Lake Geneva Chevrolet Complaint - Doesn't disclose hidden damages, won't fix them either

Review by escape wisconsin on 2008-05-01
LAKE GENEVA, WISCONSIN -- My wife and I went to LGC with the intentions of test driving (and possibly purchasing) a Chevy Aveo in March 2008. Unfortunately we have had credit problems so the dealership would only pursue financing on a used vehicle. Fine, figured we could get a steal during their "push-pull-drag" sale.

While completing the credit application, a vehicle was selected for us (listed at 11,998; offered for 9,998). The vehicle had apparent cosmetic damage on the front bumper on the driver's side, but we were assured by LGC that the damage was purely that: COSMETIC. (Allegedly this incident happened on the dealer's lot while an employee of LGC was driving.)

We test drove and everything seemed OK (with the exception of the brakes pulling). My wife asked about oil changes and was assured that the oil was very recently changed. The vehicle disclosure report stated that everything was working normally and passed the full safety inspection. They also said "we could get a bumper cover replacement on eBay for the tume of $150-170.

Ended up getting financing but they did not specifically highlight the interest rate: just the payment and length of contract. (Turns out that they selected a finance company - AmeriCredit - with an extremely predatory rate of interest of 19.5%!)

We signed off for the next 72 months and my wife took delivery of her vehicle. We did not leave the lot when my wife wanted to turn around and complain about the brakes. (For the record my wife's father taught auto shop for several decades and has done almost every repair on her car that wasn't major.) They arranged to repair the brakes (consisting of a rotor grind on the front brakes and pad replacement... unfortunately they used basic pads and not the good ones that every other repair shop uses).

Later on my wife noticed the idiot light for the windshield wash. She stopped at an auto parts store for a gallon of fluid, which immediately poured out of the tank. Coincidentally the "CHECK OIL" light went on almost at the same time. She went to her local mechanic where we live, and (1) the oil came out BLACK, and (2) the bumper accident on the LGC lot yielded one punctured washer tank that was pierced by the fog lamp pushed back by the bumper! The estimate at the repair shop was for $160 for replacement.

Back to LGC. They offered to GLUE the tank hole shut (which my wife agreed to initially, under the condition that the glue would hold). Well, it didn't. She called LGC and, after a brief runaround, spoke to their sales manager, who agreed to replace said same tank. They offered a loaner car for the replacement time (initially my wife was going to turn it down, since my car was available for her use).

The car went in on a Thursday... I called back the next day and spoke to the tech that was repairing it. The tech told me that he was in the process of regluing the tank, which was under the direction "of the sales department". Wife called 'em back, absolutely livid. She wanted to speak with the owner; the sales mgr. told her that he was a partial owner. She wanted another name "higher up in the food chain" (he was "uncomfortable giving that information out").We would accept no less than a total washer tank replacement. They reluctantly agreed.
No calls since, so I called them the following Monday. Spoke to a service advisor, who proudly said the vehicle was ready "last Friday, they even stayed late to get it done". (OK, so no phone call?!?!)

I personally went there within a half-hour of speaking to these people... found out that they tried to call me at home, and left a message on their machine. (Unfortunately for them, I do NOT have an answering machine and my only voicemail is on my cell phone, of which they do not have the number for.) We had specifically asked to see the tank being replaced (naturally it was already discarded... would have loved to see their service advisor go dumpster diving for it...). I also wanted a copy of the invoice (no charge for their work, so it was handled internally, but was provided a copy for my records).
When going out to the vehicle, I immediately noticed a gaping hole where the driver's side fog lamp WAS. Got the guy outside, when he determined that the service tech broke the lamp when installing the tank.

I immediately told this person that I would NOT drive our vehicle unless it was fixed as it is a safety hazard. (FYI in Wisconsin per state law ALL factory-installed lighting equipment must at all times be in good working order - from headlamps right down to license plate lights.) Naturally he denied that it was a safety hazard, then went to find a replacement. He put the car on the scissorlift and proceeded to perform the repair personally. Once completed he invited me to inspect the result (inclusive of washer tank). The tank was OK, but the light.... was now positioned 3 to 4 inches BEHIND the actual bumper shell!! He claimed that the light was put back in the same exact place that it was broken out of (impossible, since the broken light was hanging by its harness). He also said that they do not have a responsibility to mount the light within the bumper shell or to adjust the bracket that the original employee (hopefully now EX-employee) damaged in their lot.

(Speaking of hanging light assemblies, I returned home from work one day and say a light harness hanging from the BACK of the vehicle!! (Right rear back-up light harness and bulb)

I left steaming. Tried to get a hold of the "sales manager/co-owner"; left a voicemail since he was "helping another customer" (HE NEVER RETURNED MY CALL). My wife did some calling and located the ACTUAL owner (who owns numerous dealerships in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. The owner called us back. After listening to my very upset wife and then listening to me, he basically said that the bumper is our responsibility and we will bear the costs of repair. Never mind the fact that their employee damaged the car... never mind the fact that the car suffered obvious structural damage not apparent unless panels were removed (and we got an independent estimate for repair to the tune of $950, not including even more damage that may be concealed under the panels). He only offered to:

(1) give an oil change (or certificate for same, since one was just done);
(2) check brakes (since an awful lot of brake dust was being generated, which happens when they use inferior brake bads);
(3) do a front-end alignment, and
(4) ATTEMPT to reseat that fog lamp. They would NOT consider the bumper replacement (citing that we already got the use of a rental car - of which my wife initially refused to accept). They also would not consider any necessary adjustments to the headlight system; the driver's side light assembly now sits tilted down towards the engine and the gaskets do not properly seal the headlight assembly.

