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A Publication of Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service
Vol. 13  No. 1         Winter 2007

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Toyota Deal - Here Comes The Sludge Judge


    Automotive News

    LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. has quietly settled a class-action lawsuit that covers about 3.5 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles that may have been damaged by engine oil sludge. Details of the settlement, which allows for third-party mediation of sludge claims rejected by Toyota, have been mailed to 7.5 million current and previous owners.
    Critics contend Toyota has told customers and dealers too little about sludge issues. They say some customers took vehicles with dead engines to dealers who had little or no knowledge of the problem and often assumed it was the owners' fault. Unhappy customers had no remedy other than hiring a lawyer to go after Toyota.
    Under the agreement, owners whose claims have been denied by Toyota may submit them to a third-party mediator at no cost for binding arbitration. "This settlement breathes life into claims that have been dead for years," said Gary Gambel, a lawyer for plaintiffs who sued Toyota. "This is not a settlement that gives a few dollars to everyone. The relief is exactly tied to the problems and damages that someone might have."
    The lawsuit, filed in a Louisiana district court, is expected to be approved by the court in early February.

    About 3.3 million Toyota vehicles are susceptible to oil sludge, which can cause thousands of dollars in damage and require replacement of the engine. Here are the vehicles included in the settlement.

    Camry 4 cyl. 1997-2001
    Camry 6 cyl. 1997-2002
    Camry Solara 4 cyl. 1999-2001
    Camry Solara 6 cyl. 1999-2002
    Sienna 6 cyl. 1998-2002
    Avalon 6 cyl. 1997-2002
    Celica 4 cyl. 1997-1999
    Highlander 6 cyl. 2001-2002
    Lexus ES 300 1997-2002
    Lexus RX 300 1999-2002

    Sludge is gelled oil that fails to lubricate engine parts. It can lead to damage, often requiring a new engine at a cost that can exceed $10,000. Complaints about sludged engines have plagued several carmakers, but Toyota's troubles have been especially controversial in light of its reputation for vehicle quality. The issue highlights a possible chink in the company's armor. Executives fear Toyota is growing too fast for its engineering resources. That could lead to quality snags and a tarnished reputation.
    When a customer takes a sludge-caked engine to a dealership, there is usually a "clean-out" procedure. The head is pulled and a service technician tries to steam out the sludge. If that doesn't work, the engine must be replaced.  Sludge can result from poor engine design; overly tight tolerances between moving parts; improper cooling; and poor maintenance by consumers.  Toyota insists the problem arises mainly when owners fail to change their oil frequently enough.  The agreement does not find Toyota at fault.
    "The settlement doesn't mean that Toyota or Lexus vehicles are predisposed to develop oil gel," according to the notice. "The court did not decide which side was right." After Toyota had received 3,400 sludge complaints by 2002 it extended its vehicle warranty to eight years and unlimited miles. The program was offered to owners of 1997-2002 Toyota and Lexus vehicles equipped with 3.0-liter V-6 or 2.2-liter four-cylinder engines. The company declined to give an updated number of complaints.
    Under terms of the settlement:
    Owners of damaged vehicles have eight years plus 120 days from the original purchase date to file a complaint. If Toyota denies the claim, owners can appeal to a judge-appointed third-party administrator: J. Robert Ates, a New Orleans lawyer. Customers who have already made repairs may be able to recover the costs. Only those who elect not to participate in the settlement can sue Toyota individually. The deadline for that choice was Dec. 31, 2006. The settlement is transferable to future vehicle owners. The car only needs to show evidence of oil sludge. It is not necessary for the owner to have made repairs during the claim period. Damages that can be recovered include loss in value of the vehicle and incidental costs, such as rental cars. Past lawyers' fees, mental anguish and bodily injuries are not covered. A Toyota spokesman said the agreement is not a defeat for the automaker. "The settlement validates the customer support program we implemented four years ago," Xavier Dominicis said. "The terms of the program remain unchanged. There always was a way for customers to appeal our decision."  Plaintiff lawyers disagree. They say Toyota failed to communicate the extent of the problem to its dealers and customers. Toyota's appeal process also meant hiring a lawyer, which many consumers could not afford. It costs nothing to file an appeal with Ates.  "The consumer only needs to show reasonable maintenance in terms of oil changes," Gambel said. "You don't need to prove where the sludge came from, or explain your driving habits. If you have oil sludge, Toyota pays" the consumer. Consumers can get more information by calling 888-279-4405 or at

