More about the Toyota Recall

November 2, 2010

First came news of a massive Toyota recall for unintended acceleration, then came reports that perhaps few if any of the vehicles actually had verifiable problems.

Now, however, an article alleges that Toyota was secretly repurchasing vehicles that demonstrated unintended acceleration. The consumer would then sign a confidentiality agreement, allowing Toyota to mislead the entire public about the lack of acceleration problems.

Toyota claims that sometimes they would repurchase the vehicles to be able to test them. Toyota continues to claim, as well, that the problem are overwhelmingly user error or nonexistent.

Yet, with a recall covering tens of millions of vehicles and a $16.4 million fine, it seems more plausible that some vehicles must have had problems. While a repurchase does not prove the vehicle had a defect, it does show that the consumer had legal evidence that encouraged Toyota to resolve the claim. Part of Toyota’s problem has been trying to cover up defects rather than address them. At a minimum, plaintiffs and consumers should be entitled to explore the evidence in those repurchased vehicles.

Can a lemon be “certified pre-owned?”

November 1, 2010

One remedy provided by the Missouri lemon law is a “repurchase” of the consumer’s vehicle. In other words, the manufacturer will take title to the vehicle. But what happens to the vehicle next?

Sometimes the manufacturer will test the vehicle, trying to duplicate and ultimately correct the nonconformities. Sometimes the vehicle will be scrapped. Sometimes the vehicle will be sold at auction and eventually resold with a salvage title.

But stories about some consumers’ experiences suggest that it is easy for manufacturers to simply resell these repurchased lemon vehicles as used cars. One article alleges that BMW resold cars it knew had defective high-pressure fuel tanks. Another article alleges that Volkswagen and Kia have similar practices.

Missouri does not have a statute that specifically requires a manufacturer to change the Title of a vehicle to “salvage” after a lemon law repurchase. Thus, if a manufacturer failed to report a repurchase, it is possible a consumer could end buying a vehicle that has been legally designated a “lemon.”

There are other laws, however, that could protect consumers. Sometimes the company providing a title report about the vehicle may be liable for not finding out all the important information, sometimes the dealership may be liable for misrepresentation, and sometimes the manufacturer may repurchase the vehicle again to avoid embarassment.

Care is always required when purchasing a used vehicle. If problems are discovered, getting old repair orders or even contacting prior owners may yield interesting information.

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