Alleged bait-and-switch sours consumers’ opinions of Capitol Kia

BBB warns those shopping for a car to be wary of Capitol Kia’s promises

AUSTIN, Texas — May 2, 2012 — It was advertised as the right car at the right price. Robert Munzer said funds were tight when he saw an advertisement for a base-model Kia Sorento for a great price at Capitol Kia in Austin.

Not wanting to waste his time, Munzer sent an email to the dealership asking if it still had that particular vehicle in stock. The company emailed back that it was. However, when Munzer arrived on the lot, the salesman told him the vehicle had sold out, and showed him a similar, but more expensive, car.

“What they were doing to me was, (saying) ‘We don’t have that one, but we’ll sell you this one for a discounted price,’” Munzer said. “But it was still $6,000 more than I was looking at.”

Munzer said he felt like the advertisement was a bait-and-switch offer.

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be wary of Capitol Kia’s promises after receiving numerous complaints about possible bait-and-switch tactics. In addition, the company has received complaints about other issues, 12 of which Capitol Kia did not respond to.

According to the FTC, bait-and-switch or “bait advertising” occurs when a business advertises or offers to sell a product or service that “does not intend or want to sell” (the “bait”). The business then attempts to sell alternate items or services (the “switch”), “usually at a higher price or on a basis more advantageous to the advertiser.”

BBB contacted Capitol Kia about the alleged bait-and-switch tactics reported by consumers twice in January. The company indicated it would respond to the allegations, but BBB never received that response.

In March, a BBB investigator called Capitol Kia to inquire about purchasing a base-model Kia Rio for approximately $14,000. Though the company’s website did not indicate any were in stock, the salesman said the dealership had several vehicles on the lot at that price and asked the investigator to visit the showroom in order to make a deal.

When the investigator arrived later that day, the salesman once again promised there were several Rios on the lot for around $14,000. He led the investigator around the entire lot, looking at different Rios, all of which were upgraded models that cost at least $15,500.

When he could not locate a Rio for the specified price, he promised the investigator he could make a “good deal” on the more expensive car, but could not get the price down to $14,000.

Even after the investigator told the salesman that she would not buy a more expensive car and prepared to leave the lot, he insisted that several $14,000 models must be on the way, and could arrive any minute. He said his inventory list showed several in-stock.

Munzer said he got a similar story about the Kia Sorento he intended to purchase.

“When I got there, they said, ‘Oh, it was sold last night,’” he said. “When corporate called me, (the representative told me) they hadn’t had that vehicle on the lot for months.”

Munzer said he continued to see the advertisement for the sold out model weeks after his visit. The general manager at Capitol Kia told him that the miscommunication occurred because the dealership was having trouble with its website.

While it is common for dealerships to sell out of an advertised deal, especially on a used-car lot, BBB is warning consumers to treat Capitol Kia’s promises with skepticism and walk away from any deal that does not meet the promised terms.

Additionally, when buying a new car from Capitol Kia or any other dealership, BBB offers the following advice:

  • Research the dealership on View the dealer’s BBB Business Review to see its accreditation status, the length of time the auto dealer has been in business, its history of complaints and complaint resolution and any past advertising concerns BBB may have found.
  • Test drive and inspect the vehicle. The dealer should have nothing to hide. If the salesman does not allow you to test drive the vehicle or allow a third-party mechanic to look it over, do not buy it.
  • Read the contract carefully. Take your time to read and understand the entire written agreement. Be sure that all blank spaces are filled in, that all verbal promises are included, and that the type of warranty that comes with the car is spelled out.

When buying a used car:

  • Understand the warranty. Most vehicles have at least a three-year or 36,000-mile basic manufacturer’s warranty, and often longer "power train" coverage on the engine and transmission. If you buy a car still under this warranty, this offers you more protections should something go wrong with the car. Just be sure to confirm the details of the warranty and whether it is fully transferable.
  • Consider a certified, pre-owned (CPO) vehicle. These are vehicles that typically have been given multipoint inspections before being put on the lot. CPO programs are backed by many automakers and the vehicles may include an extended warranty on major parts such as the engine and transmission at no cost.
  • Ask to see the car history. For a small cost, you can use a service to find the vehicle service and history report. Obtain the vehicle identification number (VIN) to check for accident reports, previous owners and why the vehicle has been taken to repair shops in the past. You can also check if certain items on the vehicle have ever been recalled. Many dealerships will provide this information at no cost.