Mercedes-Benz Pulls Ad Challenged by Safety Groups

Advocates Said Spot Overstated Automated Driving Functions

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Mercedes-Benz USA is pulling an ad for the redesigned 2017 E-class sedan after consumer and safety advocates on Wednesday called the spot misleading in its depiction of the vehicle's driver-assist systems.

The advocates, including the publisher of Consumer Reports and the Center for Automotive Safety, said the ad overstates the capability of automated-driving functions available on the sedan and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the automaker.

Mercedes spokeswoman Donna Boland told Automotive News Thursday afternoon that the automaker has decided to take the ad out of the E-class campaign rotation because of the claims.

"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," Ms. Boland wrote in an email. "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."

The E-class offers an optional driver-assist feature that Mercedes calls "Drive Pilot," which includes advanced adaptive cruise control and automated steering that allows the sedan to follow traffic and keep its lane at speeds of up to 130 mph.

A Youtube version of the contested ad, titled "The Future," shows Mercedes' F015 self-driving concept car being overtaken by the E class while a narrator says, "Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself? Ready or not, the future is here."

The agency behind the spot is Omnicom Group's Merkley & Partners.

As the E class moves through nighttime city streets, the driver removes his hands from the wheel, and the car appears to briefly steer itself. The sedan also appears to park itself while the driver adjusts his necktie.

The fine print at the bottom of the screen offers this caveat: "Vehicle cannot drive itself, but has automated driving features. The system will remind the driver frequently to keep hands on the steering wheel. Always observe safe driving practices and obey all road traffic regulations."

That Youtube ad is now marked as private and unavailable for viewing.

Ms. Boland said Mercedes decided to drop the ad "given the claim that consumers could confuse the autonomous driving capability of the F015 concept car with the driver assistance systems of our new E class."

A print ad in the campaign that also alluded to self-driving capabilities of the E class has been changed over the past few weeks, Boland said. The print ad was put into rotation, she said, before news broke of a fatal accident in a Tesla in Autopilot mode. Details about the print ad change weren't immediately available.

"Bottom line: We take very seriously our reputation as a leader in automotive safety," Boland said. "We've always stressed that its technology is designed to assist the driver, not to encourage customers to ignore their responsibilities as drivers.

"While the new E class has a host of technology that will serve as the building blocks for increasing levels of autonomy (and which will be a prominent component of our marketing), it is not an autonomous vehicle and we are not positioning it as such."

Contributions from Automotive News reporter Ryan Beene and Ad Age.

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