An organization representing low-and moderate-income consumers descended on a used-car dealership Wednesday in Mesa, accusing it of selling defective cars and charging too much for them.
The group also targeted an auto finance firm in Tempe.
The Arizona chapter of the Association of Community Organizations For Reform Now said its mission is to “empower lower-income people to take back control of what's been ripped from them, like equity in their home or the money they spent on a car,” spokeswoman Sarah Markey said.
The group targeted J.D. Byrider, a used-auto business on Main Street near Gilbert Road, passing out flyers accusing the company of victimizing Mesa residents Barbara Barnes and Margaret Braddock. Barnes bought a car from the dealership and Braddock, her mother, co-signed on the loan.
The group said Barnes bought a 1994 Oldsmobile Achieva with 118,515 miles for $7,995 and an extended warranty. The loan on the car had annual percentage rate of 24.99, the group said. Barnes said she has had problems with the car since the day she bought it, while the dealership has refused to pay for repairs and has constantly harassed her about making payments on it.
“From day one the car wasn't any good,” Barnes said. “Two weeks later, we had to take it back in because we were smelling gas fumes, the brakes went out, and the steering wheel came off and almost killed myself and my daughter in the car.”
The fewer than 10 association members who visited J.D. Byrider were told to leave the dealership, but the company did meet briefly with Barnes, Braddock and Markey. The rest of the group stayed on the sidewalk in front of the business, chanted slogans such as “lemon lot” and “deathtrap vehicles sold here,” and handed flyers to passing motorists.
“I believe their organization is irresponsible for just coming here and making a lot of noise when they don't have the facts or the stories of both sides,” said Rob Bartolini, J.D. Byrider's general sales manager. “We'd love to work with the customer. We work with all of our customers. We go above and beyond the call of duty. We do have warranties and when situations occur when things are not covered under warranty, we still do whatever we can to help them.”
Barnes said the company wanted to meet with her today without the group, but she refused and plans to bring the car back.
“They can have it, to be honest,” she said. “I don't want it anymore because it keeps going off. I get it fixed one day, and the next minute it's messed up again. They just gave me the runaround.”
The association also stopped by WFS Financial on South Wendler in Tempe to protest its lending practices. Phoenix resident Martha Rodriguez said she recently had her car repossessed when she fell behind on payments that WFS Financial raised during the past year.
“As an organization we're going to start a big campaign and identify other victims and really move to kind of change the way auto loans and autos are sold in the Phoenix area,” Markey said.
A spokeswoman for WFS Financial, who would not give her name, said the company had no comment on the group's allegations.