Friday Rant: Nissan May Invest in Supplier Diversity, But One Dealer Preys on Minorities/Immigrants

I'm not sure if it's the current lunar cycle or what, but I don't often find myself having two weeks worth of rants for this (or any) site. Maybe it was because Jason had traveled out of the country and I stayed behind to manage our growing and somewhat chaotic household, or maybe something stirred my inner sense of personal sourcing justice and fairness in this world (I really don't know) -- but I sadly find myself needing to tell yet another auto purchase scam story. This time, however, we'll start with the conclusion: Nissan USA ought to pay close attention to how its dealers (Western Avenue Nissan here in Chicago, in particular) treat its customers. We'd welcome readers and potential new clients of this dealership to see the overwhelmingly glowing reviews (sarcasm intended) this dealer has managed to earn. And though Spend Matters readers know a swindle when they see one, not everyone has the knowledge of a procurement professional.

A lady friend of ours (relatively new to the US -- she hails from the Ukraine) has lived here for four years. She wanted to purchase a used car she learned of via her partner, who had received a pre-approved finance rate of 9%. Capitol One, the finance firm, suggested they go to Western Avenue Nissan to see the car. So far, so good -- but the story goes downhill from here. At work: the ole bait-and-switch sales tactic. Instead of showing them the used car, the dealer ended up showing them a new car, specifically a Nissan Versa. Buyer beware you say? Yes of course -- but let us continue with our story.

I wouldn't have paid any attention to any of this had my friend not shared the interest rate on her sales contract that she signed under heavy pressure (15.34%). I not so subtly suggested that the rate seemed high, unless she had poor credit. She then handed all of the paperwork to me and the only "out" I could see involved a rider stipulating that if the dealer couldn't obtain financing at the agreed-upon amount, then the buyer had to return the car for a full refund of his/her deposit. Once I saw the suspect interest rate, I was immediately wary of the actual purchase price of the car (the sales contract read $17,895). So I did what any purchasing professional might do -- I obtained alternative quotes. And betting that the left hand wouldn't know what the right hand was doing at Western Avenue Nissan, I went online and requested a quote for the same exact car. Low and behold, my price came in at $14,606. By the way, the $17,895 was the price before tax, title and other fees. So what can we conclude here?

By chance -- did this dealer take advantage of some automotive purchasing inexperience on the part of our subject, shall we say? Obviously the price of the car appeared high and the interest rate appeared high, which equals two big red flags in my book. But the best was yet to come.

When my friend called the dealer after 11 days to determine the interest rate, well, here is where our story turns from buyer beware to sleazy dealer. After multiple phone calls regarding financing, she received nothing but the run-around (e.g. call this number which turned out to be a fax number, "working on it," and finally, 15.9%). 15.9%, eh? Well, I said to my friend, you are a lucky girl -- because now you can exercise the clause in the rider, return the car, and get your money back.

So, did the dealer return her money? Of course not!

The dealer brought out the head of finance, and pretended to know nothing about this rider and what it includes. They played dumb when it came to Illinois consumer protection laws and had the audacity to try to renegotiate a new contract. Luckily, my friend handed them the keys (and the car) and is working through the credit card company to deny her deposit charges.

Fortunately, my friend had the common sense to speak to someone who knows a thing or two about sniffing out scams and unethical selling behaviors. Without question, far too many people (especially those who don't speak English as a first language or live in poor, urban areas) are swindled every single day by dealers like Western Avenue Nissan. Regardless, just as it is in the corporate world, eternal vigilance is the price of buying liberty for purchased items, large and small. And when it comes to buying a big-ticket item like a car, you can be sure that there are still far too many sellers who will lie, cheat, intimidate and bully those who don't know any better.

I believe that Nissan North America should have to answer for the behavior of its local representative on the South Side of Chicago. Moreover, we personally find it extremely ironic that Nissan cares about supplier diversity when one of its own dealers in a predominately African American neighborhood preys on the buying innocence of minorities and immigrants.

-- Lisa Reisman

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