Calianese Auto Sales owner advises weighing needs vs. wants when buying a used car

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Dispatch Staff Photo by JOHN HAEGER
Elliot Calianese of Calianese Auto Sales poses at the dealership on Route 5 in Clinton on Monday.

CLINTON -– Needs often have to come before wants when it comes to buying a used car, according to Elliot Calianese, the owner of Calianese Auto Sales at 7567 Route 5 in Clinton.

“The best thing to do is to assess their needs versus their wants,” Calianese said. “What they want is typically not what they need. If they need a car that’s going to seat six people then they shouldn’t be looking at a two-door Honda Civic. Focus on your needs and let me help you find a car that best suits you.”

Calianese has been involved in car sales since the mid-1990s. He worked at Copper City Chrysler in Rome from May 1995 to May 1999 and NYE Toyota in Oneida from May 1999 to May 2010 where he held a managerial position.

He had been considering opening his own dealership for the past few years and took the opportunity when it presented itself after his departure from NYE Toyota in May.

He said he picked the location on Route 5 because he wanted to keep his business local.

The Rome native and current Oneida resident opened his dealership on Oct. 4. He said sales have been steady since the doors opened.

He typically stocks around 20 used cars at the lot which are hand-picked at auctions and purchased through new car dealership trade-ins. Most of the used cars are from Central and Eastern New York but some are from as far as Florida.

He said he tries to make the buying experience “hassle-free” for his customers.

“You come in, you find a car and test drive it,” he said. “If you like it then you buy it. If you don’t like it then you tell me what you don’t like about it and I will try to find a car that fits your needs a little better.”

He provides his customers with other services as well.

“We offer financing so we do all the running around for you as far as getting the loan goes,” he said. “Extended warranties are available. Cars with under 100,000 (miles) are warranted as per the New York State Used Car Lemon Law.”

Calianese said used car sales are finally on the upswing following a downturn in mid-2009 after the government trade-in program focused on swapping the used, less fuel-efficient vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“After ‘Cash for Clunkers,’ used car sales were down quite a bit,” he said. “That was a deal from the government that only applied to new cars. What was happening at that point was that a lot of these cars that used car dealers would buy and sell normally were going to junkyards because they weren’t allowed to be resold if they came in as trades with the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ deal. So that took a lot of used cars off the market that nobody could buy. Sales are actually just starting to come back now.”

Calianese said he is looking forward to meeting new customers. He is also inviting customers he has helped in the past to ask him for car buying advice and help even if they are not looking to buy a used car.

For more information call 853-2277 or e-mail

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Rogue's light show, Odyssey's brakes have readers worried

Q: We bought a 2010 Nissan Rogue new in March 2010. The check engine light came on at 2,800 miles with code P0456 (fuel system small evaporator leak) at the end of July. I took it back to the dealer who claimed the gas cap was loose, tightened it, and reset the system. It has now happened a total of four times with the same code, basically every two to three weeks since July, each time claiming the pressure leak was due to a loose gas cap. The gas cap allegedly has been replaced during one of these trips. The dealership (a large one) is basically treating us like we are idiots not knowing how to put a cap back on, even though we had the car for almost five months before the problem started. I called the regional office for Nissan, and they are looking into it. Any suggestions? We love the car, but having to go back to the dealer every few weeks is getting real old. Does the Massachusetts Lemon Law cover this?

A: In this case, if you wanted to keep the car, I would suggest you seek another dealer of this Nissan to do the service necessary. You have a case for the Lemon Law in consideration that you have had the vehicle back three times for the same repair and the dealership has been unsuccessful. I would also ask that Nissan declare a trouble ticket number for this problem so that you may document it. Keep in mind if all the Nissans are doing this the Environmental Protection Agency would be getting involved.

