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Advertising watchdog rules that Ford’s ‘zero emissions driving’ claims were ‘unlikely to mislead’

  • Advertising Standards Authority decides against taking action over Ford ad
  • Paid-for Google ad for Explorer SUV included the phrase ‘zero emissions driving’
  • Watchdog previously ruled that EVs cannot be described as ‘zero emissions’
  • ASA says additional context meant Ford’s claims were ‘unlikely to mislead’
  • Ad was flagged up by authority’s AI system

Time 9:36 am, February 21, 2024

The debate over whether EVs can be described as  ‘zero emissions’ has taken a fresh twist following a landmark ruling by the UK’s advertising watchdog

Last month, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) issued reprimands to MG and BMW for making the claims in sponsored Google ads.

The decision infuriated green car campaigners, who described the ruling as ‘bizarre and very unhelpful’.


Now. however, the body has decided that similar claims made by Ford DIDN’T mislead drivers.

The ruling forms part of a wider investigation by the ASA into ‘zero emissions’ claims.

The Ford ad, promoting the brand’s Explorer SUV, was identified by the watchdog’s Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to proactively search for online ads that might break the rules.


But following an investigation, the body has declined to take action against Ford just weeks after issuing a slap on the wrist to rival brands.

The advert in question, a paid-for Google ad for Ford seen on August 16, 2023, featured the claim ‘New All-Electric Explorer – Redefining Adventure.

‘The ultimate all-electric SUV is here. The Explorer. Redefine the meaning of adventure. The ultimate exploration vehicle – Find out more & discover the range of features. Zero-emissions driving. Fast charging. Driver Assistance Tech.’

Launching an investigation, the ASA challenged whether the ‘Zero-emissions driving’ claim ‘misleadingly represented the vehicle’s environmental impact’.

In its reprimands, it highlighted how the whole life cycle of an EV inevitably meant there would be some emissions.

However, the outfit has decided against taking action against Ford after considering all the evidence.

In a ruling posted this morning (Feb 21), it found that as the ad specifically stated ‘driving’, it was therefore ‘not a statement that the All-Electric Explorer was a zero-emissions vehicle in absolute terms’.

In its own evidence to the investigation, Ford defended its position but agreed to amend the claim to ‘zero-emissions while driving’ to make it clearer in future ads.

A spokesman for the ASA said: ‘Unlike our previous BMW and MG ads, we found that this ad for an electric SUV didn’t break our rules.


‘We determined that because the claim was put next to context around specific features of the car, consumers wouldn’t understand the “zero emissions” element to refer to the whole life cycle of the vehicle, but instead specifically the driving.’

In its ruling, which decided that no action was necessary, the watchdog said: ‘While the ad included the claim “Zero-emissions driving”, we noted that it was immediately followed by references to “Fast charging” and “Driver Assistance Tech”.

‘This further text placed the claim in the context of some of the specific features of the car, which included its emissions while being driven, its charging capability and technical function.

‘The claim was unlikely, therefore, in that specific context to be understood as a comment on the vehicle’s overall life-cycle (manufacture, use and disposal) emissions.

‘We concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.’

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.



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