International Motor Productions Screws Reader Over $500 Deposit On Misrepresented, Wrecked, BMW

Aaron went shopping on AutoTrader and saw a BMW he liked sold by International Motor Productions. The lady over the phone, Brigette Brown, told him everything about the car was perfect. He put down a $500 deposit and flew down from Chicago to check it out with his friend Nathan. There he discovered the body panels didn’t line up and the tires were mismatched and worn. When he took it for a test drive, it pulled under acceleration and made horrible noises. He took it to a reputable dealer who inspected the car and assessed it had been in an accident and had frame damage. When he took it back to International Motor Productions and asked for his deposit back…

…Brigette refused and also refused to let anyone else test drive the car.

Aaron is now pursuing complaints against the company with the BBB and the State’s Attorney General. Deposit, hotel, rental and airfare, Aaron and his friend are out $2,000. A check of their online profile turns up a number of very severe complaints against the company, mixed in with a number of glowing reviews.

Our request for comment from International Motor Productions was not returned.

“I am also curious as to where they get cars that have clean titles, but have obviously been wrecked. (*cough* chop shop *cough*)”, said Nathan.

AutoTrader doesn’t let customers post dealership reviews. Before putting down a deposit and flying to get your dream car, make sure to always check out a dealership’s reputation elsewhere, like cardealercheck.com, their BBB report and Yahoo! Local reviews. You can also investigate a car’s history on CarFax.com. If you were to check out a dealership’s rep, where would you look first?

Comments

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  1. Aeroracere says:

    Nathan coughed “chop shop” while you were talking? Wow…

  2. NightSteel says:

    Wow. That’s farked up. They ought to sue, I’m pretty sure this qualifies as bait and switch or false advertising.

    • IN THE FACE! says:

      @NightSteel: And if nothing else I’m sure they neglected to draft and file the requisite writ of douchebaggery before hand…

    • FishingCrue says:

      @NightSteel: I am not an IL lawyer but I’m pretty sure it’s not bait and switch but misrepresentation. Bait and switch is offering one product, claiming it is unavailable and offering a comparable product at a different, likely higher, price.

      As an aside, why not contact an independent mechanic to take a look at it before you put a deposit down and travel etc? I’m sure you can find a mechanic (on your own) to do this.

  3. keith4298 says:

    Some States have laws that allow a car to be considered totalled when there is 70% damage. Other States permit it only when there is 80% damage. So you take a car from the 70% State and bring it to the 80% State and get a new title. Yay, all clean. Car companies have been doing this with cars for decades.

    • MrEvil says:

      @keith4298: Actually in the 70% states that practice is called title washing and is illegal. Once that 70% totaled car is re-titled in the 80% state it can’t legally be titled again in the 70% state. Dealers still do it because they’re gambling on the buyer being a real sucker and not ratting them out to the authorities.

  4. minsky says:

    If someone has enough time and money to spend $2,000 on lodging, airfare, etc. just to go look at a car, the $500 deposit doesn’t seem like a big loss.

    I admit, he should get it back, but this guy seems to have enough dough to do what he wants.

    • Anonymous says:

      @minsky:

      What difference does it make how much money the guy has? He could be Bill Gates and he still wouldn’t deserve to get ripped off. $500 is a lot of money to a lot of people. Your post is utter nonsense.

    • jswilson64 says:

      @minsky: Hell’s yeah! That’s what I like to see on Consumerist: Screw the consumer because he has enough money to pay for a freakin’ airline ticket!!!

      • pigbearpug says:

        @jswilson64: I agree completely! Let’s steal money from those that can afford it! Also, Minsky, it’s likely that this BMW was listed at a good price and that’s why he could afford to travel to see it.

    • Sidecutter says:

      @minsky: Whether this person can “afford” the loss or not doesn’t change anything. Whether someone should get their money back on a screwjob like this is not in any way dependant on their financial status.

  5. rickinsthelens says:

    I thought I would look at cardealercheck.com since you mentioned it. There were no reviews for my local area in Oregon, my previous area in Oklahoma, and my previous previous area in Michigan. I guess it must be limited to certain areas at this point. As to International Motor Productions, it will be interested to see how they respond now.

