You work hard for your money. You have better things to do with it than give it away to a greedy, conniving car dealer. But if you shopped at an auto dealership last year, chances are you paid too much. By a lot.
Car dealers across the nation are crowing about the record-breaking profits they’re making during the pandemic. Their fat profits are being fueled by people who are flocking to buy cars — understandably fearful about taking public transportation, flying in airplanes, or using ride-shares or other modes of transportation where they risk being in an enclosed space with others who may be spreading the Coronavirus.
According to Automotive News, “AutoNation, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., hit a record-high quarterly F&I [Finance and Insurance] profit per vehicle retailed on a same-store basis with an average of $2,172, an increase of 12 percent, or $240, from year-ago figures.”
AutoNation is publicly traded on Wall Street. They operate over 315 new car dealerships nationwide. Over the years, their biggest investor has included an entity affiliated with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Keep in mind that $2,172 is just AutoNation’s profit on the financing and insurance products they foist off on consumers. They also profit handsomely on the price of the car itself.
Imagine what you could do with $2,172. Maybe feed your family for months. Pay college tuition and get a better job. Get a much better vehicle you really like, that’s friendlier to the environment and safer for you and your family.
Plus — something AutoNation apparently doesn’t like anyone to mention publicly — they deliberately sell their customers cars with dangerous unrepaired safety recall defects. Especially cars with killer safety defects that you cannot get fixed because there are huge shortages of repair parts.
So if you buy that recalled car, there’s no way you can get it made safe. Sometimes the parts delays can last for months, or over a year. Meanwhile, you are your family are at serious risk of being injured or killed.
Please don’t assume you will have time to get the recall fixed before tragedy strikes. Auto safety defects are like ticking time bombs. In San Diego, four members of one family –a highway patrol officer, his wife, their 13-year-old daughter, and the officer’s brother-in-law — were killed by an unsafe car the same day, just hours after a dealership handed the CHP officer the keys. They were on their way to a soccer match when the fatal defect happened.
If you don’t feel like overpaying for a dangerous deathtrap, please consider buying from another consumer and avoiding car dealers altogether. You still have to be careful, and do your homework. But at least you won’t be stuck dealing with a dealership chain that is out to maximize their profits at your expense.
How can you take control of your car buying experience, and get a good deal on a nice, safe, reliable used car? Check out these step-by-step tips from pro-consumer experts.
Your life is precious. You deserve to get the full value of what you pay for. Stay safe — and save!
According to the FTC, Bronx Honda and its general manager told sales employees to charge higher financing markups and fees to African-American and Hispanic customers. The defendants told employees that these groups should be targeted due to their limited education, and not to attempt the same practices with non-Hispanic white consumers.
The FTC further alleged that Bronx Honda failed to honor advertised sale prices, changed the sales price on paperwork in the middle of the sale without telling the consumer, double-charged consumers for taxes and fees, and misrepresented to consumers that they were required to pay extra reconditioning and warranty fees to purchase ‘certified’ vehicles.
The FTC is providing refunds, averaging about $371 each, to 3,977 victims of Bronx Honda’s practices. Those who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.
Recipients who have questions about the refunds, or consumers who financed a car purchase from Bronx Honda in 2016 through 2018 and have not previously requested a refund, should contact JND Legal Administration at 888-921-0727.”
Unfortunately, such practices are all too common at auto dealerships across the nation. How can you avoid giving your business to a crooked car dealer who is ripping people off, based on their race?
If you’re looking for a new car, your options are extremely limited. That’s because corrupt legislators have granted car dealers a special monopoly on new car sales, insulating them from competition and drastically increasing prices and harmful practices. Just about the only exception is Tesla, and car dealers have been battling against Tesla for years, in many states, to keep them from being allowed to sell new vehicles without car dealers getting to make a killing.
But if you are looking for a used car, you have the choice of buying a car directly from another consumer, eliminating the middleman, saving money, and reducing the risk of being cheated by a professional crook.
You still need to be careful, but if you do your research, find your own financing in advance, and insist on a thorough inspection, you can get a great deal on a safe, reliable used car. Check out CARS’ tips on how to avoid car dealers’ tricks and traps.
Jeffrey Goldberg’s report in The Atlantic, “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,” met with flat denials by the White House. But President Trump’s actions speak louder than his words. In addition to the many other incidents that have been covered by news organizations, where Trump disparaged members of the Armed Forces, and viciously attacked Gold Star families, there’s another action he took, that goes beyond his words to demonstrate an appalling level of contempt for the military community.
If you have any lingering doubt that President Trump treats America’s brave, patriotic military heroes like “suckers,” please consider this:
President Trump ignored the voices of the entire military community and sold out our brave military heroes and veterans to greedy, unscrupulous corporate scofflaws like Wells Fargo that engage in predatory and illegal practices and have a history of preying on military service members, veterans, and their families.
