Car manufacturers may face ‘tobacco style’ advert legislation

Posted on 5 Jun 2008 by The Manufacturer

New legislation is being considered which will require car manufacturers to display pollution details in adverts more prominently.

Under proposals by Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, 20% of a print advert will be allocated to environmental data. Automotive manufacturers will join ad agencies, publishers and TV executives in protesting against the move in a meeting with the European Commission today.

Schemes being discussed include a traffic-lights or alphabetical rating system based on emissions and fuel consumption, which will have to be displayed on ads. It is believed new rules will initially be introduced into print and billboard advertising with television and internet campaigns to follow suit.

The plans are being likened to the health warnings that must be displayed on tobacco products and, similarly, where cigarettes cannot be marketed as ‘light’ or ‘smooth’, referencing to ‘sportiness’ in car marketing will be banned.

The thought-process behind the scheme is that consumer-patterns and therefore the automotive manufacturer industry will be further influenced towards low emission vehicles. Mr Davies said: “They (consumers) are more interested in looks and appearance, speed and power, the sexy image. If the aim is to reduce emissions, you need to change that behaviour. Through its advertising, the car industry shapes market demand.”

This leaves manufacturers of higher-end cars with a fresh problem to face in the battle to negotiate environmental recessions in high-emission luxury vehicles. While damning for some however, the likes of Land Rover, which offsets the first 45,000 miles of CO2 emissions on all vehicles sold in the UK, and others with green schemes may be able to use the new rules to press an advantage over their competitors.

The legislation will also be welcomed by many eco-campaigners. Car manufacturers have “gleefully exploited loopholes to leave CO2 information out of as many adverts as they can,” says Sian Berry from the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s.

In May, the Advertising Standards Authority deemed that Lexus had misled viewers through a TV advert that claimed its RX400h 4X4 featured low emissions. The ASA upheld that the advert implied that the low emissions were comparable with all cars and not just other SUVs.