An open records request to the Colorado Department of Revenue Auto Industry Division (AID) seeking all complaints submitted about the major Grand Junction auto dealerships over the last two years showed no complaints were submitted against Western Slope Auto, which sells Ford, Lincoln & Toyota, no complaints were submitted against Ed Bozarth Chevrolet & Buick, no complaints were submitted against Grand Junction Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, and no complaints were submitted against Jim Fuoco Motors or Fuoco Honda in 2021, before it was sold to Red Rock Auto Group in April of 2022, but within the last two years at least 15 complaints were submitted about Red Rock Auto Group’s stores. There were at least two more complaints beyond the 15 documented ones the Auto Industry Division sent that were submitted against Red Rock, but one of them was still undergoing investigation and they could not release information on it, and the other was dismissed after the complainant chose not to pursue it further. Another complaint against Red Rock was submitted to the Colorado State Attorney General, who is investigating it. This makes a total of 18 known complaints lodged against Red Rock Auto Group stores in Grand Junction in the last 2 years.
The 15 complaints for which records were obtained consisted of 8 against Red Rock Nissan, 4 against Kia and 3 against the Hyundai dealership.
Most of the people who filed complaints cited more than one violation, too. In some complaints, the AID investigator spotted legal violations by Red Rock that the customers themselves didn’t even notice, for example the rate of interest for a customer’s loan was inconsistent in several places within the documents. The breakdown of the complaints was as follows:
- Failure to deliver a vehicle title within the legally-required 30 days – 7 complaints
- Failure to honor the advertised price for the vehicle – 4 complaints
- Listing different loan interest rates in different places in the paperwork – 4 instances
- Mentions of forgery – 2 in the course of making other complaints
- Failure to payoff trade/ “equity skimming” – 1 complaint
- Misuse of auto dealer demo plates – 1 complaint
- Failure to notify a customer within 10 days that their financing had fallen through – 1 complaint
Equity skimming of a vehicle is a Class 6 felony in Colorado.
“Equity skimming” is when a dealership takes possession of a vehicle that has a loan on it in exchange for some consideration (even a verbal promise to a customer), and then sells or leases it to a third party without first getting permission from the creditor who holds the loan, or making sure the loan balance is paid off.
In Colorado, equity skimming of a vehicle is a Class 6 felony punishable by imprisonment of 12 to 18 months and fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. Examples of other Class 6 felonies include invasion of privacy for sexual gratification and impersonating a peace officer.
Forgery is a class 5 felony in Colorado.
Both mentions of forgery in the complaints (Complaints # 21-0309 and 21-0310) involved Red Rock Nissan, but it appears the dealership got no specific warnings or suffered any consequences related to the customers’ claims of forgery. Rather, it appears the AID paid no attention to it, and instead both the complainants and the AID focused on Nissan’s failure to follow through on deals the dealership made with the customers to compensate them for the accused forgeries. No investigations were made into the claims of forgery and no criminal charges were levied against Red Rock even though in Colorado, forgery of a legal or financial document is a class 5 felony punishable by one to three years in state prison and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000. Rather, the AID appeared to turn a blind eye to the accusations of forgery, and let Red Rock off the hook in exchange for the dealership compensating the customers who spotted the crime and reported it.
In all complaints, the AID found Red Rock had violated one or more state statutes governing motor vehicle commerce and issued only written and/or verbal warnings that cited Colorado Revised Statute 44-20-121, which calls for the “denial, suspension or revocation” of a motor vehicle dealership’s license “for willful violation of any state or federal law respecting commerce or motor vehicles.”
These repeated warnings turned out to be empty threats, though. All Red Rock’s management had to do was tell the AID investigator some version of the following sentence:
“We understand and will do what we can to try and make sure this doesn’t happen again,”
.. and the AID never levied any consequences against Red Rock for any of their violations, even the most serious ones. Instead, the violations just get repeated over and over, with more letters sent.
No protection from the State — buyer beware
The fact that no complaints were submitted against other dealerships in town while so many were submitted against Red Rock seems to indicate that Red Rock is operating on a fundamentally different business model than the other dealerships in Grand Junction.
That has been borne out in the stories customers have told about their experiences in dealing with Red Rock.
The facts show that a dealership can repeatedly cheat customers and violate state laws without suffering any consequences from the State agency charged with regulating them. So unless you take a lawyer or someone knowledgeable about buying vehicles with you to purchase a vehicle, no mechanism is in place to protect you from becoming the victim of fraud at the hands of a dealership, and no one will enforce your rights when you buy from a dealership and find you’ve gotten screwed. And Red Rock seems to know it.
Given this, it’s no wonder Red Rock has been emboldened to find ever more creative ways to cheat customers and has done so more and more frequently over the time they’ve been in Grand Junction. They’ve never faced a serious consequence from any law enforcement agency for any of their violations, and know they won’t, so they were confident they could get away with it.
So far they’ve been right. In the rare case that a customer caught the dealership misusing their digital signature, adding unapproved overcharges or on a forgery, the dealership simply compensated the customer and got off the hook for wrongdoing, no matter the level of severity or how often they engaged in that fraudulent activity.
The State provides no motive for dealerships to conduct business honestly, so the task falls to customers to push back by telling their stories about how they get treated at these dealerships, and agreeing to make that information public, so others know about it too, and potential customers get warned.
And more than likely Red Rock’s recent PR move of hiring of former state Auto Industry Division investigator Dale Sundeen into a purported enforcement role will change nothing, since Sundeen was the investigator who let Red Rock off the hook most often, in this case letting them skate on 13 of the 15 legal violations he found in the complaints.