Those predatory, illegal practices often create financial readiness problems that can cause members of the Armed Forces to lose their security clearances, harming their military careers, costing our nation the full benefit of their extensive training and expertise, and jeopardizing our national security.
Pres. Trump even hosted a signing ceremony in the White House with representatives of unscrupulous, predatory banking interests — behind closed doors — to celebrate his shameful, anti-consumer, anti-military act. Then the White House released a photo, showing him surrounded by gleeful GOP representatives of Congress and banking trade associations whose member banks have been repeatedly caught violating state and federal consumer protection laws, scamming their customers and engaging in massive fraud.
His signature means that military service members and veterans are being denied basic, precious Constitutional rights they risk their lives and sacrifice to defend.
Those are legal rights that others — such as car dealers — were granted by Congress, and that President Trump himself has exploited to the hilt, as the most litigious president in U.S. history, while denying the same rights to members of the Armed Forces.
President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Republican Members of Congress killed the Obama Administration Rule That Would have Freed Wronged Consumers, Including Military Service Members, to Fight Back in Court Against Corporate Scofflaws That Rip Them Off
In 2016, The Military Coalition, a consortium of uniformed services and veterans organizations representing more than 5.5 million current and former servicemembers and their families and survivors, spoke up publicly for ensuring access to justice for all, including active duty military service members and veterans.
The Coalition includes familiar household names such as AMVETS, the National Military Family Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. They united in an effort to help ensure that military service members are free to join forces to defend themselves from illegal acts committed by unscrupulous banking interests, predatory lenders, and crooked debt collectors.
The military organizations urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to finalize a proposed rule to restore the Constitutional right to band together and fight back in an open court of law against corporate lawbreakers who prey on military personnel. Greedy, unpatriotic corporations like Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo Preyed on Military Service Members
The scandal-riddled bank got caught illegally seizing vehicles from active duty military service members without even bothering to get a court order — a blatant violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
The SCRA has always enjoyed widespread bi-partisan support. It’s aimed at ensuring that military servicemembers can focus on defending our nation and fulfilling their mission without the stress and distractions posed by financial issues that are often very difficult and time-consuming to resolve, even for consumers who are not serving in a remote location half way around the world, on a submarine or aircraft carrier in the middle of an ocean, or in the midst of a war zone.
During the Obama Administration, federal investigators were alerted about a complaint that a North Carolina member of the Army National Guard, Dennis Singleton, filed with the Army’s Legal Assistance Program. He told the Legal Assistance attorney that Wells Fargo suddenly repossessed his car in 2015, just as he was deploying to Afghanistan to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom. Wells Fargo sold his car at an auction, then sought a deficiency balance of over $10,000 from him and his family — leaving them with no car, trashed credit, and a huge debt.
Under fire from the DOJ, Wells Fargo eventually admitted it had illegally seized over 400 vehicles from active duty troops, without giving them any opportunity to defend themselves in court. The DOJ also charged Wells Fargo with violating the federal law against exceeding the 6% interest rate cap on loans to service members, making them more likely to default. Wells Fargo finally agreed to pay the harmed military personnel $4 million, repair their credit, and refrain from violating those laws in the future.
But there’s more….
Army Staff Sergeant Jin Nakamura was stunned to find out, while he was serving overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom, that Wells Fargo had seized his 2006 Nissan Altima — even though he had arranged for direct payments from his account before he was deployed to his new duty station.
It wasn’t until later, when Staff Sergeant Nakamura filed a private, civil class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and other service members who were also harmed by the same illegal practices at Wells Fargo, that the cases of over 400 more active duty military personnel came to light. In a shocking display of hutzpah, Wells Fargo was busily ripping them off the same way, and seizing their vehicles, while the DOJ’s investigation was actually already underway.
According to Staff Sergeant Nakamura’s attorney, Bryce Bell, the contract that the Staff Sergeant signed when he bought his car did not include a clause that would have forced him to submit his case to the unfair, rigged system dominated by crooked corporations, known as “arbitration.” So he was free to fight back against Wells Fargo in an open, public court of law. His class action litigation settled when Wells Fargo finally agreed to refund $5 million in compensation the bank owed Staff Sergeant Nakamura and the hundreds of other service members.
That freedom to join forces in order to fight back against such scams, like Staff Sergeant Nakamura did on behalf of hundreds of other brave Members of the Armed Forces, is super-important for active duty military personnel. That’s because they may not be able to fight back at all, if they must act alone — especially if they are serving in a remote location or a war zone.
That freedom was guaranteed by the 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but radical, controversial decisions issued by Republican-appointed Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have robbed wronged workers, consumers — including military Servicemembers — and small business owners of their right to fight back in a court of law.
