This document outlines the facts and provides supporting material demonstrating false and or fraudulent advertisement of goods or services, which resulted in the sale of a vehicle to Mr. Joel R. Swartz at an escalated value far beyond the quality and operability stated by Image Motor Company.
Section A - Background
Image Motor Company has more than 60 years of experience in the automotive sales business (Exhibit A). Image Motor Company specializes in muscle cars (Exhibit B). Image Motor Company buys, sells, and evaluates the quality and value of these specialized vehicles (Exhibit B). Image Motor Company frequently auctions their specialized vehicles on Ebay (Exhibit B).
Image Motor Company is located at 17649 San Carlos Blvd, Ft Myers Beach, FL 33931. Mr Swartz resides in San Antonio, Texas.
On May 13, 2005 Image Motor Company initiated an Ebay Auction ( http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=4550114935 )(Exhibit C). This auction advertised a 1966 Mustang Coupe herein referred to as the Car.
The Ebay advertisement paints the perception that the Car is in exceptionally good condition. In the Ebay advertisement Image Motor Company presents their own analysis chart rating the mechanical, interior and exterior condition of the Car (Exhibit C). Image Motor Company declares a company policy (Exhibit C) stating:
The seller [Image Motor Company] shall and will make every reasonable effort to disclose any known defects associated with the vehicle [the Car] at the buyer's request prior to the close of sale.
Image Motor Company makes statements throughout the Ebay advertisement that support their verbal positive comments stating the Car is in great condition and they [Image Motor Company] can't think of one bad thing to say about her [the Car]. Image Motor Company provided these same positive comments and quality reassurances to Mr. Swartz during numerous telephone conversations (Exhibit D). Image Motor Company also has a tabular inspection checklist of the Car on the Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C). This checklist clearly depicts Image Motor Company's evaluation of the Car declaring the Car is in EXCELLENT and GOOD condition.
During the auction period Mr. Swartz contacted Image Motor Company by phone (Exhibit D) stating interest in purchasing the Car and requested further information and clarification regarding the physical and mechanical condition of the Car. Image Motor Company verbally provided rave reviews of the Car specifically stating the quality of the paint, interior and the mechanics of the car.
Due to the significant geographical separation between Mr. Swartz in Texas and Image Motor Company in Florida, Mr. Swartz contacted a third-party mechanical inspection company to provide an independent analysis of the quality of the Car. Tuffy Automotive Center is one of Image Motor Company's recommended independent inspectors (Exhibit E). After inspecting the Car, Tuffy Automotive Center provided further positive reviews during a phone call with Mr. Swartz on the afternoon of 26 May 2005. The relationship between Tuffy Automotive Center and Image Motor Company is not currently known but will be investigated separately.
On 26 May 2005, Image Motor Company contacted Mr. Swartz and wanted a purchasing decision to be made by Mr. Swartz. Mr. Stevenson stated, Another buyer is interested and if you [Mr. Swartz] don't decide soon, it will be sold to someone else. Mr. Swartz asked Image Motor Company for additional time to allow the completion of the third-party inspection of the Car by Tuffy Automotive Center.
On the afternoon of 26 May 2005, based on the positive information and reassurance regarding the quality of the Car given by Image Motor Company and Tuffy Automotive, Mr. Swartz made a verbal offer to purchase the Car from Image Motor Company. The agreed price, based on the quality of the Car, was $13,199. Image Motor Company faxed a Retail Buyers Order to Mr. Swartz on 26 May 2005 (Exhibit F). Image Motor Company requested a $1,000 non-refundable deposit via credit card on or around 26 May 2005. Mr. Swartz complied by giving a personal credit card number to accommodate the security deposit.
On 31 May 2005, Mr. Swartz arranged a Wells Fargo wire transfer of $12,199, the balance of the agreed purchase price ($1,000 was charged as a deposit on Mr. Swartz' credit card) to Image Motor Company (Exhibit G). Image Motor Company received the wire transfer on or around 3 June 2005.
On 31 May 2005, Mr. Swartz arranged shipping of the Car through Exotic Car Transport (Exhibit H). The Car was picked up from the Image Motor Company, Ft Myers, Florida location by Exotic Car Transport on 21 June, 2005. Exotic Car Transport delivered the Car to Mr. Swartz in Texas on the evening of 23 June 2005.
