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Houston Woman Demands New Truck From Toyota Dealer

May 4, 2017

By Tariq Kamal

A Houston dealership is in the crowdsourcing crosshairs after owners refused to give a new Toyota Tundra to a customer whose old truck was stolen from its service center. Photo by Katie Haugland Bowen
A Houston dealership is in the crowdsourcing crosshairs after owners refused to give a new Toyota Tundra to a customer whose old truck was stolen from its service center. Photo by Katie Haugland Bowen

HOUSTON — A Houston woman has launched a social media and local news campaign aimed at convincing Sterling McCall Toyota and its parent company, Houston-based Group 1 Automotive, to give her a new Toyota Tundra to replace a nine-year-old truck stolen from the dealership’s service department last month.

On Monday, the truck’s owner, Elizabeth McClung, posted a five-minute Facebook Live video that had collected more than 60,000 views and been shared more than 500 times at press time. In the video, McClung claims she has been treated unfairly and urges viewers to like and share her video and contact the dealership to complain on her behalf.

“Instead of protecting the customer and looking out for me and my needs, I’ve been treated pretty poorly. … The way the dealership has been dealing with me has been very much an attitude of ‘Well, sorry for your bad luck. This is your problem,’” McClung says.

The stolen pickup was recovered last week with extensive damage to the exterior and interior. The cabin and bed were full of cleaning equipment, discarded food and beverage containers, drug paraphernalia and traces of crack cocaine. Two men with no apparent connection to the dealership have been charged in the theft.

In an exclusive interview with Auto Dealer Today/F&I and Showroom, Group 1 Vice President Pete DeLongchamps said he has been in close contact with McClung’s attorney and that McClung has appeared unwilling to accept anything less than a new Toyota Tundra as compensation for her nine-year-old truck, which had 195,000 miles on the odometer and required $4,500 in repairs before the theft, according to the dealership.

DeLongchamps said McClung left her truck at Sterling McCall April 10 and ultimately declined the repairs. The theft was discovered when she returned to retrieve the truck on April 18. A review of surveillance video revealed it was stolen in the early-morning hours of April 11, shortly after service staffers unlocked the doors.

“I think that somebody convinced her she could get a brand-new truck because it was damaged so materially,” DeLongchamps said. “Speaking with her attorney, we made her an offer equal to twice what the truck is worth or to fix it, including the repairs she wanted to have done but declined. He said, ‘No, we just want a new truck.’”

Houston’s ABC and NBC affiliates have since picked up the story. McClung did not return a call seeking comment.

Opinions expressed in the comments following the Facebook video and web versions of the news stories appear to be divided. Some viewers sympathize with McClung and criticize the dealership. Others wonder why she is not pursuing compensation through the usual channels or how she would proceed if the truck had been stolen from a Walmart parking lot or a family member’s driveway.

“Her demands were perceived as completely unreasonable. The tide turned against her. The story was not a stolen car in Houston but how she was using crowdsourcing to try to get her way,” said DeLongchamps, adding that he hoped the situation will soon be resolved. “The truck did get stolen out of our shop and I feel bad for her.”

Asked what he hoped dealers would take from the story, DeLongchamps suggested they resist the urge to engage complainants online, try to communicate with aggrieved consumers directly, and never underestimate the power of digital media.

“I think you have to take it seriously, but you have to be very professional. We had one voice, one message,” he said. “In this new era of social media and crowdsourcing, you’ve got to stand up for your business and your shareholders.”

Comments

  1. 1. Bubba B [ May 05, 2017 @ 10:02AM ]

    I wonder if the crack found in the car belonged to Elizabeth McClung.

  2. 2. BRUCE FELL [ May 05, 2017 @ 10:07AM ]

    WHAT A CROCK! SHE WAS OFFERED WAY MORE THAN THE TRUCK WAS WORTH AND TURNED IT DOWN. I WONDER HOW MUCH HER INSURANCE WOULD HAVE SETTLED WITH HER.

  3. 3. Penny R [ May 05, 2017 @ 10:16AM ]

    I just don't even know what to say about people. Of COURSE it was the dealership's fault that someone not connected with the dealership came along and stole her truck. Were the keys taken from the service department? Did they leave the vehicle unlocked? Can you hear my eyes rolling?

    It needed $4500 worth of repairs that (I assume) she couldn't afford, or it wasn't worth the repair. But somehow, the dealership "owes" her a NEW truck.

    I am by no means old, but.... there are many young people who seem to think that you can take to social media and - in essence - blackmail a company into doing what you want. It's beyond ridiculous.

  4. 4. DaveW [ May 05, 2017 @ 10:53AM ]

    If dealer caves on this scam, the gates will be opened...then it's open season on every damn dealer in the USA.

  5. 5. Chad [ May 05, 2017 @ 11:38AM ]

    Not sure how it works in Texas, but here in Canada when they sign the work order for service, it states that the dealership is not responsible for anything that happens to the vehicle while there that is out of their control. The most the dealership would be responsible for here, would be their insurance deductible if it was their fault that the truck was damaged. Plus, if she declined the repair work is she really their customer. The lady is trying to take advantage of the situation and slander the dealership into complying. They should ignore her and stick to what they truly owe. People who read her story that aren't unreasonable, will see she is just looking for a free ride.