Under the leadership of President Obama’s appointee Richard Cordray, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sided with pro-consumer groups and the military organizations, and issued a rule that would have restored that Constitutional right in a major way, freeing victims of predatory lenders and crooked banks to band together and fight back in court. But it was immediately under attack.
Crooked banks, along with Republican Senators and Representatives who benefit handsomely from their campaign cash, cooked up a scheme to kill the consumer watchdog agency’s rule in Congress before it could even take effect. Their goal: to let crooked banks get away with ripping off American consumers — including members of the Armed Forces — with little or no fear of being held accountable.
So the lawbreakers could evade having to face the music in an open, public court of law, where judges and juries are tasked with applying the law, the banks were dead-set on depriving American consumers and military Servicemembers of their Constitutional rights and forcing them to submit to a rigged, privatized “alternative” system dominated by the greedy, lawbreaking special interests themselves — called “forced arbitration.”
“Forced arbitration is an un-American system wherein service members’ claims against a corporation are funneled into a rigged, secretive system in which all the rules, including the choice of the arbitrator, are picked by the corporation. Found in almost every financial services contract, forced arbitration clauses systematically include a provision banning the rights of consumers to band together to hold a corporation accountable. Given the exponential and expansive use of these clauses by financial institutions in contracts with service members, prohibiting the practice of forcing service members to surrender fundamental Constitutional and statutory rights through the use of pre-dispute forced arbitration clauses is now more critical than ever.
Our service members protect our nation against both foreign and domestic threats. The sacrifices and logistical undertakings they and their families make in order to serve are compelling reasons alone to ensure they are not only shielded from predatory financial practices and unscrupulous lenders, but are also able to enforce their congressionally mandated rights through our civil justice system if and when violations arise.
However, class action waivers work against these rights. They are particularly abusive when enforced against service members, who may not be in a position to individually challenge a financial institution’s illegal or unfair practices because of limited resources or frequent relocations or deployment. Furthermore, for those service members on active duty and serving overseas, it is critical to retain the ability to get justice without having to interrupt their service and distract their attention from the mission at hand. Since these types of service members cannot participate full time in pursuing an individual claim, being able to enforce their rights through the class action mechanism is essential. Thus service members should receive the benefits of participating in a class action despite their inability to shoulder the burden of bringing a claim alone.
Our nation’s veterans should not be deprived of the Constitutional rights and freedoms that they put their lives on the line to protect, including the right to have their claims heard in a trial by a jury when their rights are violated. The catastrophic consequences these clauses pose for our all-voluntary military fighting force’s morale and our national security are vital reasons for the CFPB to act quickly to finalize the regulations.”
But instead of siding with The Military Coalition, the GOP sided with the crooked banks and predatory lenders.
The Republican majority in Congress decided to exploit a rarely used law, the Congressional Review Act, to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule. That allowed them to undo the rule with a simple majority vote, avoiding a filibuster in the Senate. Using that arcane Act also had the added impact of prohibiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from issuing a similar rule in the future, unless Congress specifically allows the agency to revisit the issue.
The legislation to overturn the rule, House Joint Resolution 111, was hotly debated on the Floor of the House of Representatives. Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other pro-consumer, pro-military champions spoke forcefully against the measure. All of the Democrats sided with consumer advocacy organizations and the military, and voted NO. But all of the Republicans, with the lone exception of Rep. Walter Jones, who had served in the North Carolina National Guard, voted AYE, and the resolution passed in the House and moved on to the Senate.
Once again, the resolution was hotly debated. Democratic Senators, including Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a distinguished U.S. Army Veteran, spoke eloquently in defense of preserving the rule. Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate Floor, blasting the legislation and quoting from letters from military groups, raising their voices for all to hear.
When the vote was taken, all the Democratic Senators sided with the military coalition and voted NO, to preserve the rule. Only two Republican Senators, Lindsey Graham and John Kennedy — both attorneys — voted NO. All their GOP colleagues voted AYE, siding with the crooked banks, resulting in a tie. For a brief time, the future of the CFPB’s rule hung in the balance.
In a historic moment of high drama, Republican Vice President Mike Pence rode to the Capitol to break the tie, arriving on the Senate Floor around midnight. He voted AYE, siding with the crooked banks, and against the military, sending the measure to President Trump’s desk.
To his shame, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who had championed the successful effort in Congress to grant car dealers a special exemption from forced arbitration and restore the Constitutional rights of car dealers to have their cases heard in a court of law, voted against restoring those same rights to regular citizens and members of the Armed Forces.
