AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Ellen Miri and her husband saw a Black Friday deal on several Ford F-150 trucks on Covert Ford’s website.
Ellen Miri says the ad touted a discount of more than $12,000 off MRSP for three F-150 trucks listed as “Featured Vehicles.” The couple showed up to the dealership on Black Friday with every intention of buying a new truck that day. But when they showed up, they were surprised by the response.
“All the trucks that are advertised at this really great Black Friday price are all recalled and you can’t purchase them,” Miri says a salesman told her. Three of the featured trucks on the dealership’s website — new 2017 Ford F-150s — had active recalls for a frozen door latch.
When KXAN asked Covert Ford about the sales change, the dealership said it would change the way it advertises recalled vehicles. Although representatives with the dealership declined an on-camera interview, Covert management told investigator Brittany Glas that Miri’s concerns are valid and the dealer is sorry it happened.
“Our intention is to be transparent in all that we do; clearly the customer (at least the one we are aware of) felt misled and was not satisfied with our attempts to correct it,” said Covert Ford in a statement.
“I think it’s just a dishonest way to advertise your product and get the customers into your dealership,” says Miri.
The National Highway Traffic System says federal law forbids dealers from selling new vehicles that have active recalls. “Dealers have a legal obligation not to sell a new vehicle after they have been notified of the recall by the manufacturer until the defect has been remedied,” states the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Ford Motor Company sent a delivery-hold notification letter to its affiliated dealerships dated Oct. 17 regarding the safety recall for certain models regarding the door latch. Ford states the part may result in a door failing to open or close — or, in some cases — cause a door to open while driving, increasing your risk for injury behind the wheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a remedy to the issue is not yet available, nor has the dealer received information about when a repair will be made available.
“The consumer goes there thinking they’re going to be able to get a particular vehicle, and then to find out that they can’t, and here, I’ll sell you something [else] — here’s another truck you can buy, you know, that’s just — it’s just wrong. They need to be a little more honest about it,” Miri said. “They could have had an easy sale… if they had been honest on their website.” After their experience at Covert Ford, the couple ended up buying a Toyota Tundra from a different dealership.
The Better Business Bureau says a case like this could violate the organization’s Code of Advertising.
“Something may technically be legal, but not necessarily ethical,” said Erin Dufner, the chief marketing officer for the BBB’s Austin office. “It sounds like the consumer was lured in by a specific ad, for a specific vehicle, for a specific price, and then unable to purchase the vehicle and that is absolutely concerning.”
A spokesperson for Ford Motor Company told KXAN, “Federal law does not prohibit dealers from listing or advertising vehicles with open recalls.”
Covert Ford’s full statement:
“The feedback of having a vehicle on a delivery hold not listed as a “featured” advertised vehicle is great customer insight and something we will discuss and implement as a best practice. We make mistakes, correct them and hope to learn from them.
Please note customers, and we have had several, are able to agree to the numbers and secure these vehicles if they so choose. We are providing a loaner vehicle for them to drive until the recall is repaired. Also, as have several other customers, we will simply find a like vehicle for the same value not impacted by the recall and deliver immediately. Our intention is to be transparent in all that we do; clearly the customer (at least the one we are aware of) felt misled and was not satisfied with our attempts to correct it. Simply stated, we are sorry and hope to re-earn his trust if given that opportunity.
Globally, we are open to hearing all recommendations on how to properly display vehicles temporarily impacted by recalls (not as featured cars as an example). They are for sale (albeit sometimes on delivery hold), several people do agree to terms to buy them and usually the recall has a remedy from the manufacturer in short order. Again, I don’t have the answers but interested to hear suggestions.”
The Office of the Texas Attorney General encourages customers with concerns about dealerships — or any business for that matter — to contact its Consumer Protection Division.
“I would invite consumers, if they have complaints about any type of business — any transaction that they have run into with a business — to file a complaint with our office because those complaints are looked at,” said Asst. Attorney General Pedro Perez.
The office says it looks at each complaint to identify patterns or practices and determine whether to launch an investigation.
For information on how to file a consumer complaint, click here and submit the complaint form.
If you’re concerned about active recalls on your vehicle — whether it’s new or used — you can look up recall status for your vehicle online. Click here to visit the NHTSA website and enter its VIN number.