Auto dealer: Repossessions not related to business

Mark Gilbert said three repos at a lot in Pendleton did not involve his auto empire.

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A College Place auto dealer being sued by the city has recently had three vehicles repossessed from its dealership’s lot in Pendleton, but the business owner said it had nothing to do with them.

The East Oregonian reported Monday the three vehicles, a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt and a 2004 Honda Accord, were taken off the lot of Gilbert Auto Chevrolet on Feb. 4.

“It’s got nothing to do with us,” said Mark W. Gilbert, owner of the business. He said if a customer drops off his car at the company’s lot and the finance company comes and repossesses it, it does not involve the business.

The company that repossessed the vehicles, American Lenders of Kennewick, Wash., typically covers the Pendleton area. An employee there told a reporter for the East Oregonian that she could not talk about the repossessions.

The article reported that Chris Ratliff, manager of the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles Business Regulation Section, said he did not know of any red flags regarding Gilbert Auto.

Ratliff said a repossession does not indicate a dealership was doing anything wrong and there could be many reasons a vehicle is repossessed from a lot. For example, he explained, a dealer may agree to purchase used cars that have a certain amount of miles but find out later the mileage was inaccurate and thus withhold payment.

Last month, the city of College Place filed a lawsuit seeking $2 million from Mark W. and Susan Gilbert, GA Group Properties and Gilbert Imports. Mark Gilbert is the owner of Gilbert Auto Honda in College Place and other dealerships.

The suit alleges the defendants have failed to make payments promised to the city for construction of Commercial Drive. The road was built in 2008 to serve Mark Gilbert’s auto dealership and a bank, both of which are on commercially zoned property alongside State Route 125.

Gilbert declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday other than to say “it was a much smaller amount than the paper made it out to be.” Both he and Pat Reay, College Place city administrator, have said the parties involved in the lawsuit are working on a settlement.

Another Gilbert dealership in Moses Lake, Gilbert Nissan, has reportedly been sued by a Nissan financing company for $3.4 million in unpaid loan balances.

According to the Columbia Basin Herald, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. filed the lawsuit earlier this month against Gilbert Motor Company in Grant County Superior Court.

The article quoted the dealership’s owner as saying the company is taking on a new partner in the Moses Lake dealership, but doesn’t have any plans to close the business.

“We are transitioning to a different lender,” he said. “I assure you it’s nothing significant.”

The East Oregonian also reported that a third lawsuit against the Gilberts and their companies is coming to a close in Umatilla County Circuit Court.

Sallee Chevrolet Inc., a former Milton-Freewater auto dealer and repair shop, claimed in a civil suit in early 2012 that Mark and Susan Gilbert and Gilbert Chevrolet, formerly of Milton-Freewater, owed more than $817,000 after defaulting on a $1 million business loan. The plaintiffs won a partial summary judgment, according to court records, but the sides are working out the details.

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