A local used-car business and its owner have agreed to pay $20,000 plus more than $1,697 in court costs and other fees to settle a consumer complaint case alleging the company refused to honor implied warranties on their vehicles — including on a Nissan Altima that a repair shop described as a “Fred Flintstone” car too dangerous to drive because of a hole in its undercarriage.
Thomas Bland II and Quality Automotive Group LLC II, 3933 S. Broadway in Wichita, denied wrongdoing but agreed to pay the money to settle a Kansas Consumer Protection Act lawsuit filed by the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, according to a news release. An attorney for the dealer, Todd Shadid of Klenda Austerman law firm, declined to comment Wednesday.
But Bland told The Eagle he thought the dealership “went above and beyond . . . to go well over what the warranty stated.”
“It’s something that I just think . . . was out of our hands,” he said. “There was nothing malicious done by us. We check over all our vehicles as best we can.”
The district attorney’s office filed the suit against Bland and Quality Automotive Group after a Wichita man, who is a veteran and a protected customer under Kansas law, complained that they failed to fix a hole in the undercarriage of a 2006 Nissan Altima that he bought last summer.
The man bought the car for $3,440 in cash after seeing an advertisement on Facebook claiming it “Runs and drives great. One owner, clean title, no accidents,” according to court records.
The man stopped by the business and test drove the car before the sale, records say. The dealer also claimed it had been inspected.
But a few months later, the man was told by a local repair shop where he’d taken the car to fix a “rattling noise” that there was a hole in the undercarriage that had been “covered over by an old license plate.”
The license plate, according to court records, was “very noticeable and was right next to the oil pan.”
The man took the car next to a collision repair center, which told him the damage was structural in nature and “too expensive for just a patch.”
The center said the car was too dangerous to drive in its opinion and described it as a “Fred Flintstone vehicle” because the driver “could fall through the floor boards,” according to court documents. The estimated repair costs were more than $4,400.
Three days later, the man drove the car to the used-car dealer, showed a salesperson a cellphone photo of the undercarriage damage and asked for a refund.
He filed a consumer complaint with the DA’s office after the dealer told him they could fix the car if he paid $250 but “that was all they could do,” according to court records.
Bland and the used-car business said they didn’t know about the hole and denied violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, but “accepted a consent judgment to settle the matter,” the DA’s office said in the news release. They also said they wouldn’t sell the car without proof that the hole had been fixed and agreed to a yearlong probationary period, the DA’s office says.
Sedgwick County District Court Judge Stephen Ternes approved the consent judgment Tuesday. The dealer agreed to pay $4,697 of the civil penalty and other costs immediately. The other $17,000 is being held in abeyance and will be forgiven if the dealer doesn’t receive any other complaints during its probationary period, court records show.
This isn’t the first time Bland has entered into a consent judgment to settle allegations. In 2018, he agreed to pay a judgment in another case that also alleged consumer protection act violations, according to the DA’s office.
If you’re thinking about buying a used car, the DA’s office recommends asking questions about its history before the sale, taking it for an inspection and reviewing buying guides, which provides purchasing and warranty information.
For more tips on buying a used car, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/buying-used-car-dealer.
Contributing: Carrie Rengers of The Wichita Eagle