Patricia McKenzie is paying nearly $500 a month for a car she’s not supposed to drive.
For more than six months, she’s had no plates. No registration. No nothing.
She found the 2016 Hyundai Sonata online in early May at JAB Automotive of Old Bridge.
McKenzie said she didn’t know that there had been several dozen complaints filed against the company across two state agencies and several consumer watchdog websites. It has since shut down.
“I am also taking a $2,500 loss now because my warranty through (JAB Automotive) is no good. I just want my plates and registration and never have to deal with them again,” McKenzie said.
But every time she’s asked, she’s received nothing but excuses, she said.
The South River woman shared a string of text messages and emails with her contact at JAB over the course of months in which she repeatedly asked for updates on her plates and registration. They gave a variety of reasons for the delays throughout the summer, often saying they would come soon. But they never did.
During the week of Oct. 4, text messages show, her contact dropped the bomb: “Unfortunately, Jab has been closed,” he wrote. “I’m finishing up getting old deals like your self registered. I will call today and see status.”
But more than a month later, McKenzie still didn’t have anything but expired temporary plates and a car that’s not legal to drive.
She asked Bamboozled for help after seeing a 2019 column in which we helped another driver with the same problem — with the same dealer.
Back then, JAB Automotive had four complaints with the Better Business Bureau. That number has increased to 36 in the last three years as of Monday.
The N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs said it has received 30 complaints about JAB since December 2014, and 25 of those complaints remain “open and under review.” It it not known any of the complaints to Consumer Affairs overlap with the Better Business Bureau.
The Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) said JAB’s dealership license was suspended on Sept. 1 and the company has gone out of business. The agency said it had 18 complaints lodged against JAB Automotive in the last 12 months.
Jay Brichke, who is listed as JAB’s owner in public records, did not respond to a Facebook message and attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful.
Consumers who purchase a car from a dealership that subsequently closes are often left hanging, unable to obtain the paperwork needed to make themselves street legal.
MVC said consumers affected by the JAB closure should follow its instructions for acquiring a title from a closed dealership.
But it’s not easy. Drivers must submit the original bill of sale and the original temporary registration tag. Photos of the vehicle identification number (VIN) and all four sides of the vehicle must be submitted. If the car wasn’t previously registered in New Jersey, drivers have to get a lien search from the motor vehicle departments of New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland. If there is a lien, they have to get a “Letter of No Interest,” or “Lien Satisfaction,” from the lienholder.
There’s more, but you get the idea.
If you have questions about the process, you can contact MVC’s Foreign Title Unit, which handles the “Dealer Out of Business Process,” at (609) 292-6500, extension 5064, the agency said.
It also recommends affected consumers to file a complaint with Consumer Affairs.
We reached out to McKenzie’s JAB contact, who said he would help with McKenzie’s plates and registration.
“I told her I would continue to help her, just as a good person. I have nothing to do with it,” he said of JAB’s troubles. “I was just a manager there selling cars. I didn’t handle the back end.”
He said he would talk to MVC.
He promised the same to McKenzie in a text message, stressing that he was helping as a private citizen and not as a representative of JAB.
“We have everything we need,” he texted her later, saying he would get McKenzie’s paperwork to MVC, but after that, processing would be at the agency’s mercy.
He told Bamboozled the paperwork was submitted to the South Brunswick MVC through a courier company.
But there was a problem, MVC said.
“There were errors in the paperwork submitted by the dealer,” MVC spokesman William Connolly said. “MVC staff continues to work closely with (the courier) to fix the errors, but we are still awaiting a resubmission of paperwork from JAB Automotive.”
After more than a week of back and forth over the submission, there was good news. MVC said it received the correct paperwork and it would be overnighting the plates and registration to the courier company.
“Patricia McKenzie should receive the permanent plates, registration, and title from JAB Automotive in coming days,” spokesman Connolly said.
So now, more than six months after buying her car, McKenzie will finally be able to drive it legally.
“Knowing that (the plates and registration) are coming is such amazing news,” McKenzie said. “I can finally get back to life without worrying about liabilities.”
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NJ Advance Media Research Editor Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report.
Karin Price Mueller may be reached at [email protected].