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The Truth About Leasing - Part 3

Part 1              Part 2            Part 3             Part 4

Ford Motor Credit: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
More recently, author and automotive consultant Mark Eskeldson alleged widespread fraudulent leasing practices by Ford dealers and Ford Motor Credit in his 1997 book, Leasing Lessons for Smart Shoppers. Eskeldson, who exposed fraud at Sears Auto Centers nine months before they were busted, outlines in his book tactics and unethical practices used by dealers to cheat customers out of thousands of dollars each. These tactics include payoff packing, secret price hikes as much as 24% above sticker, deceptive interest rate quotes, and secret kickbacks to dealers for inflating rates.

But most disturbing is the evidence presented that strongly suggests that Ford Motor Credit not only tolerated these practices, but participated and trained the dealers how to do it. Leasing Lessons describes training seminars recommended and/or provided by Ford through Half-A-Car, Inc., an independent company that provides lease training for Ford. Eskeldson reports, "In sworn statements…former salespeople described the training program as teaching the use of lies, deception, and fraud to trick customers into leases that involve overcharges." Supporting these charges Eskeldson describes and quotes from three complete training manuals used by Half-A-Car between 1989 and 1995 as well as a "Ford Red Carpet Lease Dealer Hand Book."

If Eskeldson's allegations are even remotely substantiated, why hasn't this become headline news? The press should be having a field day. The headlines should scream: "Number-two Auto Maker Fleeced Thousands Over Ten-Year Period". Shortly after Eskeldson's book came out in 1997, NBC's Dateline fact-checked the Ford leasing story and produced a show on the subject complete with interviews of Eskeldson and numerous victims. Mysteriously though the story was never aired.

Despite the apparent cover-up by the press, Eskeldson is indeed onto something. It turns out our friends at the state Attorney Generals' offices have been busy with a 22-state investigation led by Florida's Attorney General Bob Butterworth into leasing practices by Ford Motor Credit and Ford dealers. The Florida AG's 11/20/98 announcement indicated they are investigating the very activities described by Eskeldson: payoff packing, secret price increases, and misrepresenting the cost of lease transactions. The announcement also said, "Investigators believe Ford Motor Credit may have provided training and materials to Ford and Lincoln Mercury sales employees to help them exploit consumers." By the way, the AG's announcement of this huge multi-state investigation got little or no coverage in the press. What little coverage appeared was often inaccurate and only mentioned the payoff packing while ignoring the other more serious allegations. The papers that did pick up the wire stories seemed to downplay the investigation and even had a tone defensive of Ford.

Class Action Suits
Several class action lawsuits have been filed against leasing companies for excessive penalties for early termination of leases. Class action suits against Ford Motor Credit have now been filed in over 20 states. The lawsuits allege deceptive lease practices and fraud. If you think you may be a victim of leasing fraud we recommend you visit www.carinfo.com. This site contains a wealth of leasing information related to leasing fraud and the legal actions against dishonest dealers and leasing companies. www.carinfo.com also contains worksheets to help you determine if you were ripped-off and by how much.

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