In a nutshell, we were lied to and were deceived from the very first moment we stepped foot inside LGC. Their personnel could not nor would not provide satisfaction to these issues. Their OWNER basically stood up for their staff and would not budge. IF we had purchased an extended warranty (of which my wife and I were told we did not qualify for, partially because of the credit history) THEN they would consider the proper repair.

I feel LGC has committed misrepresentation and fraud through their non-disclosure of actual problems with the car (punctured washer tank, bumper and frame damage, even the oil change they claimed they performed). Understood that the vehicle was sold "AS-IS", however, they dropped the ball in their disclosures to us. Also, they turned down several counteroffers from various credit agencies that WOULD finance us, for far less interest, IF the dealership had knocked off a mere thousand off the selling price - also for a far shorter term!
Comments:4 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-02-01
Posted by Slimjim on 2008-05-01:
I think many of your requests are reasonable, however, a few things upsetting you seem unwarranted. How inferior could these pads have been to question an included brake job? As far as the financing, you got a sub prime rate because you have krap credit by your own admission. To expect the dealer to knock off a "mere" thousand dollars off the AGREED selling price after the fact, just so you can get a better interest rate, is absurd.
Posted by Hugh_Jorgen on 2008-05-01:
While it's convenient to blame the dealer, he didn't force you or your wife to accept the vehicle as is and he didn't force you to sign for a 19.5% interest rate.

I would bet if you had taken a day or two to have an independent mechanic inspect the car for your and then shop around on your own with some local banks and credit unions for financing you would be a lot happier with the outcome.

Hopefully this will help others - take your time and don't get so excited about a new car that you lose control of the deal. There's always another car out there!
Posted by Suusan B. on 2008-05-01:
I'd never, ever would dream of purchasing a used vehicle being sold in "AS IS" condition without having a reputable mechanic I trust inspect it first. It sounds to me like, due to the fact you have poor credit, you felt at the mercy of the dealership and believed everything they told you about the condition of the vehicle and the financing they were able to get you. Everything in this situation is going to boil down to what you signed and these dealerships are very careful to disclose their terms and conditions - - usually in very tiny print. And to whine because the dealership didn't voluntarily knock off a mere $1,000 off the price you agreed to pay so you could have lower interest and a shorter term is, as Slim stated above, simply absurd.
Posted by escape wisconsin on 2009-02-01:
In regards to the interest rate, please let me state that the rate was NEVER disclosed, not even during the final paperwork. It was only after AmeriCredit (the loan company) sent us our paperwork for payment that we discovered the interest. Lake Geneva wanted a quick sale, pure and simple.
Fortunately, my wife and I were able to pay off the ENTIRE loan in December 2008. When I submitted this payoff to the dealership to receive a refund of my GAP insurance premium (of which I have yet to receive), the F&I manager was shocked when I told him of (1) the interest rate, and (2) the failure of the dealership/salesperson to disclose said rate. I also told him to his face that "I would never have accepted such terms if the rate was disclosed at the time of offer". to which he replied, "Quite frankly, I wouldn't have blamed you."
In regards to the damage on the vehicle (smashed bumper and subsequent damage of the washer reservoir & fog lamp), remember that Wisconsin has a vehicle disclosure law that covers everything bumper-to-bumper. The fog lamp operation and the window washer were all checked off as being in OK condition (meaning that they WORKED). The dealership intentionally passed off the damage as purely cosmetic.
IF they said that "Hey... we had some damage as a result of a lot attendent hitting something, here's what it will need to be repaired...etc", that would have been far more honest. Hell, I would have probably repaired it myself at my own cost.
Understanding the "Buyer Beware" and "get the vehicle inspected before purchase" comments... OK, I did drop the ball. Still, that doesn't make Lake Geneva Chevrolet (or any other dealership or used car lot) any less responsible for the actions that my wife and I realized. In fact, the responsibility is greater being a GM-franchised dealership than it is being "Fred's Used Auto & Salvage" or whatever. Fact of the matter is, on ANY purchase I have ever done through a dealership, the disclosures were completely done AND the interest rate was CLEARLY revealed with the length of term and monthly payments, usually written on an informal offer sheet (NOT a contract). Even my old car (a 2000 Chevy Cavalier), purchased USED at a little lot near my house (after my 2002 Echo was totalled out) was fully disclosed (even saying a specific item that was in need of repair). That place also stated the rate of interest, length of payment, AND monthly payment, up front. No reason why Lake Geneva Chevy could have done the same.
In fact, I had the good fortune of replacing THAT vehicle in Dec 2008 as well, purchasing an '09 Prius. WITH CASH. And FAR, FAR AWAY from Lake Geneva as I could get. Gave my old car to my wife's son (with a total of 180K on it).
Far as I'm concerned, this issue is officially closed. And for the service on my wife's Grand Am, I will drive out of my way to avoid Lake Geneva Chevrolet. End of story.

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