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Monday, October 29, 2007

It's A Lock: Local Locksmith Writes Legislation Protecting Consumers

The automobile has come a long way since it first hit the road over a century ago. From the front-end cranking to get the engine to roll over, the automobile has been forced to keep up with today's technology and has joined the countless other items that now hold a computer chip within; not just the engine but the car key itself.

This technology has forced today's locksmiths to keep the pace by upgrading their training. John Brueggeman of Greenfield is one such locksmith who has risen to the challenge.
Brueggeman moved to Greenfield some 15 years ago from Seaside where he lived temporarily while working for the state of California state parks in the capacity of a park ranger, the law enforcement branch of the state parks system.

In his third year as state president of the California Locksmith's Association, Brueggeman represents all locksmiths in California, not just for state licensing, but he has also represented the locksmith industry as a whole in front of the state legislature.

Brueggeman received an award in the 2005/2006 legislative session for additional legislative work.
"I worked with the automobile club of California (known as Triple A) and provided them with technical expertise to pass Senate Bill 1542 that was sponsored by Carol Midgen out of San Francisco," he said. "She authored a bill which mandated the auto manufacturers to provide the high security key code and information to allow a registered and bonded locksmith to generate the key without having to go to the dealer to have a new key made."

Currently, the newer cars have a computer chip inside their keys that require special high security information that until this law, called "Key Code Information" passed, people could not call a regular locksmith to obtain a new key. According to Brueggeman, a bonded locksmith is now privy to this information held within the key and can make copies. Consumers, when forced to go to their dealer for a key, were paying as much as $1,000 for a key.

"I had to go before Senate Committees and attend multiple meetings with auto manufacturers and AAA sponsors," Brueggeman said of his efforts to get the bill passed. He stressed for clarification that the correct name of this organization is CSAAA (California State American Automobile Association) even though everyone knows it as AAA. Should it be in Texas it would be known as TSAAA.

"This legislation was the first time this law has been proposed and passed in the nation," Brueggeman said. "Since the California legislation, 12 other states have tried (to pass a similar law) but only three have passed a variation of the law." He said the law will become effective, forcing the auto manufactures to provide the key code information on Jan. 1, 2008, to all registered and bonded locksmiths.

This entire electronic nightmare came about because today's keys are electronic. "Inside of the key cad, there's an electronic chip that has to be programmed for that particular vehicle," explained Brueggeman. This programming was all done at the auto manufacturer and it was they who held the mystery of the electronic key - that is, until the "The Right to Repair Act" passed, thanks to Brueggeman and his efforts.

Explaining how these new high tech keys work, Brueggeman said, "Everything is done through the key fob. Cars no longer have the old key system anymore." A key fob has a little garage door opener image on it and it will open and close the car door. "There are cars out right now that you don't even use a key to open it," said Brueggeman "They respond to the keys in your pocket." Continuing on, he said, "These keys have an electronic transmission chip in them and as you get close to your car, it will unlock the vehicle and if you wish, it will even start the car." He said that there are cars out there that are completely keyless.

The legislation Brueggeman worked on in 2006 said the carmakers were supposed to give out the information regarding this new technology. Now he faces the "how" to disseminate it. "I've been working with the national organization to figure out how to deliver these secure key codes to the locksmiths and the car repair industry from the auto manufacturers. This will allow the consumer to take their vehicle to whomever they want for the required work instead of forcing them to pay exorbitant dealer prices.

"For the past three years, I've been working on writing the policies of locksmiths and auto repair industries so that they might be able to gain access to this information," Brueggeman said. He said it was not only to meet the mandates that California has, but to get auto manufacturers to do what California legislation has now mandated.

"Local garages and the locksmith industry will have to be registered to have access to all the auto manufacturers sites. The National Right to Repair Act is the national legislation that now says that dealers cannot have a monopoly on this information," Brueggeman said.