Secretary Of Transportation Announces Plan To Improve
Vehicle Crash Tests & Five Star Rating Program

Source: NHTSA

DETROIT – The federal government would improve its automobile crash tests and strengthen its five-star vehicle safety rating system under a plan unveiled today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters during a visit to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Under the improvements suggested for the five-star safety rating program – known as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) - vehicles will be subjected to more stringent rollover, frontal and side crash tests. Secretary Peters added that the new proposal could include, for the first time, ratings for crash avoidance technologies like electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems. “Safety is not a static concept. Our approach to constantly improving vehicle safety can’t be either. Every day, we’re working hard to raise the bar on auto safety” said Secretary Peters. “Our proposals not only improve overall vehicle safety, they provide better, more useful information for consumers.”

The NCAP proposal lays out short and long-term strategies to not only improve overall vehicle safety, but to provide better, more useful information to help consumers make more informed decisions when they buy cars, trucks, or SUVs. The Secretary announced plans to hold a public meeting on March 7 in Washington, D.C., to provide the public with an opportunity to provide input and ask questions. For nearly 30 years, Secretary Peters said, NCAP has been the catalyst for encouraging major safety improvements to new car design. Consumer demand has driven more manufacturers to design passenger vehicles that are safer than ever before. But even with those high standards, she said, more than 40,000 people still lose their lives in car crashes on America’s roads each year.

“We can never become complacent about saving the lives of our loved ones and we must be willing to evolve along with the times and technology,” Secretary Peters said. “And that’s exactly what the recommendations that we release today seek to do.”

Each year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs rollover and crash tests on new cars and trucks and assigns them with a safety rating. Five stars is the top rating. Today, 95 percent of new cars received the top ratings in crash tests. For further information on the current NCAP program please go to

Driving While Taking Medications

Source: AP

For most people, driving represents freedom, control and independence. Driving enables most people to get to the places they want or need to go. For many people, driving is important economically – some drive as part of their job or to get to and from work.
Driving is a complex skill. Our ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and mental condition. The goal of this article is to help you and your health care professional talk about how your medications may affect your ability to drive safely. How can medications affect my driving? People take medications for a variety of reasons. Those can include:

    * allergies
    * anxiety
    * cold
    * depression
    * diabetes
    * heart and cholesterol conditions
    * high blood pressure
    * muscle spasms
    * pain
    * Parkinson’s disease
    * schizophrenia

Medicines include medications that your doctor prescribes and over-the-counter medications that you buy without a doctor’s prescription. Many individuals also take herbal supplements. Some of these medications and supplements may cause a variety of reactions that may make it more difficult for you to drive a car safely. These reactions may include:

    * sleepiness
    * blurred vision
    * dizziness
    * slowed movement
    * fainting
    * inability to focus or pay attention
    * nausea

Often people take more than one medication at a time. The combination of different medications can cause problems for some people. This is especially true for older adults because they take more medications than any other age group. Due to changes in the body as people age, older adults are more prone to medication related problems. The more medications you take, the greater your risk that your medicines will affect your ability to drive safely. To help avoid problems, it is important that at least once a year you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all the medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – you are taking. Also let your professional know what herbal supplements, if any, you are taking. Do this even if your medications and supplements are not currently causing you a problem.

