A reader writes:
I always look carefully at the new car ads that are in the papers. When are the car manufacturers going to match up the picture of the car advertised with the correct price shown? They will show a base Dodge Caliber price and a picture of an SRT4. They will show the base Civic price of $17,420 in bold red letters and a photo of a Civic Si which is $27,410 (in super fine print). They all do it, Hyundai, GM, everybody. Being the car nut that I am, I'm never fooled. I just want to see a little more honesty. If I went into a grocery store and the big box of cereal was displayed with the small box price, I would complain and so would everyone else. If the car companies want to improve their image and Lord knows that whole industry needs to, why can't they shape up and show the correct picture to go along with the car advertised?
Good point. As you suggest, there is usually legal boilerplate somewhere in the ad ("car not exactly as shown") but it does seem a trifle deceptive.
I cannot, am not and do not speak for the car makers, but there MAY be at least two factors at work here. First and most obvious, low prices draw the punters in. A friend of ours was looking to buy a Civic, figuring to be in the under-$20 k range. By the time she got what she wanted on it, it was damn near $30 k. Not exactly 'bait and switch', and she COULD have bought a $17 k Civic, but it didn't have all the stuff on it she wanted.
As for the photos, this is partly a guess and partly speaking from my experience of editing CARGUIDE magazine many years ago, when we needed a photo of every model of every car. Most often when car makers get photos taken for publicity and advertising purposes, they only shoot the top-of-the-line cars because they look the best. Even Scarlett Johanssen puts on make-up before she gets photographed (sorry, guys...). So when dealers put ads together, the only 'art' (as they call it in the ad business) they have available is for the top-end cars. I guess they could take a snap of the low-ball model with their iPhone, but typically the ads are put together by ad agencies using company-supplied pics.
I know this doesn't justify the practice, but maybe it helps explain it.
If there are any car retail ad types out there, maybe you can weigh in?