On my way to work, I drive right past Myers Cadillac Chevrolet. Car dealerships aren’t particularly noteworthy except perhaps when the new models come out. Myers, however, definitely caught my attention because of the giant stickers they have plastered on the cars on the edge of their lot. With gas prices so high they decided to appeal to the buyer’s pocketbook. An excellent tactic. The mileage numbers they claimed seemed far too large for the cars, however. Then I looked more closely.

CRW_03551.CRW: Digital Rebel, EF 70-200mm 1:4L @ 84mm, 1/640, f/4, 100 ISO

The numbers didn’t report the number of miles per gallon, as I originally thought. No, they quoted the fuel efficiency in kilometres per gallon! The upshot is a number 60% larger. While I believe it’s deceptive, I have no doubt the number is accurate. Still, this is the kind of thing that got car salespeople such a poor reputation. I couldn’t believe they’d pull such a transparent stunt, so I thought I’d ask.

I drive by your dealership on by way to and from work every day. Recently, I noticed you have some cars out on display with some impressive mileage figures. Looking more closely I noticed they’re rated in kilometres/gallon. I don’t know where you buy your gas, but it’s sold by the litre around here. I can also understand miles/gallon if reading figures from American car reviews. But kilometres/gallon?

The only reason I can figure for using kilometres/gallon is it’s an easy way to get attention by making the figure 60% larger. Surely this isn’t the reason, so you could fill me in on what the reason really is?

I received a “we’ll have someone get right back to you” message the next day, and the General Sales Manager wrote me the day after:

In response to your e‑mail regarding our cars out front of the dealership. We had seen this at another local “IMPORT” dealer in Ottawa and we thought it was unique way of marketing fuel economy. It is a very competitive environment and so we simply want to be seen as being competitive within our marketplace.

Hope this answers your questions.

I’m not sure what the scare-quotes around ‘import’ are all about, but I can absolutely understand the need to be competitive. I’m not so tolerant of a merchant who wants to be seen as competitive, perhaps without actually being competitive. Speaking from my own point of view, I’d likely avoid a dealer who is competitive in this way. If they’re not straightforward about something so simple as fuel efficiency, I’d be nervous about more complex issues.