Mercedes-Benz pulling ‘Drive Pilot’ commercial

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington – Mercedes-Benz USA is pulling advertisements that describe its 2017 E-Class vehicles as nearly self-driving cars after receiving complaints from consumer groups.

Consumer Reports’ Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Auto Safety and a former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official complained to the Federal Trade Commission earlier this week that Mercedes depicts the 2017 E-Class as “a futuristic, highly autonomous concept car, with the occupants facing each other and interacting while the car drives itself” in a television commercial called “The Future.”

The consumer groups said the ads are “likely to mislead a reasonable consumer by representing the E-Class as self-driving when it is not.”

Mercedes-Benz said Friday that is pulling the commercial from its rotation of advertisements, although the company said the ad is “scheduled to run for a little longer before being replaced.”

“Given the claim that consumers could confuse the autonomous driving capability of the F 015 concept car with the driver assistance systems of our new E-Class in our ad ‘The Future,’ we have decided to take this one ad out of the E-Class campaign rotation,” Mercedes said in a statement that was provided to The Detroit News.

Mercedes-Benz USA describes the E-Class cars that have the Drive Pilot feature as a “semi-autonomous” vehicle “that can help do the stress work for you” in the commercial, which is posted to its YouTube page.

The commercial contains a disclaimer that says “vehicle cannot drive itself, but has automated driving features. System will remind the driver frequently to keep hands on the steering wheel. Always observe safe driving practices and obey all state and federal laws.”

The consumer groups said the Mercedes-Benz 2017 E-Class ad “could give consumers a false sense of security in the ability of the car to operate autonomously,” despite the disclaimers that are included in the ads.

Mercedes said it stands by its description of the 2017 E-Class as a groundbreaking vehicle.

“The new 2017 E-Class is a technological tour-de-force and is a significant step towards achieving our vision of an accident free future,” the company said. “We do not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety the 2017 E-class represents.”

William Wallace, policy analyst for the Consumers Union, said safety advocates “are relieved that Mercedes-Benz is doing the right thing for consumers by pulling these ads.

“Consumers deserve clear communication about what new technologies in vehicles can and cannot do,” Wallace said. “All auto companies should be sure that their marketing choices don’t run the risk of making consumers think a car or safety feature is more capable than it is.”

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing