By on March 15, 2012

Ed Dowdall, a 70-year-old San Jose area resident with a rare form of dementia that causes wildly unstable cognitive functioning and hallucinations, walked into a dealer and traded in his 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid for a Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, which retailed for $62,000. A series of protests and complaints from Dowdall’s wife led to the dealer taking back the car and voiding the sale.

Greg Dexter, owner of the Nissan dealership where Dowdall purchased the car, said that Dowdall had come into the showroom in December to look at the Murano. Dowdall had previously purchased an Altima Hybrid from his store, North Bay Nissan, and had it serviced there. Dexter said he had no indication of Dowdall’s condition at the time of purchase.

Dowdall’s estranged wife, Amy Appleton Dowdall, told the San Jose Mercury that Dowdall had been living with his brother at the time. The previous evening, he had threatened to kill her. Dowdall’s brother accompanied her to a local police station to report the incident the next morning – around the same time when Ed Dowdall went to the dealer to purchase the car.

That afternoon, Ed Dowdall and Dexter drove to Amy Appleton Dowdall’s home, with Dexter coming along at Ed’s request. Ed had mentioned during the transaction that she would be unhappy over the purchase – Amy claims that in hindsight, she should have demanded that the car be returned that day, but she did not want to upset Ed.

A battle involving the dealership, attorneys and Ed Dowdall’s doctor (who certified that Dowdall suffered from the condition) led to Dexter taking back the car without conditions and refunding the money. Dexter claims that negative publicity and even death threats have resulted from the ordeal.

Given Dowdall’s behavior, there’s little doubt that he suffers from a horrible debilitating condition – and the erratic nature of his cognitive functions means that unlike Alzheimer’s disease, Dowdall can swing from cogent, lucid functioning to the opposite extreme, including violent or irrational behavior. In light of this (and having seen first hand how these diseases can ravage a loved one) it’s tough to make a joke out of the whole situation, even when the vehicle in question is a Murano CrossCabriolet.

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58 Comments on “Dementia-Stricken Man Buys Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, Sale Voided After Complaints From Wife...”


  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    There’s one good way to get out of a written contract!

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    I’ve already accepted this cabrio as a joke, but charging $62K for it is either a) a joke by Nissan gone waaaay too far; or b) the dealer marked it up so high above MSRP that he suffered nothing but shame once he learned of buyer’s condition.

    • 0 avatar
      Dawnrazor

      Honestly, once I read “$62,000″ I sort of choked and drooled the sip of water I’d just taken onto my shirt, and couldn’t really process the rest of the post :)

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      It looks like the MSRP tops out at closer to $50K for one of these things. The $62K figure might be the actual amount of the loan with tax, tags, negative equity from the trade, etc, it could be that these are in such crazy demand the dealer can put major bump stickers on them (I haven’t seen one on the road, but taste in cars is somewhat regional), it could be that he purchased a warranty and dealer accessories, or it could be a combination of all of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The dealership knew the buyer’s condition perfectly well. That’s why after putting him in the most expensive car on the lot they then signed him up for $10,000 scotchguard and a 5 year, 15% loan.

      Everyone there from the sales associate on up belongs in jail for elder abuse.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        The most that should happen is a flag on the guy’s credit account so that this can be controlled in the future. Chill out. It’s not as if our entire society DOESN’T train everyone that cars are the most dangerous impulse purchases, and car dealers will steal all your money if possible. Don’t get mad at the bus company for driving the bus that hit the dementia-stricken person walking in front of it. Since the dealer voided the sales, things worked out fine.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @Dan….100 percent correct.

      • 0 avatar
        wallstreet

        Jack will sell him a pink cabriolet instead.

  • avatar
    vww12

    Now we know what the target market for those contraptions is.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    Why in the hell is someone with this type of condition even allowed to have a driver’s license, much less own a car? Why doesn’t anyone have power of attorney to keep things like this from occuring?

    My mother-in-law isn’t anywhere near this bad, but my wife and her sister have power of attorney and take care of all of her finances. She couldn’t ever make a decision like this on her own.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      Why doesn’t anyone have power of attorney to keep things like this from occuring?

