Ever get annoyed when car ads hype pie-in-the-sky mpg figures? Well, you aren't alone. Advertisements are notorious for shilling highway-only mpg, sometimes for specific trims that aren't widely available. Witness a Mazda commercial from 2012 that blared 35 mpg highway for the 2013 CX-5 SUV — an EPA figure only achieved by a front-wheel-drive, manual-transmission model. Or one of Ford's 2011 Fiesta ads that rolled "40 mpg" across the backdrop, which only the automatic SE with the Super Fuel Economy package received in EPA highway ratings.
Both ads clarified the details in the small print, but you'd have to pause the DVR and get out a magnifying glass to read it. If a group of consumer, environmental and safety advocates get their way, such practices could change.
In a July 10 letter to the Federal Trade Commission, nine groups called for additional regulation around when and how automakers advertise mpg ratings. Specifically, the groups proposed the following:
"Advertisements which simply list an mpg rating with no description are clearly and intentionally deceptive," the letter said. "While it is expected that such disclosures would typically use the single (and higher) highway number, most consumers would not know this is a highway-only number."
Backers range from the Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists to the Consumers Union, the lobbying arm of Consumer Reports, and the Consumer Federation of America. The letter comes in response to the FTC seeking comments as part of a regulatory review of the EPA's Fuel Economy Guide announced May 1. At the time, the commission asked for feedback focused "on information that helps marketers avoid deceptive or unfair claims."
"The FTC's concern that mpg advertising disclosure not be deceptive is well founded," the joint letter said. The commission closed comments after July 10, so stay tuned. We'll keep you posted on any decision, and what it means for car ads.