Volkswagen says it is common to advertise cars nobody can actually buy – but SA’s advertising regulator is not impressed

Business Insider SA
(Warren Wilson/ Wheels24)
  • In February Volkswagen advertised a special on a "standard model" Golf GTD DSG Model for R528,700 on its website.
  • There was one problem: dealerships don't stock standard models, and getting one from the factory would take three months – by which time the special would have expired.
  • That's not fair, the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) says. 
  • For more stories go to Business Insider.

In February Volkswagen advertised a standard Golf GTD TDI 130kw DSG model on its website at a monthly instalment of R5,440 per month.

There was only one problem: no such car was actually available.

As the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) recounted in a ruling against Volkswagen published on Tuesday, one consumer was told standard models of cars are a rarity, not to be found on dealership floors. One could be advertised from the factory, but that would take three months – and the advertised special was only valid for a month.

See also: Coping with SA problems like loadshedding and potholes may call for sipping cocktails - but Tops has to pull 'binge drinking' ad

"It is acceptable – although not ideal – that the consumer may have had to wait for the advertised vehicle to be ordered, as none were currently available," the ARB's directorate wrote in a finding.

"What is not acceptable is that the wait would render the offer invalid. In other words, [Volkswagen] promotes a 'special deal' knowing very well that it is not possible for any customer to obtain such deal."

Volkswagen had argued that it was covered by a disclaimer limiting the special to available stock – but the advertised cars weren't unavailable because they had been sold out, the ARB said. There had been no evidence that any consumer secured the advertised deal.

Volkswagen told the regulator that it advertised base models, with no extras, because the combinations of extras available are so vast. But that means every deal is uniquely priced, not only due to the extras ordered but because of the size of the deposit paid and the customer's risk profile.

The ARB instructed Volkswagen to keep in mind when "preparing future offers" that it is misleading to advertise cars not actually available for sale.

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