The Federal Trade commission reached an agreement Thursday with car maker Nissan to cease “using deceptive demonstrations in advertisements” for its pick up trucks, according to a release from the FTC. The offending ad, as you can see below, depicts a Nissan truck rescuing a dune buggy stuck in sand, and is filmed in such a way to make it look like an amateur YouTube video:
The only problem is that the truck can’t actually do what the ad depicts. According to the FTC:
“The truck is not capable of pushing the dune buggy up and over the hill, and both the truck and the dune buggy were dragged to the top of the hill by cables . . . the hill was made to look significantly steeper than it actually was.”
Of course, Nissan )and the car industry in general) is no stranger to making big claims in advertisements. According to Automotive News the top ten car companies spent $6.25 billion on television ads alone in 2012. Companies must go to great lengths to stand out from the pack. The Nissan ad which got the firm in hot water might not even be the most ostentatious spot Nissan has aired of late. This ad, for example, depicts a Nissan truck helping an airplane with malfunction landing gear arrive safely:
Nor is Nissan’s run-in with the FTC anything new for the auto industry generally. Such ads have been lightning rods for controversy for several decades now. Take, for instance, the 2012 Chevy Silverado ad, which light-heartedly claimed that if you choose a Chevy over a Ford, you’ll survive the apocalypse:
Nobody would take such a claim seriously, right? Well, Ford did. It pressured NBC not to run the ad during the Super Bowl, claiming that the ad was misleading because Ford has “more trucks on the road with over 250,000 miles” than any other brand.
In 1996, the FTC fined car companies for misleading customers regarding the terms of leasing deals. And way back in 1991, the FTC fined Volvo and its ad agency $150,000 per fallacious ad it ran which featured a “structurally reinforced Volvo withstanding the weight of an oversized truck rolling over it” while, “rival vehicles that appeared in the ad were structurally weakened to be crushed by the truck,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
In the end, consumers would be wise to view most car ads with skepticism. Unless of course you’re planning on tussling with monster trucks or helping a 747 land safely in the near future.