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ASA slams Ford over low fuel figures

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Latest ASA ruling discourages companies from claiming their cars are leaner and greener than they really are. Picture: Neil Baynes

Johannesburg - Ford South Africa has been forced to withdraw an internet advertisement that misled the public about the fuel consumption of its EcoSport crossover vehicle.

The ruling is the latest in several that the Advertising Standards Authority has made over the same issue, highlighting the discrepancy between car manufacturers’ claimed economy figures versus real-world fuel consumption.

The ASA ruling found that Ford’s advert didn’t sufficiently inform motorists that the quoted consumption figures were obtained in controlled lab conditions and thus weren’t realistically attainable by customers.

The ASA said that “while a reasonable person would understand that he/she might not achieve those exact results, the expectation would be that they are still in the vicinity of what might be expected.”

Christopher McCreanor, the Ford owner who lodged the complaint, said his EcoSport 1.0T averaged around 8.6 litres per 100km, well above the advertised 5.7 litre consumption figure, and that the ad didn’t even feature the standard disclaimer pointing out the discrepancy between laboratory and real-world figures.

THE REST ARE GUILTY TOO

In making its finding the ASA referred to earlier similar cases including a ruling in a 2012 case brought by a VW Polo owner, where it stated that “standardised tests are invaluable in ensuring that potential buyers can compare fairly across manufacturer ranges, but the consumption figures claimed must make it clear whether or not they were achieved in ‘the real world’ or under testing (laboratory) conditions.”

As a publication in the business of road testing vehicles, our own experience concurs that actual fuel consumption figures are always higher – sometimes vastly – than manufacturers’ claims. For this reason we make a point of listing both the claimed and actual figures in our articles to give our readers the full picture. We also achieved over 8 litres per 100km in the Ford EcoSport 1.0T we road tested a few months ago, but Ford isn’t alone in mis-claiming figures and it’s an industry-wide phenomenon.

Admittedly our results aren’t as scientific as the motor companies’ controlled-environment tests as routes and traffic conditions vary when we conduct our road evaluations, but we believe our numbers give a more accurate portrayal of real-life fuel consumption.

We understand why motor companies advertise low figures and the competitive edge that good fuel economy can give in these times of ever-rising petrol and diesel prices. And yes, perhaps if you’re a professional test-driver tootling around like Miss Daisy in a controlled environment, perhaps it’s really possible to get an EcoSport to sip just 5.7 litres per 100km.

But such numbers mean little to Joe Public on his daily commute, and perhaps it’s time for motor companies to redesign their in-house tests to better represent what’s achievable in normal driving conditions.

In the meantime, keep reading our road tests for the full fuel-burning picture. And if you happened to miss one, an archive of all our tests can be found here.

Star Motoring


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