It’s been seven months since Greg Dexter, fleet manager at D&R Glass Inc. in Rancho Cucamonga, handed over a company vehicle — a 2017 Mercedes-Benz C 63 — to CNC Motors in Upland to sell on consignment for $45,000. And even though he was told in January that the car had sold, he’s still awaiting payment.
Shane Hammond of Santa Clarita bought his dream car — a yellow 2008 Ferrari F-430 — at CNC Motors in October 2019, only to be stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in repair costs before he engaged in an epic battle with the auto dealer of high-end sports and luxury cars.
Matt Salvo found himself in a similar predicament. In January, he flew out to the Inland Empire and bought a red 2000 Ferrari 360 Modena for $75,000. While driving it back home to Sacramento, the gears started slipping, and when he got home oil and coolant started leaking from the car onto his garage floor. Furthermore, it took months for Salvo to get the title to the vehicle.
“I’m still going through massive registration problems,” Salvo said in a telephone interview.
Dozens of others have lodged similar complaints about the once-reputed dealership that have prompted public awareness campaigns on YouTube and an investigation by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV confirmed it is investigating the dealership, but would not discuss specifics, or how many complaints it is reviewing.
Hammond said he spoke to a DMV investigator who put the number of complaints under investigation at roughly 40.
Negative reviews have been popping up on the Better Business Bureau’s website since last July, but really started ramping up in January, with customers complaining about CNC floating titles and not paying them for vehicles they sold on consignment, nor paying off the banks for the auto loans.
“The operation is very impressive — beautiful cars, extensive showroom and elaborate offices. This is all just a front,” one unsatisfied customer said in a review.
Struggling through pandemic
CNC Motors owner Clayton Thom declined to comment for this story, but his attorney, Stephen G. Larson, said COVID-19 hit the dealership especially hard in the past year, as it did many businesses that have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic.
“Clayton Thom is a good man, and both he and CNC Motors have long held a great reputation in the Inland Empire and in the exotic car industry,” Larson said in a statement. “As with many companies, CNC Motors was hit hard by various business dynamics related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. CNC Motors regrets these circumstances and is hard at work to resolve all outstanding matters.”
As to the ongoing DMV investigation, Larson said, “We will be working cooperatively with the DMV and other authorities to resolve all these issues amicably and appropriately.”
Upland police Sgt. Anthony Kabayan said his department began fielding complaints about CNC Motors late last year, and that all them had a common thread: Vehicle owners were putting their cars for sale on consignment and never getting paid after the vehicles sold, and people who purchased vehicles there were not getting the titles.
The Upland Police Department referred them to the Riverside investigations division of the DMV, which has jurisdiction over auto dealers, Kabayan said.
CNC Motors’ recent legal woes have been stacking up during its financial struggles.
Last month, Tampa, Florida-based auto dealer The Alegra Collection sued CNC Motors and Thom in federal court after CNC failed to provide Alegra the title to a 2017 Mercedes G550 that Alegra purchased in December for $225,000.
The lawsuit, which also names as a defendant CNC sales executive Joseph Firmapaz, alleges CNC engages in a “scheme” to obtain luxury cars from sellers across the U.S. to sell on consignment, then finds buyers for the vehicles.
“However, the defendants do not pay the consignor their money after the sale, thereby leaving the bona fide purchasers without the title to their vehicles, rendering their newly purchased vehicles useless,” according to the lawsuit, filed March 23 in U.S. District Court in Tampa.
Despite repeated demands by Alegra for the title to the Mercedes, CNC has failed to provide it, leaving Alegra with a vehicle that, according to the lawsuit, is “essentially a large and expensive storage container.”
During a hearing held via Zoom on Wednesday, April 21, CNC finally produced the title to the Mercedes and provided it to Alegra attorney Adam Hersh, said Larson, who added that the judge ordered both sides to enter into mediation.
“I’m glad we got the title. It’s unfortunate we had to result to these measures to get it,” Hersh said in a telephone interview. “We look forward to sitting down and trying to resolve this at mediation.”
After more than three months of not hearing from CNC regarding the Mercedes-Benz he was selling on consignment, Dexter decided in January to get his company car back. That’s when CNC informed him the car had been sold, but that it would take about a month for the paperwork to clear, Dexter said.
After several more delays, Dexter asked who was in possession of the car, but Thom refused to provide the information, saying it was confidential. “He refuses to give us information on the new owner,” Dexter said.
Dexter finally filed a complaint with the DMV. “We are considering other legal actions,” he said.
Salvo and Hammond shared their stories in a series of YouTube videos that went viral. Salvo’s vehicle, after first being taken to a mechanic in Sacramento, wound up being shipped back to CNC in pieces for additional work. It took months before he got it back.
Meanwhile, he was making payments on a vehicle he neither had in his possession nor held the title to. His bank notified him that it planned to change his auto loan to a personal loan, with an increase from 2% to 15%. Salvo was able to persuade the bank to hold off, vowing he would get the situation with the title resolved.
After working with DMV investigators, Salvo finally was able to get the title to his Ferrari. He got the car smogged on April 17, but said there is still “much more paperwork to do.”
And the car still needs work.
“The car has numerous mechanical issues and is not very drivable right now,” Salvo said. “I’m waiting to get the DMV squared away before fixing it, which will be upwards of $25,000.”
Hammond, who owns a design and fabrication company, partnered with Dan Hurlbert, an Austin, Texas-based YouTuber, to raise public awareness about what was happening at CNC Motors.
After spending an additional $9,000 of his own money for needed repairs on his Ferrari, and taking the car back to CNC repeatedly for additional repairs, Hammond made the painful decision to just have CNC resell the Ferrari on consignment, thinking that would be fair for everyone.
He wasn’t aware just how painful that decision would be.
After months of not hearing from CNC, Hammond decided to take the car off the market. Not long after informing CNC he wanted to retrieve the Ferrari, Hammond received a text from CNC in early December 2020 saying the car had been sold, and that his money would be wired to him.
Hammond, tired of more delays, demanded to know who CNC sold his car to, but he said Thom refused to tell him.
Hammond eventually partnered with Hurlbert, whose Normal Guy Supercar YouTube channel has 65,000 subscribers, and launched a series of videos sharing his story as well as those of others, including Salvo. The videos went viral.
Hurlbert said the videos generated a flood of responses from people sharing similar experiences at CNC Motors. He said he has since helped seven people reclaim their vehicles, from as far north as the Bay Area and as far south as San Diego.
Hammond’s perseverance paid off. He retrieved his Ferrari at an El Monte storage facility earlier this month after painstaking negotiations with the new owner of the vehicle and Thom.
“At the end of the day, I got the car back, after taking some extreme tactics,” Hammond said.
But he’s finding it difficult to enjoy his dream.
On Wednesday, a mechanic in Canyon Country inspected the engine and delivered more bad news to Hammond: The lifters are bad, oil was not circulating properly, and the engine likely needs to be rebuilt.