Saab's 'green' Ads mislead buyers says ACCC


From the ACCC Website:
“The ACCC has instituted legal proceedings against GM Holden Ltd, which supplies and markets Saab motor vehicles in Australia and trades as Saab Australia, alleging misleading and deceptive conduct and false representations concerning ‘green’ claims made in the advertising of Saab vehicles.
In a number of ‘[Saab is Green’ newspaper and magazine advertisements in July and August 2007, Saab made various statements including, Grrrrrreen, Every Saab is green, Carbon emissions neutral across the entire Saab range and Switch to carbon neutral motoring to promote the green credentials of its motor vehicles. The ACCC considers that the advertisements were misleading and that Saab has breached sections 52 and 53(c) of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
Lookout 6 February 2008 when the case is being heard in the Federal Court, Perth.

8 thoughts on “Saab's 'green' Ads mislead buyers says ACCC

  1. GM Holden, and Saab, takes its responsibilities as an advertiser very seriously and we’re keen to speak to and resolve the matter with the ACCC.

    The ‘Grrrrreen’ campaign in question sought to communicate Saab’s participation with Greenfleet’s carbon offset program.

    The ACCC initially contacted Saab in August last year in relation to the wording of several ads in the campaign which ran for approximately 10 weeks between July and September 2007.

    It was never Saab’s intention to mislead or confuse consumers in relation to its participation in this carbon offset program, and if there was any argument that our advertising was confusing, we were only too happy to promptly take steps to address any concerns.

    We did not hear from the ACCC until we were notified last week that they had filed proceedings against us. We were very surprised given we had believed that our response had indeed addressed those concerns.

    Saab’s offset program through Greenfleet began in January 2007 and is ongoing. Greenfleet continues to plant 17 native trees on behalf of Saab for every new and demonstrator Saab vehicle sold in Australia, which is calculated to offset 12 months worth of carbon emissions produced by a vehicle.

    The nature of the Greenfleet program itself is not being disputed by the ACCC. Saab, and other manufacturers, continue to purchase these ‘offsets’ to Greenfleet for its vehicles.

    We are keen to discuss this matter and to resolve the issue with the ACCC as soon as possible.

    Saab stands by the environmental leadership it has taken globally, and locally with the Greenfleet offset program across the range and the launch of vehicles such as BioPower.

    Saab BioPower is a flex-fuel vehicle, and Australia’s first ethanol production car, which is capable of running on the renewable E85 fuel which is will available to commercially in Australia for the first time in the coming months.


  2. A good step by the ACCC to keep the greenwashing claims in check, of which we are starting to see a few of late. For example, the ACCC should take a look at the Lexus RH400h Hybrid ad, which states “Guilt-free” performance and fun.

    Guilt-free suggest to me that this vehicle has no impact on the environment. The reality is this vehicle is still a mid to large SUV , which gets a claimed combined fuel efficiency of 8.1 L/100km (some motoring reviews such as SMH Drive suggest higher up to 9.5L/100km). These figures may suggest improved performance and a step in the right direction compared to other SUV’s of a similar size and thus reduced feelings of guilt but they can not and should not claim “guilt-free” performance.

    I believe this add misleads as it creates a perception of zero emissions or very low emissions and this is how people buying this class of vehicle are likely to interpret the “guilt-free” claim. People are usually seeking and willing to accept any conscience cleaning claims to justify their purchase without reading the fine print and knowing the real impact of ther purchasing choice – in fact, the “guilt-free” cliam is arguably not that different in context to the Saab claim.

    There are many other vehicles on the road which give better fuel efficiency than the RH400h and certainly could not or do not claim guilt-free motoring. Granted they may not be SUVs, but do most people really NEED such vehicles in any case. There is a long way to go before any car manufacturer can claim guilt-free motoring.

    I think I shall write to the ACCC.


  3. What about IBUYECO…..

    Excerpt from site …

    Not only will you get a great deal on quality car insurance, an ibuyeco policy includes a carbon offset service to offset 100% of your car’s annual carbon emissions – balancing out the impact your driving has on the environment.

    They have partnered with another tree planting org called Greening Australia that charges $30 per tonne?????

    Tag line is 100% Carbon Neutral Car Insurance.

    This is fraught with greenwash!

    I wonder how long they too will fall to the savvy clutches of the ACCC – watch this space.


  4. Emily Perry you’re clearly a marketing hack employed by either GM/Saab or its advertising outfit.

    I’m one of many Saab drivers duped by your misleading & deceptive advertising long before the current “greenwash” scam.

    One of the primary reasons I purchased a Saab was the advertising material disseminated in Australia – almost all of which entails photo’s of a sexy touch screen navigation unit (The ES3 infortainment unit) resplendent in a Saab dash identical to mine. Indeed even at todays date 4/4/08, Saab Australia & Heartland Saab Parramatta list the navigation unit as being available as an option on their web sites. Over four years I’ve listened to partonising drivel from Saab and its dealers in SA VIC and NSW about the “imminent availability” in ’04, then ’05, then ’06 then ’07 and even earlier this year ’08 of the ES3 Sat Nav unit. Today (4/4/08) Heartland Saab in Parramatta NSW (who still list the unit on its own web site as being a current option, as does Saab’s global Australian site) advise Saab Aust never intended to, nor will it ever offer the ES3 infotainment unit incorporating Sat Nav in Aust – because the market isn’t large enough.

