A dealer in a southeastern state says Ford Motor levied a $1 million chargeback against his store. He says he was forced to sell his dealership because a sales manager committed fraud without his knowledge. The dealer asked not to be identified because the audit is not complete. He would not identify the sales manager.
"I took the hit because I hired" the manager, the dealer says. "He would call an employee and get his (identification) number and put the number on the deal, which would get $1,000 to add to the down payment, so the deal would fly."
In other instances, dealerships created phony employees to offer customers unauthorized discounts, says Bob Hughes, a consultant with Dewitt and Lane, an Indianapolis consulting company that helps dealerships with factory audits.
"Ford has a registry of dealership employees," Hughes says. An offending dealer "would add the customer's name" as a dealership employee, he says.
"The customer would buy a car 24 hours later," Hughes says. "A week later, the dealership would purge the customer's name from the system."
Some dealers say Ford is penalizing them unfairly for sloppy record keeping, not fraud.
Bob Poklar, a dealer attorney in Cleveland, says several of his clients face five-figure chargebacks for failing to document D Plan eligibility to Ford Motor's standards.
"In some cases, auditors wanted to see adoption papers or marriage licenses," Poklar says. "The dealers didn't have the papers and felt they were too personal in nature to go back and ask for them."
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