Dealer Sells Car Touting Safety Features It Doesn't Actually Have

Ben writes:

A friend of mine bought a 2005 Toyota 4 Runner for about $25000. When he went to the dealer, he told them that safety was a big concern as he has small children, and he wanted to get as many safety features as he could on the vehicle he was going to buy. The saleswoman showed him the 4 Runner he ended up buying and pointed out that it had side and curtain airbags, which were listed on the sticker. He bought it, and a week later he took it to get inspected. It turns out that it does not have the side and curtain airbags that are listed on the sticker. He went back to the dealership and spoke to the manager who offered him a few free oil changes, and tried to tell him that that year didn’t even come with those airbags so what was he complaining about. What should he do? They already got rid of the truck he traded in, and is thinking that the dealer owes him some cash back on the deal.

Classic bait and switch. If your friend wants to take the guy to the mat, he could try to ask for a rebate for what he feels the cash value of those safety features are. I recommend the tactics described in the post, “How To Kick A Scammy Car Dealer In The Nuts.”

(Photo: Getty)


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  1. chiieddy says:

    I would talk to the state attorney general about misleading sales tactics. I always get a copy of the window sticker of a car I bought, and usually without asking. It should be fairly easy for him to prove they sold him a car that advertised something it didn’t have.

  2. hills says:

    This is nuts! (Why are there not more comments?!)

    I would definitely demand a $25,000 credit towards a Toyota 4 Runner from the next year, which does have the correct air bags.

    A few free oil changes? That’s ridiculous. This person did not get what they paid for, and it’s a significant component of the vehicle.

    Ironically, I signed the lease for a 2007 Toyota 4 Runner, but when I found out (several days later) that the after market GPS unit they were installing was not comparable to the factory installed system (as they had said) I insisted on the dealer canceling the lease. It took a lot of effort, but I received a full refund of my down payment. If I can do it over a GPS unit, surely it can be done for air bags!

  3. shor0814 says:

    Maybe report them to the state’s dealer board?

  4. StevieD says:

    The airbags were listed on the sticker?

    That nice, preprinted from the factory type sticker, or was it a dealer printed sticker?

    Makes a BIG difference.

  5. nequam says:

    @StevieD: Makes no difference.

  6. usflaurenbull says:

    This actually happened with me, but with ABS. I was told and showed documents that stated my car (with the same VIN number) had ABS brakes. I was looking to make sure my car had this feature, and purchased the car. A few months later, my brakes locked up during a quick stop, so I thought maybe they were acting up and took the car in to be looked at. They told me the reason my ABS was “acting up” was because the ABS didn’t exist. Long story short…a few certified letters and the threat of legal action later, I was able to get the difference that ABS brakes cost on a car.

  7. Charred says:

    @hillsrovey: You LEASE your car?!

  8. kalikidtx says:

    is it really on the window sticker? Well if it is on the window sticker (monroney label as its officially called) then legally it needs to be on the car. Simply take the official window sticker to the general manager or dealer principal, show them the stciker and ask them did they want to remedy the situation or go to court. Its 100% against the law for a dealer to have an option listed on the monroney label and not have it on the car. You have an open and shut case, IF its on the Manuf Monroney Label and the VIN matches.

    Good Luck, you may need to file an auto complaint on BBB

  9. CVOS says:

    If this shocks you read Confessions of a Car Salesman


    What really goes on in the back rooms of car dealerships across America?

    What does the car salesman do when he leaves you sitting in a sales office and goes to talk with his boss?

    What are the tricks salespeople use to increase their profit and how can consumers protect themselves from overpaying?


  10. mouch says:

    Dana: I notice this is a GT and the brochure says there’s a model called the GTS. Now what is the difference between the GT and the GTS?
    Larry: Okay, the GTS is “guaranteed tremendous saftey.”
    Dana: So, without the “S,” it’s just “guaranteed tremendous”?
    Larry: Uh..

  11. RottNDude says:

    @charred: Nothing wrong with leasing a car if you own a business and write the payments off.

  12. Were the spaces for the side and curtain airbags filled with “Unknown Material” or dirty clothes?

  13. B says:

    @StevieD: It would be a dealer sticker, as it was a used car, not a new one.

  14. exkon says:

    The MSRP (manufacturer’s sticker) and dealer sticker make a BIG difference. The only claim that the dealer sticker can make is that it was a “misprint”.

  15. B says:

    @exkon: It’s a used car, so unless they saved the previous sticker, it must be a dealer sticker.

