When he drove away from Dusty's Volkswagen Audi last September in a new, white Jetta, Rod Kujaczynski was relieved and elated.
Not only was the lengthy search and haggling with salesmen over, but Kujaczynski thought he had struck a fair deal."I shook hands with the salesman and I felt good when I left," the 28-year-old, self-employed businessman recalls.
But a few weeks later, the warm feeling turned cold when Kujacynski heard on the evening news that Dusty's had filed for bankruptcy.
That explained why he got a notice that payments on a pickup truck he had traded in for his new car were delinquent. And why he couldn't get a straight answer from Dusty's about whether his old truck had been sold or why the bank hadn't been paid.
Kujaczynski wasn't alone in his troubles. Hundreds of other Dusty's customers faced the same problem, prompting Utah lawmakers to pass tighter regulations on trade-ins during the last legislative session.
The new law, which goes into effect the end of this month, requires auto dealerships to pay off trade-ins within 21 days or be charged with a class B misdemeanor and face losing their licenses.
The law also allows victims to take legal action against the offending dealer to recover any damages. It targets dealerships in financial trouble and abusing trade-ins as a way to generate cash. State investigators are handling hundreds of complaints that have come in since the recent failure of Cary's Cars in Sandy.
"Just before a dealer goes under you see things like this happening. Dusty's resold trade-ins but didn't use cash from the sale to pay them off," said Jay Fackrell, director of the state Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division.
What results is the purchaser of the new car suddenly gets saddled with payments for the car he traded in. And the new owner of the trade-in can't get the title to his used car because it hasn't been paid off.
"Some people can end up with no vehicle at all. It's a total nightmare," said division investigator Ellery Summer.
Kujaczynski still doesn't know where his pickup truck is. But Dusty's former bank has paid off the lien, so he doesn't have that debt hanging over him.
The anger and frustration, however, occasionally surfaces when he sees a car with a license plate framed with the bright orange letters spelling Dusty's. "I feel remorse for them and what they have been going through."
Kujacyzski said he has pulled his license plate frame off.