On or about April 15th, 2009, my wife and I stopped by Riverside Nissan in Tulsa to look at the small Nissan 4 door trucks. While there we met with a Riverside salesman. His name was Mark Gibbs. He stated he had only been a car salesman for about 2 weeks. Prior to that he had been a floor tile installer and wrecker driver on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. He moved to Tulsa to try and make more money. He seemed to be an honest guy. Dustin Hightower stopped by Mark's desk and said he would do whatever it took to earn our business.
While touring the lot my wife looked at a Nissan Murano and decided it would better suit our needs. Mark offered to locate a vehicle in her favorite color and with all wheel drive. I received a Thank You card from Mark the next day.
Mark called and said he had found a vehicle. I don't recall if he gave me a price or not. I told him I would think about the offer but would continue to shop and that my wife was not certain what she wanted in terms of options.
On Saturday, April 18th my wife and I visited Nissan dealerships in Ft. Smith, Fayetteville, and Bentonville, AR. During these visits we determined we wanted a fully loaded Nissan Murano LE with navigation. We preferred the Silver Graphite color with black interior. On Sunday, April 19th my wife and I drove to the Nissan Dealer in Broken Arrow and to Jackie Cooper on Memorial Drive in Tulsa. We viewed a black LE on the Cooper lot and reconfirmed our desire to purchase an LE with navigation. On Monday I called Mark Gibbs to ask if he could locate our desired car. He agreed. He called back a few hours later and said he found one for $36,000 that met our specs. I told him I would like to purchase for $33,000. He returned a call saying they would sell for $34,500. I told him I would think it over and get back to him.
Overnight I received an emailed quote from Mr. Hightower. It clearly stated the vehicle contained the sought after options. When I took the items to the Nissan website and checked them on the Build a your Nissan car builder I could not get the numbers to add up. The MSRP was lower than it should have been and it did not match the quote. I called Mark the next morning with my concern. He put Mr. Hightower on the phone and he stated the vehicle was ordered in last year and he could save me money as it represented one of the best deals on the market when you could find one that had been sitting for awhile. He assured me it had not been wrecked and was a new 2009 model with navigation.
My wife and I drove to Tulsa the next day, April 21st. On the way over I called Mark and asked him to see if they would split the difference and I offered $33,750. He called back and stated Dustin had agreed to $34,000 out the door. No dealer transfer fees, no hidden fees, etc. I told him that seemed to be a fair deal and said I would drop by in 30 minutes with a check.
I was at the dealership within 30 minutes . I met with Mark. He was already working on the paperwork. I noticed they had added a $299 plus $10 for title bringing the total to $34,309. I said this wasn't the agreement. He went to get Mr. Hightower. Mr. Hightower stated, We are a Fortune 300 dealer and have 179 stores and we get this from everybody. He agreed to include a free detail on my truck or the new vehicle plus a free tank of gas. He said this would allow him to bill this and nobody would be the wiser in management.
I signed a very large stack of paperwork that was presented to me. I quickly glanced at the paperwork but did not view it closely. I was required to partially fill out a finance form even though the purchased required no financing. I presented a check to Mark for $1500. He said they required that amount when a dealer trade was involved. After signing there was long delay while we discussed business in general and my business in particular. Mark told me he was waiting on the finance manager. During our conversation he stated, He's going to get you in there and sell you a bunch of stuff you don't need. We discussed the fact I would be offered gap insurance and extended warranty. We laughed that it was crazy but I said I understood the situation. During the conversation Mark mentioned he would be the one driving to the dealer in Clinton, OK the next day to pick up the car. He remarked it would be a long drive. He thought it would be more than 3 hours. He said he should be back early enough on April 23rd to get the car detailed an ready for delivery on Thursday morning.
After about 20 minutes I went inside to see the finance manager. I do not recall his name. In there I signed some additional paperwork. I don't recall the exact documents but do recall that at least one covered the items I had been offered as part of the sales pitch. The finance manager asked if I wished to purchase an extended warranty. I said no and he did not pressure me. He did not mention gap insurance. I did question him about the fact that the car being sold to me was a 2009 Murano LE with navigation. He assured me it was. I questioned him about the fact the contract he gave me said 17 tires instead of 20 tires. He explained he did this on every contract and it would save me on registration. He said by doing this it was cheating the State of Oklahoma out of tire disposal fees. I did not say anything but was somewhat appalled at this action. I presented him a check for $1500. He clipped it to the paperwork. I told the finance manager we would exchange checks when I picked up the car. He assured me that $1500 was fine and would guarantee the car was held and not sold.