    • DennisDornon says:

      @rickinsthelens: Thanks for taking the time to look through the site. We are a smaller review site, growing everyday with the help of sites like the Consumerist, but we do not add any fake or “seed” reviews everything on the site is from actual customers so if someone from any of your local areas hasn’t visited the site and reviewed a dealer unfortunatley there won’t be any on there. We rely on dealership customers such as yourself to tell us the good or bad about dealerships in your area.

      Thanks Again,

      Dennis Dornon
      Car Dealer Check

      • Julia789 says:

        @DennisDornon: I notice I have to register to leave a review. Will I be put on a mailing/email list? Will my email address remain private and not be sold?

        I’d like to post a review for the dealer where I just bought a new car and had a good experience. (I want to encourage their “good behavior.”)

        • DennisDornon says:

          @Julia789: I’ve been running the site for a few years and have never sent out even a newsletter and I will not sell any one’s information.

          Here are the only emails you should ever receive from Car Dealer Check:

          1. Registration Verification Email
          2. Review Verification Email (Your review will not count without this one to cut down on people just reviewing dealerships for no reason)
          3. A Email letting you know that a review has been commented on or a dealership has responded.
          4. An email letting you know you got a private message from the dealership you reviewed.

          We have a page that lists our differences from a normal review site but I’m not sure of Consumerist’s stance on URL’s and Ben was nice enough to mention us I don’t want to disrespect the site.

          Hope that helps!

          Dennis
          Car Dealer Check

  6. Ellomdian says:

    Erm, Carfax? Anyone who has EVER looked at a car online could tell you that. The carfax is based on the insurance claim history, as the Title history is far to easy to screw with.

    • rpm773 says:

      @Ellomdian: Carfax isn’t always correct. I believe there are some states that don’t require accidents to be reported with the VIN. Others may know more about this.

      I got into an accident in Chicago, filled out a report, and it never showed up on my Jetta’s VIN on Carfax.

      A few years later I received an email from Carfax, as a previous customer of theirs, asking me to write to my Illinois congressman to pass a law stating all accidents data has to be linked to VIN. Or something akin to that.

      Nevertheless, it certainly doesn’t hurt to check Carfax if in the market for a used car.

    • Snarkysnake says:

      @Ellomdian:

      Good idea but…

      Carfax can be gamed ,too.

      I have seen sharp rebuilders run a carfax on a car as they were towing it away from an accident scene. If it comes back clean , they print lots of copies to hand out to potential unwitting suckers. This is the most expensive $30 that the sucker will ever “save”. (Works best with rebuilders that specialize in high demand,easily sold used cars -like Toyota Camry’s)

      Carfax also cannot tell you how much damage has been sustained if there is only a police report and no insurance claim. (This happens some time with single car accidents as a result of DUI’s and other embarrasing situations )”Front end impact” doesn’t say much . Best bet – Don’t buy a car with any accident history.

      Barely used cars are dirt cheap right now. It probably makes more sense to buy a program car than it has in a long time.

    • shinseiromeo says:

      @Ellomdian:

      Completely disagree. From my experience, Carfax is useless. I purchased a car from a Honda dealership. It was a Honda Certified Used Car. A few weeks later it was in the shop for custom work (I build show cars) and saw the car was T-boned. The ENTIRE passenger side was made of bondo and re-built, but never showed up on Carfax.

      • JiminyChristmas says:

        @shinseiromeo: I can second this. I bought a car I had checked out on Carfax. It came back totally clean. Several weeks later when I got my copy of the new title it had a big ol’ SALVAGE brand on it.

        I later found out that the car was stolen and written off. The stripped car was recovered much later, and rebuilt by the crook, Valor Enterprises of Little Canada, Minnesota, who sold it to me. At least the car hadn’t been totaled in a wreck.

        The lesson I took away from this: Ask the seller to show you the actual title to the car. Not a copy, not a facsimile. If they can’t or won’t produce the title walk away.

  7. unpolloloco says:

    No offense to the OP (and this does not excuse International Motor Productions in the least bit), but why would you fly to Texas from Chicago, spending $2000 dollars, in order to buy a car that imho is overpriced (comparing kbb to the prices listed on the website)?

