Disclaimer: Rivsu Japan is not the same company as Rivsu Imports LLC out of Sanford, FL. Rivsu Japan are just as surprised and in the dark as the customers affected by what I am about to tell you.
In September of 2016, I sold my second twin turbo Toyota Supra. It was a beautiful car, but I felt I needed to change my priorities at that time. I had a harebrained idea a month later to purchase and import a car from Japan. Being a 90s kid there are a few Japanese cars that stand out as heroes from that time, the most obvious being the Nissan GT-R. However, they were never sold in the USA and can only be imported.
Thanks to our wonderful NHTSA and EPA, the importation process is incredibly rigorous and shrouded in ambiguity. There’s a saving grace, though. Once a car is 25 years old (21 as far as the EPA is concerned) it is eligible for importation without needing to be brought into compliance. So, in August of 2014, R32 GT-Rs started arriving on US soil. One company rose above the rest: Rivsu Imports out of Sanford, Florida.
Steve and Emily McCarty founded Rivsu Imports in 2012. The duo really started to make waves when they announced the alleged importation of an R33 GT-R LM (a special edition) under VCP-32 and a Midnight Purple III 1999 R34 under the show and display rule. So you can absolutely understand why, when I decided that I wanted to go through the importation process, I reached out to Rivsu Imports.
I first called Rivsu in October of 2016. I have always been a fan of the Mitsubishi Evolution and have owned 6 different examples. The oldest Mitsubishi Evolution (Evo) that I am drawn to is the Evo 4 from 1996. It’s smooth but aggressive body lines combined with its 4g63t found in the Evo 8 that was sold in the states make it an incredibly cool car to me. However, it is still relatively young. At the time of purchase, I would have had to wait 5 whole years for importation. I was convinced that wouldn’t be a problem, but that is a story for another time.
Rivsu was quick to reply to my inquiry for purchase and to acknowledge that I had selected a fantastic example: an exterior Grade 4 (out of 5) with and interior grade B (A being the best). This was a great score for a car 20 years old. I told them my budget (all in by the time the car landed), and I wired them a $10,000 deposit. I got an email the next day saying the car did not sell at auction due to the reserve, but they had another great example (grade 3.5/C) coming up. I was disappointed, but if the car could be had on the low end of the budget I would still be a happy camper.
I exchanged my concerns about the difference in condition to the representative and made it clear what my budget was going to be. The auction was going to be that night. I woke up in the morning to a congratulatory email from the rep stating that I had won the car. Great news! But this is also where things started to go downhill.
Rivsu had gone over budget, but the representatives were adamant that the car was a great example (that could be “sold for a profit once landed”, no doubt). In fact, the car came with tons of spare parts that Steve told me he would send over earlier to ensure they were not lost or damaged. Steve would contact me in a couple of days to get me a final total for what I owed them, because (to my surprise) I owed them more money than the $10,000 I wired. It’s worth noting here that the winning bid was allegedly $6,700.
I told Rivsu USA that I would not be sending them any more money without receipts to verify the expenses. I had received a breakdown (after 10+ days of asking) that explain how my money was spent. I paid Rivsu USA $2500 for their time in buying the car for me so anything outside of that was Rivsu USA spending money on my behalf. It is fair to ask for validation of where that money is going and in what quantities.
Rivsu USA swore up and down that they could not provide receipts for what the shipping cost. They could not provide any verification that the auction house actually sold them the car and they could not provide any record of the $1,989 spent on various shipping, consumption tax, “recycling fee”, inland shipping, and auction fees. They were adamant that Japanese privacy laws prevent them from sharing receipts. This confounded me.
My only comfort was that I had a bill of sale with my VIN attached from Rivsu USA saying that I was the rightful owner of the car. There was nothing in the bill of sale that specified they needed to store and import the car. It was purely a bill of sale for a vehicle, much like one you would draft up for a domestic sale (below).
Rivsu Japan provided pictures of the car with my name and date on the windshield so I knew they had the car in Japan and I was going to get it in a few years. Much of 2017 passes and I forget I own the damn thing until I’m reminded of it by my friends asking what the hell was wrong with me for doing that in the first place (valid question).
In March, I emailed Steve McCarty about insurance, and a rather speculative question about what would happen if Rivsu USA disappeared. At that time (and several times before) Steve assured me that the car is ultimately mine. If I want to remove it from their facility I was welcome to do that. If I moved to Japan, they could help facilitate registering the car in my name.
2018 rolls around, and I haven’t heard anything about my storage bill due. Rivsu USA said they would invoice me at the beginning of the year, but they did not. February comes and I finally send an email asking for current pictures of the car and my yearly invoice. I don’t hear any confirmation. I email again and get a response that the Japanese office is buried under 6 feet of snow and they are not able to get into the office. However, they would get pictures and an invoice to me as soon as they could.
During this wait, rumors start flying around that Rivsu USA has closed up shop and disappeared. I call the shop and they swear it is a disgruntled customer. A few weeks pass and Rivsu USA’s phone become disconnected. Suddenly it became very apparent that there was something terrible going on. Six more weeks go by with no contact at all.
Life picks up and not much progress is made. No answers to emails or Facebook communication; complete radio silence. Then, at the end of May, someone makes a post on a car forum expressing similar concerns. It reignites my concern that something is going on. I message a former customer of Rivsu who added me to a group of owners that claim Steve and Emily McCarty had closed up shop and disappeared.
All evidence is suggesting that the McCarty’s have skipped town. Their house is for sale (the real estate agent suggested it will be foreclosed on). Their shop is now abandoned where an R32 Skyline that was never registered sits outside neglected. And they still have been dodging numerous calls and attempts at contact.
The list of victims is long. The dollar amounts unaccounted for are deep in the six digits. My concern is absolutely through the roof so I dug deeper.
It turns out Steve and Emily McCarty had been having Rivsu Japan purchase the customer’s cars with Rivsu Japan’s money (again, they’re separate entities) with the promise of paying them back over time. My Evo 4 that I paid almost $12,000 for is still the property of Rivsu Japan. Rivsu USA never had ownership nor the right to sell the car. Not only that, the $600 per year that I was paying for storage of the Evo was not paid to Rivsu Japan (who was storing the car).
I’m not the only one, either. There are several others who are reporting the same concerns confirmed by the Rivsu Japan office. Rivsu Japan never saw it coming. They are out the money for these cars as well. Not only that, but they are left with a brand name that has been tarnished by Steve and Emily McCarty.
Currently there is pending litigation that prevents me from sharing other buyer’s stories. I will update here when I have permission to discuss those details.
It should go without saying, but Steve and Emily McCarty did not respond to a request for comment.