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Automotive News

Ford, Calif. Dealers Pay $4.5 Million for Deceptive Leasing Practices
July 14, 2000: After a four-year investigation, California prosecutors announced a settlement with Ford Motor Credit and 204 Ford/Lincoln-Mercury dealers over alleged overcharges on early lease terminations. (For more details, see the "Payoff Packing" story in our Ford Lease Information page.) The settlement includes $100 in restitution for up to 36,000 California consumers, plus over $934,000 in fines and investigative costs. Affected consumers were to receive notices and claim forms. (7/00)

Car Dealers Caught in Undercover Sting
May 14, 2000: KCBS-TV announced the results of its three-month undercover investigation involving 14 new-car dealerships across Southern California. Salespeople and managers at some of the biggest dealers in America were caught red-handed by hidden cameras -- lying, cheating and overcharging customers on new-car leases and purchases. One of the dealers caught in the sting, a Chevrolet dealership owned by AutoNation, was raided by state authorities two days before KCBS aired the results of this investigation. The raid was conducted by 15 DMV agents who were armed with a search warrant for contracts and records of the dealership's new-car transactions. For details of this investigation, see the "Car Dealers" stories in the KCBS-TV Web site. (5/00)

More Chain Stores Caught in KCBS Sting
Exactly one year after their ground-breaking auto repair investigation, KCBS-TV conducted more undercover runs at repair shops in the greater Los Angeles area. According to the KCBS I-Team, shops from Pep Boys, Goodyear, Tuneupmasters and Purrfect Auto recommended and/or sold repairs that were not necessary. For details of this investigation, see the "Dirty Mechanics" stories in the KCBS-TV Web site. (5/99)

22 States Announce Ford Lease Investigations
The Florida Attorney General announced that 22 states are now conducting investigations into the leasing practices of Ford Motor Credit Company. Investigators believe that Ford Credit may have provided training and materials that helped salespeople to exploit consumers. Prosecutors in at least four states have caught Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers cheating people on leases and some dealers have already agreed to large settlements involving restitution and penalties. For more details on the Ford story, see the Ford Lease Information page. (11/98)

Ford Sued in 20 States for Deceptive Lease Practices & Fraud
Class-action lawsuits have now been filed against Ford Motor Credit in 20 states, alleging deceptive leasing practices and fraud. In the lawsuits, Ford was accused of charging undisclosed acquisition fees and of teaching deceptive sales practices to its dealers and their salespeople. (11/98)

Chain Stores Caught (Again) in Huge Undercover Investigation
KCBS-TV in Los Angeles conducted the largest undercover auto repair sting that's been done in the U.S. in over a decade. Mark Eskeldson helped KCBS design their hidden-camera investigation, and dozens of big-name chain stores were caught recommending and/or selling unnecessary repairs. See the Auto Repair Secrets page for more information. (5/98)

News Media Kill Ford Story, Collect Billions in Advertising!
Since March of 1997, Mark Eskeldson has been exposing the deceptive leasing practices of Ford Motor Co. and its dealers -- first in his book, Leasing Lessons for Smart Shoppers, then on the Internet. Eskeldson reveals the details of Ford's deceptive leasing practices and how those practices were taught to dealers and salespeople by Ford's lease trainer. He also reveals how Ford ignored outrageous acts of overcharging, offered kickbacks to dealers for increasing their customers' finance charges and concealed payoff balances from customers (which allowed dealers to overcharge them). For more details, see the Ford Lease Information page.
A number of people have questioned our Ford story, commenting that it surely would have received a lot of press coverage if it were true. So here's a part of the story that we haven't reported, until now: Most of the press and TV news organizations have refused to cover this story, even though major parts of it have appeared on the wire services. When prosecutors in Sacramento, California took legal action against five local Ford dealers (for cheating 111 people on leases), the story received no print or TV news coverage. A major TV station in Sacramento interviewed prosecutors and some of the Ford victims, but the story was never broadcast. According to our source, the Ford dealers convinced the station to kill the story. (The dealers were major advertisers on that station. So much for "news you can trust.")
Research staff and/or producers at two major TV networks have fact-checked the Ford story and confirmed it. One producer spent several months on the Ford story before saying, "everything checked out" and calling it "a solid piece and a big story." But management wouldn't allow it on the air. Researchers at another major TV network have pitched the Ford story to management several times now, only to be turned down again and again, even though their own people had confirmed the story. Some of them also said that they thought it was "a big story that should be covered." Ford and its dealers are huge advertisers on both of these TV networks, but management claims that that has nothing to do with their decision not to air the story.
Ford and its dealers spend over $1 billion per year on advertising, over half of this on TV.


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