Q: At 82,000 miles, my 2007 Honda Odyssey started to develop a sound upon application of my brakes that led me to believe my rotors were warped or uneven. Since they were the original brakes (I do a lot of highway driving), I wasn’t too surprised to learn that I needed new rotors. After new front rotors and pads were installed, everything was OK for three or four weeks. After that, the “warped” sound returned again; shortly thereafter, pulsation of my steering wheel upon braking started. The garage said that sometimes new rotors have to be turned (I had never heard of such a thing), and once again the problem was gone for a few weeks. When the problem returned again, I insisted on new rotors, which they put on the vehicle, still under warranty. I just arrived at the in-laws after an 800-mile drive and now the pulsation of my steering wheel (not brake pedal) is incredible. The rear brakes are still original. Is it possible that something else is going on? Could they be incorrectly installing brakes? Is there something else that could be causing the pulsation?

A: I am unsure of what brand and brake quality parts are being used on your car. I can tell you with all certainty that the parts from NAPA that we use in our shop each and every day never give us the problems that you speak of. Other brands that we have tried have given us all the same problems that you describe. Before replacing brake parts, however, you want to check for sticking calipers, frozen slides or collapsed brake hoses.

Car Care Tip: If you are warming up your car before winter driving, take care that the car is in an open-air environment. The exhaust emissions, under the wrong circumstances, will kill you.

• • •

Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send e-mail to scan

Lease Cars Covered Under Ohio Lemon Law

A local woman leases a vehicle from a dealership and gets a mountain of problems.

Mary Jean Ferrari leased a new Volkswagen Jetta in 2009.

After driving the car a few months, she started to see problems with the air conditioner.

She took it to the dealership where they could not find any problems.

Then, a few months later, the clutch completely went out on the car while she was driving on the freeway.

No one was hurt, and the car again was taken back to the dealership.

Because of the nature of the repair, a district manager from VW was called in.

 “Why would they send a district manager if it was just a simple thing like, ‘Oh, it’s an old clutch. It has to be repaired. This broke, literally … it broke,” Ferrari said.

After repairs were finished on the clutch, a diagnostic test was done. A problem was discovered with the air conditioner. That problem also was fixed.

Ferrari, feeling the car was now unsafe, wanted to return the Jetta.  

She asked the dealership and was told there was not much they could do and that she needed to contact VW leasing.

She called VW Financial and was told all they could do was give her one month off her lease payment but she would have to keep the car.

“I am not looking for any money. I am not looking for a brand new car. I just want to return this car,” explained Ferrari.

According to the Attorney General’s office, lease vehicles are covered under the Lemon Law in Ohio.

“But the coverage of the Lemon Law is for the first 12 months of the car’s life and/or the first 18,000 miles,” stated Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

Ferrari says she will be filing a claim with the Attorney General’s office since her problems started 11 months into her lease.

“I just feel on a brand new car this should not be happening,” Ferrari said.

NBC 4 also called the dealership about this situation, and they said they would talk to Ferrari again to see if they could help further.

If you want to start a claim with the Attorney General’s office, you can call them at 800-282-0515 or go

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Vince Megna–$518000 Semi Truck Lemon Law Award

Lemon law legal expert Vince Megna discusses a recent victory in a Wisconsin lemon law case involving a semi truck. The judgment was entered a few days ago in the sum of $293,000 for the plaintiff. There is a stipulation that the defendant will pay $225,000 in attorney fees. Total will be $518,000.  (Biggest verdict for a semi truck anywhere)

This case is very important because most states don’t have lemon laws that apply to trucks. Texas makes an attempt at some lemon law relief, but no other state does. Also, the Federal Magnuson-Moss Act does not apply to trucks because trucks are not consumer products.
Bottom line is that owner/operators are left without any legal recourse all over the country when their trucks are defective.

Father and son win $293,000 verdict in semi-truck Lemon Law case

Wisconsin has the only state Lemon Law that covers semi-tractor trucks, and the Seemans of Janesville couldn’t be happier.

A federal jury recently awarded them $293,000 under that law for a defective rig that contributed to the failure of their small business, Jewell Trucking. Their attorney, Lemon Law expert Vince Megna of Waukesha, said it was the largest jury award in semi-truck Lemon Law case.

“Truck drivers aren’t millionaires,” Megna said. ” It’s a tough job for them to make money. When their trucks go down, it’s catastrophic.”

