PATERSON, N.J. - Willow-brook Nissan in Totowa, N.J., is being sued by 58 car buyers who accuse the dealership of fraud, deception and civil rights violations.
Most of the plaintiffs are Asian Indians, many of whom are related and bought cars as a group. Others are African Americans, said Amy Peterson, a Passaic, N.J., attorney representing the buyers.
She said customers were tricked into signing blank sales and financing agreements, and ended up with much higher prices and much more costly financing than they thought they had negotiated.
In one case, for example, a customer contends he was given the price of a Nissan Quest as $16,600, with an interest rate of 4.9 percent. When the deal went through, the price was $30,000 and the interest rate was 10 percent, Peterson said.
The base price of a 1998 Quest ranges from $23,589 to $29,087, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Willowbrook sales personnel told customers they were being asked to sign blank documents for reasons such as crashed computers, bank holiday closings or banks' business hours, Peterson said.
The suits were filed in Passaic County Superior Court in Paterson, and have been consolidated into one action. Named are Alfred Bluh of Wayne, N.J., president and owner of Willowbrook, several employees and former employees, as well as Nissan North America Inc., Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. and several banks.
On April 28, Willowbrook Nissan filed for involuntary bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy law. On June 8, the status was changed to Chapter 11 for voluntary bankruptcy and protection from creditors, the bankruptcy court said.
Managers of the dealership did not respond to requests for comment. Bluh could not be reached at his home or the dealership.
Superior Court Judge Anthony Graziano blocked the finance companies from repossessing most of the vehicles in question. He did allow repossession of a dozen cars that were in the hands of Willow-brook customers as loaners.
The 58 car buyers have asked for a jury trial, and want an undetermined amount of compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, attorney fees and court costs.