NEW YORK (MainStreet) The TV ads featuring the clamorous car dealer with his dog "Spot" (the guy in a gorilla suit) can't hold a candle to the best car deals ever advertised. A resurgent economy and stiff competition is motivating car dealers to pull out all the stops.
For example, Infiniti of Clarendon Hills, Ill., Honda of Hollywood and Norm Reeves Honda of Cerritos, Calif., have all advertised $0 up-front leases on new vehicles. And Fowlerville Ford in Michigan has offered spectacular sweepstakes prizes to residents of the area in an effort to boost showroom traffic.
The only problem with these amazing offers is the fact that they are all about as authentic as the "rich Corinthian leather" featured in a '75 Cordoba. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the zero down lease advertising neglected to mention substantial fees and other amounts due. And as for the sweepstakes prizes there were none.
The FTC's 'Operation Steer Clear' is an effort to protect consumers by focusing enforcement on the sale, financing and leasing of motor vehicles.
Nine dealer groups across the nation have agreed to settle FTC complaints claiming the dealers made a variety of misrepresentations in print, on the Internet and in video advertisements that violated the FTC Act, falsely leading consumers to believe they could purchase vehicles for low prices, finance vehicles with low monthly payments, and/or make no upfront payment to lease vehicles. A tenth dealer complaint is pending action.
"Buying or leasing a car is a big deal, and car ads are an important source of information for serious shoppers," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Dealers' ads need to spell out costs and other important terms customers can count on. If they don't, dealers can count on the FTC to take action."