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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told BMW that it cannot advertise its cars as having zero emissions because although they do not have emissions while being driven, there are emissions connected to their manufacturer and subsequent charging.

A paid for Google ad for BMW last summer featured the claim. “Zero Emissions Cars – Download Your Brochure Today. Visit BMW’s official online website. Find the perfect BMW electric car. Book a test drive. Explore a range of BMW electric cars …”.

However, the ASA challenged whether the claim “Zero Emissions Cars” misleadingly represented the vehicles’ environmental impact.

BMW (UK) Ltd said the term “Zero Emission Cars” was inserted into the ad due to the automatic keyword feature in Google Ads. The company said it was not aware the facility had been activated for those search results and it was only upon receiving the complaint that it discovered it.

BMW said it was aware that when making claims about zero emissions in relation to BEVs, an ad should make clear that it is only when driving and this was otherwise reflected across its marketing communications.

The ASA said it understood that when EVs were driven no emissions were produced, unlike a car with a petrol or diesel engine where emissions came from the tailpipe. However, in other circumstances, such as the manufacture or charging of an EV using electricity from the national grid, emissions were generated. For that reason an ad that featured a “zero emissions” claim, that did not make explicitly clear that it was related to the reaction of the vehicle while it was being driven was likely to mislead.

The ASA said the ad must not appear again in its current form. It told BMW (UK) Ltd to ensure that ads referring to “zero emissions” made clear that the claim related to an EV only when it was being driven. It said it welcomed BMW’s assurance that the claim would not be repeated in the future.