He said he can hardly believe other states’ Lemon Laws don’t cover trucks bought by owner-operators, and hopes the verdict might bring some attention to exanding that protection.

 “We get calls every week from drivers who bought trucks in other states, but we can’t help them.”

Randy Seeman and his son Jason, spent $177,000 on a new Western Star truck in 2007. They used it to haul sand, gravel and salt around Wisconsin and Iowa. For six weeks, it ran like a charm but in November that year, it lost power. The Seemans took the truck to authorized Detroit Diesel dealers all over the state, but the engine problems were never fully corrected.

They asked Freightliner, which owns Western Star, for a refund under the Lemon Law, but got no response, Megna said, and ultimately filed a lawsuit. An federal jury heard the case in Madison in November and found for Jewell Trucking.

The Lemon Law allows for a recovery of twice the purchase price plus interest payments if the case goes to trial. In addition, the court entered judgment for $225,000 in legal fees to Megna, who discusses the case in more detail in this video.

Meanwhile, the truck remains parked in Janesville, and the Seemans have returned to driving for other companies. Megna said the defective semi wasn’t the sole cause of Jewell Trucking’s demise.

“The business just didn’t make it, but this truck didn’t help.”

State’s lemon law bears fruit for Janesville trucker


— Freightliner had a chance to settle for $55,000 but instead will pay several hundred thousand dollars after a federal jury sided in favor of a Janesville father and son in a lawsuit over a defective semitrailer tractor.

The case was tried under the state’s lemon law. Wisconsin is the only state that has a law that covers semitrailer trucks.

Randy Seeman and his son Jason paid more than $117,000 for the new truck in September 2007.

Their attorney, Vince Megna, said the truck developed engine problems and was in and out of several authorized repair shops around the state without a solution.

Megna said the Seemans asked Freightliner for a refund or a new truck, but they got no response. Jewel Trucking—the Seemans’ business—then filed suit.

A jury in November decided that the truck had at least one problem and that the problem continued after the fourth visit to a repair shop. The jury also determined that the truck was out of service for at least 30 days because of one or more problems.

The court ordered Freightliner to pay the Seemans $255,000—twice the amount of their actual losses allowed under the lemon law. It also tacked on interest charges and other costs to push the total above $290,000.

In addition, the court ordered Freightliner to pay the Seemans’ attorneys fees of $225,000.

Megna, who is a national lemon law expert with the Waukesha firm of Aiken Scoptur, said it was the largest jury award in semitrailer truck lemon law case.

Megna said the truck was in the shop 16 times for a series of engine problems. At the trial, an expert witness for Freightliner said trucks such as the Seemans’ often are in the shop 10 to 12 times in their first year, Megna said.

Megna said he found that testimony incredible. Apparently, the jury did, too.

“This truck really was a disaster,” Megna said.

He hopes the case draws attention to the fact that other state’s lemon laws don’t cover the big trucks.

“It creates an unfortunate playing field for owner-operators around the country,” he said. “I get lots of calls from truck drivers around the country, but unfortunately there’s nothing we can do.

“The small owner-operator is in such a dismal position; they’re operating on a shoestring, and they have no clout.”

Megna said large fleet operators are in a better position to deal with manufacturers over defective trucks. They have the muscle and buying power to demand satisfaction, he said.

“We’ve made a statement with this case, and somehow we’ve got to raise awareness of the issue these owner-operators face,” he said. “It’s not like all these other states have to come up with new laws, they just have to amend the laws that are already on the books.

“Maybe the best thing would be for all the drivers in neighboring states to come to Wisconsin to buy their trucks. That would bring attention to the problem.”

Megna said that the Seemans do not want to speak with reporters until the final settlement. In the meantime, the truck remains parked in their yard, although Megna said it would likely be returned to Freightliner.

Jewel Trucking is now out of business, the result of several factors including the defective truck, Megna said

Megna said that at one point in the case Randy Seeman was nervous about its outcome. He and Megna offered to settle the case for $55,000, and Freightliner countered with $33,000.

“At that point, we took our offer off the table and proceeded to trial,” Megna said.