Advertising Watchdog Says BMW Shouldn’t Make “Zero Emissions” Claim

By · December 08, 2017

2017 BMW i3

What constitutes a “clean” or “zero-emissions” car? That question was raised this week when the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) asked BMW to pull advertisements that claim its i3 electric car, the version with the small range-extending gasoline engine, is “a clean car and helps to give back to the environment.” The ASA’s position is that even vehicles that rely mostly on batteries for power—and only use gasoline to supplement electric energy—cannot make a claim for zero emissions.

In a statement, the ASA told BMW to not “make environmental claims about their products unless they held sufficient substantiation.” All vehicles, including ones powered exclusively by batteries and electric motors, require some form of energy (and therefore produce emissions)—even if the vehicle itself does not have a tailpipe. However, electric cars and plug-in hybrids are significantly more efficient and are the cleanest vehicles on the road, even in regions where electricity is produced from non-renewable sources.

The ASA asked BMW to remove video testimonials by i3 owners that were promoted on Facebook.

The ruling by the ASA comes at the heels of an order for BMW to temporarily stop selling the i3 in the United States after the car failed a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rigid-barrier crash test. The test is designed for so-called 5th-percentile women who are in the driver’s seat and not wearing a seatbelt. Fifth-percentile women are defined as weighing between 100 and 110 pounds and standing about five feet tall. The crash test is conducted at 20 to 25 miles per hour.

“While BMW’s compliance testing showed results well below the required limits, more recent testing has shown inconsistent results,” the company said in a statement. “Consequently, BMW has issued a recall and is working with the agency to understand the differences in the test results.”

These setbacks are considered to be minor for BMW, which is planning to increase sales of its i3 by about 50 percent in 2018. “We’ll definitely boost sales by a mid-double-digit amount,” said Klaus Froehlich, head of development at BMW. In the first 10 months of 2017, BMW globally sold more than 78,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

BMW also announced this week that it’s working on a pure electric version of a crossover. “In 2020, we will launch the fully electric X3. In it, X and i come together,” said BMW CEO Harald Krüger.

The company plans to launch as many as 12 new electric vehicles by 2025.

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