On Tuesday, James Files picketed in front of Love Nissan in St. Albans.
He’s a tall man with long gray hair, and he waved a hand-lettered sign at passing cars which said, “Love Stinks.”
Files, a retired lab technician and science educator from Poca, said he’s feeling jilted by Love Nissan, part of a local dealership called C&O Motors.
Earlier this summer, Files heard about the government’s Cash for Clunkers program. He thought he was the perfect candidate – he wanted to ditch his gas-guzzling Ford Explorer, and fell head-over-heels for a Nissan Altima Hybrid on the lot at Love Nissan.
“This is the only place they had the Altima Hybrid I wanted,” he said.
He alleges Love Nissan broke three rules of the Cash for Clunkers program.
Rule Number One involves the $4500 rebate.
Nationwide, car dealers have complained about not getting reimbursed in a timely fashion by the government. Love Nissan allegedly had a way around this problem:
“They required me to sign a $4,500 promissory note, in case the government didn’t come through with their part of the money,” Files said.
Except the government is clear on this: car dealers can’t require buyers to leave a signed check or a promissory note.
Rule number two deals with who gets the money once the clunker is junked.
“There’s an actual requirement in the government regulations that they should disclosure the salvage value and include that in the negotiations. They did not do that for us,” he said.
“The salesman actually told me, ‘You know you don’t get anything back on the salvage value.’”
He called around to several scrap yards and estimates his Explorer was worth at least $500.
Finally, he said, “They actually asked me to turn in my clunker and go find something else to drive until they got their money back from the government.”
On top of all this, Files says when he got home, he noticed what he calls “serious defects” in his paint job.
He says he’s tried to work with Love Nissan, but without luck. He says their lawyer offered him $3,000 to settle the bad-paint issue, but when he went in to sign the papers, they said he would have to drop all his other complaints, too.
He refused. Instead, he’s set up a Web site he’s calling “Love clunker fraud” and picketing Love Nissan when he can.
He’s been trying to get the media’s attention too, but for some mysterious reason, they’ve passed on this story.
“No one else called back even though I wrote all the newspapers,” he said.
“I did notice on the Web sites their top advertiser is C&O (Motors). Made it obvious why they wouldn’t cover it,” he said.
The folks inside Love Nissan declined to comment for this story. A spokeswoman for Nissan USA said she’d look into it, but didn’t call back.
So it looks like Files may be walking the streets of St. Albans for a while longer, spreading the gospel of “Love Stinks.”