Section B - False and Fraudulent Advertising Practices and Breech of Fiduciary Duty
This complaint centers on Image Motor Company's written Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) and verbal statements by Mr. Stevenson depicting the Car as in exceptionally great condition. In the Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) Image Motor Company uses a variety of terminology, which discusses the contents and condition of the Car. Throughout the Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) Image Motor Company provides positive reassurances as to the quality of the Car.
As self-declared specialists in these antique and classic cars (Exhibit B), specifically muscle cars, Image Motor Company is directly quoted in their Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) as stating:
-This is a great Restored 1966 Mustang coupe!
-The automatic transmission shifts well and the car handles great.
-The Bright Teal Metallic paint is in very good shape.
-The interior and exterior have been sanded, primered and painted.
-The interior is super nice and in great condition. The seats, dash and carpet look brand new.
-This car is very very nice!
-I can't think of one bad thing to say about her [the Car] at all!
-Brand new tires
-Brand new aluminum radiator
As self-proclaimed experts in specialized cars (Exhibit B), Image Motor Company further states in their Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) that they have described the above-mentioned vehicle to the best of our ability. Image Motor Company also states in the Ebay advertisement the seller [Image Motor Company] shall and will make every reasonable effort to disclose any known defects associated with this vehicle at the buyer's request prior to the close of sale. Sadly, these are empty words since Image Motor Company did not practice this policy.
Section C - Image Motor Company's Exaggerated and Untruthful Statements Regarding the Condition of the Car Generated an Inflated and Unrealistic Purchase Price
Exterior Body Damage
In Image Motor Company's Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C), Image Motor Company provides its own expert Exterior Ratings chart depicting a GOOD rating for the Car's paint, hood, fenders, doors, rear fenders, trunk, bumpers, grill, glass and frame.
In an effort to ensure the accuracy of Image Motor Company's Ebay advertisement and validate the condition claims, Mr. Swartz made many phone calls to Image Motor Company speaking with Mr. John Stevenson (Exhibit D). In these conversations Mr. Swartz asked detailed questions about the Car's condition. Specifically, Mr. Swartz asked Mr. Stevenson if the paint job has scratches or if there were signs of rust. Mr. Stevenson reemphasized the excellent condition of the car and said there were no scratches or signs of rust. Mr. Stevenson said that it wasn't a perfect paint job but the flaws were minimal. In fact, when directly asked to elaborate on the flaws, Mr. Stevenson said the size of the flaws were like the head of a pin and so small you can hardly see them. These, and other positive comments by Mr. Stevenson were proven entirely inaccurate after Mr. Swartz received the Car.
Upon receiving the Car from Exotic Car Transport at his residence, the driver for Exotic Car Transport presented Mr. Swartz with documentation of the cars condition when it was picked up from Image Motor Company on 21 June 2005 (Exhibit I). The shipping documentation consisted of a vehicle body inspection and drawing diagram of the Car identifying any damage that existed on the Car prior to Exotic Car Transport obtaining the Car (Exhibit I).
The shipping document clearly identifies 34 pre-existing damaged areas on the exterior of the Car alone. None of the damages identified by Exotic Car Transport were disclosed to Mr. Swartz by Image Motor Company or Tuffy Automotive Center prior to purchase when directly asked about the condition of the Car. This is in sharp contrast to Mr. Stevenson's statements and Image Motor Company's policy The seller [Image Motor Company] shall and will make every reasonable effort to disclose any known defects associated with the vehicle [the Car] at the buyer's request prior to the close of sale (Exhibit C).
Moreover, the amount of rust and rust damage to the Car far exceeded Mr. Swartz' expectations and again, was not disclosed by Mr. Stevenson when directly asked by Mr. Swartz during his numerous phone calls (Exhibit D). Most, if not all, of the external chrome fixtures and mounting hardware on the Car are pitted and damaged by rust.
