September 12, 2008 in Business

Kia, Suzuki dealerships settle suit

Agreement was ‘economic decision,’ manager says
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Washington state attorney general’s office has settled with a company that operates Spokane Kia and Spokane Suzuki in response to an investigation into a customer’s complaint that she was sold a used car she thought was new, officials announced Thursday.

The settlement with Kane Automotive Group also applies to a related company, Wenatchee Valley’s Truck and Auto Outlet Inc., which operates Kia and Suzuki outlets in Wenatchee.

Though the companies do not admit wrongdoing, the settlement requires them to comply with consumer-protection laws, resolve complaints in “good faith” and pay $20,000 in attorney fees and costs.

“We steadfastly deny the allegations,” said David Gilliver, general manager of the dealerships. “Our customer satisfaction … is in the top 40 for Kia and Suzuki dealerships in the country. That speaks for itself.”

Gilliver declined to comment on specific allegations.

“Instead of fighting this and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting, legally fighting, we simply made an economic decision in very tough economic times,” Gilliver said.

The businesses are owned by Sidney Kane, of Wenatchee, according to the attorney general’s office.

Filed in Douglas County Superior Court, the agreement was the result of an investigation into the companies’ business practices launched in 2006 with the Washington state Department of Licensing. A consumer complained after she allegedly paid $18,700 for a new Kia Optima, but later found the car was used.

The attorney general’s office also claims the dealerships:

•Made false credit applications to banks, overstating customer salaries and diminishing housing costs, sometimes without consumers’ knowledge. That allegedly resulted in four cars being repossessed after buyers could not make payments.

•“Routinely” did not pay off liens on trade-ins within two business days, as required by law. That allegedly resulted in consumers receiving bills for cars they did not own.

•Engaged in “bushing” or “yo-yo” deals, where conditions of a sale changed.

•Failed to maintain advertising records.

•Improperly certified customer signatures on Department of Licensing documents.

The settlement also requires the companies to drop a lawsuit against Attorney General Rob McKenna.


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