Our nation’s military doesn’t often ask anything from their Commander in Chief. In return for their selfless, immeasurable sacrifice and deep devotion to keeping our nation safe and defeating our enemies, they rarely ask their Commander in Chief for anything in return, other than to have their backs.
But in a rare move, the military community asked President Trump to veto the measure. The American Legion publicly announced their decision to call on him for a veto, declaring:
“The leader of the nation’s largest veterans service organization expressed concern over the loss of financial protections for veterans and servicemembers in the wake of a U.S. Senate late night vote on Wednesday.
Fifty-one members of the Senate voted to overturn a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule on arbitration agreements intended to provide consumers with an opportunity to sue in court when they have been harmed by financial institutions.
‘Every servicemember and veteran should have the right and responsibility to confront predatory loan practices,”’ said American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan. ‘We will not be silent while banks and payday loan shops rip off servicemembers and veterans.’
But President Trump utterly ignored their pleas. Instead, he signed that travesty into law. Among the invited guests who smiled down upon Pres. Trump as he signed the anti-consumer, anti-military measure: GOP members of Congress and a representative of an enormous banking trade association that includes banking interests like Wells Fargo.
Because of the Republican members of Congress, Vice President Pence, and President Trump, scofflaw corporations continue to trample on the Constitutional rights of our military heroes. Crooked banks remain free to force our nation’s military Servicemembers to submit disputes to an unfair, rigged, secretive forum that those special interests dominate — private, mandatory arbitration.
The laws to protect military service members as consumers are often ignored in arbitration. No matter how unfair the decisions rendered by the arbitrators are, there is usually no opportunity to appeal. Given how burdensome and rigged arbitration is, it’s rarely even used for consumer cases.
So whenever President Trump or Vice-President Pence proclaim their supposed fondness and regard for our nation’s military Servicemembers, please keep in mind that when the chips were down, they eagerly, gleefully went out of their way to betray them to their lawbreaking Big Bank buddies.
U.S. Senator Grassley’s statement in support of S 1140, granting car dealers a special exemption, freeing them from forced arbitration:
“While arbitration serves an important function as an efficient alternative to court, some trade-offs must be considered by both parties, such as limited judicial review and less formal procedures regarding discovery and rules of evidence. When mandatory binding arbitration is forced upon a party, for example when it is placed in a boiler-plate agreement, it deprives the weaker party the opportunity to elect another forum.
As a proponent of arbitration I believe it is critical to ensure that the selection of arbitration is voluntary and fair…Unequal bargaining power exists in contracts between automobile and truck dealers and their manufacturers. The manufacturer drafts the contract and presents it to dealers with no opportunity to negotiate…The purpose of arbitration is to reduce costly, time-consuming litigation, not to force a party to an adhesion contract to waive access to judicial or administrative forums for the pursuit of rights under State law…..
This legislation will go a long way toward ensuring that parties will not be forced into binding arbitration and thereby lose important statutory rights. I am confident that given its many advantages arbitration will often be elected. But it is essential for public policy reasons and basic fairness that both parties to this type of contract have the freedom to make their own decisions based on the circumstances of the case.”
While S. 1140 did not pass, auto dealers were given an exemption from the FAA, in order to preserve their rights, thanks to passage of H.R. 2215 in 2002. That act, now codified at 15 U.S.C. section 1226, prohibits auto manufacturers from including any type of pre-dispute arbitration clause in franchise contracts with auto dealers. Specifically, it provides that arbitration may be used to settle a controversy arising out of a motor vehicle franchise contract only if both parties consent, in writing, and only after the dispute arises.
“TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – A Tempe used car dealer arrested Wednesday is facing multiple charges of theft and fraud, accused of cheating clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Detectives with the Arizona Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General say Farhad Kankash, owner of Onyx Motorsports, allegedly committed fraud against both customers and lenders.
ADOT officials say Kankash had allegedly committed several types of fraud, including failing to provide titles to customers who purchased vehicles, not paying off liens on trade-in vehicles, and defrauding lenders by obtaining multiple loans for the same vehicle.”
Want to avoid being ripped off and having your life ruined by a greedy, sleazy car dealer? Here’s how to get a good deal on a safe, reliable used car without having to set foot on a car dealer’s lot:
When you shop at a car dealership, you shouldn’t have to worry that they’re deliberately selling you a deathtrap. But that’s what many unscrupulous new and used car dealers all over America are doing.
Car dealers keep getting caught selling vehicles with deadly safety recall defects, like faulty brakes, loss of steering, catching on fire, sticking accelerator pedals, and exploding Takata airbags that shoot metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment, causing drivers and passengers to lose their eyesight, suffer brain damage, or bleed to death.
Car dealers coast-to-coast are exploiting the widespread misconception that if you shop at a dealership, they must have gotten any deadly safety defects fixed. Otherwise, why pay extra, if the car is no safer than if you bought it from a stranger who posted it on Craig’s List?
