An interesting legal battle is brewing in Texas that should have dealers questioning their policies related to decals on trade-ins.
The story has been making the rounds online for roughly a year when a truck formally used by a Texas plumbing company showed up in a picture as a vehicle used by a jihadist group fighting in Syria.
The image shows “Mark-1 Plumbing” on the side of the truck with the company’s phone number. The back of the truck isn’t holding sinks, copper and PVC, though. Instead it shows a member of the Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar rebel group firing a massive antiaircraft gun.
The jihadists are currently fighting the Syrian government.
It was when the image, reportedly found on Facebook and then tweeted by jihadist group analyst and researcher Caleb Weiss, went viral that problems first started.
Mark Oberholtzer, owner of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, Texas, told local news he was inundated with angry callers last year asking why he was supporting terrorists.
He had traded in the truck to AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway three years earlier.
“How it ended up in Syria, I’ll never know,” Oberholtzer told the Galveston County Daily News. “I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth.”
Oberholtzer has now filed a lawsuit against the AutoNation dealership alleging, in part, that they misrepresented its intentions to remove the decal, causing severe harm to Oberholtzer, his business and his family.
The suit alleges Mark-1 Plumbing received more than 1,000 phone calls two days after the tweet was posted.
He says AutoNation is guilty of “gross negligence,” among other strong assertions.
Media reports indicate the dealership was a “pass-through” for the truck and had nothing to do with the F-250 entering the Islamist militant fleet.
Regardless of how it ended up there, many auto industry marketing and branding experts are chiming in noting how the entire episode is a warning to dealers to ensure they streamline trade-in procedures for every aspect of the vehicle, including decals.
AutoNation is one of the largest publicaly held dealership groups in the U.S.