Car dealership has buyer arrested after it sold car for wrong price

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A Virginia man spent four hours in jail after purchasing a Chevrolet Traverse from Priority Chevrolet in Chesapeake, VA. The dealer's sales staff accidentally sold the SUV to Danny Sawyer for $5,600 less than they should have, and when Sawyer refused to sign a new, more expensive contract for the correct amount, the dealership called the local police alleging the buyer had stolen the vehicle. Law enforcement then picked Sawyer up and held him for four hours before getting the situation straight.

Dennis Ellmer, president of Priority Chevrolet, says he owes Sawyer an apology on behalf of the dealership, and had intended to do right by the buyer by letting him have the vehicle at the agreed-upon price. But Sawyer's lawyer says it's a little too late for saying, 'sorry.' The briefly-incarcerated owner has filed two lawsuits against the dealer, accusing the business of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process. All told, the suits seek a total of $2.2 million in damages, plus attorney fees.

That $5,600 seems awfully cheap now.

The lawsuit says Sawyer originally purchased a blue Traverse on May 7, but took the SUV back the next day for a black one. The dealer's sales manager made the swap, allegedly without saying anything about a price differential between the two. Either way, Sawyer signed a final contract for around $34,000 when the vehicle he took home had an actual price of closer to $39,000. On June 15, Sawyer was taken into custody by police, but the Commonwealth dropped the charges after finding insufficient evidence to pursue the case.


Chevy dealer sells car for wrong price, apologizes after having buyer arrested
  • Profile picture of the author Lou Diamond
    Hello,
    I am in car sales and the reason that this happened is because the salesman would have had to come up with the money for making the mistake.
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    • Profile picture of the author KimW
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I am in car sales and the reason that this happened is because the salesman would have had to come up with the money for making the mistake.
      Sorry,that is no reason for diling a false police report,which is basically what happened.
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    • Profile picture of the author MadLion
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I am in car sales and the reason that this happened is because the salesman would have had to come up with the money for making the mistake.
      BS

      The sales manager ulimateley decides the final numbers.
      The finance manager is responsible to make sure a deal is correct before doing the final real paperwork.

      They would be to blame. They did this to save there asses instead of maning up and taking the heat like a man.
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  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    Still - to arrest the guy when it was the dealership who made the mistake is pretty disgusting. If the salesman has to come up with the money, they should double check their figures. Who knows if the guy was just a sleezebag who wanted the sale bad enough to purposely fudge figures thinking that the guy would come up with the extra 5 grand for him later. I think it's right that he sued for being arrested. Not all car salesmen are crooks - but I've run into a few that I think should be behind bars for some of the crap they tried to pull on me.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Bet that dealership loses business over this. The 2.2 million seems a bit overblown, but that's probably designed to get a higher out of court settlement. I imagine he'll get the car for free now, and some money, but probably nowhere near 2.2 million.
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  • Profile picture of the author KimW
    I'd like to know who at the dealership called the police and what they actually reported?
    The minimum the dealership owner should do is fire whoever made the call.

    Sal, I don't think the salesman intentionally did it,but I agree that he should have doubled checked the figured when the trade was made,but honestly,the buyer has some moral responsibility too,even though legally he might have a valid defense.

    Dennis, I think you are right too,the 2.2 million is too high in my opinion,but it is a good figure to start at to come to a better (on his pasrt) compromise.

    Dennis Ellmer has numerous dealserships here in Richmond too and is always on the tv in his ads.... I am definitely curious as to how his business does now.

    Edit: Just reread,and if it was the dealer's sales manager that made the swap,he definitely should have known better.
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  • Plus, what is $5600 over the course of a contract? If the new car had different options, not just a different color, that was to be checked and considered before signing - costly mistake for the dealer all around -
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  • Profile picture of the author RyanEagle
    I don't think it is the buyer's fault if the car was sold to him in a wrong price.. but then again, $5000+ dollars for a new car, i know that will let me think something's not right.. and if i am a opportunistic, i would purchase it right away. He could have just did the right thing though.
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    • Profile picture of the author KimW
      Originally Posted by RyanEagle View Post

      I don't think it is the buyer's fault if the car was sold to him in a wrong price.. but then again, $5000+ dollars for a new car, i know that will let me think something's not right.. and if i am a opportunistic, i would purchase it right away. He could have just did the right thing though.
      Did you even read the article? It was a $5000+ price difference between cars,not the selling price of a new car.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        Seems clear he didn't read the article!

        I don't see any fault on the buyer's part here. It sounds as if the final sales papers were signed after the blue car was traded for the other color - and he signed the paperwork prepared by the dealership.

