Pinebelt Chevrolet of Freehold Informative - Pinebelt Chevrolet of Freehold practices deceptive and possibly illegal car dealing procedures
FREEHOLD, NEW JERSEY -- On Monday, August 10th, 2009, I went to Pinebelt Chevrolet of Freehold, NJ looking to buy a pre-owned 2007 Cobalt I noticed on the Internet. I accepted the fact that with limited income I would have to pay a higher interest rate than is ideal. We did, however, come to a deal pleasing to both parties and after signing the paper work, the car was mine. We agreed to the terms: they would satisfy my trade-in of a 2003 Ford Taurus SES on which I owed $3000, I would pay $1500.00 up front, and at 12.9% interest, make payments of 266.72/mo for 72 months. The deal included a 3 year/60,000 mile warranty which I added, and according to my contract be financed through Wachovia Bank. My first payment was to be due September 9, 2009 (which has not yet passed). I gave them the down payment of $1500.00 (which was quickly cashed) and was told my registration and payment book would be in soon. Before I left the dealer, I updated my eSurance insurance policy for the new car and received my new cards immediately.
A week passed. There was no word from the dealer. Then I got a call. I assumed it was to tell me my registration had arrived. Instead, I was asked if I could have a co-borrower come onto the loan with me. They told me that my limited income was not pleasing to the bank. Considering I was holding a signed contract in my hand, I was puzzled. I asked my Mom though and she agreed to co-sign to avoid any problems.
2 more weeks passed. There was still no registration and to make matters worse, they had not paid off my trade-in causing a late payment to show up on my credit. I called the finance department and left messages for several days with no response. Meanwhile the due date for my first payment was approaching and I still hadn’t received a payment book. Finally, I was able to reach my salesman. Salesman told me that I needed to find a better co-signer or the deal would have to be altered for either a larger down payment or a higher interest rate. I was confused. At this point, I had been driving the car for nearly 4 weeks. I asked a friend and former car dealer what she thought about this. She told me that this is a new deceptive practice that dealers use to try to trick the average consumer and trap them into spending more money. She told me that the dealer lets the consumer take the car under the false pretense that they are approved for financing. Their game is to let the consumer get a taste of the new car and if the dealer needs to, call them back in exclaiming that the deal needs to be altered. “Most people are already settled in their new car and reluctantly make a new and less economical deal just to make life easier,” she explained. She went on to tell me that most likely in my case, the bank had turned me down and that the dealer had promised me financing on false pretenses. She laughed when I told her I was waiting for my registration telling me not to hold my breath. Sure enough, she was right.
This afternoon I finally was able to reach the General Manager. I told General Manager that I simply wanted my registration and payment book so I could start making payments. I also told him that I needed to have my trade-in paid off to avoid further penalties. He asked me for an additional $4500. I told him that we had a deal and that I will be contacting an attorney. At this point he became very agitated. He told me that if I don’t return the car he would report it as stolen and have me “locked up and embarrasssed.” I told him that as a paying customer, I don’t appreciate being spoken to this way. It was shortly after this that he hung up on me and sent a friend to my father’s house to attempt an illegal repossession of the vehicle. The vehicle was not there. I called General Manager back. He told me that I signed paperwork that made my deal a conditional sale. I had never heard of anything like this. I told him I’d gladly bring back the car if he agreed to fax me these papers. He told me that he could not produce these papers for me. At this point, he had let his guard down a bit and admitted to me that his dealership does sometimes “engage in unethical practices” but that “it’s not illegal.” He also threatened that if I try to hide he will find me.
This kind of practice can not be allowed to continue. I made a deal for a car. I’m looking at the contract right now as I type this. I made my down payment. They cashed my check. I handed over the keys and registration to my old car. I drove away and saved up for my first couple monthly payments. I drove around for nearly 4 weeks and when I simply wanted to know how I can start paying for my car, I was hit with startling and sickening news and was even told I will be thrown in jail. After owning and insuring a car for 4 weeks, I should not have to be threatened with higher interest rates and more down payments. A deal is a deal and if we can’t honor a deal in writing, then what can we honor? At the moment I have no idea how this will be resolved. I do not have the money to take the proper legal action that this case may require and I will most likely be reduced to handing the car back. But I pose a question to all those reading this: In these most critical of economic times, is this the way to be treating the average American consumer? We need to speak up and we need to do it now.