JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Beaver Toyota made a bold prediction last week when it announced plans to take over management of Riverside Chevrolet. In a Facebook post, the new management group vowed to turn the troubled dealership into the best in town.
On Monday, the News4Jax I-TEAM learned how Beaver Toyota wants to make things right with customers and employees. General manager Nick Reuther said that means doing whatever it takes, including spending money.
"We are here to fix everything we can. We are going to be involved with anyone that has been negatively affected, from satisfying outstanding liens to helping repair credit reports to just helping establish that trust again," said Reuther.
The I-TEAM launched an investigation into Riverside Chevrolet last month after uncovering dozens of complaints from customers, most of whom said the loans on their trade-in vehicles were never paid off as promised. They said their credit scores plummeted as a result.
The dealership soon caught the attention of state regulators as well. The Florida Department of Revenue, one of four state agencies investigating the dealership, filed court documents last month saying Riverside Chevrolet had unpaid taxes and fees totaling $450,000.
As part of the overhaul, Reuther said Beaver's management has already paid $1.5 million to settle outstanding loans. He said they're also reimbursing employees who are owed money. All told, Beaver is forking over about $3 million to keep the dealership running.
Brett Morgan was brought in from Beaver Toyota in St. Augustine to become the new general manager of Riverside Chevrolet. He said while all current employees will keep their jobs, new management is looking to hire dozens more because the previous regime was running a bare bones operation.
"I've personally met with every employee in the dealership and had lengthy conversations," Morgan said. " ... They have been beaten down and they don't deserve it. There's some great, great human beings inside this dealership."
Beaver, which operates dealerships in St. Augustine and Santa Fe, New Mexico, hopes at some point to buy Riverside Chevrolet. But a change of ownership would be subject to approval from state regulators and General Motors.
"It takes time, we know that, and we can't change things overnight," said Reuther. "But we also know with the right people and doing the right things and giving back to the people, we can turn it back around."
Attempts to reach the Ferguson family, which owns the dealership, were not successful.
The new management group said they also plan to reach out personally to every affected customer to learn how the dealership can make things right. They also encouraged customers to call them at (904) 398-3036. In addition, upset customers can still file complaints with the state by clicking here.