A U.S.-based Indian man was reportedly denied the sale of a Mercedes-Benz car on grounds that he might “sell it to the Taliban”. Now he is suing the dealership for $1.26 million.
According to the Times Herald-Record, 50-year-old Surjeet Bassi visited Prestige Motors on June 3 in New Jersey to purchase a new GL550. After some negotiation about the price, Bassi made his deposit then had his insurance update his policy.
Unfortunately for the would-be new car owner, the store’s manager would later tell him that they would not push through with the sale. The reason the manager gave was that he came from a “high risk” location that buys cars and sells them to the Taliban.
Bassi, who has lived in the area for 30 years running a medical transport company, explained to the manager that he is not involved with any terrorist group. The manager, however, was unconvinced and still didn’t let him buy the car.
According to Bassi, the manager even did a background check of his name, address and telephone on the federal database to see if he was indeed among those restricted from exporting vehicles. The search turned up negative.
He even reportedly offered to sign a waiver promising that he will not export the car within three years.
“I said, ‘Give me the paper, I’ll sign it,” said Bassi, who was hoping to trade in his Mercedes-Benz ML350. “I had a Mercedes already, if I wanted to export it I would sell that one.”
With the dealership still refusing to sell, Bassi said he felt hurt, especially for the implication that he got associated with terrorists.
“Heartbroken,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you how bad I felt that day.”
For large luxury SUVs such as the Mercedes GL, it is quite common for the dealerships in the U.S. to be careful that the purchased cars are not exported overseas.
But while that may be true, Bassi’s case can also be seen as another example of racial profiling. Bassi’s lawyer, Michael Sussman, believes that incident may also be a part of a pattern of discrimination against immigrants.
Bassi filed a case against the dealership for “blatant racial discrimination” and refusal to extend credit under the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act.