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ENGLEWOOD, Co. — It started with a single tip into Contact7 and became a full investigation of how a local used car dealership does business.
“It’s been hell,” customer John Rodgers said.
Rodgers bought a GMC Yukon Denali from The Sharpest Rides in Englewood in January. He’s owned it for 10 months.
“The oil pump went out on it; the starter went out on it; the oil pan gaskets went out on it,” he explained, along with a cracked rim and instrument cluster that didn’t work only days after buying it.
The Denali is also on its third motor since he bought it. Each time he’s taken it in to be fixed at the dealership, and paid deductibles and some maintenance costs to fix it.
“With all the repairs I’ve done with this I’m completely broke. My credit cards are maxed out,” he said.
Rodgers is placing the blame for his car troubles on The Sharpest Rides.
“I think they sold me a lemon and they knew it was a lemon from the get-go,” he explained.
The GMC owner wrote to Contact7 after seeing the story of Brandon Horning , an Air Force veteran who had similar problems from the same dealership.
“I feel like they sold me a lemon. They sold me a mechanically defective car,” Horning told Denver7 in September.
The "Lemon Law" actually only applies to new cars, but the term has become widely used to describe mechanically defective vehicles.
He says it only took a month for his Dodge Charger to blow a motor.
“The engine is dead; it’s fried,” he said.
After Brandon’s story aired, the emails started rolling into the Contact7 tipline, most with similar complaints. Cars that had problems almost immediately, where the engine blew after a month, where major engine problems happened a day in, and one where a vehicle wouldn’t start just hours after purchase.
There are 29 complaints against The Sharpest Rides with the Better Business Bureau. The dealership has a sign on its lot advertising that it’s BBB accredited when it’s not, and hasn’t been since 2014.
Via a Colorado Open Record Act request, Contact7 also uncovered five complaints on file with the Colorado Department of Revenue Auto Industry Division. An investigation of one complaint filed in February found that The Sharpest Rides did not disclose hail damage to a customer, and ended with a warning letter being sent to the dealer.
“How do you respond to that volume of complaints?” Denver7’s Jason Gruenauer asked The Sharpest Ride’s General Manager Robert Lipp.
“It’s congruent to the number of cars we sell,” he answered.
Lipp says the dealership, which has been around since 2006, sells about 500 cars per month. All of them are pre-owned.
“It’s a pre-owned vehicle. It’s got moving parts and oil and things happen,” he explained.
Cars that are sold at the Englewood lot come from auction, trade-in, or other sources. The dealer has good reviews from customers listed on their website and argues that the good outweighs the bad form their customers. Lipp says the cars are quality, but are sold "as is."
“We’re not over here selling lemon cars. That’s just not something any dealership would open their doors to sell,” Lipp said.
The manager claimed the problem was not the fact that the cars break, but how the dealership handles those cases when they come in.
“Wouldn’t some people say a good dealership is someone who sells me a car that I won't have to fix?” Contact7 asked.
"Yeah, I wish that were the case. But every pre-owned dealership that you go to down anywhere in Colorado will have issues with a car that they sell. Period. That’s how it works,” Lipp answered.
The dealership says before they’re sold, all cars are driven, tires are checked, and oil is checked along with safety items like seat belts.
“I mean it doesn’t make sense to take 900 cars and peel the motor open on all of them or take the transmission apart on all of them to certify it and say it’s good to go, I promise you nothing’s going to happen. That’s just not the case,” Lipp said.
But that fact leads to some customers dealing with problems with the used cars they’ve bought.
“Pissed off,” John Rodgers said. “I thought I bought a reliable vehicle and it’s been unreliable since the day I bought it.”
For a full list of BBB complaints: https://www.bbb.org/us/co/englewood/profile/used-car-dealers/the-sharpest-rides-0885-90003968/complaints
To see the full interview between Jason Gruenauer and GM Robert Lipp, click the video box above.