    Somewhat surprising given Saab’s global web site lists Australia as one of its top seven markets. I challenge you to pick up any piece of Saab marketing material disseminated in Australia during the last four years and look at instrumentation photo’s printed on it. Chances are there are glossy photo’s giving the clear impression the in-dash Sat Nav unit is available. It certianly is in every piece of literature I’ve ever received from Saab. It would seem a clear case of deliberate deceptive & misleading advertising to me. Especially when your entire marketing campaign is built around the absurd “test pilot’s required” drivel. I am a pilot and my 9-3 SS Arc is the only “cockpit” I’ve ever encountered bereft of navigation equipment. Before posting some patronising spin about that issue surf the largest Saab owners forum, you might find almost 30% of Saab owners in a recent survey chose sat nav as the No. 1 option they’d like to see in their cars. I put to you that this is precisely the reason your deceptive marketing campaigns cleverly marketed a product you’ve known full well would never be delivered. But of course you “take your responsibilities as an advertiser very seriously”

    What rubbish!


  5. 1.Our complaint relates to false and misleading information that has influenced our purchase of a new Saab vehicle.

    Our complaint relates to misleading and false information that we acquired over the Internet where the Saab website provided us with CO2 emission figures of 189g/km when the actual figure provided to the Australian Government Green vehicle Guild is 194g/km.

    2.Our initial introduction to a Saab was via the Internet to find a local dealer and the website directed us to the closest being the Suttons City Dealership at Rosebery NSW 2018.

    3.Our visit to a dealership to view the Saab range involved a short test-drive of a Saab Sportscombi Diesel company executives vehicle not from the showroom floor. The sales person at (x dealership) did not have brochures for any Saab cars he also claimed that he did not have any for the previous three (3) months. Mr sales guy confirmed that he gets all his technical information from the Saab website and advised us to do the same.

    4.Our search of the saab website failed to differentiate between the two vehicle styles by year of manufacture. We found this very confusing as two different cars were illustrated (2007-2008 models)
    Our phone calls to Saab customer service personnel could not provide any conclusive answers for most of the questions we asked. Additionally they did not offer to view the site or offer any literature to support our inquiry. It was confirmed during this call that the 2008 Diesel engine would be the same as the 2007 model.

    5.Our second visit to (x dealership) involved discussions with Mr sales guy were we expressed our frustration to the lack of technical information available to us and discussed our calls to Saab customer service and the two models within the web site (2007 and 2008).

    6.Based on the web site information we were very happy in the knowledge that the Saab 9-3 Sportscombi car was not exceeding the 190g/km, as there is a very strong potential we may take the car overseas. Our selection criteria were for cars that did exceed 190g/km (CO2). Countries like Ireland and the UK presently add $660.00 AUD in annual road tax (Rep of Ireland) if they exceed 190g/km (CO2) Further more we speculate that this will ultimately occur in Australia as well.

    7.Our decision was made for a Saab and a suitable car was **Most importantly
    We did forward an email to the dealer requesting they confirm the specifications for the car we intended to purchase.

    We had paid a $1000.00 deposit on the day before.The sales guy called to inform me that the technical specifications we had forwarded were from the Saab Australia website that had just recently changed to facilitate the 2008 model.

    Our discussions confirmed that the car would be as per the 2007 model specification as per the web site. The car was purchased on the 19th of January 2008.

    8.On receipt of the vehicle registration papers and applying the registration sticker to the front window we noted a sticker on the front windscreen indicating a C02 emission figure of 194g/km. We immediately contacted Saab customer service (2nd of February 2008)
    Saab customer service did refer us to the Australian Government green vehicle guide website, which confirmed official C02 emissions of 194g/km stating this is the correct CO2 figure

    9.Feeling very deceived of our statutory rights we again instigated telephone discussions to Saab. Saab requested we provide some of the electronic sources of all the disputed information. These requests were promptly provided.
    Following discussions with Saab representatives have been frustrating; they have contradicted our claim and constantly refer to a brochure that was not available to us. We have requested a written response to our claim on numerous occasions which had not been forthcoming This coreespondance has been the Saab Australia M.D
    10. The Saab Australia web site is now updated to 2008 model and just recently the Saab New Zealand web site which currently details the technical specifications and other Australian Saab information about Australian road side assistance and Australian recommended motor repairers etc, for Saab Australia’s models (9-3) Sportscombi, sedans and convertibles. (The year of manufacture is still not provided)
    We have printed copies of the Australian and New Zealand technical specifications for the (MY 2007) Sportscombi these confirm our claim.

    11. A further compliant that relates directly to your customer service personel providing tales of spin are what we would regard as false and misleading.
    cl;aiming the cars are different and they are chipped differently so they can claim Co2 of 189g/km as per the web site.

    To highlight our concern we contacted Saab Car dealers in New Zealand to obtain their interpretation of the C02 figures for the

    Three (3) dealers confirmed their selling tool is a Saab Australia brochure indicating Co emissions of 194g/km

    We read within your disclaimer. Some information may have changed or may have been updated; please check with your Saab Dealer for complete details.

    Clearly extraordindy efforts had been undertaken requesting check ing with a Saab Dealer for specification details, this also complies with the directives within your web site disclaimer .


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