Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Racism alleged in US Mercedes-Benz denial

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2016 | 8:00 AM
A Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV.

PARAMUS, NJ (AP):

An Indian national living in the United States has sued a car dealership for more than US$1 million, alleging that it refused to sell him a luxury vehicle because a manager thought he might ship it to the Taliban.

Surjeet Bassi, of Wallkill, New York, says in a federal lawsuit that he and his business partner went into Prestige Motors in Paramus in June to trade in his Mercedes-Benz SUV for a newer model.

Bassi said that after passing a credit check, charging a US$1,000 down payment, and showing Prestige his bank statements, he and the salesman reached a deal. But Bassi said the manager called him into his office and said he couldn't sell him the car.

The manager told Bassi that he came from a "high-risk area" where people buy cars and export them to the Taliban, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Bassi, who has lived in the region for 30 years, told the manager that he was an East Asian Indian and had nothing to do with the Taliban, which controls parts of Afghanistan. Bassi said a search of his name on a federal database of those banned from exporting turned up nothing.

Bassi said he was willing to sign a waiver promising not to export the car for three years, which he had done before. "I had a Mercedes already," Bassi told The Middletown Times Herald-Record. "If I wanted to export it, I would sell that one."

But according to the lawsuit, Prestige still refused, which the lawsuit says is "racial stereotyping, premised on the plaintiff's race and appearance" and wouldn't have happened if he'd been "a white citizen of the United States".