Today’s Wall Street Journal article written by Andrew Grossman highlights Luxury Vehicles Exporting for profit.
Focusing primarily on the government’s seizure of bank accounts and assets from several companies and individuals involved in large scale overseas shipping of BMW, Porsche, Land Rover, Mercedes Benz and Audi vehicles, the article points out that a brewing lawsuit against the government could have drastic effects on the export marketplace.
Unsuspecting victims in a victim-less crime?
What Mr. Grossman missed in his story, is the unsuspecting individuals who see only a easy way to make a few extra bucks during the holidays. Ads on Craig s List and Backpage suggest a few hours of work transporting vehicles will net $500.00. Not so fast or easy… the exporter soon details the need for full coverage insurance, a military id being preferable and the willingness to sign your name and social security number to a car you will only own (and insure) on paper.
The paper is a title, and registration, which results in further taxes in some states and often scrutiny into how many cars the individual has bought and no longer owns, in a given year. It’s called being a STRAW BUYER, and in many states buying a vehicle for someone else, or reselling more than 3 vehicles a year requires a dealers license. Several individuals have reported being asked to sign lease or loan documents to secure a car, leaving them financially exposed if the broker fails to payoff the vehicle.
In some cases the people involved in exporting vehicles are deemed “unsavory” and known associates could be painted with the same brush. One has to ask oneself, If military or security clearance is attached to your job, would this become a problem?
Dealers are asking buyers to sign agreements that the buyer (person with name on title) will not export the vehicle and if that same person breaks the agreement, they understand they will/could be sued for thousands of dollars.
The “mule” can find themselves in a twisted affair with agencies and individuals at odds and unwanted pressure to act in a manner many find uncomfortable. “I felt threatened” said Dave, “these people were not nice, never answered the phone and when I went there to collect my money, they tried to stiff me for half.”
Another tactic dealers are using to try and reign in the broker-exporter assault is to “hold” the title for an extended period of time, while notarizing the documents and registering the vehicle on the buyers behalf. While the vehicle can-not leave the USA without a title, stories of false identification as a buyer-owner has been known to appear as attempts to secure a second “duplicate” title with application has been made at some motor vehicle departments.
The article highlights the disparity in cost of these vehicles between the US and China, and the reaction of the Chinese government to the manufacturers varying price structures. It goes on to say the manufacturer has right to regulate the product.
Ultimately, the auto dealers are held to a set of standards in delivering the product. Dealers knowingly selling to exporters are seeing their allocations cut and fines assessed. All in an effort to curb exports.
In the end, it’s the unsuspecting citizen that gets burned, not the dealer, exporter-broker.
“Buyer beware” has a whole new meaning this year!
Sarah Lee Marks is MyCarlady. She has over 23+ years of experience.
She writes about cars, and is a staunch consumer advocate on car related subjects.
MyCarlady offers free car buying advice, and private, auto-related services to help you maintain your personal or commercial vehicles.
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