      How would the dealer know a power of attorney was in place?

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Power of attorney is such a subjective term. The scope of your ‘power of attorney’ is strictly defined by whoever sets it up. Credit limits can be lowered by the power of attorney. Money can be moved by the power of attorney. But the individual can still go out and initiate a line of credit. Whether the safeguards are in place is up to the power of attorney. So the dealer wasn’t in the wrong. It was the care takers. I think the dealer should have been left alone. Idiot proofing just makes more laws and gives lawyers a reason to make money. The care takers of this man should pay up for their lack of planning. If you’re not responsible enough to protect your finances of a loved one, then you don’t deserve protection. This should be a good reflection on the dealer, if anything.

        This is speaking from my own experience and for anyone that may have to deal with the same scenario, set up your guidelines early and make sure all financial institutions you are dealing with are on board or you can get screwed over, hard. Also set up a fallback trust to protect your loved ones if you should perish.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Well, his doctor certified he had this condition, so why hadn’t he informed the DMV to rescind the man’s driving license? With such a condition, who knows what havoc the man could cause on the road. Round these parts, the doc is responsible to inform the authorities in such cases. The doctor wouldn’t want death or injuries caused by such a patient to be traceable to himself, surely?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “so why hadn’t he informed the DMV to rescind the man’s driving license?”

        Laws vary quite a bit by state.

        http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/public-health/older-drivers-chapter8.pdf

        “The doctor wouldn’t want death or injuries caused by such a patient to be traceable to himself, surely?”

        With HIPAA, doctors can face substantial legal liability for releasing a patients medical information without consent.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      In some states it can be incredibly hard to get a license revoked. One of my co-workers fought with North Carolina DMV as her mother slipped into dementia. Even with TWO medical opinions in hand, NC DMV’s position was basically that Mom had to injure someone, or try to drive from home to church via Cleveland, before they would take any action. Couple that with the fact that many families will try to defer taking the car keys away as long as they can if they know it will be a battle or if it will make their relative totally dependent on others to get anywhere.

  • avatar
    jmo2

    With all the complaints about boring generic appliances, I think it’s great that a company like Nissan occasionally does something crazy like the CrossCabriolet.

    As to Ed and Amy, my heart goes out to them both.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      “With all the complaints about boring generic appliances, I think it’s great that a company like Nissan occasionally does something crazy like the CrossCabriolet”

      I couldn’t agree more. This vehicle defines out of the box..er, blob, thinking. I think it’s terrific that there are choices like this out there.

  • avatar
    jeanpierresarti

    I just realized where I have seen this monstrosity before. It is the new Amphicar! Only, of course, without the amphi part.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Sad story.

    We had a friend whose dementia outpaced his ALS, so he never really knew he was becoming rapidly physically debilitated. He had an episode similar to this one, where he somehow made his way into the office of his former employer, asking for his job back. They had to have his wife rescue him; she didn’t know where he was.

    As for the Nissan dealer, they did the right thing. I’m certain their delays were related to trying to understand the situation, which is most unusual. But death threats? – Now that’s crazier than what this man did.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      “They did the right thing.”
      –Did the dealership have a choice once the family complained? I doubt that a contract is legally binding when made with someone with dementia. Then again, is it the dealership’s responsibility to know of a customer’s mental status?

      I think the dealership was hoping that no one would notice when they sold the . . . uh, thing to the old guy.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        Well, the dealership initially questioned the validity of the request to cancel the deal. As the owner said, they hear buyer remorse stories all the time.

        However, I think the estranged wife was over the top to go public with this. The dealer – once they understood the problem – would have made things right.

        After some thought, I wonder if the estranged wife’s concern is that she won’t get as much of his estate if it’s paying for a $62k car.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Unfortunately, I know that there are telemarketers and other businesses who exploit older citizens in the early stages of losing full cognitive function. Profit over ethics.

  • avatar
    PG

    I love how the reporter writes that he bought a “sports car.” I suppose if you define the term broadly enough…

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      The thought process probably went something like this:

      60000 car. convertible. hideous. It must be a sports car because no one would buy it otherwise.

