BMW i3 car ad banned for ’misleading’ environmental claims

An ad for BMW has been banned for falsely claiming that its i3 is a zero-emissions "clean car" that "helps to give back to the environment".

The Facebook post in May contained a video including the voice-over: "Having driven petrol-guzzling cars before, I realised that it is now time to switch to an electric car.

"With zero emissions, the i3 really is a clean car and helps to give back to the environment."

Responding to a complaint that the claims were misleading, BMW said the i3 came in one model which was a battery electric vehicle with an optional "range extender" - a small petrol engine that did not power the car but maintained the battery charge.

BMW said it would usually qualify a zero-emissions claim by making clear that it referred to driving the car, but this was not possible in the ad because it was included in an unedited testimonial.

The company said the i3 electric car had no emissions when driving, unlike comparable petrol-fuelled cars, and it would therefore have been able to advertise it as "green", which it considered comparable to "clean".

It also denied that the "helps to give back to the environment" claim misled consumers given that the voice-over was comparing the car’s environmental footprint with that of a petrol-fuelled car, not with the driving of no car at all.

The ASA said consumers would interpret the ad to mean that the i3 had zero emissions and was a clean- energy car.

It said: "Because cars which used petrol cannot be described as ’zero emissions’ or as a ’clean car’ and it was not clear from the ad that the claim was in relation to the electric battery model only, we concluded that the claims were misleading."

It also said consumers would understand the claim that the car "helps to give back to the environment" to mean that owning and driving the car had a net benefit on the environment over its full life cycle, which it ruled was misleading.

It said the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: "We told BMW to ensure that in future they made clear their environmental claims related to the all-electric vehicles only and not to make environmental claims about their products unless they held sufficient substantiation."

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