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BMW forced to pull i3 electric car ad with gas-powered range extender advertised as ‘clean’

The BMW i3, which is the German automaker’s only all-electric car, is also offered with a gas-powered range extender and the option is now putting the company in trouble with the UK’s consumer watchdogs.

The automaker is being asked to pull an ad that markets the vehicle as “clean” and “zero-emission.”

UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took issue with a video commercial with testimonies from i3 owners that BMW was promoting on Facebook.

They had an issue with a particular claim included in the ad both in the voice-over and subtitles on screen:

“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”

With electric cars, a claim of “zero emission” generally means that it doesn’t mean emit emission at the tailpipe because there’s no tailpipe, but that’s not the case with the BMW i3 with range extender.

In its ruling ASA wrote:

“BMW said that the reference to the “clean car” should have been interpreted in the same manner as when consumers compare an electric car to the consumer’s previous petrol-filled cars; as electric cars were considerably cleaner than petrol fuelled cars, the claim was not misleading. They also said that because the i3 electric car had no emissions when driving, unlike comparable petrol-fuelled cars which did, they would have been able to advertise the car as “green” which they considered comparable to “clean”.”

But that didn’t sit well with ASA since emissions can actually be quantified from the petrol-powered range extender.

They asked BMW to change the ad in a ruling issued today:

“The ad must not appear again in its current form. 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.”

Its ASA’s third ruling on BMW’s ads in the UK this year following complaints and the second to be upheld.

Interestingly, Tesla also had an issue with ASA last year over its electric vehicles. A competitor complained about Tesla’s claim that its Supercharger is “The World’s Fastest Charging Station”, but the agency ended up agreeing with Tesla.

Electrek’s Take

It’s a bit of a silly issue in my opinion. I’m no fan of the range extender on the BMW i3 and I would much prefer the all-electric version, but there’s no doubt that both versions of the vehicle are cleaner than most gas-powered cars.

I get the issue with claiming that it is “zero-emission”, but I’d have no problem with BMW claiming that as long as they specify that it is without the range extender working, which I would assume would cover the vast majority of the global i3 fleet mileage.

But it certainly hasn’t been a good few weeks for the BMW i3. The automaker had to issue a stop-sale / recall on all BMW i3 models sold in America last month.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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