Car Dealer Arrested by Federal Agents

The former owner of a Suzuki dealership in South Carolina and eight of his former employees have been indicted and are facing federal charges. Prosecutors say they used deceptive advertising that promised low monthly payments to entice customers to buy new cars.

According to the charges that were filed, the deceptive advertising and sales scheme occurred from 2006 through August, 2008.

In TV and radio ads, plus direct mail to consumers, Gibson and his co-defendants allegedly lured customers into buying cars, promising them very low monthly payments — usually between $44 and $99 — and here’s the kicker — at the end of several months, they could trade in the car for new one, at no additional cost.. However, when the “promotional period” ended, the customers’ payments skyrocketed. They were also not allowed to swap cars. Thus, they were trapped with high payments that busted their budgets.

According to a news report in the South Carolina Herald-Journal, “one couple bought a Suzuki in March 2007, [and] agreed to make monthly payments of $47 and were soon slapped with demands for $509 a month to keep their sedan.”

Under a court order issued in 2009, dealership customers divided $2.7 million in funds established by American Suzuki Motor Corp., lenders and the company’s insurance carrier.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Stephens is prosecuting the case with the assistance of the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI.

Read more:

Spartanburg, SC Herald-Journal, Sept. 14, 2012


Extended Service Contracts — Worth it, or not?

It’s hard to buy a car today, from a dealer, without having to pay $1000 or $2000 or more for a “service contract.” Some dealers pressure car buyers into these notoriously high-priced add-ons by telling them that if they don’t get the contract, the lender won’t approve their loan.

In some states, that is an unfair and deceptive trade practice. But it’s usually very difficult to prove.

What dealers won’t tell you is that they get hefty kickbacks from lenders, insurers, and other companies that sell service contracts, in exchange for selling them. A dealer may make more on the service contract than on the price of the car.

But are they a good deal for car buyers? According to Consumer Reports, based on the respected consumer magazine’s survey of 8,000 new-car buyers, the answer is NO.

Among the reasons service contracts tend to be a bad deal:

They often exempt coverage for pre-existing conditions, or items that are prone to break down.

They usually won’t cover prior damage, which gives the service contract company a convenient excuse to deny claims. If the car was in a wreck or flood, chances are the warranty will be partially or totally void.

Some dealers fail to forward the money you pay for the service contract. Instead, they pocket it and leave their customers in the lurch. It’s a very unwelcome surprise to find out that the coverage you thought you had — doesn’t even exist. Especially when you face an expensive repair. Even major franchised car dealerships have been caught engaging in this scam.

The products are overpriced. Based on loss/claims ratios, the charges are often outrageously high.

The contracts are written with many exclusions and limitations hidden in the fine print. Blown gasket? “Sorry — you can’t prove the used car you just bought had the oil changed every 3,000 miles. Claim denied.”

Some service contract companies have gone under, leaving both the consumers and dealerships holding the bag.  Even some that were highly rated by “objective” ratings companies were actually a stack of cards. This has happened over and over again.

Bottom line: You’re usually better off spending $100 to get a reliable, independent auto technician to inspect the car BEFORE you buy, rather than spending an extra $1000- $2000 for a worthless contract that is loaded with loopholes.

Read more:

Consumer Reports “Extended warranties: a high-priced gamble”