While much has been in the news lately about rising auto sales, what do dealers do when the customers refuse to make their monthly payments? New technology has given them another tool to assist them in reclaiming their vehicles.
Many car dealers, especially those who cater to people with bad credit, are quietly installing a GPS system on the vehicles they sell to customers on payment plans. This is not the standard GPS system that drivers use to help them get directions to places; rather it is intended to help the repo man in the unfortunate event the dealer needs to reclaim the car.
While dealers do not ever want to have to repossess a car they sell, when it becomes necessary it can become a cat and mouse type game with the buyer attempting to move the car around to make it difficult to find and the repo people who have the job of going out and reclaiming the property that legally belongs to the car dealer. In this back and forth battle, the GPS is a new weapon in the repo wars.
The GPS devices make it easier for the repo man to find the vehicle despite attempts to hide it. Some devices go beyond merely revealing the location of the vehicle but will actually render the car inoperable if a customer falls behind on their payments until they bring the account current.
While the devices are perfectly legal, dealers have found themselves in legal hot water when they fail to tell buyers they are installing the devices on the cars.
Bond Auto Sales in St. Petersburg, Fla. has been accused of installing GPS systems without telling buyers in three different lawsuits.
They don’t want the customer to know that if they don’t pay, they can come find it,” Duane Overholt, an industry critic who runs the website stopautofraud.com says.
The lawsuit against Bond Auto Sales alleges that when buyers paid off their cars they were invited back to the dealer for a free “safety check” where mechanics would remove the devices.
Placing GPS systems on vehicles is becoming such a widespread practice that the industry has its own trade group, the Payment Assurance Technology Association. Members in the trade group are expected to abide by a code of ethics that require them to “fully define and disclose” the devices to customers.
“It’s just good business to let the customer know that the dealer has the ability to either disable the starter of the vehicle or locate the vehicle,” Dave Ronsky, CEO of Ohio-based Payteck said. “That way, customers know their payment isn’t optional. That’s a more effective behavior modification tool.”