American Car Center closes leaving one customer with no way to register car

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 9:12 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It’s something that could happen to any of us. A family bought a new car and was excited until things took a turn for the worse. The couple bought the car from American Car Center in Columbus, which has now filed for bankruptcy, now, even getting a tag for the car is a hassle.

“This was a family Christmas present,” says Tahara Birris. “It’s a nightmare for me,” says her husband Sidney Biriss. Tahara and Sidney Biriss purchased this 2017 Nissan Altima earlier this year. For their family, the purchase was supposed to bring Christmas joy to the family, but it quickly turned into something else. “Extremely frustrating,” says Biriss.

According to the Division of Consumer Affairs in the state of Tennessee, which is the state the company is based out of, American Car Center filed for bankruptcy March 14th of this year, but the Biriss’ said they never knew that. “No call from no company saying hey we are taking over your policy, we have your registration, none of that,” says Biriss. The company that did take over is Westlake Portfolio Management, and despite still making monthly payments of over 5 hundred dollars, they haven’t been able to register the car and apply for a license plate.

“More recently, they told me that they don’t even have a title for my vehicle at all,” says Biriss. Which leads them to believe, “Now I feel scammed,” says Biriss. In Georgia, you have 30 days to register a vehicle, but now the Birisses have lost months of time to get a plate for the car. “Wait ten days, 60 days ago? For y’all to figure out where our title is, then to be told hey we just don’t have them, ohhhh okay,” says Birris.

They both say they have called Westlake Portfolio Management and can’t get any answers, so news leader 9 called too. According to worker Israel Vasquez with Westlake Portfolio Management, they just got the accounts of American Car Center, which contradicts a timeline for the Biriss. “The transition just happened last week, so all the calls we have been getting are from their clients,” says Biriss. So, what now? We also reached out to the Better Business Bureau of Columbus to see what the Biriss family can do, they say they will have to keep applying for temporary tags.

“Unfortunately, in this situation, when a company files bankruptcy, it’s really at the hands of the court, and what they decide, and what that ends up doing is putting the customer in a waiting pattern, so what that ends up doing in putting customers, especially in Columbus in a waiting pattern,” says Hunter Jones, Vice-President, Better Business Bureau Columbus, Gea. Jones also says that customers can continue to file for a temporary tag.

Something the Biriss’ say they have done twice already. “Come the 14th, the state of Georgia is going to be like, there is nothing we can do, and you better be glad we gave you that third one because there is nothing we can do,” says Biriss. They say they no longer want the Christmas gift. “I don’t want the car,” says Biriss.