After leaving the dealership my wife said she wished she could take delivery of the car tomorrow. Since I own a private plane and employ a professional pilot I told my wife I could offer to fly Mark to Clinton to pick up the car. I text messaged my pilot to check her schedule to see if she would be available the following day. She said a flight to Clinton would not be a problem and the weather should be good. I remarked to my wife that the fuel cost would almost eat up any savings we might enjoy from our good deal. I called Mark to ask if he would like to take advantage of my plane to get to Clinton. He told me he had never flown in a plane and would love to do so. I told him he would need to be in Claremore to board the plane. He stated he wouldn't know until the next morning if he could go because the General Manager was going to have to work out a dealer trade or outright purchase. If a dealer trade took place he would have to drive the car to Clinton. He said he would notify me by 8:00 on Wednesday, April 22, 2009. I did not hear from Mark and notified my pilot by text message at around 11:00 AM that the flight would apparently not take place and she could plan to do other things.
At approximately 5:00 PM. I receive a call from Mr. Hightower telling me there was a problem. He said the car in question had 5600 miles on it. He offered to lower the price by $500. I told him angrily no that I had purchased a new car and was not interested. I immediately contacted my attorney as I felt this would now be a problem. Shortly thereafter I received a call from Mark. He was very apologetic and said a meeting had been held. He said that they found the car on the Internet but that no one had called the dealer and they didn't know it had 5600 miles on the car. He told me they had located another car in Texas with more options. He said it had nitrogen in the tired and would cost me $1100 more. I was quite angry and told him this was a bait and switch tactic and I wasn't falling for this. I told him I had been involved in a number of lawsuits and I believed I had an enforceable contract and would sue them for performance. I said I wasn't above hiring people to picket their facility. He told me that the car business was tough and that he had learned a lot of things in the last two weeks. He told me he thought he was too honest to be a good car salesman. I agreed with him.
Within 5 minutes I receive a phone call from Mr. Hightower. He was screaming at me on a speaker phone. He told me I was threatening his people and he was not going to do business with someone such as myself. I could hear people in the background laughing during this portion of the call. I told him to take me off the speakerphone. He agreed. I tried to speak with him in a reasonable tone but he continued to scream at me. I felt he was putting on a demonstration for others who might be present in the room. He continued to ask if I had threatened to picket their place of business. I continued to ask if he intended to perform on his contract and deliver the car. I explained to him that we often make mistakes and that sometime we (as businesspeople) lose money on a sale and we have to be more careful and make it up in the future. He continued to use a loud and abusive tone and told me I was not a man of honor and that since I had lied to him about people picketing' he was cancelling my sale. He went on to tell me that my phone conversation was being taped. I explained I didn't think this to be true as there were no beeping tones and that taping without my permission would be a violation of wiretapping laws in the State of Oklahoma. I told him I knew this as I had been peripherally involved in a wire tapping case in OK. In the end Mr. Hightower hung up on me when I asked to speak with his manager.
My attorney called shortly thereafter and I told him I wished to pursue the matter. I registered the domain name www.riversidenissansucks.com that evening.
Attempted phone call to Howe Nissan in Clinton at 7:55. No answer.
I spoke with Lee Levinson and told him to pursue the matter no matter what the cost. The contract contains an arbitration clause. Lee felt it would cost up to $10-12K to hire an arbitrator but that I could recover the money if I was proved correct.
I sent a conciliatory email to Dustin Hightower and explained I had authorized litigation. I also asked for an official response and denial of agreement for delivery from either himself or his legal department.
Notes from Thursday, April 23rd 2009
Morning began with a phone call to Art at Nissan dealership to get their side of the story. Art was VERY nice and very cordial. Fully explained what happened. He said he had been at VA hospital in OKC until about 2:00 PM on April 22, 2009. He received a call from Mark about car in question. Art explained to Mark the car had 5600 miles and was a demo driven by former owner's wife. He explained to Mark that the former owner (dealership changed on April 1st) took all dealer holdback on the news cars on the lot as part of his sale to the present owner. He stated he could not trade a car to Riverside due to fact he had no holdback to trade. He told me that holdback on car in question was $1012. Stated that is was impossible for Riverside to sell car at $34K unless they were dipping into their pooled funds that were part of a rebate from manufacturer on every car sold. Art was appalled by situation and said I could quote him on the fact that when these situations happen you go to the customer with your hat in your hand and you ask what you can do to make things right.
Received phone call from Aubry Owen, GM at Riverside Nissan at about 9:15 AM. He was somewhat cordial but towed the party line with we have more lawyers than you. You cannot win against us and the agreement you signed does not obligate us to deliver anything other than the car whose VIN number is listed on the form. Oddly enough Mr. Hightower said they were not obligated due to the fact there was no specific VIN number on signed forms. When I mentioned I was on my way to visit my lawyer he demanded the name and phone number. He seemed somewhat surprised that I was able to rattle of the number from memory. I also requested his lawyers numbers. He said Brandon and Bruce and was somewhat unsure of a last name. Eventually said McClinton and Prescott. He eventually came up with a phone number: 494-7037. Said our deal was officially off and I would be receiving my check back by certified mail. Shortly thereafter I received an email confirming and giving me name of David Kohler, Regional Vice President of Sonic (owner of Riverside Nissan).
