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DMV Closes Toyota of Cerritos, Alleging False Ads, Fraud

Autos: The agency, issuing its most severe penalty, says the dealership failed to sell vehicles at advertised prices and forced customers to buy extra accessories.

October 07, 2002|ABIGAIL GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

California's Department of Motor Vehicles shut down auto dealership Toyota of Cerritos for one day Sunday for what the agency called false advertising and fraud, a DMV spokesman said.

The DMV, which licenses sellers as well as drivers, accused Toyota of Cerritos of failing to disclose advertised prices and failing to sell vehicles at advertised prices.

The dealership also was accused of advertising vehicles at one price while requiring customers to buy extra accessories to get the car at that price, the DMV said.

Toyota of Cerritos could not be reached for comment. Callers to the dealership were told only that "we are closed today" before being directed to voicemail.

The dealership is in Cerritos Auto Square, one of the largest auto retail centers in the country.

"This action says the department will consistently take a strong stand against fraud by car dealers in California," DMV Deputy Director John McClellan said in a news release. "All dealers, large and small, need to get the message that false advertising and deceptive practices toward consumers just won't be tolerated anywhere in the state."

DMV investigators arrived at Toyota of Cerritos at 9 a.m. Sunday to close the dealership and post notices explaining that the dealership's license to sell cars was suspended for one day, said DMV spokesman Steve Haskins.

Toyota of Cerritos will have its license reinstated today and is expected to be open for business, Haskins said.

The dealership, which entered into an agreement with the DMV, will pay a $100,000 fine and reimburse the DMV $45,000 for investigative and legal costs, the agency said.

The company will pay unspecified restitution to consumers the DMV says were harmed by the dealership's sales practices and pay for three annual DMV audits, the agency said.

Toyota of Cerritos was placed on three years' probation and received two additional days of forced closure, which were stayed for the probationary period. If the dealership does not incur additional violations during its probation, the extra two days of license suspension would be waived, the DMV said.

Haskins said the allegations-- which were filed against the dealership under its corporate name, Mr. Wheels Inc., on July 12, 2001 --stemmed from customer complaints.

Suspending a dealership's license, an action taken only a few times each year, is the DMV's most severe penalty, Haskins said.

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