Even highly sophisticated consumers, including Members of Congress and reporters who cover the automotive industry, suffer from this mistaken belief that somehow vehicles are safer if they’re on a car dealer’s lot.
That erroneous belief tends to be even stronger when the dealer claims the vehicle was thoroughly inspected, and when the dealer is a major franchised dealership.
U.S. Rep. MarkWayn Mullin, of Oklahoma, a GOP Member of Congress, stated at a Congressional hearing on auto safety that “I understand the responsibility of the driver. But at the same time, if you buy a vehicle new or used, you assume everything’s perfect on it.”
The former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Mark Rosekind, who was testifying at the hearing on behalf of the Obama Administration, agreed.
“For me, there’s a certain trust the comes with buying a used car from a franchised new-car dealer. I feel I’m not going to get an unsafe car. And it’s worth paying a small premium to know that the vehicle has been inspected and that technicians examined the critical items. Most techs, I believe, would not let a used vehicle go out for sale if they wouldn’t put their own family in it.”
Sadly, that trust is terribly misplaced. As many news organizations have reported, and the CARS Foundation and our research partners at U.S.PIRG and the Frontier Group have repeatedly found, both new car dealers and used car dealers routinely fail to get deadly safety recall defects repaired, even though the repairs are free.
A car dealer in Hartford, Connecticut sold a young African-American man who was buying his first car a 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE with an appalling 11 unrepaired safety recalls. The safety defects included: faulty airbags, bad brakes, stalling in traffic, and other life-threatening defects. He fought back and won a favorable decision in arbitration, including a refund and his attorneys fees.
More reports about car dealers who sell unrepaired recalled cars with deadly safety recall defects:
Click here to see CARS’ tips for how to get a good deal on a safe used car without having to deal with professional crooks who put their short-term profits ahead of your safety, and the safety of your family and friends.
CarMax agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle lawsuits brought by 16 District Attorneys charging the auto dealership chain with illegally dumping hazardous materials at CarMax stores throughout the state of California, for six years, from 2014 – 2020.
According to news releases issued by the District Attorneys, CarMax illegally disposed of solvents, aerosols, automotive paints, clear coats, and other hazardous substances that the company used during the auto body repair process.
CarMax also continues to sell hazardous unrepaired recalled used cars without bothering to get the free safety recall repairs done first, placing its customers and others who share the roads at risk of being injured or killed.
Car dealers and lenders keep getting caught engaging in discriminatory practices, cheating consumers based on race, particularly harming car buyers who are African American and Latino.
It’s illegal, but many auto dealers persist in targeting people of color, selling them overpriced junkers and charging them extra for worthless add-ons and sky-high interest rates.
One of the more blatant examples: According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Bronx Honda told their employees to charge African-American and Latino people higher interest rates and fees when they applied for dealer financing.” The agency also said that the dealership paid their employees bonuses for ripping off people of color. The worse the terms, the higher the bonuses.
“People who were shopping for a Certified Pre-Owned Honda were also told that ‘certification’ and other fees (which often added up to $3000) were required. Despite the fact that the cars were Certified Pre-Owned before they arrived on the sales floor.”
The FTC also alleged the dealership often added additional “fees,” in the form of a higher total sales price or monthly installments, without telling the buyers. This scam is very popular among auto dealers, who exploit “e-contracting” to conceal the predatory prices from their victims.
Sometimes, consumers never even see what is on the computer screen. They don’t know what the real cost is until it’s too late. CARS heard from one consumer who bought a new car from a dealership in Vallejo, California, who was repeatedly promised it would cost $24,000. But when the contract was printed out, with his “e-signature” on it, the price was over $48,000 — more than double what the dealer had promised.
How can you avoid paying too much for your next car? Here are CARS’ tips for car buyers, showing step by step how to get a good deal on a safe, reliable used car without having to buy from a professional, racist crook.
Greedy subprime auto lending giant Santander is settling charges filed by 33 state Attorneys General and the District of Columbia, by paying $550 million.
The law enforcement officials charged Santander with engaging in predatory auto lending practices, including:
Approving auto loans Santander knew low-income car buyers could not possibly repay, resulting in an astronomical and devastating default rate of over 70%
Turning a blind eye to common scams that auto dealers engage in, such as falsifying loan applications to make it appear the used car buyers had far more income than they really had
“Santander profited by approving high-cost loans to disadvantaged auto buyers who were doomed from the start,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement.
As part of the settlement, Santander will provide over $99 million in relief to thousands of California consumers who Santander approved for its abusive high-cost loans.
