Calgary

'I was taken advantage of': More Gallery of Fine Cars customers come forward with complaints

More people in Calgary have come forward with complaints against the Gallery of Fine Cars, alleging the used-car dealer misled them into buying vehicles with undisclosed histories and mechanical problems.

Calgary used-car dealer disputes allegations that vehicle problems, damage histories were concealed

Jessica Travadi, 27, said she’s stuck with this 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which she purchased from the Gallery of Fine Cars in June. It came with a clean mechanical assessment, but failed a third-party inspection a week later. (Falice Chin/CBC)

More people in Calgary have come forward with complaints against the Gallery of Fine Cars, alleging the used-car dealer misled them into buying vehicles with undisclosed histories and mechanical problems.

CBC News received multiple tips from former customers after publishing an investigation into the Gallery of Fine Cars earlier this month.

"Every time I drive it I'm scared," said Jessica Travadi, who bought a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee from the dealer earlier this year that has since failed a third-party inspection on its brakes and engine mount.

"I feel like I wasted a lot of money and I was taken advantage of," she said.

'It feels like something's going to fall off the vehicle'

Despite being advised by another mechanic not to drive the Jeep, the 27-year-old single mother of two said she needs to transport her children to and from the hospital for treatments. Her children, aged six and eight, both have fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that requires regular therapy.

"We don't have a choice but to use this this vehicle," said Travadi.

When her last vehicle was rear-ended and destroyed in June, Travadi said she needed a replacement right away. She had heard about the Gallery of Fine Cars, which advertises: "Apply today, drive away today."

"I needed a safe vehicle, and I chose this Jeep," Travadi recalled. "Took it for a test drive, noticed it was pulsating in the brakes. When I brought it up, I was told the problem was normal — it was just the ABS and not to worry about it."

Once she took the vehicle home, Travadi said she noticed an oil spot on her driveway from the vehicle.

Jessica Travadi said she noticed what looked like an oil leak on her driveway. (Falice Chin/CBC)

Travadi said the rattling sensation from the brakes also worsened over time.

"When it's pulsating, it feels like something's going to fall off of the vehicle — quite scary when you're on Deerfoot," she said.

She said she took the Jeep back to the Gallery of Fine Cars, where its in-house mechanic gave the vehicle another inspection and found no issues.

Dispute over condition of parts

Business owner Adriano Aprile said he stands by his shop's assessment.

"At that point our licensed mechanic deemed that they're all in passing specs — by far in passing specs, not just barely passing specs," said Aprile.

"They looked like they were brand new pads and rotors on the vehicle."

Skeptical of the diagnosis, Travadi took her vehicle to a Toyota dealership to get a second opinion. According to the second report, the brake rotors were rusted and warped and the engine mount was leaking.

Reports from the Gallery of Fine Cars (left) and a Toyota dealership (right) on the same issues. The two inspections were completed six days apart. (Falice Chin/CBC)

Aprile said all car dealerships — including the official ones — are privately run, with their own motives for profit.  

"Some instances, you got a customer who buys a car, brings the car to the mechanic shop and they're giving you a laundry list of stuff over there," Aprile explained.

"We bring it here and we check it out. Car's perfectly fine."

Second complainant: 'I know I should've checked'

Another former customer, Ali Chehade, blames the Gallery of Fine Cars for putting him in a deep financial hole after buying two vehicles with mechanical issues through deals set up with the dealer.

He alleges both times the dealer failed to disclose the vehicle history.

Ali Chehade, 30, traded in his 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 for a 2010 Cadillac Escalade. Both transactions were completed through arrangements with the Gallery of Fine Cars. (Falice Chin/CBC)

"I know I should've checked, but I trusted the dealership," said Chehade, 30, whose father used to own a towing company and did work for Aprile.

"Coming from a guy that I've known for awhile — I guess it doesn't matter how long you've known a person," he said.

Chehade originally purchased a 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 from the Gallery of Fine Cars.

"Since day one we've owned it, it got nothing but problems … car's running rough, the headlights were off-balance," said Chehade.

"They told me the car's clean, it's a local car. But after owning it for a little bit and cleaning the car out I found business cards and stuff in the glove box that says it's from Quebec."

The luxury SUV had actually gone through three separate owners in Quebec before it was moved to Alberta, according to the CarProof report.

The CarProof report for Ali Chehade’s first vehicle from the Gallery of Fine Cars shows the Mercedes originated from Quebec. (CarProof)

Chehade went back to the Gallery of Fine Cars five months later, in 2015, to trade in the Mercedes for a 2010 Cadillac Escalade, which he still owns. 

The trade in was completed through a second, more complicated deal, in which Chehade found the vehicle on his own, then arranged to have the Gallery of Fine Cars facilitate a transfer of financing. The vehicle was not originally part of the dealer's inventory.

"It's a car I found privately but [Aprile] said he'd inspect it," said Chehade. "He told me it's clean and it needs nothing."

That vehicle also turned out to have a history that Chehade said he was unaware of.

The SUV came from the U.S. and had been registered as a rental vehicle. It was later involved in an incident that accrued $6,144 in damage estimates.

The Gallery of Fine Cars says it's not responsible for issues resulting from the second deal, citing an additional contract Chehade had signed, which states the company makes "no representation, warranty, collateral agreement, condition or guarantee" to Chehade. 

Chehade said he never saw a copy of the CarProof report in either deal. 

Ali Chehade’s second vehicle, a Cadillac Escalade, was once registered as a rental vehicle in the U.S. (CarProof)

Aprile: buyer's remorse common, not his fault

But Aprile disputed Chehade's claims, saying Gallery of Fine Cars always provides a copy of the CarProof report to every customer. In fact, there is a clause in the bill of sale that highlights the CarProof provision.

In the used-car business, he added, buyer's remorse is common.

"I mean we have customers that say that when they're not happy with their vehicles, Aprile said. "They come back and say, 'Oh you didn't show me the paperwork,' when we give them manilla files filled with paperwork."

In some jurisdictions, such as Quebec, buyers are required to sign on every page of the car history report to indicate they've seen and read it. No such law exists in Alberta.

AMVIC investigates Gallery of Fine Cars

AMVIC says it is actively investigating several consumer complaints tied to the Gallery of Fine Cars. (Falice Chin/CBC)

Both Chehade and Travadi said they're stuck with the vehicles they purchased from the Gallery of Fine Cars — vehicles they never would've bought, had they known more about their mechanical conditions and histories.

"Honestly they made me believe otherwise," said Travadi. "They told me that it was normal and if I'd known anything about vehicles then I would know that. I felt really stupid."

Both former customers have lodged complaints with the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC), the non-government agency responsible for regulating new and used car dealers in the province.

Travadi's case remains open at the moment.

AMVIC confirms it is actively investigating "several consumer complaints" tied to the Gallery of Fine Cars, but won't disclose further details due to privacy concerns.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of the story said that Ali Chehade purchased a second vehicle “through the Gallery of Fine Cars.” To clarify, Chehade found the vehicle on his own, then arranged to have the Gallery of Fine Cars facilitate a transfer of financing. Gallery of Fine Cars says it's not responsible for issues resulting from the deal, citing an additional contract Chehade had signed that states the company makes "no representation, warranty, collateral agreement, condition or guarantee" to Chehade.
    Nov 29, 2016 10:44 AM MT

About the Author

Falice Chin

CBC Edmonton

Falice is an award-winning producer who's been working for CBC since 2006, including with the Calgary Eyeopener and now as senior producer of Edmonton AM. Her career has taken her across Canada and the Middle East. Falice grew up in China and has lived in 10 cities around the world. You can reach her at: falice.chin@cbc.ca