Knoxville car dealer closes, customers’ car loans in limbo

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A family in Halls found themselves with two car payments when they should have only had one.

On April 13, Melissa Smith bought a 2007 Chevy Tahoe for $14,000 from Knoxville Auto Brokers on Clinton Highway. Smith said her family wanted a bigger car for their family, so they traded in her 2013 Ford Fusion for the vehicle.

However, just weeks after the Smiths traded vehicles, without warning the dealership closed. The Smiths still owed money on their Ford Fusion when they traded it in, however, the couple’s bill of sale stipulated Knoxville Auto Brokers would pay off the loan.

“We trusted their word to give us a reliable vehicle and they would take care of our Fusion, pay it off like they said in the contract,” said Smith. “They didn’t.”

Smith was unaware the dealer had breached its contract until she got a “Demand for Payment” notification from her loan company.

“We were confused. We didn’t know why we got this because we had a legal binding contract through the dealership,” said Smith.

It turned out the Ford Fusion sat on an auction lot for two months and was never sold. The Smiths’ loan company got it back to them since it was still their car. Now they owe more than $23,000 on both vehicles.

Records show Brad and Crissy Hensley owned and operated Knoxville Auto Brokers since April 2012. The Smiths want the Hensleys to uphold their promise.

WATE 6 On Your Side talked with Crissy Hensley. She said her husband is working with the Smiths.

When asked when the Smiths would get their Title, Crissy Hensley said, “In the state of Tennessee there is a consumer protection act where all the consumers have to get their title. So he’ll give it.” However, when pressed when they would get the title she just said, “she has to work with the floor plan to do that.”

Crissy Hensley said her husband would be at the detail shop he operates on Maynardville Highway in North Knoxville to explain. However, when WATE 6 On Your Side returned the next day, the doors to the business were closed and we were asked to leave the location.

Car dealers are required to have surety bonds which are like insurance tools used to limit risk. WATE 6 On Your Side learned the Hensleys only had the minimum surety bond allowed, which is $50,000.

Christina Shockley is a used car business manager and is familiar with surety bonds. She said the Smiths should file against the Hensleys’ bond as soon as possible.

“It is a first come, first served. Once that bond is exhausted it is exhausted,” said Shockley. “There could be other customers in line.”

Smith said she was able to talk with Brad Hensley and he said he would take care of everything, but he has not yet. Other customers with the dealership have told WATE 6 On Your Side a similar story. Their deals were made just before the lot closed are now in limbo.

“To me, it is stealing,” said Smith “It is fraud.”

Lisa Wilson, meanwhile, has been waiting for nearly three months for her tag and car title.

Wilson said she really liked the 12 year old Infiniti G-35 when she drove it off Knoxville Auto Brokers’ lot three months ago. She paid off the $6,000 deal in three weeks.

Wilson said the car’s radiator was first to give her trouble at the end of April. She returned to Knoxville Auto Brokers and found dozens of cars that had once been on the lot were gone. The business had closed.

When the deal was made, Wilson paid Knoxville Auto Brokers for the title transfer and tags, but the car lot never followed through. At the end of last month, Wilson was able to get a new temporary tag for her Infiniti.

However, she recently learned something disturbing about her car from the state.

“They led me to believe there is a lien against my car that I don’t know about,” she said.

So far, Wilson has not heard a thing from the former owners of the car lot.

Papers Wilson acquired show the Hensleys had a $50,000 surety bond. Wilson has filed against it and was told her claim is being processed. She was also told if there is a previous lien on her car, the bond should pay it. Supposedly, the Hensleys are working with the state to get the title and tag situation worked out for their former customers, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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