EVERETT, Wash. – An Everett car dealer is being sued by the Washington state Attorney General's office for allegedly misleading customers, causing them to pay jacked up prices for vehicles.
The suit accuses Performance Jeep-Eagle, doing business as Performance Nissan and Performance Kia, of selling vehicles for thousands of dollars above the advertised price.
The AG's office also claims the dealer used a bait-and-switch scheme in which customers paid for more expensive vehicles than those that were advertised. In one example, the AG's office alleges that that the dealer advertised in the Everett Herald on Feb. 16, 2007 that it had a 2007 Nissan Versa to sell. The problem is, the AG's office say that vehicle had been sold more than two weeks earlier.
The president of Performance Jeep-Eagle, Hugh Hall, says the lawsuit comes as a surprise.
"We have been working closely with the Attorney General's Office for three years resolve any issues," Hall said. "We cannot take responsibility for all of the accusations."
Hall declined a settlement offered by the AG's office and says he will fight the accusations. He denies anyone ever using a bait-and-switch scheme. He does say a finance manager with Performance Jeep-Eagle was fired three years ago for improper conduct.
"We took care of that issue and thought everything was resolved," said Hall.
The Attorney General's Office cites 40 complaints from customers at Performance Kia and Performance Nissan over the past five years.
"Some of those complaints were filed recently," said Assistant Attorney Mary Lobdell. "We opened the investigation in 2008 and we are still having consumers who were victimized."
The dealers are also accused of negotiating informal sales or lease agreements, then changing the contract terms without the customer's knowledge.
The AG's office also says the dealer targeted Spanish-speaking customers. The suit alleges Spanish-speaking staff did the negotiations, but when it was time to figure out the financing, they were handed off to someone who spoke no Spanish.
The state is seeking, among other things, restitution for customers and $2,000 per violation in civil penalties.