        I expect he'll end up at least with a free car when it's over. One thing for sure - the salespeople KNEW the car was not stolen. That's a big problem for the dealership.
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        • Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          Seems clear he didn't read the article!

          I don't see any fault on the buyer's part here. It sounds as if the final sales papers were signed after the blue car was traded for the other color - and he signed the paperwork prepared by the dealership.

          I expect he'll end up at least with a free car when it's over. One thing for sure - the salespeople KNEW the car was not stolen. That's a big problem for the dealership.
          Which is pretty much a textbook case for malicious prosecution...:rolleyes:
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    I LOVE how they say "allegedly" without saying anything about the price. HERE is the way it goes! The guy goes back to the dealer, asks for a change. MAYBE the dealer says OK. They look for an equivalent car *****COMPARE THE SPECS*****! That is EASY since I believe it is a federal law for them to have that bill there, but they always do on new cars! They *****haggle***** over differences. The purchaser signs the new contract. AGAIN, REQUIRED BY LAW! The dealer OWNS the car and must give the purchaser the color of title for it to be registered! And THEN he gives the guy the keys.

    SO, if he had the keys, everything else was done. HECK, the car dealer is not even supposed to let it off the lot without a temporary license.

    And EVERYTHING is tied to the VIN number! That is UNIQUE to that one vehicle!

    GIVE ME A BREAK! As for 2.2 million being too much? WHO KNOWS? If it were ME, and that arrest were a mark against me, recorded by the police, I would maybe want THREE MILLION! I figure two is a reasonable price for my career, and another million for lawyer costs. A LOT of customers want such checks every 6 MONTHS!

    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author garyv
      There would be a lot of car salesmen behind bars if this were to happen in the reverse order - like it normally does.
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    • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I am in car sales and the reason that this happened is because the salesman would have had to come up with the money for making the mistake.
      Salesman didn't have anything to do with it. The swap was done, according to the story, by the sales manager.

      The car business being what it is, dunning an employee for a mistake isn't unheard of. It's also illegal.

      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      Still - to arrest the guy when it was the dealership who made the mistake is pretty disgusting. If the salesman has to come up with the money, they should double check their figures. Who knows if the guy was just a sleezebag who wanted the sale bad enough to purposely fudge figures thinking that the guy would come up with the extra 5 grand for him later. I think it's right that he sued for being arrested. Not all car salesmen are crooks - but I've run into a few that I think should be behind bars for some of the crap they tried to pull on me.
      Oh, the stories I could tell.

      A guy I worked with did end up in jail for a time.

      Originally Posted by KimW View Post

      [...]Sal, I don't think the salesman intentionally did it,but I agree that he should have doubled checked the figured when the trade was made,but honestly,the buyer has some moral responsibility too,even though legally he might have a valid defense.
      ....
      Edit: Just reread,and if it was the dealer's sales manager that made the swap,he definitely should have known better.
      I don't think the buyer has any kind of moral responsibility in this situation. The price differential could very well have been within the dealer's margin on the vehicle - even if it wasn't, it isn't the buyer's job to determine whether the price is fair for the dealer or not. It's easier now than it used to be to figure out what a vehicle should cost, but the only one who truly knows is the dealer. The salesperson doesn't even know, if whoever is running the sales desk is any good.

      Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

      I LOVE how they say "allegedly" without saying anything about the price. HERE is the way it goes! The guy goes back to the dealer, asks for a change. MAYBE the dealer says OK. They look for an equivalent car *****COMPARE THE SPECS*****! That is EASY since I believe it is a federal law for them to have that bill there, but they always do on new cars! They *****haggle***** over differences. The purchaser signs the new contract. AGAIN, REQUIRED BY LAW! The dealer OWNS the car and must give the purchaser the color of title for it to be registered! And THEN he gives the guy the keys.

      SO, if he had the keys, everything else was done. HECK, the car dealer is not even supposed to let it off the lot without a temporary license.

      And EVERYTHING is tied to the VIN number! That is UNIQUE to that one vehicle!
      There were likely several people at the dealership who screwed up - or a couple who were complicit in taking down a sales manager.

      The car business is as cutthroat as business can get - on both sides of the sale. With lemon laws, even on certain used cars in some states, dealers can't very often pawn off junk or vehicles they know have problems. Quite the opposite is true with some people who bring in trades - they've done their very best to cover up whatever problems their trade-in might have. I've seen engines half-filled with 90wt gear oil to mask cam and lifter problems. I've seen more than one rear end stuffed with banana peels to cover worn gear noise (it works, too, for a while). As late as the early 90s, there were STILL people who tried to roll back odometers.