    • jusooho says:

      @unpolloloco: Well it sounds like he’s also visiting his friend, and maybe this is a special model or one he really wanted. I’ve often rolled together trips that combine two purposes, especially business/vacation trips.

  8. Moosehawk says:

    This would be where the government database of car accidents/repairs comes in to play when they finally get it all set and out there?

  9. OctaneBoaster says:

    Speaking of lawsuits, you printed a title like that on the word of this guy…trusting that what he said happened actually happened? You aren’t a little worried that International might have some issue with you guys seeing as the situation hasn’t yet been resolved, but you already declared them guilty?

    Whose Brother-in-law is this Aaron guy?

    • Aladdyn says:

      @OctaneBoaster:

      International Motor Productions: Lets sue The Consumerist!

      Judge: Did The Consumerist ask you for your side of the story?

      I.M.P.: Yes, we didn’t comment.

      Judge: Your stupid, case dimissed. (after reading inspection report from independat garage verifying reported car problems)

      • OctaneBoaster says:

        @Aladdyn: Wow Attorney Bob, hope you don’t make a living off the law. First, what if “Brigette” denies that she said the car was “perfect” on the phone? Second, I wouldn’t print this without having a certified copy of all documents in hand. Third, this entire thing is unresolved by the law. Judgement by the media without using “alleged” in every accusation is called libel. Fourth, “chop shop”-implies that this dealer is trading in stolen merchandise – which they might be – but, if you can’t prove it, again, libel. A response to an interview is neither required or wise in a case like this.

        Been through it from both sides.

        • IN THE FACE! says:

          @OctaneBoaster: It would cost them more to try and sue Consumerist than they could ever hope to recoup in awarded damages…

          def more than $2500 that the guy in the article is asking for…

          And if they had a lawyer (on the payroll or that they often referred to about business matters), they probably wouldn’t be in this position.

          Your understanding of the “letter of the law” is pretty good though, putting it into practice changes a lot of things.

  10. ManiacDan says:

    Even with checking out a dealership, it’s still possible to get completely screwed. The last used car I bought had 15,000 miles on it and was in perfect condition, until about 3 weeks later when the engine died. The dealer’s position was “too bad for you,” and $3000 in repair bills later I still hadn’t gotten it fixed. I finally got it running and immediately drove it to a Honda dealer and bought a brand new car.

    I know the Consumerist is all about saving money, but the stress you save in the long run by buying new is so worth it. I have a warranty, and I can go to any dealer in the country to get repairs done, usually for free. Plus roadside assistance, and the knowledge that it’s pretty much guaranteed to run correctly for years really gives me peace of mind.

    If you are going to buy used, definitely check BBB, carfax, and online reviews. Google ” sucks” to see if there’s any horror stories. Searching for the dealership I patronized turns up 12, only 3 of which are mine.

    • wezelboy says:

      @ManiacDan: Sounds like you should have been able to get a manufacturer warranty repair if you had taken it to a manufacturer dealer instead of the used dealer.

      • Real Cheese Flavor says:

        @wezelboy: Yeah, I thought the manufacturer warranty carried over to a new owner as long as it was still within the milage/time limits.

    • nataku8_e30 says:

      @ManiacDan: I’m guessing you haven’t read any of the stories on consumerist or any other blog about dealerships claiming repairs on new cars aren’t covered by the warranty, roadside assistance that never comes, or just new cars that are basically lemons and create a huge amount of hassle for the owners.

      Really, the best thing you can do is look at a car with someone who’s knowledgeable about these things (if you yourself are not for some reason…). It also helps to be able to recognize warning signs when things do go wrong and to know what kind of maintenance needs to be done, when and why. BTW, maintenance schedules in owners manuals are pretty much BS these days. I’ll take a used car over a new car any day, especially if there’s a maintenance history available (which is why you don’t buy used from a dealership!).

      • ManiacDan says:

        @nataku83 et al: The manufacturer’s warranty had been voided by work by the original owner, it was originally a fleet vehicle for an unnamed company. I did take the vehicle to an authorized dealer, and they pointed out the obvious engine modifications to me.

