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'These people are trying to slander my business': Legal action threatened in case of Moorhead auto shops with similar names

Higher Power Automotive Ministries, seen here Tuesday, July 31, 2018, is a not-for-profit organization in Moorhead that repairs vehicles and donates them to people in need. Erin Bormett / The Forum1 / 2
Higher Power Automotive & Diagnostics, seen here Tuesday, July 31, 2018, is a for-profit auto repair business in Moorhead. Erin Bormett / The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD—Motorists might find themselves doing a double-take when seeking a higher power to solve their automotive dilemmas.

Not one but two Moorhead establishments catering to car care invoke a higher power in their names: Higher Power Automotive Ministries, 2620 Second Ave. N., and Higher Power Automotive and Diagnostics, 1420 25th St. S.

The similarity in names has caused some confusion—and revved some engines on Facebook.

Friction between the two Higher Powers became public after Higher Power Automotive Ministries posted a notice on its Facebook page pointing out that the two entities were entirely separate.

"We would like to be very clear that we have no associations with this business, they do not support our non-profit or our mission in any way," the post said, referring to Higher Power Automotive and Diagnostics, noting that it also had a similar logo and website domain name.

"The confusion becomes a problem as our organization, Higher Power Automotive Ministries, does not charge for any of its services and is focused on helping the neediest in our community," the post continued. "Often those recipients get confused and go to the wrong location, not getting the free assistance they thought they were."

That post prompted an indignant reply from Robert Whitehead, the co-owner of Higher Power Automotive and Diagnostics, who posted a livestream video rebuttal on his garage's Facebook page.

"These people are trying to slander my business," Whitehead told his followers in the video. Whitehead said he established his for-profit Higher Power before the nonprofit of the same name came on the scene.

A lawyer representing the Higher Power ministries called Whitehead in November, threatening legal action if he didn't "cease and desist" in the use of the Higher Power name, he said in the video statement.

Whitehead said he is thinking of hiring a lawyer of his own to allow him to have exclusive use of the Higher Power Automotive moniker.

In fact, Whitehead added, he had registered his name, first in North Dakota, because he first was located in West Fargo, then in Minnesota, when he bought out an existing business whose owner was retiring for health reasons.

Records with the Office of the North Dakota Secretary of State show that Whitehead registered his business name on June 19, 2017. Earlier this year, on April 3, he registered the name in Minnesota, according to records with the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Higher Power Automotive Ministries is registered in North Dakota, with June 27, 2016, as the original filing date. 

An earlier Higher Power Automotive Ministries was registered in North Dakota, but dissolved. The car ministry's co-founders, Matt Carlson and Jeremy Jensen, said they reorganized to form a nonprofit. The pair started by fixing cars for the needy, but over time people came to them with old cars they no longer needed, and they began fixing them and giving them away.

Car donors and other supporters found it advantageous to contribute to a nonprofit organization, Jensen said. The ministry now is associated with Fix it Forward, a car repair business that gives it access to a garage.

In interviews, principals of the two Higher Power Automotive entities downshifted their rhetoric.

"We're definitely not trying to stir the hornet's nest anymore," Jensen said, adding that the intent of their Facebook post was to clear up any confusion. "Our big concern is in a couple of instances our clients have gone to the wrong place."

Each of the Higher Power acknowledges that the other has a mission distinct from its own, and neither regards the other as a competitor.

"Ours is not a religious thing at all," said Anne Bailey, co-owner of Higher Power Automotive and Diagnostics. "We build race cars, we build motorcycles. That's the higher power we're talking about."

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com

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