In a recent article, I shared two awful stories of dealer misconduct. In one, a dealer in New York sold a customer’s special order Jeep out from under them to make a few extra bucks. Fortunately, Jeep helped take care of the customer and helped them find another vehicle that fit their needs at a fair price from another dealer.
But these stories don’t always have happy endings. In my case, I actually had the offending dealer reach out to me, only for them to try to say I signed the document and therefore they could have done no wrong. And really, this is how the game is played. Many auto dealers survive and thrive by knowing how to con people out of money, and are quite good at doing this without giving a defrauded customer a chance to prove that they were taken for a ride. They’re experienced professionals, and we’re the amateurs.
Instead of reining these deceptive and fraudulent practices in, lawmakers in many states reward it because they’re getting a cut of the action. Dealers claim that only by using them as middlemen can customers get a fair shot at dealing with manufacturers. A manufacturer may set a price on an automobile, but if they have to go through dealers, the customer will supposedly have competing sellers to work with and get better pricing and treatment at the service department. It also doesn’t hurt that the state dealers’ associations are giving state legislators campaign money, so laws requiring all sales to go through dealers are tough to get rid of.
Those of us who have fallen for it know that this argument holds no water, but we don’t collectively have the money and influence it takes to get state legislatures to do the right thing and give customers a choice of whether they want to work with dealers or directly with the manufacturer. I’m not saying dealing with a manufacturer is always a perfect experience (some people have had downright awful experiences with Tesla), but when we consider the disgusting behavior of auto dealers, it’s hard to argue that they’re any better. It’s definitely hard to say that dealers should be getting special favors from legislatures.
So, it’s time that we worked together to expose what’s really going on to put pressure on legislatures or for the federal government to use their power under the commerce clause to fix this. If enough word gets around about the fraud and abuse customers go through, we can put them in the same position as the frog-looking guys in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace:
To help get us here, I want to put together a collection of dealer horror stories. By collecting these up on a regular basis and putting them out there, readers will have an opportunity to share the volume of it with their representatives and ask them to reform the law. If we keep it up, hopefully companies like Aptera and Tesla will get a fair shot in every state.
Stories submitted will be compiled on a regular basis and used on this website, so don’t send us anything you wouldn’t want published.
Featured image: Harry Wormwood from the 1996 movie Matilda. (Fair Use, Commentary)
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