Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Car Dealers Suck

I've bought four news cars in my life. I was lied to by dealers on three of them.

The first one I bought was an MGB. That deal was no problem, largely I imagine because all I did was get the price on the phone, bring a check to Seattle and head directly off to California.

The funny story about that one is that I had lost my drivers license over some motorcycle tickets and didn't realize you were supposed to have one to buy a car. But with cash.... they said they could overlook my lack of a driver's license :-) Then I got pulled over in the middle of the night in Grants Pass, OR for turning right on a red by a fish crazy Oregon cop; "Are you from Alaska? You can't turn right on a red in Oregon!" that talked Alaska fishing with me until he finally said "be out of Oregon by 6AM" and let me go with no license and an expired one day Washington registration.


The next one was a VW bus that I bought in Washington and shipped to AK. It had been damaged by the trucking company in shipping to the dealer I bought it from and the salesman said it had been returned to Germany and factory repaired. I know... in hindsight... obviously they wouldn't have returned it to the factory. So the dealer sold it to me as new (with a Manufacturer's Statement of Origin - the paper you need in order to get the first title), and generously threw in a 'free' extended warranty.

But when I had subsequent trouble (a LOT) with the the car, the Alaska dealer told me that it was sold to me as a USED car - no warranty, and that they had transferred the 'title' to the trucking company when it was damaged, the truckers had it repaired and the dealer was re-selling it for them. I never saw any title other than the original I had.

I wasn't exactly sure what had happened, and am still not, but took the opportunity to tell VW Regional that I was sure it would all look very unfavorably on them in court when I showed they represented a used car as new and and that I just wanted the cars recurring computer problems fixed. They had some specialist come to Alaska from the regional office to placate me (Yeah, right. Probably some local actor - I didn't believe that even at the time) and it finally did get resolved.


The next one I bought was a Ford pickup. I got a decent deal from a WA dealer and had it shipped to Alaska. I liked it fine and was perfectly happy with it the entire time I had it. Until the grey paint fell off and Ford told me "a lot of them did that but too bad, we won't pay to repaint it". But that's another story.

I got a call from the salesman after I'd had the truck for over a year. He said that there had been a rebate in effect when I bought the truck and the dealer had forged my name on the factory check and stolen the rebate from me. This was about 1988, and pretty much pre-internet for me, so I didn't know how to check what rebates had been in place. But I didn't believe it - who would do that?

So, I called the Sales Manager and told him what I'd heard, that I didn't believe it but felt obligated to ask. He had someone else call me back... Who told me "No way would we do THAT! But.... we don't want any unhappy customers so we'll send you a check for the $750.00 you think we took just to keep your good will." Yeah, right... the check showed up noted "rebate". They were sure willing to part with the money if they hadn't stolen it to begin with.


The 3rd time was a Suburban I bought in Canada. We intended to let my company lease it for a couple years and then buy it out ourselves cheaply (having had it since new) which we did.

We were leasing through GMAC and I told the saleswoman that we'd be taking the car to Texas under lease and then buying it. I was told that I would transfer the lease to GMAC US (from GMAC Canada) when I got to Texas (not that I really saw any need to do that) and that the car would be easily importable into the US "We do it ALL the time, the car was even made in Minnesota".

Well... As soon as GMAC Canada found out I had the car in Texas they started wanting it back. There was no mechanism to swap the lease to a different GMAC division. They asked me "What story did you tell at the border to get into the US?" and I told them "All they cared about was whether or not the truck was full of cocaine, not who owned it", because it never came up.

So they told me they were reporting the truck stolen since I'd removed it illegally from Canada. I had never told them where I was exactly and was having mail forwarded from somewhere else, so they would occasionally call and ask "Where is that vehicle domiciled?". They stopped sending me bills and when I called, told me the truck was stolen and they were going to find it. The brother of a guy I worked with did all the local GM repo work, so I talked to him and he agreed to call me if they ever sent him for the truck so I could move it before he got to my house. I copied old bills, changed the dates and kept the payments up to date despite them not billing me.

When it came time to go back to Alaska I knew I had to buy the truck before I tried to cross the border into Canada so I started pursuing that - I had to get EPA and DOT approval to import the vehicle. Which was going to be a problem. Apparently the EPA didn't allow ANY Chevys of that year to be imported. So much for "We do it all the time". I researched it some more, found a loophole and called the EPA back who confirmed that, luckily, the truck was a 3/4T four wheel drive and so just barely exceeded the weight limit that allowed an exemption so I got the US government approval.

But the lease was still a problem. I told them I was going to buy it, so let's just let bygones be bygones but they still wanted to take it and I wouldn't tell them where it was. At one point they even said "OK, everything's set for the buyout, we just need to know exactly where the truck is". Uh... why? I don't think so. But they'd kept track of the payments and the paperwork went pretty smoothly eventually. It was delayed until we were actually on the road to Alaska towing our 30 foot travel trailer though, so I made a tentative deal with my bank and an Idaho Chevy dealer to buy ANOTHER one in case they grabbed this one at the border. But we sailed through.

So I'm pretty sceptical about car dealers.. :-)

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