Lemon car teaches Soviets bitter lesson

August 10, 1991|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Two Soviet trade experts came to Chicago's suburbs last month to learn, among other things, how Americans do business. And learn they did.

They bought a used car.

Gleb Abouchakhmine and Leon Hussainoff needed a car. The pair, accompanied by their host, Michael Vilner, vice president of Spirit of Excellence Ltd., a Palatine, Ill., company that supplies consumer goods to the Soviet Union, went to Larry Faul Oldsmobile in Schaumburg, Ill., where they bought a 1984 Cutlass Ciera "as is" for $2,818.

Less than an hour off the lot, the car died. It was out of gas.

After they refueled, the car died again -- and again -- when shifted into drive, said David Grunin, president of Spirit of Excellence.

He asked for a refund. The dealer said no but agreed to fix the problem for $60. "I think we treated them more than fair," said Ron Kevian, the dealership's used car sales manager.

But the car later broke down again and sat in a Chicago repair shop for a few days, where it cost $200 more to repair it.

"They came here to learn the way we do business, and their first lesson was not good," Mr. Grunin lamented.

So the Soviets are learning. "I'm confused," Mr. Abouchakhmine said through an interpreter. "Some Soviets do business this way. But I did not expect to see American business work this way."

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