The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned two adverts from two major car companies which referred to electric vehicles as “zero emission cars”.
Manufacturers BMW and MG have been forced to remove adverts from circulation which were accused of “misleadingly representing the vehicles’ environmental impact”.
A Google advert for BMW called on people to download a brochure to see its line of “Zero Emissions Cars”, referencing BMW’s electric vehicle models.
The German company told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this was done as a result of the automatic keyword feature in Google Ads.
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The adverts have now been removed from circulation
It added that when referring to battery electric vehicles, it should only state that it is zero emissions when the vehicles are being driven.
The ASA upheld the BMW advert stating that the basis of environmental claims must be clear and outline that EVs do not produce emissions when driving.
The assessment stated: “In other circumstances, such as the manufacture or charging of an electric vehicle using electricity from the national grid, emissions were generated.
“For that reason, an ad that featured a “zero emissions” claim, that did not make explicitly clear that it was related to the reaction of the vehicle while it was being driven was likely to mislead.”
BMW is continuing to grow its range of electric vehicles
BMW said it would remove the advert in its current form. The ASA also told the brand to ensure future adverts referring to “zero emissions” make clear that this is only when the vehicle is being driven.
MG also came under scrutiny from the advertising watchdog for a similar Google advert that called on drivers to save £1,000 on the “MG HS Plug-in Hybrid, MG ZS or MG5 EV Trophy Long Range Renewed”.
It announced that MG would remove all references to “zero emissions” from their ads as the ASA took aim at their hybrid vehicle claims.
Hybrids with petrol and diesel engines still produce emissions when they are being driven and therefore cannot be called zero emission vehicles.
The ASA said the car manufacturer did not differentiate between the vehicle types or clarify that the claim was restricted to emissions when an electric vehicle was being driven.
This follows a further judgement from the ASA targeting Transport for London in relation to adverts launched following the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez).
The TfL radio adverts stated that levels of nitrogen dioxide had reduced by almost half as a result of the Ulez scheme expanding, although this was based on current air quality measurements and a “non-Ulez scenario”.
A spokesperson for the ASA said: “The ASA did not challenge the science. Its ruling centres around a minor technical point in some ads. We will take this into account when drafting the wording and referencing in any future adverts.
The MG ZS EV is one of Britain’s most popular electric vehicles
“The science is absolutely clear about the significant harm of air pollution on people’s health and that estimated premature deaths from air pollution are higher in outer London than in inner London.”
In a statement to GB News, MG said: “MG Motor UK recognises that a particular advertisement issued in the summer of 2023 required some additional detail about a particular model and had the potential to be misunderstood.
“This campaign was immediately withdrawn, we will always comply and co-operate with the ASA to ensure that product information offered to prospective customers does not have the potential to be misunderstood.”
BMW told GB News: “BMW UK accepts the decision of the ASA. We have taken steps to ensure the automated keyword insertion feature within Google Ads is deactivated for future campaigns to prevent this from happening again.”