Surprising news hit us yesterday about the famous (or depending on your view of car dealership ads that scream at you, infamous) Ognibene Ford dealership in Batavia.  It seems a dispute between Ford and Ognibene has led to the whole joint getting shut down and equipment being sold off to make up monies owed to Ford.

This is a bad thing for Ognibene and a worse thing for his customers.  It’s not too good for Batavia’s economy, either.  It’s all very sad, actually.  My initial hunch was that this was a case of a business getting away from it’s owner.  That kind of thing happens all the time, especially in the world of sales, where giving out the best deal can sometimes lead salesmen to undercut their bottom line.  It might still be true, however, as things go on and reports continue to flow out, Ognibene’s actions and statements begin to take on more shades of narcissism.  The kind of narcissism that sometimes leads you blindly down the wrong path:

Court shuts down Mike Ognibene Ford || Democrat & Chronicle: Business

Ognibene, a resident of Elba, Genesee County, whose face is well known throughout western New York because of his television ads, said Ford Credit has made false accusations and used manipulative business practices against him. He said he is preparing a counteraction “unless (his) attorney is directing differently.”

Ognibene accused Ford of trying to ruin his name and reputation and trying to block the sale of the dealership.

“There’s too much to tell,” he said.

Don’t get me wrong: corporations will screw you.  Oh, yes.  There will be butt.  Corporations will run you over without the slightest regard for your person if you in the way of their bottom line.  But the chief complaint against corporations is that they are above all totally impersonal.  They don’t give a damn about you or your reputation.

To suggest that Ford Corporation is actively attacking your reputation in a town of 220,000 people and blocking the sale of your crappy little operation is a bit of that old criminal narcissism I was talking about.  They aren’t Omni Consumer Products, and they don’t care about you.  If Ford is trying to block the sale of the store, it’s probably because 8 million dollars worth of Ford’s own equipment is part of what he’s trying to sell.  That, and the fact that said multi-million dollar equipment has allegedly begun disappearing in the night, according to both Ford Motors and even Ognibene’s own employees:

Ford Lawsuit Shuts Down Batavia Dealership – 13WHAM.com

In court papers, Ford Credit said it tried to work out a compromise. In April, it entered into a new agreement to allow Ognibene to remain open while making payments on the back debt. But, earlier this month, Ford abruptly filed suit because it says expensive equipment it owned started to disappear.

Employees say welding machines computers and diagnostic equipment was being removed from the dealership “during overnight hours.”

What’s more, the phrase, “There’s too much to tell,” rates right up
there with “you wouldn’t understand,” or “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” or “Well, if you don’t know, I’m
not going to tell you.”  The impression is that everything is happening to him, it’s entirely unique to his situation, Ford’s is out to get him, he’s been setup and it would all sound crazy if he said it out loud.  It’s all very complex.  There’s just too much to tell.

Employees also seem to be saying that they didn’t really know there was a problem except that the staff was being rapidly liquidated.  That may just be ignorant employees, but more likely, it’s the type of tightening of information that happens when companies realize they’ve over-topped themselves and are heading for a major crash.

This is all very much a shame, and it’s going to get worse.  It turns out that the extended warranties he was selling to people were not funded, insured or endorsed by Ford Motor Company at all.  Ognibene is saying that he recommends customers go to his Crazy Cheap Cars location to get service, but how long before that service center gets overwhelmed is anyone’s guess.  The whole problem with selling warranties outside of the parent company is that warranties are something you sell once and afterwards you receive no further compensation even while having to pay employees to do the warrantied work.  That’s a very, very tough business model to make successful, just ask Gateway Computers.

So, here’s to hoping that Ognibene customers can find some way to get some economic justice without acrimony or lawsuits.  After all, lawsuits might “award” you penalties, but you’re not getting blood from a stone.

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