A poster, for a Vauxhall Astra car, showed two stationary cars in an empty warehouse. Text stated "ASTRA VXR Shortens Straights. Straightens Corners".
A complainant challenged whether the claim "Shortens Straights. Straightens Corners" was irresponsible, because he believed it condoned and encouraged speeding and dangerous driving.
General Motors UK Ltd (GM) said both cars in the ad were deliberately shown stationary to ensure no suggestion in relation to speed. To further enforce this point text in the footer of the ad stated "Vauxhall does not condone irresponsible driving". The strap-line "Shortens Straights. Straightens Corners" made no mention of speed, quickness or any other term associated with driving quickly or dangerously and could not therefore be read in a way that encouraged such behaviour.
GM said "Shortens Straights" referred to the driving experience of the vehicle, which was made less arduous and more pleasurable partly due to the Flex-Ride Suspension which provided the vehicle with adaptive shock absorbers and the Watts-Link rear suspension design. These features adapted the vehicle to varying road surfaces and could give the feeling of shortening the straights of the journey.
GM said "Straightens Corners" referred to the chassis technology, used on the advertised model, which provided safer cornering. Therefore, not only was the wording not encouraging irresponsible behaviour, it was meant to advertise one of the features which increased the safety of the model in the ad.
GM said they were sorry to learn that the complainant had interpreted the ad in the way described. They were a risk-averse company and it was not their intention to condone any form of anti-social behaviour. In their opinion there was nothing in the ad which could be associated with speed or dangerous driving.
The CAP Code required that marketers must not make speed or acceleration the main message of their marketing communications.
The ASA noted that the claim "Shortens Straights. Straightens Corners" was featured in large text as the main strap-line of the ad. Although we considered that "Straightens Corners" was likely to be seen by readers simply as a claim about the car's handling, we considered that the claim "Shortens Straights" would be interpreted to mean that the car made straight stretches of road shorter by covering them more quickly. We therefore considered that, by making speed the main message, the ad breached the Code and condoned irresponsible driving.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
(Social responsibility) and
Marketing communications must not condone or encourage unsafe or irresponsible driving. If it could be emulated, marketing communications must not depict a driving practice that is likely to condone or encourage a breach of those rules of the Highway Code that are legal requirements if that driving practice seems to take place on a public road or in a public space. Vehicles' capabilities may be demonstrated on a track or circuit if it is obviously not in use as a public highway.
Marketing communications must not depict speed in a way that might encourage motorists to drive irresponsibly or to break the law.
To avoid the implication of irresponsible driving through excessive speed, care must be taken in the style of presentation of marketing communications. Particular care must be taken in, for example, cinema commercials and in marketing communications that appear in electronic media to avoid moving images that imply excessive speed. If they are shown in normal driving circumstances on public roads, vehicles must be seen not to exceed UK speed limits. and 19.4 19.4 Marketers must not make speed or acceleration the main message of their marketing communications. Marketing communications may give general information about a vehicle's performance, such as acceleration and mid-range statistics, braking power, road-holding and top speed. (Motoring).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told General Motors UK Ltd to ensure that they did not make speed or acceleration the main message of their marketing communications.