Brueggeman received his award in Charlotte, N.C., on July 28, 2006, from the National Locksmith's Association as the outstanding member of the year for his assistance in getting the California legislation passed. It has set the pattern for the rest of the nation. The delay in receiving the award was because Gov. Schwarzenegger didn't sign the bill until September of last year, after the convention had already met for the year. "They couldn't give it to me (the award) until the ink was dry," Brueggeman said with a chuckle.

Article by Jody Smith, 10/24/07 - South County Newspapers

Friday, October 26, 2007

Toyota Recalls 470,000 Cars

TOKYO: Toyota Motor Corp said on Wednesday it was recalling more than 470,000 cars in Japan due to problems with the fuel and steering systems in the latest dent to the automaker's reputation for quality.

The Japanese auto giant will recall 277,074 passenger cars of eight models, including the Crown luxury sedan, produced in Japan between September 1999 and October 2004, the automaker said.

Toyota said the recall was aimed at exchanging parts used in the fuelcontrol system and pipes, which may cause fuel leaks.

The company will also recall 120,406 cars of various models due to malfunction of fuel pumps, and 74,347 cars to change defective parts in the steering system. Toyota said it had exported some 680 other cars with similar troubles to more than five countries, including Australia, South America and China.

The automaker is ready to exchange defective parts free of charge within the scope of regulations in each of those countries, a company spokesman said.

Toyota, which is on course to overtake US giant General Motors this year as the world's top selling automaker, announced several large recalls last year, prompting a renewed push by executives to resolve quality issues.

The Japanese automaker also recalled more than half a million pickup and sport utility vehicles in the United States in January of this year.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Ford Lacks Parts For Recall Repair

Ford Motor Company does not have sufficient parts to repair 1.25 million passenger cars recalled for a potential fire hazard and the parts will not be available until later in 2007.

The automaker claims to be making every effort to provide the parts but has failed to give dealers the needed quantity to be installed on the cruise control switch system in some recalled vehicles.

Ford's recall of 3.6 million cars and trucks announced in August covered more than a dozen models built from 1992 to 2004. The automaker has recalled more than 10 million vehicles since 1999 because of engine fires linked to the cruise control systems in trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.

Vehicles that are affected by the parts shortage include the 1992-1997 Lincoln Town Car 1992-1997 Ford Crown Victoria, 1992-1997 Mercury Grand Marquis, 1993-1998 Lincoln Mark VIII, 1993-1995 Taurus SHO and 1994 Mercury Capri.

A Ford spokesman said there have been no supply problems for parts for SUVs and pickup trucks covered by the recall.

Ford had promised in August that it expected the parts to be available for the passenger cars in early October.

The spokesman blamed the problem on demand for the part exceeding supply as Ford owners rushed to dealers in an effort to eliminate the fire hazard.

Dealers are installing a fused wiring harness into the speed control electrical system as part of the recall. Owners can take their vehicles to a dealer to have the cruise control deactivated until the parts arrive.



Friday, October 19, 2007

Tips On Getting Complaints Heard

The Better Business Bureau receives complaints every day. Often the difficulty in resolving a complaint is the procedure used. How do you know when to complain? Do you really have a complaint and is there anything you can do about the problem? Those are all good questions and the answer really depends on your specific problem.

The best advice is to start with trust; trust the business and always check it out before you do business with them. Of course, you can be a wise consumer and avoid most problems by knowing with whom you are doing business and their reputation and what your guarantee or warranty covers. And don't forget to save all contracts, sales receipts, canceled checks, owner's manuals and warranty documents.

The first rule is don't respond emotionally, which is easier said than done. Being emotional will only make the process more difficult and usually ends with poor results. If you are in an emotional state postpone handling the situation to a later time.

The second rule is do your homework and plan your action. If your complaint involves a contract, warranty or guarantee, read all the fine print that came with it.