      But back to the OP - it's good the guy sued, because there are still dealers who will try just about anything to rectify a mistake. Collections people have nothing on car dealers... A $5K loss is a pretty sour drink to suck down (in real dollars, the dealer probably only really truly LOST $1K or so, I'd bet) but it's also smart to know when to cut your losses and throw in the towel.
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    From what I understand, the dealer doesn't even REALLY own the vehicle, but leases it. Further, they have all sorts of costs tied up in the invoice that have NOTHING to do with the car, or even their real cost. They get REAL rebates! THAT is why a lot of places have those wild sales, etc... to move a ton of cars by the end of the month and why they can, and often advertise that they will "sell at or below invoice". I doubt the guy got SUCH a great deal that they lost money. Still, companies often have to "eat" things! A type of business slang for (Accept a loss because it is the smartest thing to do). And $5000 is NOT much when you realize they often make that up in ONE sale!

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author whland
    dealership called the local police alleging the buyer had stolen the vehicle.
    So they sold the guy a car, then the dealership filed a false police report stating the guy stole the car?

    If so. Then whoever filed the false report should get in trouble.

    Chad
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  • Profile picture of the author KimW
    Steve Johnson,
    "I don't think the buyer has any kind of moral responsibility in this situation. The price differential could very well have been within the dealer's margin on the vehicle - even if it wasn't, it isn't the buyer's job to determine whether the price is fair for the dealer or not. It's easier now than it used to be to figure out what a vehicle should cost, but the only one who truly knows is the dealer. The salesperson doesn't even know, if whoever is running the sales desk is any good."

    This makes zero sense to me.
    So you are saying it is morally correct for them buyer to screw the dealer out of $%=K?
    As I said, legally I think he doesn't owe a thing,and now he does have cause for a lawsuit for the false police report the dealer filed.

    You said:
    "The price differential could very well have been within the dealer's margin on the vehicle - even if it wasn't, it isn't the buyer's job to determine whether the price is fair for the dealer or not. "

    HUH??
    If it is or isn't in the dealer's margin what difference does that make?


    "It's easier now than it used to be to figure out what a vehicle should cost, but the only one who truly knows is the dealer."

    Ok,and...??

    "The salesperson doesn't even know, if whoever is running the sales desk is any good."
    I'm not sure what this has to do with the story or anything else for that matter.
    Every salesman has a price list for every vehicle on the lot. But in this case it was the person running the sales desk that made the mistake. He is the one at fault.

    But I have to ask how you feel the buyer has no moral responsibility to do the right thing?Or should I say didn't,because I think after what the dealership did he definitely doesn't have any.
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    • Profile picture of the author DenisBalitskiy
      Poor guy, he didnt even know the real price. This things happen all the days, so i think he was right to suit the dealer...
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    • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
      Originally Posted by KimW View Post

      Steve Johnson,
      "I don't think the buyer has any kind of moral responsibility in this situation. The price differential could very well have been within the dealer's margin on the vehicle - even if it wasn't, it isn't the buyer's job to determine whether the price is fair for the dealer or not. It's easier now than it used to be to figure out what a vehicle should cost, but the only one who truly knows is the dealer. The salesperson doesn't even know, if whoever is running the sales desk is any good."

      This makes zero sense to me.
      So you are saying it is morally correct for them buyer to screw the dealer out of $%=K?
      The buyer didn't screw the dealer out of anything - the dealer's employee did.

      I don't feel an ounce of sympathy for the dealer, because I spent way too much time in the car business. I know how they work, and I know their mentality. As far as I'm concerned this is the 'came around' part of 'what goes around, comes around'.

      As I said, legally I think he doesn't owe a thing,and now he does have cause for a lawsuit for the false police report the dealer filed.

      HUH??
      If it is or isn't in the dealer's margin what difference does that make?
      Just pointing out that it's not likely that the dealer lost money - lost profit, yes, but actually getting less back in the till than what was paid for the vehicle, probably not.

      "It's easier now than it used to be to figure out what a vehicle should cost, but the only one who truly knows is the dealer."

      Ok,and...??
      "The salesperson doesn't even know, if whoever is running the sales desk is any good."
      I'm not sure what this has to do with the story or anything else for that matter.
      Every salesman has a price list for every vehicle on the lot. But in this case it was the person running the sales desk that made the mistake. He is the one at fault.
      Salesmen may know what the price tag on the car says, but unless it was a Saturn, the price on the car isn't what it will sell for.