Consumers with the lowest quality loans who had defaulted as of December 31, 2019, and have not had their cars repossessed, will be allowed to keep their car and have any deficiency balance on the loan (up to a total value of $45 million in deficiency waivers nationwide) waived.
Santander will also waive the deficiency balances for certain defaulted consumers across the country, with approximately $433 million in immediate forgiveness of loans still owned by Santander, and additional deficiency waivers of loans that Santander no longer owns but is required to attempt to buy back.
When consumers default on auto loans, lenders like Santander swoop in and repossess their vehicles, often causing them to lose their jobs. When car buyers lose their only way to get to work, some become homeless. In states like California with huge areas that provide little access to public transportation, losing a vehicle can be a death sentence, particularly for people who are elderly or disabled, or live in rural areas or other parts of the state where they are unable to access health care without a car.
Did you have an auto loan with Santander? Or was your vehicle repossessed by Santander? We’re very interested in hearing from you. Please contact CARS, so we can listen to your story and help prevent more people from falling prey to scummy subprime auto lenders.
Yes, it’s unfair. And yes it’s crazy. Especially now, when California Governor Gavin Newsom and his administration are working hard to protect consumers from debt collectors during the pandemic, to mitigate the economic fallout.
But if you buy a used car in California, the California Department of Motor Vehicles can sock you with having to pay for past-due registration fees and penalties owed by the former owner.
Imagine the shock car buyers feel when they buy a used car, only to find out later that it comes with an unwanted accessory — a boatload of bad debt.
This happens even to consumers who shop at auto dealerships. And there’s no limit on how much extra you can be charged. An overdue registration can cost you $300, $1000 or more in hidden, unexpected fees and penalties.
California law allows the DMV to impose a lien on the registration, until it is paid in full. It’s illegal to drive a car with expired license tags or registration. So if you refuse to pay, or can’t afford the unexpected expense, you can lose your car. The California Highway Patrol can pull you over, issue a “fix-it” ticket that you can’t afford to fix, or impound your car. If you aren’t the registered owner, you can’t get your car out of impound, even if you scrape together the cash to pay the hefty towing and impound fees.
Glenn Harris, a U.S. Army veteran and devoted family man with a wife and three children, testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and described their ordeal:
“While I was driving to work recently, the CHP pulled me over. They noticed that I was driving with a temporary sticker that had expired, and my car was impounded. The CHP also said there was over a year of back fees owed to DMV that Express Auto Sales never paid.
They said we had to pay the DMV those extra fees, from before we even bought the car, before it could be registered in our names. We can’t afford to pay DMV those unexpected fees, that were not disclosed when we bought the car, on top of what we’re already paying the bank.
I can’t afford to pay the hefty impound fees, which are hundreds of dollars. I also can’t get the car out of impound because I am not the registered owner. Even if I got the car out of impound, I couldn’t afford to get it registered, so I may get pulled over and ticketed again.”
What will it take for the California DMV and lawmakers to end this grossly unfair practice, which can ruin the lives of innocent used car buyers who have done nothing wrong? All they did was to buy a car from a licensed dealership.
How many Californians have already been made homeless because the DMV and law enforcement agencies seized their vehicles — often their only means of transportation to get to work or school, buy groceries and access medical care and other necessities of life?
Read more: California Vehicle Code Section 9562. (a) When a transferee or purchaser of a vehicle applies for transfer of registration, as provided in Section 5902, and it is determined by the department that registration penalties accrued prior to the purchase of the vehicle, and that the transferee or purchaser was not cognizant of the nonpayment of the fees for registration for the current or prior registration years, the department may [or may not] waive the registration penalties upon payment of the fees for registration due.
This means that the DMV might choose to waive the penalties, but not the past-due registration fees, even if the consumer can somehow convince the DMV that they are totally innocent and were unaware of the prior owner’s debt.
Buying cars at auto dealerships has always been risky. But especially now, when you may be exposed to Covid-19, the risks are even greater. Plus Covid-19 isn’t the only health and safety risk you face if you shop at a car dealership.
Many auto dealers don’t care enough about their customers’ safety to take the simple step of ensuring that FREE safety recall repairs are done to fix deadly safety recall defects.
Auto dealers neglect to get free repairs done to fix killer defects like:
steering wheels that literally come off in the driver’s hands
exploding Takata airbags that are like having a hand grenade go off in your face, causing blindness or bleeding to death
catching on fire
sticking accelerator pedals
So can you trust auto dealers to protect you from Coronavirus? Obviously, the answer is NO.
Even huge auto dealership chains like CarMax and AutoNation sell hazardous vehicles with safety defects that have killed hundreds of people and seriously injured thousands more.
They spend millions in advertising to lure car buyers to their stores, trumpeting that vehicles they offer for sale must pass an “inspection.” They list over 100 components that are supposedly inspected. But don’t be fooled. They routinely fail to fix components with serious safety recall defects that are likely to kill you or someone you love.
