Friday, April 24, 2009

Looming Auto Bankruptcy: What now?

It now looks like we may know by next Thursday whether Chrysler will seek bankruptcy protection - check out the following article: What can consumers, lemon law attorneys and others do to protect themselves. Some of the following options come to mind:

1. If your vehicle is still covered under the manufacturer's warranty and you have ongoing defects - get the car in for service asap - it may be the only "benefit" you see.

2. For cases that are in the process of settling - needless to say get them wrapped up quickly. In fact, it may already be too late for Chysler.

3. Whether it is Chrysler or GM it would seem prudent to insist in a buy-back case, that any loan payoff checks come directly to the attorney's office or given to the client at the time of turning in the car. This was they can be immediately deposited and then sent to the finance company to payoff the loan once the check clears. I am going to be cautious about having a consumer turn in the car and then rely on the manufacturer to send the check to the finance company afterword. What a disaster it would be if the consumer turned in the car and then say GM filed for bankruptcy BEFORE the check made it to the finance company?!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Auto Bankruptcy Fallout

I have practiced lemon law since approximately 1997. I never imagined I would see a time when the bankruptcy of Chrysler and General Motors was a real possibility. General Motors in particular was just too big, too iconic and just plain too American to fall so far that such an option would even be considered. Yet, here we are on the brink.

General Motors has certainly been an important part of my life both professionally and personally. On a professional level, I have successfully handled dozens of lemon law claims and lawsuits against GM, who in my opinion is one of the fairest automakers to deal with. On a personal level, my families current two vehicles (Pontiac Bonneville and Chevy Avalanche) are both GM vehicles as were the two we owned before them.

I have to say that I believe a double standard is being applied to the automakers. As many have pointed out the Government can not seem to funnel enough money to AIG because among other things, "they are too big to fail." Bankruptcy, however, is seen as a good choice for these autmakers because it will allow them to force concessions out of their workers and suppliers, not to mention debt holders. Yet clearly neither GM nor Chrysler acted with the same recklessness as AIG and many banks. Where have our priorities gone? What is to come of the thousands of dedicated workers and their families employed by the automakers and their suppliers.

Moreover, what is too come of the thousands of people who currently own GM and Chrysler vehicles that still have remaining warranties? My understanding of the Government's plan for backing the automakers warranties is that it only applies to those vehicles purchased after March 30. This apparently leaves people like myself (my Avalanche is only 17 months old) in the cold, having to absorb repair costs out of our own funds. I guess we are not part of the overall recovery plan? What is to come of my current clients who have pending litigation against one of the automakers? Will the Government intervene when their cases come to a grinding halt? What about the thousand of new car dealers who face not only dismissal sales but now may be the only party "left standing" for some period time. Are they to be expected to make warranty repairs out of their own pockets? Do they now become necessary parties to lemon law cases under other possible legal theories even though the original purpose of lemon laws was to hold only manufacturers responsible?

God bless General Motors and Chrysler and their employees and dealers. This is one lemon law attorney who is praying and hoping the make the greatest comeback of all time - for all of our sakes.