Toyota ordered to withdraw “deceptive” Corolla Cross Hybrid advert

A complaint filed by a consumer to the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has resulted in Toyota having to withdraw a February advert regarding the new Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.

Corolla Cross Hybrid
Image: Toyota

The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) recently examined a consumer complaint regarding an advertisement promoting Toyota’s newly launched Corolla Cross GR-Sport Hybrid model. The complainant, Justin Brown, alleged that the advertising was misleading, as it created the impression that the vehicle was readily available for sale when, in fact, there was a significant waiting list of 12 to 24 months. The ARB considered the evidence and issued its decision on May 2, 2023.

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The advertisement in question was featured on Toyota South Africa’s Facebook page and emphasized the efficiency of the Corolla Cross GR-Sport Hybrid. The complainant argued that the phrase “The Corolla Cross GR-Sport Hybrid is here!” was misleading because it implied immediate availability, which was not the case due to extensive waiting lists.

Toyota initially refuted the claim of non-availability, attributing potential waiting periods to a global hybrid battery shortage that was expected to normalize by 2024. The company stated that the Corolla Cross GR-Sport Hybrid had been launched at the time of advertising and considered its limited production numbers justified due to niche demand.

The advertising agency Publicis Groupe Africa, representing Toyota, contended that the advertisement merely announced the inclusion of the hybrid model in the Corolla Cross range. They further explained that production planning considered various factors, including previous sales, production capacity, and external factors such as load shedding and the global hybrid battery shortage.

In its decision, the ARB analyzed relevant clauses of the ARB Code of Advertising Practice, focusing on misleading claims and the non-availability of advertised products. The Directorate determined that the advertisement did create a misleading expectation of immediate availability. It noted that the absence of disclaimers or limitations contributed to the expectation that the vehicle was generally available for purchase.

Corolla Cross Hybrid
Image: Toyota

The ARB acknowledged the challenges of accurately forecasting vehicle sales and the potential impact of various factors on production. However, it emphasized the advertiser’s responsibility to ensure absolute clarity in its advertising, particularly when significant limitations exist.

Related: Toyota to go on African hybrid offensive for reduced CO2 emissions

Since the advertiser had not provided supporting information regarding sales figures, current demand, or production schedules, the ARB found that Toyota did not have reasonable grounds to believe it could meet the demand likely to be created by the advertising.

Consequently, the ARB ordered Toyota South Africa Motors (Pty) Ltd to withdraw or appropriately amend the advertising to accurately inform consumers about the reality of the situation and the likelihood of prolonged waiting periods for the Corolla Cross GR-Sport Hybrid.

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