Before you can sell your vehicle, you need to make sure you have a clear title.
Jennifer Evans-Andreola, 33, purchased a new Ford Edge from Bell Ford in Colonia in September 2009.
She financed the car through Chase Auto Finance, and the loan was paid in full on April 12, 2011. The Garwood woman received a lien release letter from Chase, but no title.
“Chase informed me that they never received the car title from Bell Ford,” she said.
After dozens of phone calls and several months, Evans-Andreola did receive the title, but it wasn’t clean. It said she owed money to Ford Motor Credit, a lender with whom she had never done business.
“I have a lien listed that I should not have and nobody can seem to fix the problem because the dealership has to correct it and they just do not care,” she said. “Bell Ford had no problem jumping out of their seats to take my $25,000 down payment on the car at the time of purchase.”
But there was no jumping to fix the title problem.
Here’s what happened:
THE MISSING TITLE
On April 4, 2011, Evans-Andreola received a letter from Chase saying her title would be mailed to her within six business days of the payoff posting date. On April 12, Evans-Andreola received the official lien release letter from Chase, saying that the loan was satisfied.
A few more weeks passed, but no title arrived.
She called Chase, and Chase said it never received the car’s title.
“It did not make sense to me that they had a vested interest in this car yet never received the title for it,” she said. “They told me that they had reached out to the dealership numerous times to request it, but never received anything.”
Chase recommended she call Bell Ford directly.
So in June, Evans-Andreola started her calls to Bell Ford.
“For days, which turned into weeks, I kept telling different people who worked there my story and they all took my contact information,” she said.
She said the company reps said the person who handles titles would call her back, but no one did.
Evans-Andreola said she’d call every few days.
“I just kept getting the runaround,” she said.
In July, Evans-Andreola’s husband stopped in, but he was told the person who handles the titles was out.
By the end of the month, still with no word, Evans-Andreola wrote a complaint letter to the Division of Consumer Affairs. Consumer Affairs contacted the Motor Vehicle Commission, and an MVC rep called her.
“They wanted to notify me that I still had a lien on the car from Ford Motor Credit, which was a shock to me because I never had a loan with Ford Motor Credit,” she said.
For the next two months, Evans-Andreola said, she tried over and over again to tell Bell Ford there was a bigger problem with the title.
THE BIGGER PROBLEM
Next, Evans-Andreola called Ford Motor Credit directly, and it confirmed it never had a loan on the car. It said the dealership simply had to file a corrected title with the state to remove Ford Motor Credit from the title.
So started another round of daily calls to Bell Ford. Messages left for the title person were never returned.
The pressure was on in September because Evans-Andreola had a potential buyer for her car.
Finally, she got a Bell Ford supervisor on the phone: Mark Chuhinko, who on the dealership’s website is described as the “dealer principal.”
Chuhinko said there was nothing he could do, she said. He suggested Evans-Andreola speak to the title person — that same title person who never returned her calls.
“At this point I was beyond livid, so I said. ‘That is not acceptable. I am coming down there right now and somebody is going to help me,’ ” she said.
She headed to the dealership and explained to Chuhinko that she had a buyer for her car and needed the title fixed immediately.
“He tried to make up all kinds of reasons and stories for this issue, and he kept trying to pass the blame off to Chase,” she said of their hour-long conversation.
She said she explained that Ford Motor Credit, Chase and MVC all said the same thing: that Bell Ford needs to correct the title.
She said Chuhinko said the title person would fix it, but Evans-Andreola didn’t have a lot of faith.
In October, the title person finally called, saying Bell Ford would deliver the correct title, but the title person couldn’t give a time frame.
A few weeks later, the title arrived.
“(The title person) called me to make sure I got it, and at that time I questioned it with her since it still said Ford Motor Credit was a lien holder on it,” she said. “She assured me that it was fixed.”
Evans-Andreola didn’t believe it. She went to the MVC in November, and MVC confirmed that the lien exists.
MVC suggested Evans-Andreola ask Ford Motor Credit to fax MVC a letter stating there is no lien on the car.
After the holidays, she did just that. Ford Motor Credit said it sent the letter to MVC, but the title wasn’t cleared. She waited a few weeks and called again in February, but still, the title wasn’t cleared.
After several more calls, Evans-Andreola said, she was told that there was a new woman in the title department: Kathy. Kathy would call her back, she said she was told.
And on March 3, Kathy did.
“She informed me that (the original title person) is no longer with the dealership and that my problem is a very simple thing to correct,” she said. “I told her the entire story again and she said that it may be faster if I bring her that ‘incorrect title’ I have to get reprocessed.”
On March 5, the same day Evans-Andreola contacted Bamboozled about her ordeal, her husband delivered the incorrect title to Bell Ford.
Bamboozled left several messages for the dealership, and on March 7, we spoke to Mark Chuhinko. He said the corrected title should be ready that very day.
Very glad to hear it, but what happened?
“We had, somehow, when we did put the lien on the title, the wrong bank was put on the lien,” he said.
Mistakes happen, but what about the eight months of delays?
“My prior office manager who is no longer with the company was handling this,” he said. “This was brought to my attention when the husband brought in the title.”
Wait. That was just a couple of days before. Evans-Andreola said she met with Chuhinko in September.
“I don’t remember that,” Chuhinko said.
He said the dealership is offering Evans-Andreola a free oil and filter change, with a free car detailing and a loaner car “for her inconvenience.”
Minutes after our call, Evans-Andreola received a call from Bell Ford, sharing the title news and offering her the freebies.
“I’m just glad the whole thing is finally coming to an end. Until I have the final correct title in my possession, I will not be at ease,” she said.
Will she accept the oil change and detailing?
She said she didn’t think so.
“I don’t think I’m comfortable leaving my car there, and I can’t wait and watch,” she said.
Either way, we hope Kathy sticks around for a long time, and Bell Ford should look to hire a few more like her.