Buying your first car as a teenager, is a rite of passage and the freedom a car affords at that age is unmatched. But to have that dream derailed by a salesperson’s and dealership’s shenanigans sucks. As CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reports, that’s what happened to one teen whose first car was repossessed five months after he paid cash for it.
Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Fredricks worked at Chick-Fil-A for over a year to save up enough money to buy his first car. And it wasn’t just a tiny sum of money, it was $10,000.
Fredricks’ grandfather, Larry Messer, said he would take the newly-turned 16-year-old car shopping for his birthday. The two eventually ended up at a Dallas-area dealer called I Drive-DFW.
During their visit, Fredericks and Messer dealt with a salesperson by the name of James Steelman. After some time, the teen was unable to find anything he liked on the I Drive-DFW lot. That’s when Steelman offered his own personal vehicle for sale: a 2016 Mazda CX-5.
Fredericks said, “It looked great. It was super clean, nice, and pretty new so I was like, let’s go for it.”
So the teen directly paid Steelman $9,893 for the CX-5, because again, Steelman owned the vehicle. Five months later, while Fredricks was out shopping, he exited the store to find his vehicle getting towed. The dealer had tracked Fredericks down to repossess the Mazda because it was never Steelman’s car to begin with.
I Drive-DFW tells an interesting story: A manager from the dealer said that the Mazda was sold to Steelman months before, but they repossessed it when he stopped making payments. They also claim that Steelman was working as a “freelance salesman” the day that Fredricks bought the vehicle (I’ve never heard of someone working as a freelance salesperson). The dealer goes on to explain that due to these circumstances, the vehicle belongs to the dealer. They also claim they weren’t aware Steelman ever sold the vehicle.
Steelman also has an interesting explanation in his side of the story. He claims he was squared away on the Mazda with the dealer and had every right to sell the car. He also shares that he filed bankruptcy a year before and included the Mazda as a protected asset. “I’m just trying to make it right as best I can,” he claims. His past kinda says otherwise. He was convicted of fraud 13 years ago and had committed other white collar crimes before that. But Steelman claims he’s been trying to make his life better since.
That last little bit is not a good track record to have when you’ve put yourself and a 16-year-old kid into this kind of situation. And while the dealer is trying to make it right for Fredricks, he’s still out of $10,000 and a car.
I believed him,” said Fredricks’ grandfather, Larry Messer. “He (Steelman) was the nicest man and I guess that’s how you get in this kind of trouble.