      Understandable.

  • avatar
    enzl

    I’ve experienced a very similar scenario at one of our dealerships. I’m not sure that our customer suffered from exactly the same ailment, however, we also took back the vehicle after checking the veracity of the family’s claims.

    Regardless of how you feel about dealers, there is a very real possibility that noone there had any idea what was wrong with this gentleman, as I can vouch from my own experience.

    While we don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt in many horrifying situations, this is one where I’ve seen an innocent sale take on a more sinister appearance, unfairly.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    Of all the things Nissan could make a convertible out of, why the Murano? I’ve been hoping they would make an Altima ‘vert ever since they announced the coupe.

  • avatar

    I had no idea the Murano could be had in a convertible. And now that I do I have no idea why anyone would put down $62000.00 for it, dementia or not.

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    I wonder if fighting the family and dumping the vehicle on the guy would have lead to them losing their franchise, kind of like what happened with that Mazda dealer in Canada a while back. I’ll give the dealer the benefit of the doubt, but still, I’m sure they still had the credibility of the dealership as priority #1.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Honestly, I feel this article doesn’t belong on TTAC in my opinion – but in a police report. Dementia and Alzheimer’s is nothing to joke about – I saw my father-in-law suffer through that and it wasn’t pretty. Several times before he got too bad to drive, he had mysterious little dings appear on his car that had to be repaired before the lease was up. Sad, indeed.

    As for the Murano Cabriolet – we sat in one at our recent auto show and actually liked it – a practical, 4-adult convertible. The cost? No way. Nice just the same. Does it make sense? I don’t think so. Like lzaffuto, an Altima convertible makes more sense, but the folks who have that much money to burn don’t care and will go for the outlandish every time. Hope they sell a million of ‘em!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    A lot of car dealers are toilet film. Here’s a similar story Autoblog ran a couple of years ago.

    http://goo.gl/zFd8f

  • avatar
    abhi

    In my past life working for as tech support for computer manufacturer (rhymes with safeway). I had a couple calls while I was there where people called up saying that their mom/dad had bought 1000’s of dollars of computer equipment on credit cards that that they didn’t even know exsisted. I always did a full refund but I can’t imagine someone buying a car like that.

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    Just saw my first Murano cabrio on the road today– black with black top. So despite the aforementioned story, we do know that Nissan has sold one.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    Being diagnosed with dementia does not mean you can’t sign a legal and binding contract.

    If he had been declared incompetent to manage his own affairs by the court, it would be a different story.

    Unless he used her as a credit reference or relied on her income to pay the loan, the estranged wife actually had no say in the matter. Why did she wait a period of time before protesting? If this guy is that bad, he needs a 24 hour a day keeper.

    Now the dealer is on the hook to sell this thing as a used car, since it was sold at retail once before. A car is new only once.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how far the paperwork got down the chain. If the application for title wasn’t sent out before the car was taken back it is still a ‘new’ car in the eyes of the manufacturer and the state (at least in FL, I don’t know if CA is any different).

      It’s not uncommon for some dealerships to sign people up for cars and send them out before they’ve actually gotten the loans approved. If the loan falls through and the financing can’t get worked out, the car has to come back, but since the contracts were never funded and the paperwork never filed with the state, the car is still considered new even if it has spent a week or two under the ‘ownership’ of the potential buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      I don’t think you have to be declared incompetent by a court pre-signing to get out of the contract that way. If you are incompetent, you are incompetent.

      Now, especially since this guy has a condition where he can appear lucid it may well be that the dealership got screwed here, but you know, that’s the cost of doing business. Sometimes you get screwed. But there’s a reason why they don’t do a bunch of medical tests to ensure mental competence before doing the paperwork, and that’s because its cheaper to eat it once in a blue moon than to spend the time to ensure this never happens.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    A week or two! That’s enough time to go cross country a couple of times.

    Now I have another good reason to only buy a [new] car with less than 25 miles on it.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Technically demos are still new cars as well, though they may have upwards of 5,000 miles on them. There are plenty of reasons a car might have some miles on it without ever having been sold before though.