        As for lemon laws, they don’t apply to used cars in New York state.

        I should have brought a mechanic with me or brought the vehicle to a mechanic before purchase. Aside from the engine modifications, the car was a basic edition that had the Limited Edition accessories glued on. Rear air, rear windshield wipers, towing package, everything was glued or stapled onto the vehicle and not at all in working condition. It was done in a professional way, there was no way to tell any of it was fake until you tried to use it. However, there was never a feature list delivered with the vehicle. I should have walked away but I was under a time and money deadline.

    • MrEvil says:

      @ManiacDan: It’s improbable a catastrophic failure happening on a new engine like that didn’t have some kind of warning sign beforehand. Worn out engines will chuck parts without warning granted, but not an engine with 13,000 on it.

      Always check your fluid levels every time you refuel, and check for any unusual smells in the engine compartment or inside the car. My nose alerted me to my used Crown Vic’s leaky plastic intake well before the leak became bad enough to harm the rest of the engine.

  11. howie_in_az says:

    From the IMP website’s FAQ:

    Can I put a vehicle that I want on hold?

    Yes, you may put a vehicle on hold for 5 days. There is a non-refundable fee of $500.00 charged for us to hold the vehicle. This fee is applied towards the price of any vehicle when the customer makes the purchase.

    Sucks that the OP ponied up the $500 plus travel expenses only to find that the car was possibly broken, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Go with a CPO BMW and get the extra warranty protection, you’ll be glad you did.

  12. Murph1908 says:

    @Ellomdian:

    If I back out of my driveway and hit my maple tree somehow, I might not want to file a claim.

    In this case, if I don’t report it to my insurance, but get it fixed at a reputable shop, the title history will be accurate, but your Carfax report won’t be (if you are correct about it being based on claim history).

    If I know how to do body work, I might try to fix it myself, avoiding the records altogether.

    Neither system can be perfect, which can lead to situations like those in this original story. And thanks to Consumerist, we are all more informed about the system and it’s limitations, which might save us trouble in the future.

  13. QuanikaJulisa says:

    It does seem incredibly odd to invest so much in airfare, hotel and car rental to go see a used car, unless it was a particularly rare BMW.

    I love the Consumerist but sometimes these stories sound a bit odd, like if we got all the facts we’d actually side with the company and not the consumer.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @QuanikaJulisa:
      It doesn’t have to be “particularly rare.” It just has to be what the buyer is looking for. When you’re buying used, you have to be willing to either take what you can get locally, or you have to be willing to travel.

      A lot of people will go hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get JUST the car they want. This is particularly true of older cars.

      I would like to hear more details about the car and the advertised price, though. It might be that they took the trip because they thought they were getting a smokin’ hot deal, which should have set off some alarm bells. And really, panel gap doesn’t show up in the pictures? Inadequate photography should have been another tip-off.

  14. Canino says:

    I’m not understanding something. Either the OP flew with his friend (why did 2 of them need to go?) or he flew to where his friend lives (why not have the friend go check out the car before flying?).

    For $200 he probably could have gotten on Dallas Craigslist and found a mechanic who would have gone over and checked out the car for him in person.

    Also, I wouldn’t say “chop shop” as much as I’d say it’s a pieced together salvage car. I know that area of Dallas where that dealership is, and there are lots of shady eastern european/near east businesses down there. The kinds of places where they swear something is new, name-brand merchandise and it turns out to be used worse-than-Chinese-made junk, and there’s always some huge burly hairy Lebanese guy who comes out of nowhere to intimidate you if you don’t like the deal you’re getting. Strange story all around.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @Canino: Descriptions would be just as vivid without you making ethnic slurs.

      My Eastern European grandfather fought in World War II to help protect this country.

      Some PEOPLE are evil, shady, theives, etc. etc. This is due to their own choice about how they live their life. It is not because of their country of birth, country of residence, religion etc. etc.

      Change? Yes YOU can.

      • Canino says:

        @SkokieGuy: Saying an area has lots of eastern european businesses is not an ethnic slur, it’s a fact. Saying an area has lots of shady businesses is not a slur, it’s a fact. Those facts do not make it incumbent upon me to appease you with some politically correct verbal eggshell walking.

