Some customers say they’re still unable to make payments following abrupt closure of Jacksonville dealership; BBB urges patience

American Car Center suddenly closed, leaving customers with questions about payments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More customers of the Jacksonville car dealership that suddenly closed its doors in February are expressing their worries to the News4JAX I-TEAM.

The American Car Center had dozens of locations around the country, including three in Jacksonville.

The dealership abruptly shutdown without notification to its customers or employees. Customers shared their concerns about their vehicles being repossessed because they did not know how to make payments going forward.

American Car Center only leases vehicles to customers, and all of the cars, trucks and SUVs have a GPS tracker and a kill switch that can be activated remotely if drivers don’t pay their bills.

Several customers told the I-TEAM that their online payments are still being rejected. They also said they can’t get a loan payoff amount or a permanent license plate.

The company’s website instructs customers to continue making payments online, by phone, or in person and apologizes for any inconvenience.

Sylvester Wilkinson said he’s been unable to obtain any information about his loan, which he now wants to pay off following the company’s sudden shutdown.

“It’s kind of hard to pay the bill when you’re restricted from the website or the maintenance of the telephone,” Wilkinson said. “If American Car Center can bring me my title, or mail my title to me, that’s all I want. My car paid off and my title in my hands.”

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Tom Stephens, with the Better Business Bureau, said the American Car Center’s lawyers are trying to help the company unwind its insolvency and close thousands of accounts.

“You can’t get anything out of the company now because they’re completely insolvent. Not a business,” Stephens said.

He advises drivers to be patient if they aren’t able to get their payments through because Westlake Portfolio Management will officially be taking over the loans on March 31.

“It’s going to take a while for us to sort this mess out with the new company. I would say that consumers should be prepared to probably make two payments at one time, depending on how long this gets before it’s sorted out. In other words, save money, don’t spend it,” Stephens said.

If a customer bought a vehicle that has temporary tags that are about to expire, he suggests they go to the local county clerk and show them the bill of sale from American Car Center -- customers need this documentation to apply for an additional 30-day temporary license plate.

Stephens also said customers are unlikely to have their vehicles repossessed if this is their first payment missed.

Also, since this matter has affected several states and multiple dealerships, customers are warned to be aware of scammers who may try to take advantage of this situation. Stephens said Westlake Portfolio Management is the only legitimate company that can process the paperwork and payment on your vehicle.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.