Customizer Sues Volkswagen, Dealers

A Newport Beach auto customizer is suing Volkswagen of America and five Volkswagen dealers for more than $50 million, charging that they have interfered with its ability to transform the the popular New Beetle into a convertible.

R. Straman Co. is one of two Orange County companies that have been re-engineering the model to stiffen its body so it could be turned into a convertible.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that the U.S. unit of the German car maker took a number of steps to destroy Straman's ability to convert the cars, including threatening to punish or cancel the franchises of dealers that did business with Straman.

The lawsuit also alleges that Volkswagen falsely suggested that Straman's vehicle conversions were dangerous, illegal or improperly engineered.

Straman also charges that the dealers made similar remarks to customers to discourage them from buying convertibles from the company. Volkswagen is planning to introduce its own convertible, Straman said in the suit.

Neither Straman owner Richard Straman, his attorney nor Volkswagen officials could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Also named as defendants in the suit are Drew Volkswagen, McKenna Volkswagen, Niello Volkswagen, Timmons Volkswagen and Ray Fladeboe Volkswagen.

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