  16. StinkyCat says:

    I say you take a shit in a box and write “CAKE” on it. Then when they call and complain, you say…………

  17. bdgbill says:

    I had a friend who brought his new Range Rover by for us all to admire. He proudly stated that the salesman told him the truck had “a BMW engine”.

    Now at the time I was reading every car magazine on the market from cover to cover every month and knew that only the top of the line model had the Beemer motor.

    I made the mistake of telling him this. I also told him that the motor in his car was based on an ancient rover motor which was in turn based on a Buick engine from the 60’s.

    I learned that a quick way to piss of a friend is to tell them that they just got shafted on a $40,000 purchase.

    He ended up having nothing but trouble with the truck and traded it in a little over a year after buying it.

  18. Curiosity says:

    I would love to have seen the contract as well as the sticker on this. I assume this is recently bought?

  19. SOhp101 says:

    You see, there’s this one thing called ‘fraud’ that you can wave at the dealership using a lawyer that usually gets things done a little more quickly. Its amazingly effective, and I highly recommend it to anyone who gets shafted in this manner.

  20. lukobe says:

    Why’d they take the car for inspection a week after buying it instead of before?

  21. joeblevins says:

    Funny thing to me is he thinks airbags are good for his small children.

  22. XTC46 says:

    @joeblevins: side airbags are ok for kids, front airbags are not.

  23. savvy999 says:

    @joeblevins: I was wondering the same thing. His kids should be in car seats in the back; being short, they won’t even get touched by airbags anywhere, front or side/curtain.

    This doesn’t negate the point of the dealer’s misleading or fraudulent stickerage, but the OP’s reasoning behind wanting airbags ‘for his kids’ is wrong.

    Safest thing for his kids would be a vehicle with a strong roll cage (like a Volvo), and the best baby/booster seats money can buy.

  24. remusrm says:

    i bet this is a used car… and that is different. most of those stickers are done by people and make mistakes, but if its new then is different. also the vin on the car has to match the sticker… if it does not, they sold you a different car. also check your contract for the same vin…

  25. derekisphat says:

    In one of my business law classes, we learned about stuff like this. In fact, we had an almost identical class example. The answer is that you would sue the dealership for a breach of warranty (Under Product Liability).
    1. A Breach of express warranty because the sticker said it has airbags, but does not.
    2. A breach of an implied warranty for fitness since you stated your purpose, and the seller guided you to a product, and they implied that it was suited for you.

    As a side note, I also used to work for a car dealership, and when we had lawsuits against us, it was common to try to settle it out of court. So, if you sue, the dealer might just cave in and put in the airbags.

  26. Brad2723 says:

    In virginia, by law the dealership is NOT allowed to remove the window sticker, and the car must have all of the features listed on the sticker.

  27. Rufdawg says:

    Depends on the jurisdiction, but this was likely fraud in the inducement or no enforcable contract was created, since the buyer could likely produce evidence that the presence of airbags was a material part of the negotiation. Either way, this guy should figure out what he wants from the dealer, hire a good lawyer, and pay his legal bills. Easy as pie.

    As an FYI, in North Carolina, he might have a shot at an unfair and deceptive trade practices suit, which gets a plaintiff treble damages and attorneys’ fees.

  28. econobiker says:

    Read the story- it is a 2005 model. The window sticker was probably one of those used car bullsh*t stickers which has a disclaimer “models similar to this one may have” or something similar.

    That said if he doesn’t have that bs sticker then he’s probably up the creek. If he does, then the dealer has to either fall back on the statement above or is on the hook for a material difference…

  29. StevieD says:

    If it had been the manufacturer’s original sticker then I smell a big class action lawsuit and massive product recall.

    A dealer sticker is an error committed by the dealer. An error, but a big difference in the type and degree of the error. BTW most of those dealer stickers are outsourced…. keeps the dealer off the liability hook.

  30. Hackoff says:

    Simply threaten to sue him in small claims court if you are talking about wanting something like $2000 back. If you want more, you will need to talk to the County. The city will go after gross offenders on your behalf, so to avoid that kind of problem, the dealership will likely roll over.

    If you can’t talk directly to the GM (General Manager) go to the owner of the dealership.

    There are laws against this. The dealership I worked for would fire us for leaving a sticker like that on the car if we knew it was wrong. They said it could cost us big $$ if we got caught.

    This is of course assuming that the car was new, not used.

  31. shadow735 says:

    even if the car was used its the same deal, if what is advertised and on the sticker isnt there they are screwed. That is fraud.