Dealers have been warned to ensure they have adequate stocking documentation before advertising cars to consumers after Lookers had its knuckles rapped by the advertising watchdog.
The AM100 top five dealer group was criticised for “misleading” advertisements which promoted vehicles for sale which were not actually in stock.
Two press adverts in the Burton Mail on May 20 and 27 this year promised 2008 Vauxhall Zafira 1.6 Exclusives in a choice of colours at only £4,999.
The Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint from a visitor to the dealership, who challenged the availability of the Vauxhall Zafira at £4999, because, on visiting the dealership, he was told the advertised car had been sold and was offered a more expensive alternative. He maintained that this had also happened on a previous occasion.
Marketing agency DPP, on behalf of Lookers, said that the first ad was based on two cars that they had ordered from Northern Ireland, through a supplier, and that both vehicles were re-advertised the following week, as they had not received any retail enquiries following the first ad.
It stated that, after the orders had subsequently been placed, the supplier advised Lookers that they were withdrawing both vehicles from sale, due to un-satisfactory condition reports produced prior to them despatching them to Lookers.
It stated that it was too late to withdraw the ads, and added that it was very unusual for a supplier to withdraw one car, and two was even more unusual.
No evidence of alternative models
In upholding the complaint, the ASA noted it had not seen evidence that Lookers had taken steps to seek alternative models from any other suppliers, nor evidence that showed the advertised Vauxhall Zafiras had been in stock, either in Northern Ireland or in Burton.
Nor had it seen evidence that the vehicles had been withdrawn from sale, due to unsatisfactory condition reports, as DPP had suggested.
Lookers also failed to explain why the complainant had actually been told the £4,999 Zafira had been sold already.
“Because we had not seen documentary evidence in support of the claim ‘Vauxhall Zafira at £4999’, we concluded that the ad was misleading,” said the ASA's statement.
“The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the advertisers to ensure they had sufficient documentation to support the availability of a featured model before advertising that model in future.”