Know your rights. Those are usually outlined in your contract or bill of sale. Know what you want. Be clear in your mind and in all your communications with the company about what you want to happen and your expectations.

Talk to a service representative first. If you do not obtain the results you want ask to speak to the manager or owner. Be reasonable and remember "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Being hard to deal with or rude only gives the company an opportunity to hang up on you or feel justified in its actions. Being pleasant usually makes this whole process easier. Ask the representative what they would do to resolve this problem. Most companies want satisfied customers. Listen to the company's side and possible resolutions; it could be better than what you are requesting.

If you are handling the situation on the phone, make certain to get names and direct phone numbers and/or email addresses, if possible. This will make the process easier should you have to call back. And don't forget to take good notes. Keep a log of all communications.

There are times to handle complaints on the phone and there are times to do so by email or regular mail. The important note here is to keep copies of all communications. If necessary send the letters certified mail, return receipt requested. This will cost more, but it will give you proof that the letter was received and will tell you who signed for it. Contact your post office for more information. In communications, use deadlines and be reasonable - allow time for action.

Sharane Gott, president of the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana

Monday, October 15, 2007

Auto Recalls - 2007 Dodge Nitros, 2006-2007 Jeep Wranglers, Commander and Cherokees

Chrysler announced an automobile recall of approximately 300,000 trucks and SUVs due to drivers experiencing a short delay in breaking when driving uphill.

Chrysler dealers will fix the problem for free by reprogramming the control module of the antilock brake systems on 2007 Dodge Nitros and Jeep Wranglers and also 2006-2007 Commanders and Jeep Grand Cherokees.

One report of a crash, with no injuries has been reported to Chrysler that may have been caused by the brake problem. Owners will be notified of the recall by mail beginning next month.

The brake failure tends to occur when a vehicle has been going up a grade and the driver switches from the accelerator to the brake pedal, such as, preparing for a turn, a company spokesman said.

"It's a very rare occurrence," spokesman Max Gates told Reuters. "But we have had reports of drivers experiencing problems when they take their foot off the accelerator.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Flood Damaged Vehicles - How To Avoid One

Among the many perils used-car shoppers face is buying a flood-damaged vehicle.

"Consumers should be aware that some businesses and individuals may try to sell salvaged and flood-damaged cars without revealing the vehicle history," said David Claeys, purchasing manager of retailer CarMax.

To avoid this, here are a few tips experts say shoppers can follow:

Check for a moldy smell in the car and feel the carpet for dampness.

Be suspicious of an older car with a brand-new interior or carpeting.

Look for rust under the brake or gas pedal.

Check for rust or dirt under the dashboard or floor mats.

Check under the seats for signs of rust on the bolts or screws.

Examine the undercarriage to see if there is excessive rust.

Look in the trunk under the carpet in the spare-tire well for dirt, sand or rust.

Check for corrosion, water marks or a thin brown line on the exterior.

Make sure the electrical system works.

Check the vehicle-identification number with a vehicle-history service such as AutoCheck or CarFax to see if a flood claim has been filed or a salvage title has been issued on the car.

If you think you may have purchased a flood damaged vehicle, contact an attorney in your state who could help you.

Rob Douthit, Cox News Service

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Toyota recalls floor mats that jam gas pedals

Toyota Motor Co. will recall floor mats from 55,000 Camry and Lexus ES 350 models due to complaints of unintended acceleration caused by the mats sticking underneath the accelerator pedal, federal safety officials and the automaker said Wednesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the unusual step of highlighting Toyota's recall announcement, advising owners of other Toyota models -- including the Prius hybrid and Avalon sedans -- to ensure their floor mats are properly installed.

"We have also received complaints about the RAV 4" crossover "and Tacoma" pickup, said Rae Tyson, a spokesman for NHTSA. "We will continue to monitor all of the other Toyota vehicles not involved in the recall."

As the Free Press first reported last month, NHTSA had opened an investigation into the floor mats after amassing 40 reports of unintended acceleration in 2007 Lexus ES 350 sedans, including eight crashes and 12 injuries.

