Volvo Cars of North America admitted this week that advertisements showing its automobiles standing up to a "Monster Truck" during a car crushing "exhibition" were staged with reinforced Volvos.
In the ads, Volvos are touted as a "car you can believe in" because a Volvo appeared to be the only auto left standing after being run over repeatedly by a truck with oversize tires.Under an agreed judgment filed Monday in Travis County State District Court, the company agreed to pull the ads and pay the state $316,250 in investigative costs.
Attorney General Jim Mattox, who sued Volvo after receiving a tip about the methods used to produce the ads, called the ad campaign "false, misleading and deceptive."
"In the ads Volvo is touted as a car you can believe in, but unfortunately you cannot believe in these ads," he said.
William Hoover, a senior vice president for Volvo, conceded at a joint news conference with Mattox that the ads were "pretty outrageous" and said the company "feels pretty dumb."
Hoover said Volvo Cars of North America, of Rockleigh, N.J., which distributes the Swedish-made autos, pulled the ads last Wednesday and purchased space Tuesday in 19 Texas newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today to apologize to consumers.
The TV commercial, aired nationally on cable television since Oct. 8, showed a series of action and crowd shots taken at a purported car crushing contest in Austin on June 12.
But Mattox said there was no car-crushing exhibition and that the event was a "hoax and a sham" that was "totally staged" by Volvo's ad agency and production company.
In the ads, a Volvo 240 station wagon was placed roughly in the middle of a row side-by-side with about 10 other cars. A large-tire pickup truck identified as "Bear Foot" was shown driving on the roofs of the cars, crushing the passenger compartments of all but the Volvo.
A two-page print ad showed a structurally intact Volvo surrounded by the crushed hulks of what appeared to be two Fords, an Audi, a Dodge and a Plymouth.
The driver of the truck was quoted in the print ad as saying, "I tried everything. The darn thing (Volvo) just wouldn't give."
Mattox said the ad was produced using three used Volvos with their roofs reinforced, first with wooden beams and later with steel, "so that it would withstand the pressure of being run over."
Meanwhile, the other cars in the ad had their roof support pillars removed so they would be easily crushed, he said.
Mattox said he hoped the case will serve as a warning to companies that "faking demonstrations or so-called tests is absolutely not in their best interests."
Hoover said consumers "deserve better advertising," but he said the ad was a dramatization of an event that actually occurred in September 1988 in Vermont.
Mattox said, however, a dramatization label would not have validated the Volvo ad under Texas law.
Hoover said Volvo only learned about a week ago that the cars used in the ad were modified by the company's advertising agency, Scali, McCabe, Sloves Inc., and the production company, Perretti Productions of New York.