CarMax is the largest retailer of used cars in the U.S. They raked in over $18 billion in revenue last year, and are publicly traded on Wall Street.
CarMax used to hire employees and task them with delivering recalled cars to nearby new car dealerships for free repairs. New car dealers liked to get the work. Auto manufacturers compensate their franchised dealers for performing safety recall repairs, so it’s a money-maker for them.
But then CarMax decided they could make more money by lowballing consumers who traded in recalled vehicles, then selling them rapid-fire for high retail as “CarMax Quality Certified” vehicles without waiting for the free repairs.
AutoNation is also publicly traded on Wall Street and boasts they are a Fortune 500 company with over $21 billion in revenue. Their largest investors include the trust controlled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
At first, AutoNation announced they would guarantee that all their vehicles were recall-free. But when Trump was elected, faced with competitive pressure from CarMax for investor dollars, they gave up and started selling dangerous recalled vehicles too.
The kicker: If you are injured or killed, or harm someone else because of an unrepaired safety recall defect, the dealers will blame YOU for buying a dangerous car from them.
Multi-billion $$ mega-dealers AutoNation, Penske, and Group One Grab
At least $144 million from Paycheck Protection Plan
Trump Administration Aided Giant Corporations in Exploiting Loophole
AutoNation, the nation’s largest retailer of new vehicles, boasts that it’s a “Fortune 500” company with 26,000 employees and stores in over 300 locations in 18 states. In 2019, AutoNation raked in over $21 billion in revenue.
The corporate behemoth is also publicly traded on Wall Street. According to Barrons, “Bill Gates remains AutoNation’s largest shareholder. Through shares held by the [Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] trust and 18.4 million AutoNation shares that Cascade owns, the co-founder of Microsoft (MSFT) still has total ownership of 19.3 AutoNation shares, a 21.6% stake.”
Penske Automotive, another giant auto dealership chain publicly traded on Wall Street, hauled in over $22.8 billion last year.
Group One Auto’s annual revenue was $12 billion.
So how did AutoNation, Penske, and Group One grab at least $144 million from the U.S. Treasury’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), while struggling businesses like restaurants, beauty parlors, nail salons, print shops, booksellers, self-employed people, and other small businesses tried in vain to access relief that was supposedly going to help them keep the wolves from their doors?
The PPP was supposed to be limited to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. But AutoNation, Penske, and Group One exploited a loophole provided by the Trump Administration’s Small Business Administration for mega-businesses with franchises in multiple locations, allowing them to each file for relief separately, even when they are all owned by the same conglomerate.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) tutored its mega-dealer members on how to exploit the loophole, instructing them how to get around the 500-employee limit. The key to evading that limit was for the auto manufacturers to get a “franchise identifier code” from the Small Business Administration, so their dealerships could all masquerade as “small businesses” even when in reality they are enormous.
The NADA also engaged in various machinations to make sure all their dealer members, regardless their size, could apply for the taxpayer funds. The NADA brags that when the CARS Act was first passed, only about 25% of the U.S. auto manufacturers had obtained the coveted codes from the Small Business Administration. However, “in response to strong urging from NADA, all [the auto manufacturers] without codes quickly applied for them. And again in response to NADA’s advocacy, the SBA has now granted all of those applications.”
Basically, the NADA is trumpeting the fact that huge auto dealership chains exerted their influence with the Trump Administration, to get the SBA to expedite providing those handy “franchise identifier codes” in time to scarf up at least $144 million of taxpayer dollars before day care centers, ice cream parlors, pet sitting services, bakeries, or other mom and pop stores desperate for cash even had a chance.
The NADA’s tips are posted on their website, showing dealers how to game the system.
In fact, AutoNation may have snatched even more. According to the Washington Post, “Documents show the company may have received even more money, a total of $95 million, spread across dozens of locations, an amount that would be more than triple the amount any company is known to have received through the fund.” The article notes that “AutoNation disputes the $95 million figure.”
While AutoNation claims it has returned $77 million in taxpayer funds it scooped up from the PPP, without an independent audit of the program, they can hardly be believed. For weeks, while other corporations like Shake Shak and Ruth’s Christ SteakHouse, facing a firestorm of protests, surrendered their ill-gotten millions. Meanwhile, ignoring the plight of small businesses and laid-off workers, AutoNation callously clung to the vast sums they seized from taxpayers — until they were contacted by reporters from the Washington Post.
This is not the only way AutoNation is exploiting loopholes provided to auto dealers by the Trump Administration.
AutoNation is also jeopardizing public safety by deliberately selling its customers hazardous vehicles without repairing deadly safety recall defects first.
