MESQUITE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - The company that was planning to purchase an embattled Mesquite dealership has backed out of the deal.
For months, the Ones for Justice has been reporting on Fenton Hyundai of Mesquite. The Texas Division of Motor Vehicles is investigating hundreds of complaints related to the dealership. More than 400 drivers are still waiting on their vehicle titles, according to the Dallas County Tax Office.
That's why Kamkad Automotive, a local company that buys distressed dealerships, seemed like the answer to customers' prayers.
Kamkad CEO Ken Strickler repeatedly told the Ones for Justice via email that he was in the process of purchasing Fenton Hyundai. Kamkad said his company even assumed management operations for Fenton during the month of May. Employees confirmed this when the Ones for Justice visited the dealership several weeks ago.
But now Strickler says the deal is off.
The decision comes as TxDMV is trying to revoke Kamkad's own license, according to documents obtained by the Ones for Justice.
In fact, the Ones for Justice discovered Kamkad is suffering from some of the very same issues that plague Fenton Hyundai.
TxDMV has received 77 complaints about the dealerships linked to Strickler, according to Adam Shaivitz, the spokesman for TxDMV.
"Something that should have been a joyous experience has turned into a nightmare," said Crystal Yamrus, a customer who purchased a car from Alfa Romeo Fiat of McKinney.
In April, Yamrus traded in her Kia Optima for the car of her dreams. But the dealership has yet to pay off her trade-in vehicle, which means she must make two monthly car payments.
Yamrus is still waiting on her license plates. The situation forced her to purchase a second set of temporary tags.
"I went to a dealership thinking it's a reputable dealership, nothing shady," Yamrus said. "It looks nice, it's Alfa Romeo Fiat."
"We just couldn't manage it," Stricler said. "They have no revenue."
Fenton's dealer license is currently under review by TxDMV after it expired at the end of May.
Strickler denied he withdrew from the Fenton deal because of the mounting issues with his own company, Kamkad.
In an email obtained by the Ones for Justice, a state investigator told a complainant that Kamkad was more than $1.3 million dollars in debt.
But Strickler revealed that the investigator's figure only scratches the surface, estimating his enterprise is actually facing a debt that's closer to $35 million dollars.
"I'm not trying to deflect the blame," Strickler said. "It's on us 100 percent."
Strickler said he ordered too many luxury cars in 2017 and fell behind with his lender.
"To lower our lender's risk, we had to increase customer dissatisfaction," Strickler said.
At his three dealerships, Strickler said he still needs to resolve 26 trade-in issues to the tune of $700,000, on top of 40 tax, title and license transactions.
But it could take time before Strickler addresses consumers' concerns.
"There's no money left for anything," Strickler said.
The CEO maintained he is in the process of selling his dealerships in McKinney and Huntsville, even though TxDMV has no records of buy/sell applications on file, according to spokesman Adam Shaivitz.
Strickler also made a bold promise.
"I'm confident all this is solved in a month, worst case by the first week of July," said Strickler, who claimed he is banking on these real estate transactions to unlock equity.
"Every single problem?" asked reporter Alanna Autler. "Every single problem," Strickler replied.
The Ones for Justice intends to hold Strickler to that promise.
Even though Strickler said Kamkad lacked the cash to resolve numerous consumer complaints, he said his company does have enough money to reimburse customers renewed their temporary tags.
"We will gladly reimburse it," Strickler said. "We have $30."
Strickler welcomed customers to contact Kamkad at 972-846-4172. Platform manager Darrell Cresswell can also be reached at 754-779-2171.
Christina O'Donnell purchased a used vehicle from Kamkad earlier this year. She said she is still waiting for her title and license plates, even though she paid in cash.
Now, O'Donnell said her insurance company is threatening to drop her since she cannot prove she owns her Mazda.
Days after the Ones for Justice met with Strickler, Christina O'Donnell received an email from Kamkad that vowed to fix her problem.
She said she'll believe it when she sees it.
"Never in a million years have I ever seen anything like this," O'Donnell said. "Give me my title, give me my registration... just give me what I need."
Kamkad was operating without a license to finance vehicles in Dallas and Collin counties, according to information provided by Kimberly Billeaud, the spokeswoman for the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner.
Alfa Romeo Fiat of McKinney surrendered its license to finance vehicles in July 2017.
"Truthfully we didn't know we didn't have one," Strickler said.
The OCCC can take enforcement action against businesses by issuing cease and desist orders, requiring restitution and/or imposing administrative penalties. But unlicensed activity can also be resolved by obtaining a license and paying a late fee, according to Billeaud.
Brad Fenton, the owner of Fenton Hyundai of Mesquite, did not respond to questions about what lies ahead for his dealership and customers.
TxDMV issued a bulletin in late May, authorizing Fenton customers to receive more than three 30-day permits after speaking with the department. Now Fiat Chrysler, the distributor of Alfa Romeo vehicles in the U.S., is asking more customers to come forward.
"FCA US...has learned that two independently operated dealerships of its products, Alfa Romeo Fiat of McKinney and Alfa Romeo of Dallas, have not met the customer service standards expected of FCA US dealerships based on the receipt of complaints received directly from customers.
FCA US is working with the dealerships, owned by KamKad Automotive Group, to remedy the customer complaints it has received. FCA US takes pride in its products, and in its relationships with customers, and will continue to review all available remedies and to work with any impacted customers."
Impacted customers may call FCA's main customer line at 800-992-1997 if they leased or purchased a new/used FCA product at one of those KamKad Automotive Group-owned dealerships. That way we will know if they're an impacted customer."
- To file a complaint with TxDMV, click here.
- To file a complaint with the Office of the Texas Attorney General, click here.
for more features.