  6. 6. Pete Richards [ May 05, 2017 @ 12:13PM ]

    Extortion, plain and simple. This women should be arrested.

  7. 7. Michael Lewis [ May 05, 2017 @ 02:13PM ]

    Starting to wonder if the theft was planned all along

  8. 8. marcus martin [ May 05, 2017 @ 02:28PM ]

    A new truck is unreasonable, dont take advantage of it Elizabeth. If they are offering to fix it or replace it with a equally valuable truck that is more than fair. As far as this article goes lets face the truth. the 4500 is probably a 1500 dollar repair job especially knowing the insane amounts of profits the service departments make. Fixed operations are very profitable at Toyota dealerships. I am a former finance manager from Manhattan Beach Toyota. also the fact that it has 195K miles means nothing. Afterall its a toyota. they easily do 300K plus. So dont discount that but also I am glad to see the dealer not being pushed around by an entitled opportunist. I would be more than happy to get something maybe a couple years newer with 100K miles but thats pushing it. Asking for a brand new truck is being a bit greedy dont you think?

  9. 9. Jake bernard [ May 05, 2017 @ 04:01PM ]

    Stay strong this a perfect scam. Dealership are not liable for damage or theft unless a employee was driving it. Dont give in. Even though shes blasting you on social media.

  10. 10. BOB ADAMS [ May 05, 2017 @ 06:46PM ]

    WE OWN A GM/FORD/LINCOLN DEALERSHIP AND HAD A VERY SIMILAR SITUATION HAPPEN. CUSTOMER ASKED THE KEYS BE LEFT IN IT AND CONVIENIENTLY THE OLD P.O.S. SUBURBAN WAS STOLEN TAND THE WIFE WAS ESTATIC THAT IT WAS GONE! I SMELL A CON HERE AND UNFORTUNATELY CUSTOMERS THINK THAT THE DEALERS HAVE MONEY TREES OR SOMETHING AND IF THE REAL TRUTH CAME OUT THAT AT THE END OF THE DAY OUR PROFIT MARGINS HOPEFULLY ARE 2.5-3 %. NOT ANY ROOM FOR ERROR BY ANY MEANS. AND THE DEALERS INSURANCE(LIKE OURS) SHOULD BE TAKING CARE OF IT! END OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA SCAM! SOCIAL MEDIA HAS NO REPERCUSSIONS AND ABSOLUTELY NO ACCOUNTABILITY. CUSTOMERS CAN SLANDER YOU AND YOU CANT DO A DAMNED THING ABOUT IT AND OF COURSE EVERYTHING YOU SEE ON FACEBOOK ETC IS GOSPEL!

  11. 11. Penny R [ May 06, 2017 @ 08:31AM ]

    I have to disagree with Bob - the dealership insurance has no liability unless it was found that the truck was stolen as a result of actions of the dealership or its employees, or if they don't have a disclaimer on their *signed* repair order from when the truck was dropped off that any damages are solely the responsibility of the owner.

    Since we don't know that information (only that it was taken the day after it was dropped off "shortly after staffers unlocked the doors" - which I assume means the building, not the vehicle) we can't assume that it's the dealership's liability. .

    And to Marcus - fixed ops are there to be the stable foundation of the dealership, making money for the dealership as a whole. To make the wild allegations that there is an 'insane amount of profit' in the service department is exactly the same as people assuming that there are 'insane amounts of profit' made in the finance office. As a former finance manager, I'm sure you can understand that unfair correlation.

    The bottom line is that it should be between the customer, the police, and the customer's insurance agency. If her insurance wanted to subrogate to the dealership's insurance after determining liability, that's again between them. This woman is barking up the wrong tree, hoping that social media pressure will open the assumed deep pockets of what looks to be a highly successful large dealership.

  12. 12. John Jeffers [ May 08, 2017 @ 01:28PM ]

    I recently had a customer that bought a new vehicle and then THEY got into an accident with it a bit less than their $1000 deductible and threatened that if we didnt fix it for free they would go on social media and bad mouth us. I threw them out and told them to go fuck themselves in Macys window.

  13. 13. Cory [ May 08, 2017 @ 02:34PM ]

    Annnd yet ANOTHER reason I am no longer in the retail car business. It used to be the 10% rule...where 10% of your customers were hard to deal with and 90% were normal customers. Now, it's the 60%/30%/10% Rule where 60% of your customers are normal, 30% are hard to deal with, and 10% are out for your money and blood and will do anything to destroy your reputation. It's a very sad world we live in.

  14. 14. Pat Kirley [ May 09, 2017 @ 01:32PM ]

    To be fair she is entilted to be compensated for her loss, the pre theft value of her truck, repair to pre theft condition. She is not even entitled to the repair required quoted done free so good on the dealership for the goodwill gesture.
    She claims to be a Christian but her actions contradict her claim. Her age, gender, marital status and occupation have no baring on her case.

  15. 15. David H [ June 03, 2017 @ 12:25PM ]

    This woman is NUTS!! Tundra needed $4500 in repairs has 195k Miles 195000.00 it's probably worth maybe $4500 before damage and Group 1 offered her $9k and she turns it down because she wants a New Tundra!??!?? Good Luck to her and her attorney what a waste of time,.

 

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