A TV ad for Mitsubishi, seen in September 2018, promoted the Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The voice-over stated, “What is the new Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid? It’s electric and petrol power combined. It’s electric and a practical SUV. It’s electric and 4 wheel drive. It’s electric and delivers up to 159 miles per gallon. New Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It’s electric and more. Drive your ambition. Mitsubishi motors.”
Two complainants challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the car was mainly electric when they understood it primarily relied on petrol.
The Colt Car Company Ltd t/a Mitsubishi said that the beginning of the ad informed viewers that the vehicle was a plug-in hybrid vehicle with the question “What is the new Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid?”. They said that the ad answered that question with the line “It’s electric and petrol power combined”. They said that the ad informed consumers of the benefits of both electric and petrol power.
Mitsubishi said that the name of the vehicle included the acronym PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) which informed consumers of the vehicle category and avoided the confusion that the vehicle was purely electric. They argued that the ad did not state that the vehicle was purely electric and highlighted the fact that the vehicle had an electric only mode. They said that they had combined the elements traditionally associated with petrol powered vehicles, e.g. “It’s electric … and a practical SUV” to show that the vehicle provided consumers with “electric and more”. They also highlighted the on-screen text “Search outlander PHEV” which encouraged viewers to find out more about the vehicle on the manufacturers website.
Clearcast said that the nature of the vehicle was made clear in the ad through the graphics and voice-over. They said that the ad did not go into specific details about the different power sources and simply stated that the Outlander used both. They argued that the ad did not exaggerate the capabilities of the vehicle or mislead viewers about the environmental benefits of owning the vehicle.
Clearcast said that the ad highlighted qualities that viewers may not expect to find in such a vehicle. They said that most 4-wheel-drive SUVs were powered by petrol and so consumers may be unaware that hybrid vehicles were also available.
The ASA understood that the complainants believed the ad was misleading because the repeated emphasis which was place in the voice-over on the phrase “it's electric” implied that the vehicle was fully electric rather than a hybrid vehicle. While we acknowledged the repeated references to the electric feature, we noted that the ad began with a question in the voice-over “What is the new Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid?” followed by the answer “It's electric and petrol power combined”. In addition, the ad included a scene of a petrol pump as well as the claim “it’s electric and delivers up to 159 miles per gallon” which reinforced the fact that the vehicle was hybrid rather than electric. We considered that many viewers would be unaware that 4-wheel-drives were available as hybrid vehicles and therefore it was reasonable for Mitsubishi to emphasise the electric feature of the vehicle. We considered that viewers were likely to understand that the ad was for a hybrid vehicle but was intended to emphasise the electric feature of the car.
Because we considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the vehicle was a plug-in hybrid, and was not fully electric, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
In setting or revising any such standards, Ofcom must have regard, in particular and to such extent as appears to them to be relevant to the securing of the standards objectives, to each of these matters:
a) the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular sort of material in programmes generally, or in programmes of a particular description;
b) the likely size and composition of a potential audience for programmes included in television and radio services generally, or in television and radio services of a particular description;
c) the likely expectation of the audience as to the nature of a programme's content and the extent to which the nature of the programme's content can be brought to the attention of potential members of the audience;
d) the likelihood of persons who are unaware of the nature of the programme's content being unintentionally exposed, by their own actions, to that content;
e) the desirability of securing that the content of services identifies when there is a change affecting the nature of a service that is being watched or listened to and, in particular, a change that is relevant to the application of the standards set under this section...".
(Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration) and 9.8 9.8 Advertisements must not mislead consumers about the environmental benefit that a product or service offers; for example, by highlighting the absence of an environmentally damaging ingredient if that ingredient is not usually found in competing products or services by highlighting an environmental benefit that results from a legal obligation if competing products are subject to the same requirements. (Environmental claims), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.