Probably most significant is the condition of the Car doors. The driver and passenger doors have excessive rust damage on the lower sections and bottom of the doors that is beyond simple repair. In fact, the rust has completely eaten through the heavy gauge metal and will most likely require the replacement of both Car doors making this a very expensive repair. The exterior of the passenger door has an area of rust about the size of a man's handprint. The rust has destroyed the metal and eaten through the metal below the paint causing the paint in that area of the Car to blister and begin to peel. Again, this damage exceeds anything expected by Mr. Swartz and was not disclosed by Mr. Stevenson when directly asked by Mr. Swartz prior to purchase.
During one of the calls to Mr. Stevenson between 18 and 25 May 2005, Mr. Swartz asked Mr. Stevenson about the existence of front-end damage to the Car. In pictures provided by Image Motor Company on the Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) there appeared to be a misalignment of the front-end bumper and grill. This is very difficult to detect in the advertisement photographs. However, when asked about this damage during a phone conversation, Mr. Stevenson said there was no damage and eluded that what Mr. Swartz was seeing in the photographs may be due to the angle the photograph was taken.
This was quite the contrary. Upon delivery of the Car by Exotic Car Transport it was immediately obvious the front-end of the Car had damage or misalignment issues.
Other frustrating inaccuracies by Image Motor Company include statements in their Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C) that the Car has brand new tires 295-50-15 Rear 195-60-15 front and Brand new aluminum radiator. Original owner(s) receipts show the tires and aluminum radiator where purchased in 2003. In fact, the tires have notable wear and visible markings to support the fact that these tires are not new.
All of this exterior damage flies in the face of Image Motor Company's verbal and written Ebay advertisement that state the bright teal metallic paint is in very good shape, The interior and exterior have been sanded, primered and painted, and this car is very very nice! (Exhibit C). It is also in complete contrast to Image Motor Company's own Exterior Ratings chart in Exhibit C.
In Image Motor Company's Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C), Image Motor Company provides its own expert Interior Ratings chart depicting an EXCELLENT rating for the Car's interior.
Between 18 and 25 May 2005, Mr. Swartz made 9 separate calls to Image Motor Company specifically speaking to Mr. Stevenson to inquire about the condition of the Car (Exhibit D). Not only did Mr. Stevenson brag about the excellent exterior condition of the Car but also described, at Mr. Swartz' request, the condition of the Car's interior.
Specifically, Mr. Swartz asked Mr. Stevenson if the headliner (fabric on the interior roof of the Car) and other interior components were in good shape. Mr. Stevenson said the interior of the Car was like brand new and then stated he would go out to the Car to check the headliner and call Mr. Swartz back. Mr. Stevenson called Mr. Swartz back near the end of the day on 24 May 2005 and stated the headliner is in perfect condition and it's brand new. This is clearly not an accurate statement by Mr. Stevenson.
Upon receiving the Car from Exotic Car Transport, a quick inspection of the interior revealed several significant areas of damage so obvious that it can only be concluded that Mr. Stevenson intentionally did not disclose the damage information. The headliner was not new. Receipts by the original owner(s) of the Car show the headliner was purchased around 1998. The original white headliner was now dingy white with several large splotches of stained substance on back right area of the interior roof near the rear, right-passenger window.
Further inspection of the interior revealed the rear left-passenger window regulator (gear mechanism that allows the window to be rolled down) is broken and the window cannot be rolled down. Both window rollers (gear and track mechanism) are completely broken and dislodged from the window regulator tracks.
Although the seats and carpet are in relatively good condition, the upholstery hardware and chrome seat brackets are severely pitted and rusty and there is a water leak that soaked the carpet (most likely from rain water while sitting on the lot at Image Motor Company). The carpet was still wet more than 3 days after being shipped from Florida to Texas.
The Car electronics are vastly disappointing. Much of the wiring in the rear of the Car requires replacement. The original 1966 wiring harness is deteriorated and corroded. This contradicts Image Motor Companies statement that this Car is a great restored 1966 Mustang coupe (Exhibit C).
More over, the turn signals and horn do not function preventing its roadworthiness. Certainly these are items so obvious that Mr. Stevenson and the experts at Image Motor Company would have known about these defective features.
