Dealer totals car - what now?

This story has been making the rounds on various car sites. The Cliff’s Notes version is that a couple left their car at the dealership for paint repairs. An employee came into the dealership while it was closed, took the car for a spin and totaled it. The employee was fired, the couple notified, and then… things get weird.

The car was totaled by the insurance company, but the couple that owned the car feels the insurance payout isn’t enough to get them into a car as nice as theirs was and the dealership should make up the difference. The dealer has made two “goodwill” overtures - $4000 cash (refused) and a replacement car for them to buy that wasn’t as nice as theirs. At this point, they’re at an impasse and the lawyers will settle things.

What is the dealership’s liability to the couple that owned the car? It seems the owners were under-insured, since they think the payout won’t replace their car with one as nice, but that isn’t the dealer’s fault.

More details.

The dealership finds them a car.

I don’t think it matters, in this case, that the owners were underinsured. The car was stolen from inside the locked garage of the dealership.

The dealership, IMO, needs to replace the car, with the identical one, or give the Hoopers the cash to replace it themselves. From there they can make a claim against their insurance company and/or sue that employee. The Hoopers are right, they left the car with the dealership and now they’re getting screwed.

In addition, they need to be hitting up all the local media outlets. If they make sure it’s on the news once a week or so, eventually the dealership will cave and just write them the $60K check that they’re asking for. I don’t think that’s unfair. I mean, would you leave your car with a dealer if you thought this might happen…I might, but not if I also had to buy myself a new car after they crashed it.

IANAL, but here are my IMHO thoughts:

The dealer is responsible for either replacing the car with one as close to the original one or better, or pay a cash amount that the couple agrees to. A car owner expects and is entitled to reasonable care by the dealership. The ex-employee was an ‘agent of the dealership’, so the dealership is responsible for his actions. What the dealer’s insurance company will pay is irrelevant. They need to ‘make it whole’. If their insurance will not cover the required amount, then the dealership is out the rest. The dealership might pursue civil action against the ex-employee.

The car owners are not at fault here. Therefore, it is up to the dealership to make it right.

The owners have already been paid by their own insurance company - they should get a double payout?

The problem now is that lawyers are involved and, no doubt, the dealership has better lawyers then the guy who said he can’t afford another car. That’s why, IMO, he needs to get this story into the news paper, on the news, talk to whichever news station runs a Consumer Advocate section that will go bug the GM at home on Sunday morning. He should also be writing letters to his States Attorney General and he might as well send one to the Attorney General in whatever state the dearlerships main make is headqurtered out of.

Yeah, it sounds open-and-shut to me, too. Is there even any dispute as to the facts of the case? It looks like the dealership has admitted to what happened, or they wouldn’t have fired the employee and made the offers they did.

I didn’t see that in the article, but typically when something like that happens, for example, if you get an insurance payout AND sue someone (and win) you have to payback the insurance company. It’s not a big deal.

This. It does not matter that the owners might have been underinsured, because they were not responsible for the vehicle’s loss. If they’d wrecked it, how sad too bad. But the loss is 100% on the dealer for allowing it to be stolen (even with special circumstances) and it’s up to them to make good… less any prior insurance settlement.

Kind of a moron factor here, though, owning a car like that and driving it without replacement insurance. But that’s an elephant.

There’s the issue that the employee went rogue on this. If he had been on duty and totaled a customer’s car, then there would be no question the business was responsible. But the fact that he broke in after hours makes it a more open case.

I see where you’re coming from, but that’s the dealership’s problem. The dealership needs to replace the car for the owner first. How they recover that cost is on them. They can sue the employee, the can make an insurance claim and let the insurance decide if they want to sue him, they can just let it go, whatever. But they can’t just tell the owner ‘tough shit’, here’s a couple grand.

Check your own vehicle insurance. Most insured only have insurance for current fair market value and not full replacement value.

But their insurance likely isn’t even coming into play here. By that logic, if they didn’t have any insurance the dealership shouldn’t have to replace the car at all.

My guess is that if the dealer were liable because the car was taken from their property then the couple’s insurance company would be looking to collect from the dealership. Keep in mind the car was totaled and the couple received $60,000. But they feel they should receive more. So the dealership may argue that the couple has been paid for their car and isn’t entitled to collect a second time. And I can see the insurer arguing that if the couple does manage to collect money from the dealer then the insurer and not the couple is entitled to that money.

The disagreement, at its core, isn’t whose insurance pays but how it leaves him. If he had wrecked the car himself, he’d be where he is now - he didn’t get gap coverage or agreed value insurance, so he’s getting market value. From the dealership’s perspective, it is what it is, tough.

The owner’s feeling seems to be that if he’d totaled it himself and faced the loss on market value, yeah, he’d eat the difference, since he was responsible. What’s galling is he’s taking the hit when someone else wrecked the car. I can understand that, but I don’t get how he’d argue that legally, which is why I posted. I think the dealer making up the difference is fair, but is it legal?

My own opinion is, legal or not, it’s sensible. This is a PR fiasco and dragging it out will cost them more than the difference in value he wants made up.

Correct. I’m merely commenting on the OP’s statement as is and nothing more. IANAL but it seems to me the dealer is on the hook for the full replacement value of the vehicle.

I didn’t see that they got the $60K. If he got what he paid for the car 2 years ago he probably should be happy. That doesn’t happen very often.

They didn’t pay just $60,000 for it. They also traded in two other Camaros, so they’re out the value of them as well.

A quick check of a 2012 Camaro ZL1, assuming 25k miles and “very good”: condition, is about $46k. That’s very close to its likely list price of $50-52k.

So I’m not sure where “$60k” comes in unless that was the out the door price with tax, reg, dealer fees, etc. In any case, it’s irrelevant what they paid and/or traded in on it. The insured value is current replacement at most. So if they got $60k as a settlement they should shut up and move on.

The dealer should absolutely take care of this and make it right to make the people happy and to clear their name, but what’s the law on this? If my car gets stolen from the mall, the mall doesn’t owe me a car. I understand it was an employee, but it didn’t happen as part of normal business. Once the theft occurred, I’d think responsibility would rest on the thief.