      It's the job of the guy running the sales desk to squeeze the most profit out of a car deal. Most car salesmen aren't the hardest-working blokes on the block - they're not going to keep the negotiation game going for very long if they know how much the dealer will sell the car for. So the sales manager keeps sending the salesman back for more money..."bump them another $500 and we'll roll it". The sales manager does that till he's pretty sure there isn't anything more to get. The salesman would have stopped long before.

      Then the deal goes to the finance manager's office. In the dealerships I worked in, we made just about the same dollar amount on the 'back end' as on the sale.

      But I digressed again, sorry.

      But I have to ask how you feel the buyer has no moral responsibility to do the right thing?Or should I say didn't,because I think after what the dealership did he definitely doesn't have any.
      Because I have an experience-driven extremely jaded view of car dealers in general. Things have changed a little in recent years because of buyer backlash, but I can't even count the number of times I had to tell someone who came to their senses on Monday morning, "No, you can't bring the car back and get your money back. You signed, we have your down payment, it's yours."

      Go ask that dealer how many units he's rolled knowing that the buyer couldn't pay for it, or how many trades he's stolen because the trader-iner didn't know what their trade was worth.

      The tear in my eye on this deal is laughter.
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  • Profile picture of the author KimW
    Steve,
    You are missing my point.
    The dealer has nothing to do with whether the the buyer has morals or not.
    In my opinion he apparently does not.

    As far as the dealer goes, I could give a rats ass about what he did or didn't lose.
    I'm in agreement with you that they are mostly scum.

    My whole contention is that a moral person does not take a windfall like that just because he "legally" can.

    And as I said before, due to the dealer's illegal actions of calling in LE falsely,then I does deserve something for that.
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  • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
    I wasn't missing your point, I was sidestepping it - because at the core, you are right
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  • Profile picture of the author KimW
    You know, that dealer has a dealership right down the road from me, think I should print the article off and walk in and ask for a deal like the one the guy in the article got?
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  • Profile picture of the author Anthem40
    Wow, hopefully the dealership is held accountable for this on a judicial level and consumer level.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lou Diamond
    Hello,
    I hate being in car sales, the only reason that I went back to it was to get health insurance again.
    I went without for over three years.
    Car buyers are smarter now that they have the internet they know the price of the car even before I do.
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  • Profile picture of the author KimW
    Lou,
    If you could write a book on how to tell the REAL price of a car before going to the dealer I bet you could sell a million.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
      Banned
      I remember a case some time back here in the UK where the stick on price stickers affixed to the inside of the windscreen the last digit had fallen off down to the floor below.

      So rather than advertising the car on pubic display for sale at £40000 for example - it now became just £4000 instead.

      A passerby notices the price, takes a photo of it and walks into the dealership to pay his £4000 for the car in question. Refused by the salesman he took them to court and won the case. The car was clearly advertised at £4000 and that was the final price he had to pay in full by court order.
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  • Profile picture of the author ahlexis
    I know one thing, $2.2 million is cheap if you have a squeaky clean record and have never EVER been arrested prior to this incident. Because even if they say records are expunged, they never completely go away, even when "sealed". Because depending on the buyer's future, that one little arrest just might prevent him from getting a job, or immigrating to another country in the future.

    Plus, this whole "that's not the price, we got it wrong" thing is a METHOD, a TECHNIQUE that some car dealerships use. Many moons ago a boyfriend of mine bought a car, trading in his 20 year old convertible for a brand new Nissan. He financed it through the dealership, and at the time he signed the papers they said everything was fine and they had no problem with his down payment amount.

    Well, about a week later he gets a call from the dealership saying that the finance company the dealer used wanted to see a bigger down payment or they would have to get the car back from him. He didn't have any more down payment money, so he returned the vehicle the next day. They told him that they couldn't do any better so they gave him the keys to his old car back along with a check for his down payment, and he headed for it and started to get in the car.

    All of a sudden somebody comes running out talking about how they had changed their mind and how they would see if they could work something out . . . obviously after the people in charge got a look at the mileage on that "new" car. But he was fed up now and was so frustrated until he told them "never mind, just forget it" and got in the car and drove off.

    Ironically (and unknown to the dealer people when he first brought the car back apparently) the day he bought it he had handed the keys to his new car to his mother and sister, and they hit the road for a visit to Mississippi . . . from Southern California! So while they had expected to get a car back that had probably 150-200 miles or so on it (which would have been easy to still sell as a new car), the car had over 3,500 miles on it for the round trip to Mississippi and back!

    Can you say "Oops!" ???


    The tear in my eye on this deal is laughter.

    I'm lovin' this, Steve!!!
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