A regional press ad, for a plug-in electric range extender car, was headed "AMPERA THE EXTENDED-RANGE ELECTRIC VEHICLE". Text stated "Miles ahead of the competition from [price]. The first ever Extended-Range Electric Vehicle, the Ampera offers uncompromised everyday usability ... Compared to other electric cars the Ampera, with up to 360-mile range, top speed of 100mph and charge time of just 6 hours does it all ...". Small print stated "The ‘Combined/weighted’ fuel consumption/CO2 figures calculated from two test results: one when the battery is fully charged from mains electricity and the other where the battery is discharged. The two test results are a weighted average, taking into account mileage range on battery power only, providing a figure in a variety of charge conditions. Extended range achieved by a 1.4 litre 16-valve VVT ECOTEC petrol engine generating electricity".
A reader challenged whether the claim "Compared to other electric cars the Ampera, with up to 360-mile range ..." misleadingly implied that the car was purely electrically powered and could achieve that range without any additional power source.
General Motors said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' Electric Car Guide, a publication issued to advise motorists on electric vehicles, explained that 'electric vehicle' (EV) was an umbrella term for any vehicle that was powered, in part or in full, by a battery that could be directly plugged into mains electricity, whether pure-electric, plug-in hybrid or extended-range electric vehicles. General Motors said the Guide also included a glossary of all the different types of electric cars on the market, which included the Extended-Range Vehicle (E-REV), vehicles typically able to travel in excess of 40 miles on battery power with hundreds of miles of additional range via an on-board generator providing electricity.
General Motors said, since they launched the Ampera in 2012, the electric car market had become more mainstream and they believed that the average consumer was aware that there were different types of EVs available. They believed that it was clear from the headline "AMPERA THE EXTENDED-RANGE ELECTRIC VEHICLE" that the car was an E-REV vehicle and the small print explained that the extended-range was achieved by the addition of a 1.4 litre, 16-valve VVT ECOTEC petrol engine generating electricity. They said the ad compared the Ampera, in terms of both range and features, with all types of EVs not just Pure Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). They believed that it was clear from the ad that the Ampera was an E-REV and not a BEV.
The ASA noted the headline stated that the Ampera was an "EXTENDED-RANGE ELECTRIC VEHICLE", but considered that, because the electric car market was still relatively new, the average consumer was unlikely to be familiar with the term or understand that it referred to the type of vehicle and was not simply a reference to the distance that it was able to travel. For that reason, we considered that consumers were likely to understand that the car was a pure battery electric vehicle.
We noted the small print explained that the extended range was achieved by a petrol engine generating electricity, but considered that it was not sufficiently prominent to remove the overall impression of the ad that the Ampera was a pure battery electric vehicle and therefore the 360-mile range would be achieved by electricity alone. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the claim "Compared to other electric cars the Ampera, with up to 360-mile range" was ambiguous and gave a misleading impression of the car's capabilities.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. and 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told General Motors UK Ltd to ensure that they clearly explained how the car worked in future advertising.