Consumer advocate walks a tight rope in loyalty to dealerships

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Meet Oren Weintraub.

He's a consumers' advocate who, surprisingly, believes in many of the aftermarket insurance products pitched by most dealers to many car buyers.

Weintraub, 43, founded Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Authority Auto in 2006. It's a nationwide car-buying consultancy that helps car buyers through every part of a transaction.

Weintraub carefully balances his self-ascribed consumers' advocacy moniker with the caveat that he considers many dealers to be his partners. Admittedly, there are a few shady sales folk he says he wants to protect his clients from. But Weintraub believes most dealerships employ good business people.

The loyalty to dealers is understandable given that Weintraub worked at a Ford dealership in Southern California for 12 years. He ran it for four of those years.

Unlike some other car brokers, Authority Auto gets paid only by consumers. Weintraub takes no commission from dealers.

So Weintraub encourages customers to make the best decisions for their personal circumstances when buying aftermarket products.

For example, he asks car buyers thinking about purchasing paint protection to consider whether they park their car outdoors, where there may be harsh weather conditions, or indoors.

Or he helps research a make and model of a used car to find out whether it has known mechanical issues after a certain number of miles. That might influence a consumer's decision to buy a service contract or not.

From his years of running a dealership, Weintraub knows the inside operations.

Now he works for the other side -- the car buyer.

But he's not spilling the beans.

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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