, according to FTC attorney Jamie Brooks. She plans to ask other honest dealers to contact me, and each other, so that we can network and assist the FTC in their fight to combat auto retail scams.

The argument against CARS made by NADA and TADA is that it will overly burden car dealers with regulations, harming their profits. They claim that all car dealers are adamantly opposed to CARS. In reality, we honest car dealers’ profits are being hurt by dishonest car dealers who routinely steal away our potential customers. They lure them in with bait-and-switch advertising of low-priced cars that they won’t sell at those prices. Our potential customers are tricked into paying hidden junk fees, dealer-installed accessories, and addendum stickers, resulting in thousands of dollars more than the advertised price.

Many honest dealers, like us, feel we have no choice but to “fight fire with fire” and reluctantly match our competition's bait-and-switch advertising and dishonest quotes of impossibly low prices. How can a car dealer sell a new or used car when his nearby competitor advertises the exact same car for $2,000 less than what he’ll actually sell it for?

If the hardcore dishonest car dealers could be stopped by the implementation of the CARS regulations, many honest dealers would breathe a sigh of relief. We could then treat our customers honestly and transparently while still making a fair profit.

Please call or text me at 561-358-1474, email me at earl@estoyota.com, or write to me at Earl Stewart Toyota of North Palm Beach, 1215 N. US-1, North Palm Beach, FL 33408. Please help me and the FTC bring honesty and transparency to the retailing of automobiles.

Sincerely,



Earl Stewart

Monday, January 22, 2024

Open Letter to Marco Rubio and Rick Scott: Do You Support or Oppose FTC Regulation Combat Auto Retail Scams?

Attention: Florida Senators Rubio and Scott:

I’m sure you’re familiar with the Federal Trade Commission’s new regulation, CARS which will hopefully be implemented soon. It was originally intended to go into effect this July 30th, but the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) teamed up with the Texas Auto Dealers Association (TADA) to fight it in the Federal Court, which forced the FTC to postpone the July 30 implementation.
 
This letter is, in no way, an attempt to change your view of the CARS regulation. I understand that you have an opinion on this regulation which may be negative or positive. I’m not attempting to change your mind because I understand how unlikely that would be. What I do ask is that each of you GO ON THE RECORD as to whether you do or do not support this regulation.
 
Knowing how busy you must be, I’m offering to donate $1,000 to your favorite charity when you do state in writing that you are for or against the FTC CARS regulation. Because my favorite charity is Big Dog Ranch Rescue (www.BDRR.org), I’ll double the donation to $2,000 if you designate this charity.
I’m sure that Florida car buyers, and all American car buyers, are unanimous in their support of the FTC “Combat Auto Retail Scams” regulations. The proof of this is the annual Gallup poll on Honesty and Ethics in Professions which for over 50 years has ranked Car Dealers at the bottom.
 
I understand why politicians like yourselves might be reluctant to take a position on a subject which puts you between “a rock and a hard place”. The rock is the 14 million car buyers (many of whom are also voters) and the hard place is the National Auto Dealers Association, Texas Auto Dealers Association and all other state dealers associations, their Political Action Committees, and the wealthy 48,000 car dealers in the US.
 
Silence on such an important issue should not be an option and it’s certainly not something a U.S. Senator can do that fulfills his duties and responsibilities to the voters of his state.
Please email me at earl@estoyota.com or text or call me at 561 358-1474. The same day that you do so I will mail a $1,000 check to your favorite charity or $2,000 if it’s to Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

Sincerely,

Earl Stewart
 
Earl Stewart
 
 
 

Monday, January 15, 2024

Don't Buy the Worst New Car!

CR Scores Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Lowest of All New Cars

When you think about buying a new car, you're considering purchasing the best you can afford. There are lots of good, even great, new cars today. The quality, safety, reliability, and cost of maintenance have all improved tremendously over the past few years. You almost can't go wrong when you buy a new car. Of course, getting a fair price is still a huge challenge, but that's fodder for another column.

As far as which make and model of new car you should buy, a lot depends on your individual needs and tastes. There are a lot more good cars to choose from today than ever before, but there are still a few bad ones that you can't learn about from advertisements or the car salesman.

Consumer Reports magazine or online is your best friend when it comes to spotlighting the new cars you should NOT BUY. CR (Consumer Reports) calculates the predicted reliability ratings for almost every new auto on the market. They measure twenty potential problem areas (including the engine, transmission, electric motors, leaks, and infotainment systems) and include responses on 330,000 vehicles. You may know that CR is a non-profit organization that derives all revenues from contributions and subscriptions. Their loyalty and responsibility are 100% to you, the consumer. When they test cars, they buy them directly from a dealership and pay full retail just like you.

The January issue of CR lists reliability reports on all nineteen types of new cars, like subcompact SUVs, electric cars, full-sized pickups, luxury mid-sized large cars, etc. For example, in the category of subcompact SUVs, the best is the Subaru Crosstrek with a score of 99, and the worst is the Volkswagen Taos with a score of 18. My point is, you needn't buy the Subaru because there are several other subcompact SUVs with good scores, like the Honda HR-V, Toyota Corolla Cross, and Mazda CX-30, which scored 85, 71, and 66, respectively. But don't even think about buying the VW Taos with its shockingly low score of 19!

Even if you get a much better price on a very low-rated new car, you're better off paying more for a highly rated make. This is because the total cost of ownership is undoubtedly higher for the less reliable vehicle. The higher costs of repair, maintenance, depreciation, and insurance will more than erase the savings you might find in the purchase price.

Monday, January 08, 2024

DEMAND Your Congressperson Makes Known Their Support for CARS


This year, July 30, 2024, CARS, the historic regulation of car dealers will automatically go into effect…unless the U.S. Congress sells out to Big Auto—the National Automobile Dealers Association, the 70,000+ car dealers in the USA, and the auto manufacturers.

Already, at least two bills exist that would block the FTC from enforcing the new CARS rule. One is the “Expensive and Detrimental Overregulation Act” and the second is the “Congressional Review Act.” If your congresspeople sell out to Big Auto and pass either one of those bills, it will kill the FTC regulations which would have protected you and all car buyers from car dealers’ scams and dishonesty.

Our democracy is the greatest government on Earth, but the Achilles' heel of a democracy is voter apathy. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), 70,000 car dealers, and most auto manufacturers control hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying efforts and political contributions that can kill these FTC rules if we are apathetic and remain silent.

Go online and learn the names and contact information of your U.S. Senators and Representatives. INSIST THAT YOUR CONGRESSPERSONS GO ON THE RECORD SUPPORTING (OR NOT) THE FTC REGULATIONS C.A.R.S., COMBATING AUTO RETAIL SCAMS to automatically pass into law on July 30, 2024. Do not stand still for their “ignore tactic.” When you put politicians “between a rock and a hard place,” they have 3 choices: support your request, come out against your request, or pretend like they didn’t hear you. Take away option 3 and insist that they go on the record, for or against, the FTC C.A.R.S. regulations.

If they go on the record supporting C.A.R.S., they’ll lose the financial support of Big Auto, which might cost them being reelected. If they go on record against C.A.R.S., they’ll lose your vote (and the votes of all car buyers), which will cost them being reelected. Take away option 3, which is to ignore you, and let them know that you view their silence as the same thing as being against C.A.R.S.