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Auto Dealers Continue to Irk Buyers

Auto dealers topped home repair contractors for consumer complaints the first time in five years, said an annual report that tracks beefs filed with state and local consumer protection agencies. The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators and the Consumer Federation of America said sales of both new and used cars topped the list of complaints in 2002. The report follows J.D. Power and Associates' Sales Satisfaction Survey in August, an annual study that tracks consumer satisfaction with the vehicle buying process. That study showed that more than one-fourth of people walking out of a dealership without buying did so because of the way the sales staff handled them. "While satisfaction scores have improved overall, our study finds little evidence that dealers as a whole have improved the process with which they interact with consumers," says Power's Chris Denove. Among the biggest complaints was misleading advertising. One area of complaint, though, was people flocking to dealerships expecting advertised zero-percent loans only to find that they didn't qualify for the low rate. Undisclosed collision damage on used cars and terms of extended service plans were also cited for frequent complaints. The survey showed 70 percent of the agencies listed automobile sales as a major complaint category, moving up from the number-three spot in 2001. Auto repair was ranked third after home repair. -Jim Burt,173&sid=173&article=6637

Recalls and Fixes for Mitsubishi, Honda and Ford Focus

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Honda Motor Co. said on Thursday they would recall more than a combined 570,000 cars worldwide. And Ford said it would fix 670,000 Focus sedans for customers because of a faulty fuel delivery module that has caused chronic stalling in some cars. No accidents were connected with the actions. Defective front-wheel suspension joints in about 140,000 Mitsubishi Galants, and 270,000 other Mitsubishis sold in Japan are affected. About 11,000 Grandi minivans in Japan were affected as well. Honda recalled 235,000 CR-V, Integra, Civic Ferio (non-U.S.), and Stream minivan (non-U.S.) models for a loose power steering box bolt that could affect the steering wheel. As Japanese carmakers grow, proliferate models, and manufacture outside their home market, recalls are on the rise. Nissan last month recalled 2.55 million cars worldwide for an engine defect. Honda said this month it was recalling 699,000 North American vehicles for a faulty parking gear mechanism. Recalls are rising for Toyota as well. -Jim Burt

IIHS: Speeding Increasing Highway Deaths

The 70-mph speed limit adopted by many states, particularly in the West, has led to an increase in the number of traffic fatalities, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS says its report, based on data from 1996 to 1999 and from 22 states that have adopted 70-mph or higher speed limits, found that 1880 more people died in those states than in those with 65-mph limits. States that have 70-mph speed limits saw a death-rate boost of 35 percent over states with 65-mph limits, while those with 75-mph limits had death rates 38 percent higher than the 65-mph states. Drivers in Atlanta were among the nation's most egregious speeders: the study shows that despite a 55-mph urban speed limit, 78 percent of the city's drivers exceeded 70 mph on average on one stretch of interstate.
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