Frustrated Iowa widow gets free lease after dealer crashes her c - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Frustrated Iowa widow gets free lease after dealer crashes her car

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Marilyn Brown received a new Jeep lease after she and her daughter, Jana West, complained about a previous lease deal. Marilyn Brown received a new Jeep lease after she and her daughter, Jana West, complained about a previous lease deal.
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The owner of a regional auto dealership in the Des Moines metro offered a mea culpa in the form of a free Jeep lease for three years to a 79-year-old widow caught in a bad lease deal.

Dan Boettcher, a regional vice president for Ken Garff Automotive who owns Stew Hansen Hyundai and several other dealerships, met with Marilyn Brown and her daughter Jana West last week in Ankeny.

At the meeting, Boettcher said he wanted to right the frustrating experience Brown had with Stew Hansen Hyundai, which was highlighted in a Reader's Watchdog column last week.

More than 659,000 people read the Watchdog column online about Brown’s experience after the story was published by the Register, USA TODAY, the Detroit Free Press and other outlets in the USA TODAY NETWORK.

"He offered what seemed to us to be a sincere apology for the mistakes that had been made and offered to pay for a 3-year lease at any of his dealerships,” West said.

Brown lost her husband to cancer in September, the same month the couple leased a Hyundai Tucson sport-utility vehicle from the dealership in Clive.

In October last year, a month after his death, she called the dealer to arrange to have the SUV picked up so an acrid new-car smell could be investigated.

But after an employee drove the SUV away, the dealership called to say the Tucson had been involved in an accident.

A hay bale had apparently fallen off a semi-tractor trailer onto the SUV while an employee was taking it for a test drive.

West said while her mother was driving a loaner vehicle, she was told by a Stew Hansen employee that the dealership’s corporate office had approved a new exchange vehicle.

But in November, when Brown returned without her daughter to sign off on a four-wheel-drive model of the same SUV, she was given the Tucson involved in the accident, West said.

A complaint to Iowa’s Attorney General and a letter from an attorney had had little effect when West wrote Watchdog this month.

The dealership’s general manager, Jake Paskert, told the family's attorney there was nothing he could do because the Tucson was owned by Hyundai Motor Leasing Trust.

“Unfortunately, the dealership is not able to address the issues outlined in your demand because it is not the owner of the vehicle and does not have the authority or ability to cancel the lease agreement,” he wrote.

West spoke to Hyundai’s Consumer Affairs and contacted its Customer Care in a registered letter. She never heard back.

Boettcher said Monday that company policy dictated that he could not discuss the private details of the deal.

However, he said, "I must say, as expected, we all walked away as friends, and our team feels great knowing Mrs. Brown is fully satisfied with the outcome."

At the meeting Friday, West said her mother took up Boettcher on his offer and chose a 2018 Jeep Compass from Dewey Jeep, another dealership owned by Ken Garff Automotive.

She also was given a maintenance package, a refund of her deposit money on the Tuscon and reimbursed for her attorney expenses, she said.

“He had personally picked a vehicle that included a number of extra features he believed Mom would enjoy," West told Watchdog. "Dan was right: We took the Jeep for a nice, long, test drive, and Mom was very happy with the experience.”

West thanked Watchdog for shining sunlight on her mother's story.

"Yesterday, as we were reflecting on the day, Mom said, 'Thank God for the free press,'" she said. "Today, we would add — thank God for responsive and diligent investigative reporters."

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