When Trump was elected, AutoNation’s CEO Mike Jackson announced AutoNation was reversing its policy of guaranteeing a recall-free car, and commenced selling dangerous deathtrap vehicles — including vehicles AutoNation knows cannot be repaired for prolonged periods, due to severe shortages of replacement parts.
Last fall, researchers for USPIRG Education Fund, the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation, and Frontier Group found that more than 1 in every 9 vehicles AutoNation offered for sale at 28 dealerships in 12 states, among 2,400 vehicles surveyed, had at least one unrepaired safety recall. Typical defects: catching on fire, faulty brakes, loss of steering, sticking accelerator pedals, and explosive Takata airbags that are ticking time bombs that spew shrapnel into drivers’ and passengers’ faces and necks, causing serious injuries including blindness and bleeding to death.
Times of crisis tend to bring out the best in some people — and the worst in others. At the same time the nation is cheering on the courageous doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, delivery workers, grocery store workers, and others toiling on the front lines to save lives, unscrupulous auto dealers continue to scam car buyers who fall into their clutches.
Auto sales have plummeted drastically. Some states have ordered auto dealerships to close their doors. But others are allowing them to remain open, deeming them to be an “essential” service, particularly for performing safety recall repairs.
Consumers are wise to be wary about making a major purchase when they are being laid off in record numbers, or their jobs are uncertain, at best. Plus no one knows for sure how long it will take for the economy to recover.
Auto manufacturers and dealers are responding to consumers’ anxiety and the downturn in car sales by advertising 0% financing and delayed payments, in an attempt to lure car buyers. But beware: many car buyers may not quality for those special rates, and after the “payment holiday” is over, you may be hit with hefty fees or other extra charges hidden in the fine print.
Even more than before, it pays to be cautious and shop around for credit before you buy. The safest thing to do is to join a credit union and get financing approved before you shop for a car. NEVER trust a dealer to find you the best terms for an auto loan.
Car dealers don’t want you to know this, but they rake in extra profits from lenders in exchange for raising the interest rate on auto loans, above the rate you qualify to get, based on your creditworthiness. The extra kickback is known as the “dealer markup” or “dealer participation.” It’s usually split with the lender, and can add thousands of dollars onto the price of your auto loan. It’s added profit, at your expense, and a huge source of revenue for auto dealers and lenders.
Beware: Auto dealers often claim in advertising and in person that they are shopping around for financing in order to find you “the best rate.” What they really mean is the best rate for THEM, not for YOU. In fact, lenders compete with each other to offer dealers incentives and sweeteners for assigning auto loans to them — costing you more.
You may also be surprised to learn that even if you never buy a car from a dealership, but just happen to walk onto a car dealer’s lot and browse around or test drive a car, unethical dealers may get your name, then pull your credit report and shop around for financing — without your permission. Their goal: to find out what you can afford to pay, and how much added “markup” they can get from various lenders for selling you a car, and assigning the sales contract to one of those lenders.
When dealers pull this stunt and shop around among many lenders, it’s known in the automotive trade as “shotgunning” credit. Under some circumstances, it may cause only a small dip in your credit score. But particularly if dealers pull your credit repeatedly, over a period of time, it can cause your credit score to plummet, greatly increasing the cost of credit for future purchases. It’s also an invasion of your privacy and may leave you more vulnerable to identity theft.
In one court case that is now pending in Pennsylvania, a consumer alleges that she popped into a Volkswagen dealership, but made it clear she wasn’t going to buy a car, and was just scoping out various models. She didn’t sign anything. But the dealer made 7 “hard pulls” on her credit, causing her credit score to take a nose dive.
According to the lawsuit, this was a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The complaint filed by her attorneys says that the Federal Trade Commission warned car dealers in 1998 not to pull consumers’ credit reports unless there is a “legitimate business need for the information in connection with a business transaction that is initiated by the consumer.”
The FTC noted that the Texas Automobile Dealers Association asked for an official opinion whether federal law “allows a dealer to obtain a consumer report on a person who ‘comes to an automobile dealership and requests information’ from a salesman about one or more automobiles.” The FTC replied: “In our view it does not, because a request for general information about products and prices offered does NOT involve a business transaction initiated by the consumer.” (FTC Advisory Letter to Coffey, 2-11-98. Emphasis added.)
Bottom line: Especially now, you’re smart to shop around for credit before you set foot on a car dealer’s lot, and to be wary of enticing deals that sound too good to be true.
Has a car dealer “shotgunned” your credit, without your permission? If so, we would like to hear from you. Here’s where to contact CARS: http://carconsumers.org/feedback.php
Thank you! Your stories help raise awareness and help prevent predatory auto lending practices that harm even the most savvy consumers and their families.