Two TV ads for Nissan’s Qashqai model:
a. The first TV ad, seen in May and September 2023, featured stylised footage of a car driving through a city at night. In its opening shot, an electrical transmission tower threw off sparks as the car drove past it, while the voice-over stated, “Who said electrification can’t spark excitement when unplugged?”. On-screen text stated “FUELLED BY PETROL DRIVEN BY ELECTRIC” while a spark trailed the car through the streets. Along the way, the spark traversed electric vehicle charging cables while further on-screen text stated, “NO NEED TO PLUG IN”. As the voice-over said, “New Nissan Qashqai with e-POWER. A unique electrified experience, unplugged”, the spark leapt onto the “e-POWER” logo embossed on the side of the car, before tunnelling into the car’s motor through a stylised vortex. A close-up shot depicted the vehicle’s display screen featuring the text “Energy Flow”. The ad’s closing shots featured on-screen text that stated “New Nissan Qashqai with e-POWER, unplugged” and the Nissan logo.
The ad’s opening shots were accompanied by small on-screen text that stated “*e-POWER comprises a 100% electric motor-driven system, powered by a lithium ion battery and a petrol engine”.
b. The second TV ad, seen on 27 June 2023, featured a voice-over, visuals and on-screen text that were similar to those in ad (a). Ad (b) included an additional closing shot whose visuals depicted The Flash, a DC superhero, running around two Nissan cars and leaving a trail of sparks in his wake. The accompanying voice-over stated, “Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail with e-Power. Get your own electrical superpower like The Flash”.
Four complainants challenged whether ads (a) and (b) made the nature of the vehicle’s power source sufficiently clear.
Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd said that the ads made the nature of the vehicle's power source clear. There was nothing in the ads to suggest it was a new type of 100% electric vehicle that did not need charging. They did not make any references to the car being fully electric, but instead made clear that it was part of their “e-Power” range. This was a unique system that was neither hybrid nor fully electric, but rather used a petrol engine and lithium-ion battery to power an electric motor which solely turned the wheels. This was different from conventional hybrids where the wheels were powered by a petrol engine, electric motor, or a combination of both. The driving experience between an “e-Power” car and a hybrid car was different; unlike driving a hybrid, which switched between power sources, the “e-Power” system did not do this and so was smooth throughout. They did not believe that their technology should be described as “hybrid”.
They had always been fully transparent about the “e-Power” technology and were mindful that it was a new technology that consumers needed to understand. The ads included on-screen text which stated “FUELLED BY PETROL DRIVEN BY ELECTRIC” and “NO NEED TO PLUG IN”, as well as the qualifier “e-POWER comprises a 100% electric motor-driven system, powered by a lithium ion battery and a petrol engine”. These all appeared on screen for longer than the legally stipulated time for a consumer to read. These made clear that petrol was required for the vehicle to function, and there was no need to charge it, making it clear that the vehicle was not a 100% electric vehicle that needed charging. Given that they set out clearly that the car needed petrol, to fuel an electric motor that powered the wheels of the vehicle all of the time, they strongly believed that they had not been misleading in explaining “e-Power” technology and all that information was added to help consumers to understand it.
The tagline “electrification sparking excitement” was used in reference to their entire range of electricity-based models, which also included fully electric cars, hybrids and mild hybrids. The close-up shot in each ad of the advertised cars’ display screen, which included the text “Energy Flow”, accurately depicted a feature of the car that showed the electric flow to the wheels.
As the ads clearly stated “FUELLED BY PETROL” and there were no references to the vehicle being solely powered by electricity, and there were no claims as to fewer emissions, they did not consider that consumers would believe that the car had fewer emissions. Neither ad featured environmental claims and therefore they did not consider that the BCAP Code Rules on environmental claims were relevant.
They said the ads were no longer being broadcast in the form complained of, and that in future they would include additional wording to clarify that the vehicle was not a fully electric vehicle and required petrol to fuel the electric motor.
Clearcast believed the ad made clear how the car was powered and that it was not misleading. Although the ad referred to “electric” and “charging”, they believed it was acceptable to include these in an ad for a hybrid car because not needing to charge the advertised car was a legitimate point of difference between it and a fully electric car. Nonetheless, they recognised that they needed to make it clear in the advert that the advertised car was not solely powered by an electric battery to avoid confusion.
They endorsed the advertisers’ comments that the drive system was unique, and that the on-screen text and qualifier gave a clear description of how the car was powered and made it clear that it was not solely powered by electricity.
They also endorsed the advertisers’ comments about there being nothing in the ads about emissions. The avoidance of such claims, coupled with the references to the car having a petrol engine and being powered by petrol, made it clear the car was not emission free.
Ads (a) and (b) showed a Nissan Qashqai being driven around a city whilst a spark of electricity simultaneously traversed the city, including along electric vehicle charging cables that were plugged in to other cars, until it ultimately leapt onto the Nissan Qashqai’s “e-Power” badge. The ads featured a voice-over that stated, “Who said electrification can’t spark excitement when unplugged? New Nissan Qashqai with e-Power. A unique electrified experience unplugged”. The ads included on-screen text that stated “FUELLED BY PETROL DRIVEN BY ELECTRIC”, “NO NEED TO PLUG IN” and “New Nissan Qashqui with e-POWER A unique electrified experience, unplugged”. Ad (b) also included on-screen text and voice-over that stated “Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail with e-Power. Get your own electrified superpower”. The ads therefore placed strong emphasis on electricity as a means of power. We considered that viewers would understand the ads to mean that the advertised car used “e-Power”, a new, electric technology that did not require the car to be plugged in in the same way as electric powered vehicles.
We understood that the “e-Power” technology used an electric motor to drive the cars’ wheels, but that the electric motor was powered either directly by petrol, or from a battery that was recharged by petrol. Additionally, the car had a regenerative braking system that recharged the battery. Therefore, whilst the car only drove using an electric motor, it nonetheless required petrol.
As referenced above, the ad stated “FUELLED BY PETROL DRIVEN BY ELECTRIC”. It also included qualifying text that stated “*e-POWER comprises a 100% electric motor-driven system, powered by a lithium ion battery and a petrol engine”. We considered that whilst viewers may have understood from those claims that the car required petrol, because they were alongside claims about the car being driven by electric and the ad as a whole strongly emphasised the role of electricity in the car, the extent of the role petrol had in powering the car was unclear. Further, because “e-Power” was a unique and new technology, most consumers would not be aware of how it differed from other forms of hybrid technology. We therefore considered that the ads did not make the nature of the vehicle’s power source sufficiently clear.
Furthermore, whilst the ad did not include any explicit claims in relation to the car’s environmental impact, we considered that by focusing on the car’s use of electricity, consumers were likely to understand that the car was a better choice for the environment than traditionally fuelled vehicles. However, because the ads did not make sufficiently clear the nature of the vehicle’s power source and because it required petrol to power the electric motor, which would produce tailpipe emissions, we considered that the ads were also misleading in this regard.
We concluded that the ads did not make sufficiently clear the extent to which the car required petrol and were therefore misleading.
Ads (a) and (b) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 9.2 and 9.3 (Environmental claims).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd to ensure that their future ads made sufficiently clear the nature of a vehicle’s power source.