The Case of Obama's Missing Escape: Who Bought the President's Hybrid?
The Escape SUV was turned in earlier this year after its lease expired, The Detroit News reports. Rather than opting to resell it, the Chicago-area dealership that took possession of the vehicle instead auctioned it off. But the dealership in question, Hawk Ford in Oak Lawn, Ill., chose not to capitalize on the vehicle's prior famous owner, said general manager Jim Muisenga. And Muisenga couldn't identify the purchaser, or where it went.
Thus, someone out there is driving around in the president's former ride, and they don't even know it. "It could be anywhere," Muisenga told the News, adding that many hybrids end up "in California or New York because of demand."
What's making it hard to track down the Escape's new owner is that the vehicle hasn't been officially de-registered from the state yet, according to the Illinois Secretary of State's office. A legal adviser for the office told the newspaper that the transfer of ownership "should have been reported but there could be a valid reason for the non-reporting."
Illinois doesn't require dealers who purchase cars and trucks at auction to apply for new vehicle titles immediately if they intend to resell them, which means it may take some time for the new owner to surface -- at least on paper.
Before Obama purchased the Escape, he owned a 2005 Chrysler 300C with a V8 engine that got 13 to 15 mpg. The vehicle's thirst for fuel brought criticism Obama's way from none other than Bill Ford Jr., chairman of Ford Motor (F). The result was Obama's purchase of the Escape hybrid -- and a similar purchase by his press secretary, Robert Gibbs.
The 300C, which has a book value of $20,000, was listed on the Internet auction site eBay (EBAY) in early 2009, when the Obama took office. But the ad has since been taken down and the car remains in storage in suburban Naperville, Ill.
With some help from a friend who's the finance manager at an auto dealership, the 300C's current owner hopes to get more than $1 million for Obama's Chrysler. And there just might be somebody out there willing to pay it.