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Cuomo: 9 LI dealers running 'deceptive' clunker ads

Used cars in a dumpster are being used

Used cars in a dumpster are being used to draw attention to the "Cash for Clunkers" program at a dealership in Sacramento, Calif. (Aug. 1, 2009) Credit: AP Photo

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he had issued "cease and desist" orders to about 40 New York auto dealers, including nine on Long Island, for what he called "misleading and deceptive" newspaper ads urging buyers to take advantage of the federal Cash for Clunkers program.

Cuomo said ads, some of which were in Newsday, "omitted significant requirements that had to be met in order for a consumer to be eligible to get the [federal] rebate," and added, "These ads mislead consumers into believing that their trade-in vehicle qualifies for the program when it does not or that they are eligible for a several-thousand-dollar rebate, when they are not."

Cuomo said the letters ordered the dealerships to "immediately modify promotions and advertisements to clearly explain how the program works."

According to the attorney general’s Web site, Long Island dealerships sent a letter include Garden City Jeep Chrysler Dodge, Hassel Volvo of Glen Cove and Huntington, Karp Volvo, Rockville Centre; Millenium Toyota, Hempstead, Nissan of Garden City;
Competition Toyota, Middle Island; Security Dodge, Amityville; Town & Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge, Levittown, and Atlantic of Bay Shore. (Click here to to see full list.)

Dealer principals and managers who could be reached Monday said they had not intended to mislead buyers about the program, whose requirements are complex, and that they had revised the ads as soon as they received the letters from Cuomo late last month.

At Security Dodge/Chrysler in Amityville, for example, co-owner John J. Vigorito said Cuomo wanted his ad in Newsday to explain the qualifications for the clunkers program, such as that the car being traded has to have EPA-certified fuel economy of less than 18 mpg. His ad said simply that government trade-in credits of up to $4,500 are available.

"The program was so new, nobody knew how to advertise it," Vigorito said. "They [Cuomo's staff] wanted it worded a certain way; they wanted a breakdown of the major qualifications of the program."

David Karp, whose Karp Volvo in Rockville Centre was also named, said the ad was done either by a regional or national ad group, not by his or any specific dealership -- and that it has since been changed. "We had nothing to do with it," he said. "There was no ill intent."

One of the Long Island ads cited by Cuomo was for the "Pre-Owned Super Center" of Atlantic Chevrolet Cadillac in Bay Shore. His office wrote the dealership saying, because the program covers only new-car purchases, "any representation, explicit or implicit, that Atlantic is participating in the [clunkers] program is necessarily false."

Atlantic officials could not be reached for comment.

The U.S. Senate last week approved -- and President Barack Obama signed -- an extension of the popular clunkers program and an additional $2 billion in funding atop the $1 billion previously appropriated.

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