On way to Lee's office I called the Tulsa Downtown Tag Agency at 582-8247. I asked about tire disposal fee and stated the paperwork stated 17 tires when tires were actually 20 Girl on phone said it would provide a savings upon registration and they took the dealer's word for proper tire size documentation. She suggested I contact OK tax commission to file complaint. Girl on phone had Spanish accent.
Called Nissan America's Consumer Affairs Divisiion and began complaint process. Spoke with Raymond at extension 41473. Reference file: 6476197. Said they needed VIN number to take the process further.
Upon return from Lunch Lee called friend and GM at Riverside Chevrolet. I explained the situation. GM was shocked and said Hightower is a young kid fresh off the boat and doesn't have enough experience. Said he would have handled the situation in a different manner. GM also towed the line and said our contact was not binding upon them and that they had a ton of lawyers on retainer and it didn't' bother them at all to be sued. Overall fairly cordial conversation. He agreed to call Aubry Owen next door and see if he could encourage him to fix problems. Did state that dealership was not doing well and would likely be gone in the next three months. I discussed tire scam with GM and told him I suspected they were defrauding State of OK. He did not seem surprised and simply said, that is part of the problem over there.
I placed call to David Koehler per email from Aubry Owens. Received voice mail. Left message to return call.
At approximately 3:30 PM placed another call to Koehler. He answered. We spoke for 15 minutes. I explained situation and he said he was already aware of what had happened. Said he would try to help but that they were not obligated to deliver anything but the car in question. Also towed party line about lots of lawyers and no chance of winning. Said we are not in business of losing money and we are not obligated to go anywhere in the US to find a car. Stated they were not obligated to deliver a car that was not the same MSRP and not within an acceptable driving distance for dealer. He asked if another color was acceptable. I said that black was an option. He agreed to try and locate another car but encouraged me to look elsewhere as well. I told him I would do so if they chose to not fulfill their obligations. I asked when he would notify me of a resolution and he said Riverside has probably already exhausted all options and it is likely they cannot find a car that meet THEIR (emphasis added) specifications and price. We agreed he would widen the net to look at little further out and I would be notified of the search results by the following Monday.
He left name and address as:
1495 Auto Mall Dr.
Columbus, OH 43228
At approximately 4:45 PM I received a call from Aubry Owens. He said he had spoken with Koehler. Said he would widen the net and have an answer for me on Friday. Said he would be point man and point of contact for further dealings . I reiterated fact that Mark had done a good job and should not be blamed. He didn't seem to share the same feeling. Conversation cordial.
Notes from April 24th.
At approximately 3:00 PM I had a call from Aubry Owens. He stated he had located three cars that fit our specs. He had a brilliant silver, black, and tinted bronze as possibilities. He informed me that he had not made any calls to see if the cars were actually available or could be traded for. I told him I would check with my wife but I felt the black car would be acceptable to her. I told him to call the dealer. I also said I would have her look at her brochure to see if the tinted bronze was acceptable. I called my wife and confirmed that her choices (in order) were; black, bronze, and silver with silver being a poor choice.
Owens called me back around 5:00 to tell me that the bronze had hail damage and was out as a choice. He said the black was already traded for by another dealer and he made no comment on the silver. He said he had another black vehicle as a possibility but the dealer refused to talk to him on a Friday or Saturday about a dealer trade. Owens called him a super jerk. Owens asked me to wait until Monday for more details. I agreed.
Notes from April 27, 2009
I received ca all from Aubry Owens at approximately 3:00 PM. Told me they were having little luck in finding a car. Said they located a tinted bronze in Texas with 200 miles. I asked if this was more of a brown color or a silver color as depicted in the brochure. He checked another car on the lot and said it was more of a brownish color. He said he would continue searching for a car in either black, silver, or graphite. Said many dealers refused to do a dealer trade. I asked if this was due to Riverside's (Sonic) possible poor financial condition. I received a non-committal response. Tone of conversation between parties was cordial.
I spoke with attorney Lee Levinson. He related conversation with Riverside attorney. It seems their attorney reiterated party line. Their attorney made statement that one reason they didn't want to sell me was due to fact that I would give a highly negative customer satisfaction review. Duh? Lee informed their attorney we knew of possible scam against State on tire size. Lee said Riverside attorney would touch base again mid week.
I asked Lee if he had forwarded email about tire situation to OK tax commission. He said he had not. I informed him I wanted to send this to OKTC no matter what how the matter resolved.
May 4th, 2009
Received a call at approximately 9:00 AM from Aubry. He said it was impossible to find a vehicle that fit our agreement. The only units available were all the way out in Colorado. He asked if I was interested in anything else they had on their lot. I said no. Conversation over in less than 2 minutes.
Original deposit check received in hand by certified mail. At approximately 3:00 PM I concluded a cash deal with Jackie Cooper Nissan across town. Cost was $36,131. Extremely pleasant transaction with no serious hassles. Vehicle had 153 miles upon delivery.
Portions of this report have been deleted to protect the interests of certain individuals involved.