Attacked by ADEME, Renault was condemned by the Advertising Ethics Jury for presenting its ZOE as a better alternative to cycling. A case that should make us think about sustainable transport and the “all car” policy.
Can promoting an electric car be done without limits? No, that’s what Renault learned the hard way. In June 2020, the manufacturer launched advertising emails to customers or contacts. In them, we could read, in teaser:
“Mr. ……., By bike, that would be good but we have better”.
In the body of the email, the builder continued with:
“ZOE, are you taking me to work? “
“And you, how many kilometers do you do each week? “.
A complaint from ADEME
The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) attacked Renault. It seized the Jury of Advertising Ethics (JDP) on June 29, 2020, for non-compliance with ethical rules. This relies on the Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority (ARPP), and its Sustainable Development section.
After exchanges of arguments between ADEME and Renault, and the jury’s analysis, it was found that the email sent “is likely to mislead the public as to the environmental impact of the Renault Zoé car, by minimizing them […] by encouraging the use of the electric car rather than the bicycle, and contributes to discrediting the use of the latter “.
The JDP goes on to say that “recourse to a bicycle has a much lower environmental impact, for the same route, than the electric car”. It may seem absurd to you to have to decide on the environmental footprint between a 1,500 kg vehicle and a 30 kg bicycle, but this is where Renault clumsily got into it!
By trying to oversell its ZOE, and by trying to denigrate other modes of transport, Renault clearly made a mistake. The very automotive culture – if not at all car – tends to blind some decision makers, and marketing managers. It is a culture that is too deeply rooted, again in 2020, in the collective unconscious of part of the population. This must change.
The electric car (or hybrid, hydrogen, in short, as carbon-free as possible), mingles with many other modes of transport. The electrically assisted bicycle (VAE) is useful for medium distances. But it should not replace the conventional bicycle if not needed, like the electric car should not replace a bicycle. Likewise, cycling should not replace walking if you travel very short distances. Walking remains the most ecological of solutions and the best for health.
At Automobile Propre, we campaign for the electric car to become a reality for all cars wishing to pollute less on a daily basis. But we also dream of joining the bicycle and scooter, electric or not, the electric scooter, the train, the metro, the bus, or the tram. Better, each solution must best meet the needs of each one, everywhere in France and in the world.
Of course, we are far from the ideal. However, the lines are moving, for example with the increase in cycling in cities facing the motorized road. Car brands must also play in this direction, and not “a war of fashions”.