BMW claims that its electric i3 car has “zero emissions” and is a “really clean car [that] helps to give back to the environment”. Ad regulators have ordered it never to say that again – pointing to the Beemer’s petrol-fuelled auxiliary engine.
The Advertising Standards Authority declared that the BMW i3’s “range extender”, a petrol-powered generator that charges the electric car’s batteries, means that the car “cannot be described as ‘zero emissions’ or as a ‘clean car’.”
For its part, BMW insisted that the offending advert – in which i3 “customers” declared they’d never go back to “petrol-guzzling” motors – was referring to the electric-only model of the i3, not the one with the optional petrol-powered generator range extender.
The ASA saw straight through this, declaring: “It was not clear from the ad that the claim was in relation to the electric battery model only.”
The watchdog added that the i3 does have an official emissions rating, thanks to the petrol generator.
As for the ridiculous claim that the i3 “gives back to the environment”, the ASA spelled it out: “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.”
Though BMW insisted to the admen that this was a comparison between an electric car and a petrol car, the regulator “concluded this claim was misleading”, ordering the Bavarian carmaker “not to make environmental claims about their products unless they held sufficient substantiation.” ®