Most people assume that the police are obligated to tell the truth when interrogating a suspect. But that is, in fact, untrue. Tey can lie all they want. It’s the suspect who is expected to tell the truth.
Car ads are sort of like that. We all assume that they are required by law to tell the truth. Which they are, but we all know how the truth can be…stretched. Wondering what some of the most common ways that carmakers stretch the truth are?
First off, we have the fast-food switch. It only takes one trip to a fast-food joint in America to realize that the burger you see on TV is not the same one that you get for five bucks at the counter. The advertisement features a fresh-looking, bulging burger with lots of extra toppings like guacamole and double cheese, while the burger you actually end up with is usually a patty with some mustard smeared on it. Auto manufacturers use a twist on this idea: they’ll show you a picture of the top-of-the-line, deluxe model with all the extras, but flash the price on the screen for the lowest of the low models that doesn’t even come with a stereo.
They also stretch the truth by claiming that “your mileage may vary.” Don’t you just want to laugh when you hear that one? Meet Wayne Gerdes, winner of last year’s Hybridfest MPG Challenge with an amazing figure of 180 mpg! He can get nearly 60 mpg out of a plain Honda Accord due to his driving style. But that’s probably not the kind of variance car ads have in mind when they say this; more likely it’s the kind where you drive from home to the gas station more often than anywhere else. Just be sure to pay attention to the EPA combined mpg figure, not just the highway mpg one. And if you really want a car that hits 40 mpg, try looking at the 2012 Ford Focus, 2012 Honda Civic, or the 2011 Chevy Cruze.
Lastly, we have the old bait-and-switch. Advertising really hasn’t come up with anything new since the Stone Age, and here’s proof. The bait-and-switch trick (advertise the cheapest, most useless version of a product, and then when customers come flooding in, sell them the most expensive, profitable version) still brings in plenty of curious customers. In the car business, it works like this: advertise a car with the phrase “one at this price” or something similar. Then when someone shows up about the ad, redirect them using an excuse such as “it’s already been sold” or “it’s way at the back, and it would take me 45 minutes to get to it.”
Now that you know these tricks, the real trick is not letting yourself be drawn in by them. Good luck!