Can I still drive safely if I am taking medications?
Yes, most people can drive safely if they are taking medications. It depends on the effect those medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – have on your driving. In some cases you may not be aware of the effects. But, in many instances, your doctor can help to minimize the negative impact of your medications on your driving in several ways. Your doctor may be able to:
    * adjust the dose;
    * adjust the timing of doses or when you take the medication;
    * add an exercise or nutrition program to lessen the need for                    medication;
    * change medication to one that causes less drowsiness.

What can I do if I am taking medications?
Talk to your doctor honestly. When your doctor prescribes a medicine for you, ask about side effects. How should you expect the medicine to affect your ability to drive? Remind your doctor of other medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – and herbal supplements you are taking, especially if you see more than one doctor. Talking honestly with your doctor also means telling the doctor if you are not taking all or any of the prescribed medication. Do not stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to.

Ask your doctor if you should drive — especially when you first take a medication. Taking a new medication can cause you to react in a number of ways. It is recommended that you do not drive when you first start taking a new medication until you know how that drug affects you. You also need to be aware that some over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements can make it difficult for you to drive safely.

Talk to your pharmacist. Get to know your pharmacist. Ask the pharmacist to go over your medications with you and to remind you of effects they may have on your ability to drive safely. Be sure to request printed information about the side effects of any new medication. Remind your pharmacist of other medicines and herbal supplements you are taking. Pharmacists are available to answer questions wherever you get your medications. Many people buy medicines by mail. Mail-order pharmacies have a toll-free number you can call and a pharmacist available to answer your questions about medications.

Monitor yourself. Learn to know how your body reacts to the medications and supplements. Keep track of how you feel after you take the medication. For example, do you feel sleepy? Is your vision blurry? Do you feel weak and slow? When do these things happen? Let your doctor and pharmacist know what is happening. No matter what your reaction is to taking a medicine – good or bad – tell your doctor and pharmacist. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are powerful—that’s why they work. Each person is unique. Two people may respond differently to the same medicine. If you are experiencing side effects, the doctor needs to know that in order to adjust your medication. Your doctor can help you find medications that work best for you.

What if I have to cut back or give up driving?
You can keep your independence even if you have to cut back or give up on your driving due to your need to take medications. It may take planning ahead on your part, but it will get you to the places you want to go and the people you want to see. Consider:

    * rides with family and friends;
    * taxi cabs;
    * shuttle buses or vans;
    * public buses, trains and subways and walking.

Also, senior centers and religious and other local service groups often offer transportation services for older adults in the community. Call the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 and ask for the phone number of your local Office on Aging, or go to their website at

In Passing.

(Obituaries Courtesy The Standard Times)
Note: Due to recent requests, we will be adding family survivors to our customer’s obituaries as space allows.

Albert H. Habedank, 80, of Fairhaven died October 15, 2006 after a long illness with a brief stay at Alden Court Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He was the husband of Lillian E. (Bjerk) Habedank. Born in Madison, WI, the son of the late Albert J. and Elsie M. (Eggers) Habedank, he lived in Madison and in McIntosh, MN, before moving to Fairhaven in 1969. He was a member of The International Church of the Nazarene. Mr. Habedank was formerly employed in the engineering field for Land-O-Lakes in Minnesota, Ice Engineering in New Bedford and American Steamship Company in Buffalo, NY. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, participating in the battles of the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe, and was the recipient of the Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater campaign medal, the Good Conduct medal and the World War II Victory medal. Survivors include his wife; a son, Richard D. Habedank, and his wife Linda, of Longview, WA; 2 daughters, Kathryn M.H. Lopes, and her husband Carl, of Marstons Mills and Karen B. Van Loon, and her husband Gerrit, of Ithaca, NY; a brother, Roland Habedank of McIntosh, MN; a sister, Delores Aakre of Clearbrook, MN; 6 grandchildren, David, Jared, Andrea, Todd, Branden and Christopher; a great-grandson, Jake; and numerous nieces and nephew

We appreciate your business.
Please drive carefully.
Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales, Inc.
1476 Purchase Street
New Bedford, MA 02740
Phone: (508) 999-3213

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