        I’ve done plenty of import/export business with eastern europeans. I don’t think I’ve met one who would give a rat’s ass what I called them.

      • bohemian says:

        @SkokieGuy: Yea. There are plenty of skeezy businesses and business people from ALL walks of life and backgrounds.

  15. dfx says:

    As someone who used to sell cars, I can assure you that it is 100% illegal to refuse to refund a deposit under any circumstances whatsoever. This even includes if you make a deposit so they can locate a car from another dealership and especially if you signed no contracts with the company. If all they have is a check in their name, etc, you have a huge case against them.

    I’d call in a cop, claim theft, and watch how fast the money returns to your hands. It really is theft. Additionally autotrader does have policies on these kinds of matters and I would suggest looking into them.

  16. huevosrancheros says:

    I made the mistake of buying a MB E420 from this place, when I went to trade it in at CarMax they told me it had been in a MAJOR accident and had frame damage repaired. Stupid me for not doing a CarFax. It has a clean Texas title but it was wrecked in Wisconsin and some how was repaired, bought at auction in Texas with a clean title. I was also stupid enough to buy the car with this strange knock coming from the motor that was described to me by Bridgette her self as being common in older MBs as it was the oil “warming up” and would go away after the car has been running a few minutes. Later after the knock got worse I took it to an MB dealership where the discovered it had a head gasket issue and cost 3000 to repair or 30% of what I paid for the car. Many, many stupid mistakes on my part but just goes to show how much research and education one needs before buying used…

  17. Triborough says:

    Good rule of thumb – trust nobody from Chicago, especially if there is money involved.

  18. Triborough says:

    I meant Texas, but my original comment is also true.

  19. bohemian says:

    I would pull a carfax on any vehicle before you even bother going down to look at it. Even across town. It won’t pick up everything but you could pick up enough information to make you change your mind.
    We had been looking for a specific model vehicle that is impossible to find where we live. Since we were planning a trip out east at the same time we were looking online at potential cars. I found one we were interested in and had contacted the seller a couple of times. Then I pulled a carfax and this thing had a track record like Brittney Spears. I contacted the owner to tell him I pulled the Carfax, changed my mind and would not be making said appointment to come look at it. He tried to tell me stuff on Carfax isn’t accurate. Um. whatever.
    Our other vehicle was bought from a large dealership as a used truck. This was before Carfax came out. We found out a few years after we bought it that it had been in an accident and has a slightly bent frame. We know they knew about it because it was an off-lease from their lease program. So anyone can be a scumbag to do business with.

  20. DennisDornon says:

    Thank you Ben for mentioning Car Dealer Check. We try very hard to make things fair for both the consumers and the car dealers when it comes to reviews.

    If anyone has any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.

    Dennis Dornon
    Car Dealer Check

  21. thatsnotfab says:

    Meh. Not much sympathy for the OP. As a previous commenter pointed out, the company indicated that the deposit is indeed, non-refundable. Poor car and service aside, he really should’ve known better.

    And this should have been a red flag as well:

    AutoTrader doesn’t let customers post dealership reviews.

  22. Anonymous says:

    So many members here put so much faith in Carfax……not good. My Civic Si was stolen, stripped to the unibody (Nothing left) and then left on it’s belly in a bad section of Boston. Car was a total loss and my insurance company gave me a check. A couple of years later I purchased an unlimited Carfax one month subscription and decided to check the VIN on my old Civic out of curiosity. Sure enough someone in NJ is now driving it with a “clean” title. Carfax is far from reliable…..

  23. Jesse in Japan says:

    Why would you put down a deposit on a car you haven’t even seen?

    • rtipping says:

      @Jesse in Japan:
      In order for it to still be there when you go to see it.
      Roll the bones it could be a scam it may not be ? the only guarantees in life are death and tax’s.

  24. Keter says:

    When I was in the market for a good used car, I had my eye on a small car lot that specialized in Honda products because so many of the cars there looked to be in good shape. They had a large garage facility, and it was obvious that they were fixing the cars before selling them. It took several trips before I found a car I liked (I’m picky) – and on that trip, I found two – a super-clean but rather nondescript Acura and a newer – and absolutely gorgeous – Toyota Camry.

