Help! As you can see from the attached copies of my correspondence with Butterfield Ford, we are at a standstill. I bought a 1979 Dodge Omni from the dealership on June 4, 1988. I was told the brakes were fine because the car had passed its safety inspection. A few weeks later the dealership told me to bring the car in for a safety inspection so it could be registered.
The carburetor caused major problems. The sales manager agreed to a $150 credit toward what I owed on the car. He also agreed to have the dealership repair the carburetor. This never happened.I need to get rid of the car (to a junk yard) and I need the title to do that. I do not feel I owe the dealership one cent. I am willing to pay $305.94 to get the title only because I need the title to dispose of the car. The dealership wants me to pay more.
Can you somehow convince it to take $305.94 while I am still offering it? I think that is more than reasonable after the hell I have been through with this car. If the dealership refuses to honor the $150 credit offered by its sales manager and accept $305.94, I will have no choice but to go to court on this matter. I do not want this hassle and I do not think the dealership does, either. - E.G., Provo.
It looks like you're going to court. In the dealership's opinion the matter is closed. "He can either pay the bill ($455.94) or not. That is his decision. My decision is to no longer take difficult phone calls or open nasty letters," wrote Brent E. Butterfield in response to our letter.
He points out that you signed an as-is contract in which you agreed to pay for any repairs. "The dealership assumes no responsibility for any repairs regardless of any oral statement about the vehicle," says the contract.
An as-is contract, standard in used-car sales, is clearly predisposed toward the dealership. But no one said life was fair.
The dealership says it worked on the carburetor problem at no charge to you despite the "as-is" contract. It also financed your contract, which it normally wouldn't have done, in order to accommodate you.
Another note in your file says "spoke to Ernie, reduced balance to $355.94 to be paid in August and one-half in September 1988." The dealership says you didn't make those payments.
The $455.94 balance represents $355.94 plus accrued interest and late charges for more than two years. The dealership says the "$150 credit mentioned by the sales manager is vague as to its place in the deal."
Various offers made throughout this ordeal, as best we can decipher them from your letters and the dealership's letters, are as follows:
You agreed to a cash price of $1,295 for this vehicle, which allowed for a $395 trade-in allowance. The trade-in plus $100 in cash equaled a down payment of $495. An uninitialed notation on the contract above the unpaid cash price balance of $955.94 says less "$150 for carb."
- On July 5, 1988, you sent the dealership $500 toward reducing the balance. In a letter accompanying that payment, you explained that you had cleaned the car, installed door speakers to hide the holes left by the previous owners and fixed the driver's door so it opened from the outside. However, shortly after you purchased the car, you noticed that it idled roughly. A mechanic told you it needed a new, not rebuilt, carburetor. You asked the dealership for some kind of adjustment in the purchase price because it was going to cost you $300 to $400 to replace the carburetor. You proposed that the dealership apply a $250 credit toward your balance and you would have the carburetor fixed.
- In another letter you say the sales manager agreed to a reduction of $150 in the balance you owed (as noted on the contract) plus the repair of the carburetor, leaving an amount due of $305.94. In addition, you felt the balance due should be reduced by $278.14 to reimburse you for transportation for the time the dealership's mechanic examined the car after the second rebuilt carburetor had failed to correct the idling problem.
- You proposed that the dealership either repair the carburetor to your satisfaction and accept a balance of $278.14, or call things even. (At that point the dealership's statements showed a balance of $455.94, but it had agreed to a balance of $355.94. You claimed you owed $305.94.)
- The dealership expected you to pay $355.94 by Oct. 24, 1988. It said it had installed two rebuilt carburetors and deducted $150 from your balance due.
- On Nov. 1, 1988, you offered to accept a new carburetor and install it at your cost.
- Another offer, made in January 1990, after you had paid someone else $230 to fix the carburetor, was to pay the dealership $75 ($305.94 minus $230) in exchange for the car's title.
- Oct. 9, 1990: The dealership maintained that you owed $455.94, which it said did not include interest. You then said you would pay $305.94, far in excess of what you felt you owed, on Nov. 1.
- Oct. 18, 1990: The dealership said it would accept not one penny less than $455.94, which it said included interest and late charges through 12/31/89.
You say you put more than $2,000 in repairs into the car in a little longer than a year, replacing front brakes, rear brakes, carburetor, flywheel, etc. The torque converter and transmission gave out, too.
In our very non-mechanical opinion, the dealership sold you a car that turned out to have negligible usefulness. You added insult to injury by spending more money on repairs than the car cost (a lapse in judgment in our opinion). And though we can't condone your manipulative attempts to revise the terms of the as-is contract or your failure to make payments according to the agreed-upon deadlines, it looks like a court will decide whether justice has been served.