The advertisement which appeared on the advertisers’ Twitter account featured an image of a wing from a Toyota car with a hybrid badge. In the bottom righthand corner the word “HYBRID” appeared and it was accompanied by the Toyota logo. Imagery containing wind turbines featured in the background.
The strapline read “The HYBRID ADVANTAGE” and was also accompanied by the Toyota logo. The text underneath read:
“Toyota self-charging Hybrid Electric cars can drive in EV mode up to 62% of the time, saving as much as 1.7 tonnes of CO2 compared to a petrol car over three years. That’s the equivalent of planting 25 trees. Find out more at…”
The complainant challenged the inclusion of the wind turbines in the advertisement as they considered such imagery had the potential to mislead customers. They said the Hybrid Car was not a plug-in electric vehicle and that it received all its energy from petrol aka fossil fuel. They said that there was zero connection to wind turbines as a hybrid car received no energy from renewable energy.
The complainant said that the other claims about fuel and CO² savings made in the advertisement were also questionable.
The advertisers said that the picture in their advertisement had featured wind turbines with a hybrid badged car, as imagery was a key part of their advertising campaign. They said that when people see wind turbines, they automatically think of electricity i.e., a wind turbine converts wind energy into electricity. They considered the imagery used to be a fitting image for a car which, as the text stated, can run off electric energy for “up to 62% of the time”.
In relation to the other complainant’s contention that there were other “questionable” claims in the advertisement, the advertisers said that hybrid cars have been proven to be better for the environment, they were significantly cleaner in terms of both CO2 and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) than either petrol or diesel and as a result, many advertisements for hybrid cars had chosen to display the car in nature as a nod to them being the ‘greener choice’. They said that a quick Google search of “hybrid cars Ireland” would bring forth a selection of images of cars parked near the ocean, positioned in a forest, or driving through the countryside. This was nothing more than fitting imagery for an
environmentally friendly car, likewise, the use of wind turbines was nothing more than a nod to the use of ‘electric’.
The advertisers said they had made three claims in their advertising: 1.) The car could drive in EV mode 62% of the time.
2.) This saved 1.7 tonnes of CO2 compared to a petrol car over 3 year. 3.) That was the equivalent of 25 trees.
They said that in the three claims, referenced, “fuel” had never been mentioned. Regarding the CO2 savings, they said that this claim was based on one of their hybrid advantages and was substantiated based on the average CO2 of a basket of leading petrol models to the Corolla Hatchback under WLTP (1) (based on segment leading competitors over 3 years or 54,000km).
The advertisers said their CO2 savings came to 5,508,000. The average of their competitors was 7,164,000. When these were subtracted from each other = 1,656,000. This figure rounded to 1.7 which was the figure stated by them in their advertising.
They said that there had been a link provided in their advertisement to this table of information.
The advertisers said that it was incorrect as stated by the complainant that “the car gets all its energy from petrol” as the electric motor can power the car independently via regenerative braking. They pointed out that there had been no claim made in their advertising that the car was entirely electric, it merely stated that it runs via electric “up to 62% of the time”. They said if it ran solely by electric or solely by petrol then it could not be described as a hybrid car.
In conclusion the advertisers said that their advertising had never stated that their hybrid car ran on electricity from a turbine, nor had they suggested that it was a plug-in vehicle. What they had stated was that their car “can drive in EV mode up to 62% of the time”.
The ASAI Executive noted that hybrid electric vehicles are described by revenue.ie as “a vehicle powered from a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor” (2)
They also noted that hybrid electric vehicles were describe by seai.ie as
Hybrid Electric Vehicles use a combination of electric power and petrol or diesel power to propel the vehicle. They can be ‘plug-in’ or ‘non plug-in”.
These are known as HEV’s. These vehicles have both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. The electric battery however, is only charged by the ICE, the motion of the wheels or a combination of both. There is no charging connector.” (3)
(1) Under conditions defined by EU Law, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) laboratory test is used to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars, as well as their pollutant emissions. Source: https://www.wltpfacts.eu/what-is-wltp-how-will-it-work/
(2) https://www.revenue.ie/en/importing-vehicles-duty-free-allowances/guide-to-vrt/calculating-vrt/electric-and-hybrid- vehicles.aspx
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 – Not upheld.
The Complaints Committee noted the descriptions of Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) from revenue and the seai.ie. They understood the complaint to be that the imagery of wind turbines implied that some of the power to a HEV’s electric battery was sourced from renewable energy. They noted that the advertisement contained the phrase “self- charging hybrid cars”, referred to driving in “EV mode up to 62% of the time” and stated the savings against a petrol car in relation to CO2 emissions.
The Complaints Committee considered, when taken as a whole and in context, that the advertising was not that the electric battery was powered by renewable energy but was highlighting the benefits for the environment of a HEV versus a petrol vehicle. In the circumstances they did not consider that there was a breach of the Code on the basis suggested in the complaint.
Issue 2 – Not upheld.
The Complaints Committee noted the substantiation provided for the claims made in the advertising and in the circumstances, they did not consider that there was a breach of the Code on the basis suggested in the complaint.
No further action required.