Open Road Auto Group to pay $300,000 in 1 of 3 auto dealership settlements in New Jersey

Open Road ranks No. 42 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 U.S.-based dealer groups, with retail sales of 21,128 new vehicles in 2021. The state said the group has 15 locations in New Jersey.

None of the three companies admitted wrongdoing in the settlements, which their attorney called a “business decision.” The documents described the settlements as “amicable” and said the retailers cooperated with the investigations.

“Dodging illegal practices should be the last thing New Jerseyans need to worry about when shopping for a vehicle in this tough market,” New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a statement. “These regulations demonstrate our commitment to protecting consumers and ensuring transparency in the state’s auto market.”

Attorney for the three retailers, Perry Pittenger of Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, said all of the allegations relate to behavior that occurred “in a pre-pandemic manner”. The state also acknowledged that there was no pattern of wrongdoing, he said.

“We were absolutely convinced everything was overplayed,” Pittenger said. “The claims were all very defensible.”

The state’s decision to opt for a less formal investigative process rather than filing a lawsuit also meant a less serious case from the start, Pittenger said. He made a similar point about the state offering Glen Toyota and Lynnes the ability to have some of the amounts they owe waived.

“This year, Open Road Auto Group celebrates 50 years in business,” CEO W. Rodman Ryan said in a statement Monday. “I’m proud of my people and our organization, but we’re not perfect. No dealer is. We’ve made mistakes in the past, but we’ve processed tens of thousands of transactions during the period covered by the Attorney General’s investigation dating back to 2016, and during that time they found a handful of violations. We will treat this as a learning experience and continue to do our best to serve our customers, our communities and the brands we are proud to represent.

Neither Glen Toyota nor Lynnes responded to a request for comment by Automotive News.

Pittenger said the three clients “made a business decision” to settle, which he said the New Jersey Consumer Affairs Division was encouraging. He recalled that during settlement negotiations, the state highlighted the legal costs of a lawsuit.

The regulations require retailers to commit to specific practices. They must also follow elements of the New Jersey Automotive Retail Law. Pittenger said he unsuccessfully opposed that wording for redundancy reasons — retailers had to follow the law anyway.

“The Division has a duty to protect New Jersey consumers by ensuring dealerships deliver on their promises,” Cari Fais, acting director of the New Jersey Consumer Affairs Division, said in a statement. “In addition to providing relief to affected consumers, these regulations make it clear that we will not tolerate car dealerships who fail to comply with our laws and regulations.”