    Now this shop did occasionally sell other car brands, so I didn’t think too much of it…until I test drove it. Every other car I had test driven from this place was tight – sounded good, drove straight, etc., but this one went down the road sideways! I had checked it quickly before taking it out, and all the body panels looked ok and such, but obviously something was really, really out of whack. So when I got back I went over it again really thoroughly, including crawling underneath it. And yeah, I found evidence that it had been sandwich-wrecked, the frame cut and re-welded (OMG!).

    By this time, I had gotten on really good terms with the owner (I had recommended him to a friend who had purchased a Civic for her son and was delighted), so when he came over expecting that I was going to buy the car, he actually did take me seriously when I pointed out what I had found.

    He kept his cool while he was talking to me, but as soon as I was off giving the Acura a much more thorough looking-over than I had planned, I could hear him on the phone inside the office cursing a blue streak to someone, saying that he expected the car to be picked up TODAY and his money refunded, and he’d better never catch them pawning off anything else with a ——up frame again…or he would tear off their —-s and shove ‘em down their throats personally. (He could have, too.)

    While I was putting a deposit down on the Acura (dependent upon the car getting a clean bill of health from my mechanic), the owner’s wife thanked me for finding the problem and said it probably saved their reputation because they had taken the car on faith and were not planning to look it over as they usually did. I was astonished by this; after the display of fury, I had expected to get a hassle, not a thank-you. I never saw another non-Honda on that lot after that, either.

    So honest used car dealers do exist, but finding one is definitely like finding a needle in a haystack. I guess I got it right by watching the lot for a long time to observe their operation for so long before deciding to buy, and then taking my time to develop a relationship with the owners. BTW, I still have the Acura – eight years later – and it is a gem of a car.

    My husband bought three motorcycles over the Internet – one through eBay, one off Craigslist, and another that he put together from parts found on eBay. It is really, really hard to tell when something is in the condition stated, even if you email the seller a lot of good questions. Both of the whole motorcycles had more things wrong with them than claimed, but still were OK bargains because my husband does his own work. Otherwise, they would have been terrible deals. The parted-together bike actually went amazingly well and turned out to be a real bargain – only one purchased part was a dud. Got lucky on that one.

    • mmcnary says:

      @Keter: Can you please post the name and location of this car lot? I’m not in the market right now, but this type of information is like finding gold if you are fortunate enough to live close enough.

  25. MooseOfReason says:

    Carfax: $20 (not actually spent in this case)
    Deposit: $500
    Airfare, car rental, and hotel room: About $1,500

    Exposing a fraudulent company: Priceless

  26. esd2020 says:

    @Ellomdian: Well, you’re going to be out $1500 no matter what. Or did you think the dealer would pay you back for airfare should you decide not to buy their car?

  27. JeffIowa says:

    There’s nothing wrong with piecing together a car, if you do it correctly. After all, the car was sheet metal at one point in the factory. You can cut a frame and there’s really no problem if you do the correct repair (staggered butt-joint and backing plates on a frame or rocker panel, lap-joint on replacement sheet metal.)

    In this case, the people who put the car together should be forced to demonstrate its crash-worthiness at, say, 60mph.

  28. grpack says:

    I live in the Midwest and like to purchase cars from the south as well (obviously because they have not been through winters and are in better condition). So when I put a deposit down on a car I am interested in, it better be in the condition I was told it was in. In the OP’s case, he was blatantly lied to as a bate and switch so I think he has every right to pursue legal action. The money was put down to secure the car that was promised, not a wrecked one.

    CarFax is not always accurate either. There are plenty of cars that have clean titles that have been pieced back together.

  29. Tankueray says:

    The only one you need to know until the NVMTIS gets online is this:
    VINCheck, I’ve tested it with a totaled but clean title vehicle and it works just fine.

    It’s actually very easy to get a clean title on a totaled car.(I’ve got a few.) That’s what the NMVTIS is meant to prevent. Mine were never dangerous, just more damage than the car was worth. But when you’re dealing with flood cars you can get into trouble. I know who and how mine were wrecked. Flood cars you never know about until it’s too late.