Electric car makers, watch your language and make sure you can back up your claims — that’s the message of a new ruling today from the UK’s independent advertising regulator. The Advertising Standards Authority’s decision to ban a print ad for Renault’s Fluence Z.E. model, based on misleading claims about emissions savings, deals Renault its second blow in just over a month for its campaign to promote upcoming electric cars.
The ad claimed that the car would cut emissions by at least 90 percent compared to a current diesel model (h/t BBC). The claim is likely to mislead readers, the watchdog has decided, because it’s “not representative of CO2 savings typically available in the UK.”
In small print at the bottom of the ad, Renault noted that the emissions reduction calculation used data from the “French average electric mix.” But as the ASA notes in the explanation of its ruling, France’s electric grid has ” significantly lower levels of CO2 emissions than electricity produced in the UK,” due to heavy reliance on nuclear generation.
Prompted by a complaint about the ad, the ASA assessed the ad as well as Renault’s response. The automaker argued that the ad comes as part of a campaign spanning across the EU, and that its electric vehicle sales in France are likely to “significantly” outweigh those in the UK. Plus, Renault said, consumers can in the UK can get electricity with emission levels similar to the French grid by opting to buy the “carbon free” electricity or “reduced carbon tariffs” available from some electricity providers.
But the ASA believes consumers would be “unlikely to understand the difference between electricity generating mixes in France and the UK and how that would affect CO2 savings in different countries.” And since Renault claimed savings of “at least” 90 percent, consumers should not be expected to infer they would need to sign up for a special green energy program in order to see that reduction.
This latest ruling comes on the heels of the ASA banning one of Renault’s TV ads for its electric car lineup. The earlier ban, issued in late March, was based on a conclusion that Renault’s ad “gave the impression that the entire production use and disposal of the vehicle would not produce emissions,” Marketing Week reported at the time.
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