BMW ad banned for making ‘misleading’ environmental claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a BMW ad after it made false environmental claims.

BMW has had an ad promoting its i3 electric model banned after the ASA found it to contain ‘misleading’ environmental claims.

The video post, which appeared on Facebook back in May, included the claim “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” in its voiceover.

However, the ASA said the car brand falsely claimed the i3 was a “zero emissions” and “clean” vehicle. It said BMW’s claim the car “helps to give back to the environment” was also misleading.

The issue is centered around both the fact the i3 comes with the option of a small petrol engine, which maintains the charge on its electric engine, and the “zero emissions” statement. And in response, BMW has argued the quote was an unscripted testimonial from a customer, therefore it couldn’t edit it.

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A BMW spokesman argued: “The statement did not imply that the production of the i3 or the generation of the electricity needed to charge the i3’s battery would cause zero emissions, which was further supported by the headline of the video ‘Rowena’s i3 has taken her city commute in a whole new direction’.

“Our website also included the prominent statement ‘The BMW i3 generates zero driving emissions’, making it clear that ‘the zero emissions’ claim referred to driving emissions only.”

BMW also argued that the “gives back to the environment” statement meant buying an electric car over a petrol-fueled car was more beneficial to the environment. However, its defence was overruled by the ASA, which said the ad gave the impression the i3 created zero emissions and was a clean energy car. It says the fact the i3 car has the option of a petrol engine proves the model contributes an official emissions figure.

An ASA spokesman added: “We considered that the claim “helps to give back to the environment” would be understood by consumers to mean that owning and driving the car had a net benefit on the environment taking into account its full life cycle.

“We noted that BMW considered the statement was meant as a comparison between buying an electric car and buying a petrol car rather than not buying a car at all. However, we did not consider that this was sufficiently clear in the ad and concluded that the claim was misleading.”

The ad has been banned and must not appear again in its current form.