Virginia became the 14th state today to take legal action against General Motors Corp. over the giant auto maker's admitted practice of installing Chevrolet engines in certain 1977 model Oldsmobiles.
In a suit filed in Richmond Circuit Court, State Attorney General Anthony F. Troy charged that GM and 17 Oldsmobile dealers violated the state's laws against deceptive trade practices by failing to tell customers about the engines.
GM announced last month it would offer the owners of 128,000 1977 Buicks, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles equipped with the Chevrolet V-8 engines the chance to exchange the car for another car of the same make or receive an extended mechanical warranty on their cars.
But that offer did not go far enough to suit Troy, a spokesman for his office said. In the suit, Troy asked that GM and the dealers be forced to return to any Virginia purchaser the full price paid for the car.
Five of the 17 dealers named as defendants in the suit are located in Northern Virginia. They are Ashwell Oldsmobile, Inc., Herndon; Farrish Oldsmobile, Inc., Fairfax; Olmstead Oldsmobile, Inc., Arlington and Templeton Oldsmobile, Inc., Mclean.
August Wallmeyer, an assistant to Troy, said today that the Chevrolet-powered Oldsmobiles were probably sold through other dealerships in the state, but that the office was acting only against the dealerships that were the subjects of complaints.
In all, between 1,000 and 1,500 of the Delta 88 model cars were probably sold in Virginia, Wallmeyer said.
In the suit, Troy charged that advertising claims GM and the dealers made about the Oldsmobiles failed to mention the use of Chevrolet engines and said that the omission made the ads "untrue, deceptive, and misleading" under state law. He requested a court order barring such ads and a directive that would allow owners of the cars to get their money back if they wish.
A spokesman for General Motors Declined comment on the Virginia action.
GM has said it began installing the Chevrolet engines in some of its other cars when supplies of another V-8 engine became low. It has said it alerted dealers to the switch in advance of the move, which some auto industry officials have described as similar to an industry-wide policy of interchanging certain parts in various brands of automobiles that they manufacture.