With a ripped-up contract in one hand and the keys to her new SUV in the other, Jessica Tamayo stood in disbelief after she was told her new vehicle was free.
“I am still in shock,” she said Wednesday, as her dad, José, and his guide dog, Okie, stood close by. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
The 19-year-old showed up at AutoNation Chevrolet Coral Gables, 4181 SW Eighth St., to pick up her 2017 Chevrolet Equinox and was greeted by more than a dozen employees and Jim Bender, the president of the Eastern region for AutoNation.
Bender handed her the keys to the $35,000 SUV, thanked her for her purchase and then ripped the contract into four pieces.
“This is your contract, right?” he said. “So what we are going to do is provide the vehicle free. So I am going to tear this contract up so you don’t have to pay anything.”
The auto giveaway was part of the Fort Lauderdale-based company’s celebration of its record-breaking sales of 11 million vehicles. In May, 11 cars — including four in South Florida — were given away to customers across the United States.
The black Equinox was on center stage in the showroom, topped with a giant pink bow. Pink and white balloons floated inside the vehicle.
Bender said Jessica Tamayo “happened to have bought the car at the right time.” He said it’s a bonus that she is someone who definitely deserves the gift.
“We want to be able to help people in the community,” he said.
Jessica Tamayo, a nursing student, is the primary caretaker of her father, who is blind. Her younger sister has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. She said she spends a lot of time ferrying them to the doctors.
She said her 2013 Acura wasn’t big enough for her dad’s Labrador guide dog and she needed a safe, reliable vehicle to get everyone where they need to go.
Jim , who lost his vision in 2013, said he couldn’t believe the surprise and that not having the more than $300-a-month vehicle payment is life-changing.
“I think it’s a blessing,” he said. “God has a little something reserved for everyone.”