TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — American Car Center, advertised as “King of Credit,” abruptly shut down late last week, leaving customers worried.

Ginny Nicholls, who depended on her car loan to help rebuild her credit, is concerned because payments were made to the finance partner of the dealership, which isn’t answering the phone, she says.

“It’s hard to sleep at night, honestly,” Nicholls said. “This is our only car. My son is nonverbal, autistic, he has a lot of therapy appointments he has to go to. This is my only car. I don’t want to go out one day, not seeing my car there because I don’t know what to do. I call the financial department and it’s disconnected.”

Nicholls and her husband bought this car from the Seminole location in December. This week, they received a text message, telling them their account is being transferred to Westlake portfolio management and that fuels concerns about their warranty.

“I called them, they said it’s a debt collector and they don’t do anything when it comes to repairs or services or anything,” Nicholls said.

Meanwhile, over in Hillsborough County, a sign proclaims “Drive Today,” but the lot is empty. American Car Center put directions on its website on how to continue to pay through the portal or by phone.

Customer Heather Coates tells me she doesn’t find that comforting. She and her husband have loans for two cars.

“It really makes me nervous to pay on a site where the company is now defunct,” Coates said.
“I don’t know where my money is going and where I’m getting credit for it.”

Investigator Shannon Behnken reached out to consumer lawyers who say customers should continue making payments and keep proof of those payments. They advise you to check your contract to find the finance entity and send payments through certified mail, if possible. If a late payment is reported to a credit bureau, be prepared to dispute that claim.

A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles also recommended contacting the finance company.

American Car Center is based in Memphis. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance issued a memo for consumers.

Anyone with questions about American Car Center should call the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance at 615-741-2711.