Last September I purchased a new 1990 Chrysler LeBaron four-door sedan from Davis Chrysler Plymouth Dodge in Brigham City. I am very pleased with the car.
The salesperson at the dealership asked me what I wanted to pay for the car. After a certain amount of dickering it was agreed that $16,000 was acceptable.I released my 1986 Buick Century that was in excellent condition plus I paid $1,000 as a binder and signed both the purchase agreement and a factory incentive form in which I agreed that the $750 factory incentive would go to the dealership. This agreement was not identified as such and, believing the salesman was working in my behalf, I naively signed it.
They took the keys to my Buick on the pretext of evaluating its value. The dealership immediately arranged for the sale of my Buick. I believe my Buick was sold to the wholesaler at top dollar because of its prime condition.
When the discussion came up about my vehicle as a trade-in, it was agreed I would get $6,000. You can see by the purchase agreement that $5,500 was all I got, but it was used to pump up the price of the new car to $21,500 and make it appear I got a marvelous bargain.
We have since contacted another Chrysler dealership and discovered that the sticker price of the LeBaron with all the amenities mine has is $18,700.
I am 75 years old, retired and don't purchase automobiles very often. I am not considered senile or slow in the application of my dealings with people who are up-front in all they do with me. I believe in paying a fair price and being treated fairly and honestly. I do not believe it was so in this transaction.
After I got home with the papers and looked them over completely and thoroughly, I discovered I never really got one cent for my Buick. In addition to which I lost the $1,000 factory incentive that went to the dealership instead of me.
I took all the papers to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, which did what it called an "investigation" of the matter. It accepted the dealership's explanation.
I also sent a letter to Chrysler Motors. It said dealerships are independent businesses over which it has no legal or financial control.
Two attorneys advised me that because I had signed the agreement and did not stop payment on my check, I would not stand a chance in court.
Your consideration of my plight would be appreciated. - F.M., Ogden.
Because you signed a purchase agreement in which the terms are clearly stated, we feel you don't have a case. We're printing your letter because we think other readers can learn from your experience.
It's important to read and understand every document you sign.
"The average auto salesman can run rings around the average consumer," said one knowledgeable observer.
The dealership points out that several different agencies looked at the situation and found no wrongdoing. "I am sure you would agree that the various disclosure forms Mrs. M. signed are very clear and easy to understand," wrote a spokesman.
According to our figures based on information we received from Consumer Reports Auto Price Service, the dealer invoice on your car including options and destination charges, is approximately $15,900. The suggested retail, also including options and destinations charges, is approximately $17,937.
Your Buick might have fetched $3,500 to $4,000 at a wholesale auction, according to a spokesman for Consumer Reports Auto Price Service.
If you add the $16,000 cash payment and the $750 manufacturer's incentive, the dealership got $16,750 for the car plus the amount it sold your Buick for. If it received $3,500 for the Buick, the total value of the car to the dealership was $20,250.
The best advice we can offer consumers in the new-car market is to know in advance the approximate dealer invoice and suggested retail price of the car. Then you're on solid ground when you negotiate a price.
Credit unions, banks and other financial institutions should have that information.
For $11, Consumer Reports Auto Price Service will send you a computer printout of the dealer invoice and suggested retail price of a new car and every option that's available on that model. The price is $20 for reports on two cars, and $27 for reports on three cars.
Send by mail or FAX, your name, address, phone number, FAX number, the make, model and style of the car. The address is P.O. Box 8005, Novi, MI 48376. The FAX number is (313) 347-2985. Include your Visa or MasterCard number and expiration date.