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FactFinder 12: Family frustrated when problems surface after used-car purchase in Wichita

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 10:15 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sixteen-year-old Skyler knew what he wanted. “Skyler was pretty sold on it,” says his mom, Megan Bowen. Skyler found a 2011 black Dodge Charger on the lot of Wichita Auto Plaza. He saved all summer for it and paid about $12,000. But soon after he pulled the car off the lot, there were problems. “Check engine came on…maybe 10 miles or so,” says Skyler. He took it to long time mechanic Delbert Fleming with Cole Street Service in Moundridge. “Every warning light that could be on was on, it was running really rough, and it was leaking water,” says Fleming. “I test what I can quickly and efficiently before I call them and give them the bad news that what they just bought is less than they anticipated. It’s a much bigger issue.”

His diagnostic found an engine misfire, multiple warning lights on, a coolant leak as well as other issues including with the anti-lock brake system. “There’s potential for this to be really, really expensive,” says Fleming.

A second mechanic backed up the findings. That report found that a cylinder was failing, and the car was two quarts low on oil and low on coolant. It also noted that “possible engine replacement” was needed.

We’ve learned other consumers have had trouble with Wichita Auto Plaza. Last year the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office investigated Wichita Auto Plaza and owner Marco Abraham on allegations of “unconscionable and deceptive acts and practices.”

In a release, the District Attorney’s Office said it “Investigated the matter and Abraham admitted he refused to acknowledge implied warranties when he sold three cars with pre-existing defects, failed to disclose those defects, sold an invalid warranty to one consumer and then refused to pay for repairs or provide a refund. Abraham agreed to pay $37,269.20 in restitution to the three consumers to buy back three vehicles. Abraham also agreed to a $40,000.00 civil penalty along with the necessary court costs and investigative fees. The consent judgment calls for an injunction from engaging in deceptive or unconscionable acts and requires Abraham to cooperate in any future complaints while on a 24-month probationary period.”

Delbert Fleming is confident the issues with Skylar’s car didn’t happen after he bought it. “This didn’t happen overnight.” The Bowens would like their money back, but Abraham won’t agree to that. The contract they signed only covers 10 percent of repairs, although Abraham did agree to pay 50 percent. The Bowens have concerns that Wichita Auto Plaza doesn’t have a qualified mechanic. Abraham told Eyewitness News he does not have a certified mechanic, and his mechanic has no formal training. The Bowens admit they rushed the decision and have advice to car buyers.

“Get a thorough examination before you buy it. If the dealership isn’t willing to do it, then they’re hiding something,” says Megan.

Experts say that’s where the Bowens went wrong, and they admit it. Had this car been inspected by a qualified mechanic many of these problems would have been found before they wrote the check. Fleming says his advice would have been to pass on the car.

The Sedgwick County District Attorney did investigate the Bowen’s case but found no evidence that Wichita Auto Plaza violated the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. They must prove the dealer knew about the issues prior to sale.

District Attorney Marc Bennett can’t talk about this investigation but said that’s why his office makes consent judgments public. He wants the public to be able to do their research before making a purchase and know the history of a business. He also encourages consumers to reach out to his office if they believe a business has violated the law so they can investigate.

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