Car manufacturers criticize the French health warning plan on advertisements

The auto industry has activated France’s plan to force manufacturers to attach the equivalent of a public health warning to their advertising, saying it reflects the yellowish view of politicians in Paris where other means of transportation are readily available.

The measures, which come into force in March, will force automakers to choose from a menu of disclaimers that includes “for short trips, walk or take a bike when possible”, “consider carpooling” and “take public transport for your daily trips”. .

The requirements are part of a broader climate change law passed by the French parliament last year that bans short-haul domestic flights of less than two and a half hours if the journey can be made by train, and imposes a general restriction on ads for SUVs. cars from 2028.

“It’s a real paradox to have such an anti-car government in a country with three national manufacturers,” said Louis-Carl Vignon, managing director of Ford in France, where the American manufacturer competes with national groups. Renault and Peugeot and Citroën brands which are now part of Stellantis. Vignon said the measures reflected a “social divide” between politicians in power and those living outside Paris.

“In Paris, there are alternative modes of transport, but what do you do when you live in Creuse? he asked, referring to a particularly rural and sparsely populated department in central France.

Pierre Chasseray, spokesman for a consumer association called “40 million automobile users”, called the law “ridiculous” and a way of “permanently pointing fingers at drivers”, while many residents outside major cities relied on cars for school trips and trips to work.

“I don’t think that will stop anyone from taking their car,” he said.

Car manufacturers are already required to include information and warnings on vehicle financing and will from this year add details of a given model’s CO2 emissions. Advertising experts say the March additional requirements have no real equivalent in other countries.

Drivers and politicians in France have a recent history of clashes. President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to introduce a fuel tax in 2018, later abandoned, sparked widespread street protests that turned into anti-government “yellow vest” protests.

Although the movement later included a broader set of reproaches, the so-called “yellow vests” took their name from the high-visibility jackets that drivers had to keep in their cars. The backlash has highlighted a perceived disconnect between city dwellers and rural residents that simmers as a campaign issue in the 2022 presidential election.

Yellow Vest protesters clash with riot police during a demonstration against rising oil prices and the cost of living in Bordeaux in 2018 © Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

The grumblings about the new warning are more muted, but the measures are onerous for automakers, which will have to include more warnings in their ads than any other type of business, according to ARPP’s Magali Jalade, a research body. self-regulatory group of advertising and media groups that help set industry standards in France.

“The [new] the mentions could have been smaller. There’s a punitive aspect to it,” Jalade said, pointing out that on a print ad, warnings would run into multiple paragraphs.

Luca de Meo, chief executive of Renault, told the Financial Times that the company was looking into whether it was possible to negotiate the size of the new warnings and others now occupying “almost half a page”. He added, however, that it was a local problem that did not cause day-to-day headaches for the group and its leaders.

Francois Roudier, of the PFA automaker lobby, said some consensus had been reached on the wording of the prompts. But the industry was largely skeptical of their merits from the start, he said, including their use in advertisements for electric vehicles that pollute less than traditional combustion engine models.

“Buying a car is not like buying a hamburger,” he said, adding that consumers think long and hard about their purchases given the cost involved.

Matthieu Orphelin, a Green Party parliamentarian, said the ad warnings were friendly and a “small measure” that did not go as far as the tougher stance on car ads he had called for. CO2 emissions warnings are useful tools for consumers, especially those who are more likely to need to buy a car, he added.

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