Have you ever been watching TV and seen a car commercial that says, “ Come on down to your local Ford Automotive, and you can get a car of your choice for just $129 a month (Spitzer, 2003).” Some have even used lines like, “Do whatever you have to do push, pull or drag your car in, and drive away in a brand new car” (Spitzer, 2003). The commercial may never stop to give you the details of the qualification requirements for the cars. So making those push or pull journeys to the dealer ends up costing you more money than you expected. This type of TV commercial can be confusing to many consumers, and end up misleading the consumer into a deal they did not expect.
The Attorney General and the Department of Motor Vehicles of several States are now putting auto dealers on notice. In the states of New York and Nevada they are warning them: “Your advertisements had better be accurate” (Knapp, Eyewitness News, 2004). Studies from the Attorney General of New York Eliot Spitzer, gives many consumer tips to finding misleading advertisements. “Push, Pull, and Drag it in, Guaranteed Trade-in $3,000!” This is a ploy slogan that really confuses consumers, especially college students. In reality, the dealers cannot pay money for a trade in no matter how much it is actually worth. The dealers can only put that hypothetical “trade-in money” toward the purchase of another car. “Dealers often raise the prices of the cars on their lots prior to this sale” (Spitzer, 2003). So in the end, you are really not getting much of a bargain. When watching a car commercial, look for the details in getting this new car for your “push or pull,” there should be a description of how much money must be put down at the time of the trade. If this is not being done, you can report the violating car dealer to your state attorney general’s office.
Another misleading portion of car commercials is the financial explanation is: “$49 down or $0 down with no interest for 6 months” (Spitzer, 2003). Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, this is where many college students are tricked because they never tell you about the tax, title, and registration fees that are included at the time of your purchase. Your payments are likely to increase after those first six months of no interest; also, the cost of financing the vehicle must be included. Remember, this is a federal law, so if the dealer is not explaining these things in the commercial, then they are misleading consumers on crucial financial information.
Lawsuits were filed against Mazda in 13 states, including Ohio, back in 1996. The misleading advertisements of “$ 0 down and no interest” did not inform consumers that it would cost $1,000 to get any new car they wanted (Office of Attorney General, 1996). Another statement that was used to mislead consumers was: “Lease a Car for $169.00 per month.” This statement violates what the Attorney General of New York calls, the Truth in Leasing Act (Spitzer, 2003). It is basically telling you, the consumer, that $169.00 is due at signing but in actuality, there can be significant payments due such as: a down payment, acquisition fee, and a security deposit. These payments and other significant leasing agreements must be a part of the disclosures.
The fight to stop the misleading car television commercials is on the move in every state. The Business Review of New York reported that 50 dealers throughout New York State paid close to nearly $500,000 in fines and penalties for misleading advertising (Business Review, 2001). So the next time you’re watching television and the salesperson says, “Drag your car on down to Victory Ford, and we will have you in a new car right away,” just know that the Attorney General is watching out for you. That dealer better be giving you an accurate sales pitch or they will be feeling the pinch in his pocket and not yours.