BMW fuel consumption claim shot down

Vishal Demrugaram was persuaded to purchase a BMW 220i by the idea of getting at least 650 kilometres of driving out of the vehicle’s 52-litre fuel tank.

He was wrong. And so was an assurance by BMW that the car’s fuel consumption is 5.7l/100km‚ the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled.

Demrugaram discovered‚ to his surprise‚ that he was getting nowhere near the advertised consumption and lodged a consumer complaint about misleading advertising.

His fuel consumption was generally more than double the claimed figure and he only managed to extract around 350km on a tank of fuel.

In its response to the complaint‚ BMW said that‚ after testing his vehicle‚ it achieved a fuel consumption figure of 4.5l/100km‚ and that the average fuel consumption as indicated by the on-board computer was recorded as 9.1l/100km.

The company argued that the alleged high fuel consumption Demragaram experienced could be attributed to “unfavourable driving conditions”.

BMW further argued that the figures and technical specifications detailed on its website are accumulated from specific tests conducted on the vehicles in controlled environments.

BMW said that various factors affected fuel consumption‚ such as road surface conditions‚ gear shift patterns‚ speed‚ acceleration and braking‚ tyre size‚ the type of fuel used‚ and options built into the motor vehicle.

The specifications on its website – and in a spec sheet given to Demrugaram by a dealer in Umhlanga‚ Durban — should be seen solely as a guide for the results that the motor vehicle may achieve‚ said BMW.

The product information on the website‚ BMW argued‚ was sufficiently transparent and enough for a customer to make an informed decision to buy the vehicle.

But the ASA found that “…the fuel consumption claim is made without any hint that it is qualified (such as an asterisk)‚ or that specific clarity is needed in interpreting it”.

“This suggests that there are no special conditions attached to the claimed figure‚ which suggests that it is reasonable to expect similar values when using the vehicle after purchase. While a reasonable person would understand that he or she cannot expect to achieve the exact same results in all circumstances‚ one would reasonably expect to achieve consumption within the vicinity of that claimed‚” the authority said.

ASA rejected BMW’s contention that the information on its website is “sufficiently transparent” or substantially adequate” for consumers to make an informed decision when it comes to the claimed fuel consumption figure.

“… The statement still does not give any indication that the claimed fuel consumption figures are unlikely to be achieved in real life conditions‚ or that fuel consumption figures are affected by various factors (and what those factors are)‚ or that the claimed consumption figures should only be seen as a guide for the results that the motor vehicle may achieve‚” the ASA found.

BMW was instructed to withdraw the fuel consumption figure of 5.7l/100km in its current unqualified format.
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