Consumer Car News: 12/10/01

December 10, 2001

Anyone who thinks Ford and Firestone are close to putting the tire debacle behind them is in for a disappointment, writes Jim Burt in today’s edition of “These tires are going to squeak and squeal for months and months to come,” he says. Why? ”A Federal judge in Indianapolis moved last week to certify the more than 500 property damage cases from several states into a class action. But those hundreds of cases will become thousands, if not millions of cases as people with tires and Explorers sign on for what will hopefully be their bite at the rubber apple. The plaintiffs' lead lawyer, Don Barrett of Lexington, Mississippi, said the customers in the class are seeking at least $2 billion from Ford and $500 million from Firestone, and possibly $6 billion more in punitive damages.”
Ford, Firestone in Class Action (12/03/2001)


Worn-out tires — and a lack of good tire-checking equipment at service stations — are putting American motorists at risk, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. Through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that he runs, Mineta is aiming to increase awareness of the dangers of driving on bald tires and in keeping tires properly inflated. To that end, Mineta on Friday announced a new NHTSA campaign to inform drivers, based on the theme, “Tire Safety: Everything Rides on It.” The agency reports that up to nine percent of cars on the road may have at least one bald tire, and that only 49 percent of gas stations offering air also have accurate tire-pressure gauges. "It is extremely important to motorists' safety that they ensure their tires have ample tread and are properly inflated," Secretary Mineta said in a release on Friday. "Motorists who drive on tires that are bald or substantially under-inflated risk injuries or fatalities."


A three-and-a-half-year, company-funded study supports Ford's claims that it made no profits off the use of forced and slave labor at its German plants during World War II. Ford has consistently argued it had no control over Ford-Werke operations in Cologne, Germany, in the years immediately leading up to the war. At one point or another, about 2,000 of the Ford-Werke plant's nearly 6,000 employees were involuntary workers. "The use of forced and slave labor in Germany, including at Ford-Werke, was wrong and cannot be justified," declared John Rintamaki, the automaker's chief of staff. But he insisted the Nazis controlled employment at all companies during that era. "The statement that Ford profited from the activities of Ford Germany during World War Two is just not true." That position was backed up by a team of 45 historians and archivists who noted they were given total access to Ford records. Despite declaring itself innocent of charges that surfaced in 1998, Ford announced plans to donate $4 million for a new study of slave labor and for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce fund for slave and forced laborers.


The country’s biggest car magazine has named its ten favorite cars for 2002 — and once again, the list includes a Honda Accord, a BMW 3-Series, and a Chevrolet Corvette. Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Car and Driver magazine votes on its annual 10Best list and publishes it in its January issue, due to hit newsstands next week. The winners for 2002 include the Acura RSX; Audi A4; BMW 3-Series; BMW 5-Series; Chevrolet Corvette; Ford Focus; Honda Accord; Honda S2000; Porsche Boxster; and Subaru Impreza WRX. Of the ten, it’s the first appearance only for the WRX and RSX.


Two fires reported by owners have triggered a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into the 2002 Toyota Sienna minivan. The reported fires did not result in injuries. The Sienna is built at Toyota’s sprawling Georgetown, Ky., manufacturing facility.


Fox is taking its investment in Speedvision to heart. The network says it will relaunch the auto and motorsports channel and rechristen it the Speed Channel on Feb. 11, the same date it begins airing nine hours of NASCAR racing coverage each day. The new “channel within a channel” has been dubbed NASCAR TV and will air between 3 p.m. and midnight each day. The programming block is to pick up the excess of stock-car coverage from Fox’s successful racing broadcasts; within the Speed Channel, the network also expects to air qualifying races, classic footage and other related programs.


The nation’s least savvy car buyers are in Portland, Ore., according to CNW Marketing Research, itself based in Oregon. The company compiled its rankings of the car-savvy places based on a combined score of average car-sales transaction prices, typical discounts, Internet usage for purchasing information, and depth of vehicle knowledge. Of course, Detroit shoppers ended up on the top of the list, with Angelenos and Princetonians ending up there in the top three of the 15 cities sampled. "Being an Oregon-based company, I would have preferred to see Portland do better," says Art Spinella, vice president and general manager of CNW. "But Portland residents are known for being self-absorbed and more than a little arrogant -- the perfect attributes for high dealer profits."

Car Smarts Index

    Detroit, MI           21.7

    Los Angeles, CA    21.3

    Princeton, NJ       18.9

    Chicago, IL          18.7

    Boise, ID             18.6

    Atlanta, GA          18.4

    Phoenix, AZ         18.3

    Dallas, TX            17.8

    San Francisco, CA 17.1

    Kansas City, MO   16.6

    New Orleans, LA   16.5

    Miami, FL             16.2

    Seattle, WA         15.3

    Washington, DC    15

    Portland, OR        13.1


    U.S. average        16.9


A New Jersey woman who expected to get as much as $40,000 for a car she donated to a Sept. 11 benefit auction says she won’t turn the car over to the winning bidder, according to a Reuters report. The car, a 1986 Jaguar sedan, was owned by Frank Sinatra, and was put up for auction by Anna May Capelli of Wycoff, N.J. According to her attorney, Capelli expected to auction the car for twice as much as the $20,000 minimum bid; $20,000 in fact was the winning bid, placed by Michael Padruka of Cape May. The car is sitting in limbo while a judge decides if it must be turned over. Padruka’s wife Angela is convinced Old Blue Eyes wants her to have the used Jag: she told reporters on Tuesday, “It's not my problem that she (Capelli) didn't get what she expected. I'm sure Frankie's looking right down over my shoulder as my guardian angel and saying, 'Angie, that's your car.'''



Arriving in style: There are few vehicles that say "success" louder than Rolls-Royce or Ferrari. Florida has the largest concentration of Rolls-Royces with more than 1,400 and California is a close second with New York placing third with less than 600. California is the top state for Ferraris, boasting more than 3,000, which is twice the number of these elite Italian sports cars running the roads in Florida. New York is a close third with more than 1,000 Ferraris calling the Empire State home.

Source: Experian Automotive's National Vehicle Database. For more information, please

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