Since then, NHTSA has received complaints from owners of other Toyota models about the problem.

In several of the original complaints, drivers said the vehicles only stopped after an accident. One driver told the agency the vehicle had hit speeds of 100 m.p.h. over a 6-mile stretch of freeway due to the problem.

A Michigan woman said the problem caused her to lose control of her Lexus, triggering a rollover crash on I-75 that totaled her car. Because some ES 350s are sold with stop/start buttons rather than traditional ignitions, some drivers said they were unable to shut off the engine by pressing the button as the car accelerated.

At the time, Toyota told safety officials it had identified an optional all-weather floor mat that if not properly secured by clips to the floor could stick under the accelerator pedal; in some cases, Toyota said owners had simply put the rubber mat over the standard floor mats.

The company contended it had dealt with the problem through a mailing to customers earlier this year.

Toyota said Wednesday the recall involves 30,500 mats for the ES 350 and 24,500 mats for the 2007 and 2008 Toyota Camry.

Owners will be told of the recall in October and offered replacement mats in November. The company also warned drivers to check their floor mats and make sure that only one was installed.

Sudden and unintended acceleration cases carry a stigma in the U.S. auto industry, due to the collapse of the Audi brand in the late 1980s following a "60 Minutes" report alleging runaway cars. Federal safety officials later cleared Audi, but it took years for the company to rebuild its reputation.

In a separate move, Nissan Motor Co. said it was recalling nearly 420,000 sport utility vehicles because of possible corrosion in the tube where motorists pump gas.

The recall involves Nissan Pathfinder and Infiniti QX4 SUVs from the 1997-2001 model years. More than 370,000 of the vehicles under recall were originally sold or are currently registered in 22 cold weather states and the District of Columbia. Another 45,000 vehicles are in Canada.

Justin Hyde
Free Press Business Writer

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Aston Martin Is Subject of Missouri Lemon Law Suit

Sunset Hills, Missouri — Secret agent James Bond relied upon his Aston Martin Vanquish automobile, down to its machine guns, in the 2002 movie "Die Another Day."

But Gary Mathes of Sunset Hills, who presumably has no weaponry on his, says in a lawsuit that he cannot get even the basic systems to work dependably. He is demanding return of the $258,300 he paid for it.

Mathes is suing the vaunted British maker of high-performance luxury cars under Missouri's "Lemon Law."

Specifically, he claims that the 2006 model he bought in February 2006 has problems the dealer can't or won't fix. The suit says he reported problems on at least 12 occasions in the 11 months after purchase — involving the engine, windows, brakes, fuel system, accessories, electrical system, body and "noises." I

n addition to the Lemon Law, Mathes is suing under federal and state laws covering warranties and state consumer protection law.

The case was moved this week to federal court in St. Louis after originally being filed in April in St. Louis Circuit Court.

Mathes' lawyer said the company cannot replace the Vanquish, as only a limited number are made each year. The dealer has said it's not willing to offer a refund "at this point," he said.

Aston Martin's response, filed in court Friday, denies the allegations. A lawyer for the company did not return a call seeking comment, and the company did not respond to an e-mail. It was a division of Ford Motor Co. at the time Mathes' car was built.

The dealer was not named as a defendant and is not identified in the suit.

Public records show Mathes is a retired engineer. Mathes could not be reached.

Aston Martin's website says only a few hundred Vanquish models were built each year. The model has been discontinued.

Under Missouri's Lemon Law, vehicle owners have to report problems or defects in writing to the manufacturer, which gets a "reasonable" number of attempts to fix the problem. If the problem hasn't been fixed after four trips to the dealer, or if the vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 working days for a problem under warranty, the manufacturer can either offer a cash refund or an acceptable vehicle of comparable value.

R. Patrick - St. Louis Post Dispatch - 9/29/07

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