A TV ad, poster ad and Facebook post for the car manufacturer Lexus:
a. The TV ad, seen 3 June 2019, included on-screen text at the beginning which stated “ELSA BLEDA” and “PHOTOGRAPHER”. The ad included a voice-over which stated, “To capture something striking, you need to keep your eyes open, and the more you look the more you will see. So keep going. The all new Lexus UX self-charging hybrid.” The ad showed Ms Bleda driving or taking photographs and also showed short interior and exterior shots of a white Lexus, including one of the car’s dashboard, which displayed a graphic of the car’s engine and battery units.
b. The poster, seen 4 June 2019, showed a man walking away from a white Lexus. The ad included text which stated “NEW HORIZONS”, “ALL NEW LEXUS UX” and “SELF-CHARGING HYBRID”.
c. The Facebook post, seen 21 April 2019, included an image which showed a man walking away from a white Lexus at night. The ad included text above the image which stated “All New Lexus UX – New Horizons”. Below the image, text stated “Self-Charging Hybrid”.
Twenty-five complainants challenged whether the claim “self-charging hybrid” was misleading, because they believed it misrepresented the way in which the electric battery was recharged by using the petrol engine.
Toyota (GB) plc t/a Lexus said that their hybrid electric vehicles used a petrol engine and an electric motor which could operate independently of each other, as well as working in tandem. They said that a hybrid vehicle was ‘self-charging’. Firstly, because it used technology for the capture, conversion and storage of kinetic energy that would have otherwise been lost from the petrol part of the vehicles engine, and secondly, because it used technology for the recovery of energy from its regenerative braking system. Lexus said that the electric battery did rely on energy from the petrol part of the engine which charged the battery while the vehicle was in motion, but that it was also recharged from the braking system. Lexus said that claim “self-charging hybrid” referred to the overall vehicle which was self-charging, rather than the battery or any other individual component. They believed that consumers would be aware that the hybrid vehicle was powered through a combination of petrol and electricity and that the ‘hybrid’ was descriptive of that dual source of power.
Lexus believed the cars featured in the ads were prominently identified as ‘hybrids’ with the term ‘self-charging’ always presented alongside. They therefore said ‘self-charging’ was used to sub-divide the ‘hybrid’ category and to differentiate between hybrid vehicles which were plugged in and those that were not plugged in. Lexus did not believe the term ‘self-charging’ was an exaggeration as the electric battery was not dependent on any power source outside of the vehicle itself. Lexus did not believe the ads made implied claims about the environmental credentials of the vehicles featured. They said that the ads were free of any environmental statements or context, and therefore that consumers were unlikely to interpret “self-charging” as an environmental claim in that context. They said the ads did not mention all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles and they did not believe the ads implied a comparison with those types of vehicles, in terms of their respective environmental impacts or on any other environmental grounds.
Clearcast, responding in relation to the TV ad, said the TV ad made clear via audio, graphics and shots of the car that the car was a ‘hybrid’ vehicle. They said there were no environmental or comparative claims made, and that the ad was about the beauty of the product. At the very end, the ad used the term “self-charging hybrid”. Clearcast believed the word ‘hybrid’ was an established term that consumers would understand as an indication that the car had both an electric motor and petrol engine. They believed the term ‘self-charging’ would be taken to mean that the car did not need to be plugged in to charge the electric battery. As such, Clearcast did not believe the ad exaggerated the benefits of a hybrid engine.
Ads (b) and (c) included similar imagery which showed a white car and a man walking away from it. In both ads, text stated “New Horizons” alongside “All New Lexus UX” and both also stated “Self-Charging Hybrid”. The ASA considered consumers would interpret the ads to mean that the Lexus UX was a new model of ‘self-charging hybrid’ car.
Ad (a) began with on-screen text which stated “ELSA BLEDA” and “PHOTOGRAPHER” and featured scenes of Ms Bleda either driving or taking photographs punctuated throughout the ad, between artistically shot city scenes. Combined with the ad’s voice-over, which stated, “To capture something striking, you need to keep your eyes open, and the more you look the more you will see. So keep going. The all new Lexus UX self-charging hybrid”, we considered viewers would largely view the ad as the subjective aspirations of the advertiser to perceive things differently. However, we considered the claim “The all new Lexus UX self-charging hybrid” would be interpreted objectively in the same way as in ads (b) and (c).
Each of the three ads stated the featured vehicle was a “self-charging hybrid” and, although ad (a) very briefly featured the car’s dashboard which displayed a diagram of a car with a petrol engine and electric battery, we considered they otherwise did not contain any information about how the vehicle worked. Despite that, we considered the word “hybrid” in a motoring context was likely to be interpreted by consumers to mean that the vehicle in question was powered through the combination of a petrol engine and a re-chargeable electric battery. We noted the ads stated “self-charging” and that they did not include content which implied the battery was charged via plugging in. Therefore, we considered the claim “self-charging hybrid” would be interpreted to mean that the internal mechanics of the car would charge the electric battery. We considered the ads did not contain any references to other types of car, ‘hybrid’ or otherwise, and did not make any stated or implied claims in relation to the car’s environmental impact. We therefore considered consumers would be unlikely to view the ads as a comparison which implied the ‘self-charging hybrid’ engine was an improvement, including by being more environmentally friendly, compared to other types of hybrid vehicle.
Because the ads did not misrepresent the way in which the electric battery was recharged by using the petrol engine, we concluded they were not misleading.
We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), and 3.12 (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach. We investigated ads (b) and (c) under CAP Code rules (Edition 12) 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), and 3.11 (Exaggeration), but did not find them in breach.
No further action required.