Toyota SA advert falls foul of Advertising Regulatory Board ruling

By our News Team | 2023

Motor company’s ad said new vehicle model was ‘here’, but the board found the long waiting list meant consumers could be misled.

Toyota South Africa has fallen foul of the country’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) over the wording used in one of its advertisements, which the ARB found was misleading to consumers.

The ruling was announced in the wake of a complaint by a consumer that wording on a Toyota SA Facebook ad gave the impression that a particular new model was readily available to the public, when in fact no stock was available and potential buyers faced a waiting list of between one and two years.


Photo via Toyota SA website 

Justin Brown, the complainant, said the statement “The Corolla Cross GR-Sport Hybrid is here!” was incorrect and misleading, as he had made numerous enquiries to dealers and been told of the long waiting period.

“This does not constitute a vehicle that is ‘here’. As such, the advertising is misleading and should be removed,” Brown said in his submission.

In its defence Toyota SA mentioned, among other things, that the reference to being ‘here’ was factual, in that the vehicle was officially part of its Corolla Cross SUV range, albeit in limited numbers due to it serving a niche audience.

But the board disagreed, saying that in the absence of any context, a reasonable person would interpret the advertisement to mean that the vehicle was generally available for purchase. The ad wording failed communicate any sense of potential delays, shortages, or long waiting lists.

Toyota was ordered to withdraw or amend its advertising to ensure that consumers are adequately informed of the possibly long waiting periods.

Volkswagen fell foul of earlier ARB ruling

Earlier this year, South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board also found against Volkswagen, saying that one of its advertisements was discriminatory and offensive.

A member of the public, Joy Sixholo, complained that a radio ad portraying two men having to snuggle together at night for warmth when their car broke down in the Karoo (a desert-like wilderness in SA) had homophobic undertones.

VW defended the ad, saying the intent was to “amuse” listeners and “no reasonable person” would take the content of the advertisement literally.

“The prospect of cuddling a colleague is a humorous situation, considering people prefer personal space over anything else, especially between professionals in a post-Covid environment,” Volkswagen argued. 

But the ARB agreed with Sixholo, noting that: “Creating scenarios like the one featured in this commercial smack of the locker-room humour that sees snuggling between men as something unpleasant that should be avoided. This subtle negativity around male-on-male affection or proximity has elements of both homophobia and toxic masculinity.”