      Ford randomly picks vehicles from the line for quality testing, and those will arrive at the dealer with 50-60 miles already on the odometer. Dealers switch inventory amongst each other regularly and unless multiple vehicles are going at once the means of transport is to just drive one car to the trading dealer, and drive the car being exchanged back, so it’s pretty common to see cars that came in like that with 200 or so miles on them. Add in miles from test drives and off-site events (the cars you see in the mall, in front of Costco, or sitting beside the green at a gold tournament were all driven there) and it’s pretty common for a new car to have anywhere from 50-200 miles while having never been purchased.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Anyone paying $60k for this pug-ugly Nissan must be mentally ill. There’s no other explanation.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I actually like this car, and am (hopefully) at least 25-50 years away from the onset of dementia.

    Of course, I happen to like the Suzuki X-90…

  • avatar
    mikey

    I going to weigh in on this. There is certainly more than one mistake made here.

    Number one: Ed should NOT have a valid Ontario licence

    Number two: His caregiver,brother,ex whatever, should have been more on the ball.

    Number three : The dealer SHOULD have smelt,something wrong.

    Number four: The ex SHOULD have brought the car back ASAP.

    Dementia, in all its forms is a nasty piece of work,and as the boomers age,it can only get worse.

    I’m going to disagree with “Zackman” {sorry dude} and thank Derek,and TTAC for posting this story.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      “”Number three : The dealer SHOULD have smelt,something wrong.””

      Maybe, maybe not. Symptoms of dementia can come and go. My great aunt suffered from Alzheimer’s and she could seem perfectly normal and lucid one moment, and a couple hours later not know who I was.

      If Mr. Dowdall came to the dealership during a period of lucidity, it’s likely that the dealership wouldn’t have been able to tell. Salespeople are trained to see signs of fraud and identity theft, not to detect mental illness.

      He had purchased a vehicle at the dealership before, routinely had it serviced there, and came in with a valid driver’s license and a credit history that could support the loan he took out. There are plenty of customers who buy new cars at full sticker with no negotiation. It isn’t common, but it isn’t so uncommon that it raises a red flag when the photo and signature on the license match and the info given on the credit application lines up with what is on the credit report.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’m going to agree with you except on the dealer’s ability to figure this out. This dealer was used to seeing this customer, but his illness somehow wasn’t manifesting greatly at the time of purchase.

      I think Derek’s presentation of this story was sensitive, and relevant to TTAC as it gives insight into the selling process and the ability of a dealer to cope with an unusual problem.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I’ll bet the dealership had a huge after-hours party after they sold this turkey for $62,000.

    The salesman probably got a plaque for Salesman Of The Year.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    God he could have bought 2 Chrysler 200’s or a Shelby Conv’t.

  • avatar
    John

    Laws do vary from state to state, but I haven’t heard of a state where a doctor can’t notify the DMV if he/she thinks a patient is unfit to drive. Here in Florida docs have a form they can fill out and send to the DMV. It doesn’t result in the patients losing their license – it triggers an investigation by the DMV, who have the ultimate say in whether the patient can drive or not.

    As with most public safety issues, HIPPA laws are waived, just like they are for reporting child abuse.

    If this man really had Lewy body dementia he would have had to have had a brain biopsy to make the diagnosis. If his doctor knew he was demented, the doc would have every reason to notify the DMV. If he/she did not, and the man injured someone in an accident due to his dementia, they doctor could be sued by the injured party for vicarious liability.

    People with early dementia are usually devastated when their license is cancelled. It’s a tragedy all around.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      I’ve never heard of a state that will send a DMV agent to someone’s house to confiscate their pocket license.

      They might keep it when renewal is attempted, or refuse to renew it.

      Besides, in my state a non-driver ID is accepted anywhere. Yes, people do drive with it.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Funny, my wife saw the Murano CC in a comercial and has mentioned several times since how much she liked it. Her mind is as sound as any woman’s but I’m sure she has no idea it costs over 60-grand.


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