Radio advertising for Toyota stated:
“How do you make a difference? Discover why thousands of people have made the switch to Toyota hybrid. Up to 55% of the time you drive, you're in electric mode and yet, you never have to plug it in. You use up to 40% less fuel and deliver cleaner air for our children's children. With Toyota hybrid, there is no compromise and for a limited time, you can upgrade to hybrid for free. Toyota, Built for a better world.”
The complainant considered that the advertising was for the Toyota Prius model. They considered that the claim that the car was able to drive in electric mode up to 55% of the time while driving was misleading as they considered it was impossible to achieve this result unless the driver was sitting in a traffic jam, not moving.
The complainant also considered that the statement could mislead consumers into thinking that they could use up to 55% less petrol than a standard internal combustion engine. The complainant said that the reality was that a hybrid vehicle would only give approximately 10% better fuel economy over a comparable standard internal combustion engine vehicle.
The advertisers provided the Executive, on a confidential basis, the results of a study conducted by the Centre For Automotive Research and Evolution on drivers in a European capital during various times of the day and night and over various routes. They referred to the results of the study which showed that on average, the vehicle functioned in electric mode for 58.3% of the time. They pointed out that they had used the term “up to” in their advertising on the understanding that the results were dependent on how someone drives.
The ASAI Executive engaged the services of an independent expert in engineering to review the research provided by the advertisers. The reviewer analysed the research study provided by the advertisers and noted that the study had been carried out under a variety of conditions, using 3 identical vehicles and 20 drivers whose experience and age were diverse.
The expert noted that the research showed that the vehicle operated in EV (electric) mode an average of 58.3% of the time over a mixed suburban-motorway-urban route and up to 67.1% of the time in an urban setting.
The expert considered that the research was a highly comprehensive analysis of the operation of the vehicle’s hybrid drive system and its ability to operate as a zero emissions vehicle. They noted that the main focus of the research was on the time (and distance) spent operating in EV mode.
Complaint Not Upheld:
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee reviewed the research provided by the advertisers and the opinion given by the independent expert. The Committee noted that the advertisers had taken account of the driver impact on the performance of the vehicle when making the claim that the car could be driven in EV mode “up to 55% of the time”. The Committee considered that the evidence from the research had substantiated the claim that the car could be driven in electric mode “up to 55% of the time”.
The Committee considered the complaint that consumers could think that the “up to 55%’ claim in EV mode would result in a fuel saving of 55%. They noted, however, that the advertisement had clearly stated that a driver could use “up to 40% less fuel” and as such did not consider that consumers would misunderstand the claim in relation to fuel saving.
No further action required.