Car buyers still waiting for titles
A few days before Labor Day 1999, Linda Trischler bought a used Ford Explorer. Four months later she still hasn’t been given the title.
Trischler, along with her husband, is one of 12 customers of Baker Automotive – which is now out of business – to whom titles were never delivered on used vehicles purchased as far back as last summer.
Car dealers have 50 days to provide customers with a vehicle’s title or face administrative and criminal repercussions, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Trischler and others who have not received their titles can no longer complain to Baker Automotive because it is undergoing a change of ownership. The dealership is currently being managed by its future owners.
Customers can, however, petition the escrow company handling the purchase to reimburse them for the cost of obtaining the title themselves, or having the DMV recreate it.
“My understanding is that it is all to be taken care of by the change of ownership,” said Maureen Rule, an investigator for the DMV. “Money is being set aside in an escrow account and payments are being made on the transfers.”
Titles are purchased from a car’s former owner by the dealer who is responsible for registering the car in the new owner’s name. The cost of registration is included in a car’s purchase price.
“They said that they would keep me informed,” Dennis Back said of Spring Mountain Escrow after he filed a claim for a title on a car purchased on Oct. 5, 1999. “I don’t have really high hopes. I think that someone should just smack this guy around.”
Spring Mountain could not provide details regarding the change of ownership or payment of title transfers, and Richard Baker could not be reached for comment.
In December, Rule told the Tribune that she did not believe Baker could afford to purchase the titles he had withheld from his customers, but a manager at Baker Automotive – who wished to remain anonymous – said the transfers would be complete in a matter of days.
“There is nothing here that is not going to be paid. That is absolute,” he said in December. “Most of it I believe will be taken care of within 48 hours. We have sent a man down (to the Bay Area) to collect the disputed titles.”
The manager’s comments ran in an Dec. 10 article in which Trischler complained about Baker’s failure to transfer his title. The day after the article ran Baker called Trischler and told her he had her title but, according to Trischler, said sarcastically, “‘Well, we saw your name in the paper.'”
“To this day we still haven’t seen the title,” she said. “He hates me now because I made him look bad.”
After a trip to the DMV on Jan. 26, Trischler was further outraged when she learned that Baker Automotive had been paying registration fees on her title since September, meaning it was in their possession when she bought the car.
Neither Trischler or Back know when they will finally receive their titles or how much it will cost.
“I hear the new owners are fairly stable,” the DMV’s Rule said. “Hopefully, the new owners will be like the other two car dealers up there who we never hear from.”
When the sale is finalized later this month the dealership will be known as Lake Tahoe Auto Village. New owner Brian Herrera said he has little contact with Baker.
“I really don’t know what he is doing,” he said. “For all intents and purposes he is gone.”
“We are very stable,” Herrera said. “We want to make sure this place comes back to life.”
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