These items, and other findings, are completely contradictory to Image Motor Company's verbal and written Ebay statements that say The interior is super nice and in great condition. The seats, dash and carpet look brand new (Exhibit C). In fact, Image Motor Company's own Interior Ratings chart depicts the interior as EXCELLENT and electronics as GOOD. Again, this mocks the Image Motor Company stated policy of disclosing all known defects (Exhibit C).
In Image Motor Company's Ebay advertisement (Exhibit C), Image Motor Company provides its own expert Mechanical Ratings chart depicting an EXCELLENT rating for the Car's engine, transmission, and exhaust system. Image Motor Company gives a rating of GOOD to the Car's steering and brakes.
Image Motor Company's Mechanical Ratings chart rates the mechanical steering as GOOD. Their written Ebay advertisement states the automatic transmission shifts well and the car handles great. This is an extremely exaggerated and untrue assessment. The original 1966 steering wheel was replaced with a smaller GT racing steering wheel that is not compatible with the 1966 Mustang steering column.
Thus, when driving the Car, the steering is erratic and provides a dangerous amount of play (physical steering action that has no impact to the direction of the Car). This requires the driver to struggle to maintain control of the Car. When turning, the internal steering components grind and make loud popping noises.
Again, this activity is so blatantly obvious that Mr. Stevenson and Image Motor Company could not possibly have overlooked this defect, specifically since Image Motor Company physically drove the Car to Tuffy Automotive Center for a third-party inspection. Neither Image Motor Company nor Tuffy Automotive Center disclosed these problems.
Furthermore, within hours after the delivery of the Car to Mr. Swartz in Texas by Exotic Car Transport, Mr. Swartz identified both oil and transmission fluid leaks. Without driving the Car, pools of engine fluids were present on the garage floor at Mr. Swartz' residence. Although a certified mechanic has not formally inspected these leaks yet, these types of oil and transmission fluid leaks are evident of more serious mechanical conditions.
The mechanical condition of the Car is in complete contrast to Image Motor Company's own expert Mechanical Ratings chart (Exhibit C) where Image Motor Company rates engine and transmission condition as EXCELLENT.
The extent of the steering defects and visible engine fluid leaks further support the theory that Image Motor Company intentionally did not disclose this information to Mr. Swartz during more than 25 conversations between Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Swartz.
Section D - Summary
Image Motor Company provided expert advertising and strategically positioned pictures to glamorize the Car and minimize the exposure of known defects. Expert advertisement photography from strategic angles makes the Car look like the great verbal and written declaration made by Image Motor Company.
Unfortunately, away from the camera's lens, a closer inspection clearly shows a poor, piece-meal, amateur restoration attempt that occurred as many as 7 years ago according to original owner receipts. Once the outer layer is peeled away, even the most novice car enthusiast can see this amateur restoration attempt. Certainly an expert exotic car dealer like Image Motor Company can identify these same poor restoration qualities. However, to make the sale, Image Motor Company declared this a great Restored 1966 Mustang coupe! (Exhibit C).
The condition of the Car as identified by Mr. Swartz in this document clearly shows a vast difference between Image Motor Company's glowing Ebay advertisement and the true condition of the Car. Based on the self-proclaimed expertise of Image Motor Company and their historical experience with these specialized vehicles (Exhibit A and B), one can easily come to the conclusion that Image Motor Company knew about the less-than-good condition of the Car but intentionally chose not to disclose this information even when confronted and directly asked by Mr. Swartz.
The over-exaggerated descriptive tactics by Image Motor Company caused Mr. Swartz to offer a purchase price far exceeding the true value of the Car by several thousand dollars. This advertising tactic and geographical separation between consumer and seller allowed Image Motor Company to take advantage of a remote consumer and grossly maximize their profit at the expense of the unknowing consumer.
Image Motor Company will not respond to any emails, phone calls or postal mailings. They have been reported to the following agencies and fail to responsd to these agencies inquiries:
06/29/05 - Complaint filed with SquareTrade. SquareTrade Case ID: #230652363
06/29/05 - Complaint filed with the National Fraud Information Center.
06/29/05 - Complaint filed with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. Case ID: #I05062915125251 (pdf format)
06/29/05 - Complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau. Complaint ID: #1948713
A full report, history, and supporting documentation of this rip-off by Image Motor Company can be found here:
San Antonio, Texas
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