BBB National Programs National Advertising Division Recommends Discontinuation of Claims that 2020 Jeep Gladiator has “Best-in-Class” Payload and Towing Capacity

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Brett, Director, National Advertising Division, 212.705.0109 / lbrett@bbbnp.org

 

New York, NY – Feb. 19, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) recommended that FCA US LLC discontinue claims that the 2020 Jeep Gladiator has “Best-in-Class” payload and towing capacity, and that it is “the most off-road capable midsize pickup truck ever,” following a challenge by Ford Motor Company.  NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision precludes FCA from making truthful comparative claims (1) regarding the Jeep Gladiator’s superiority in payload or towing capacity versus other vehicles which are within its class of midsize pickup trucks and have the same configuration as the Gladiator, so long as the basis of comparison is clearly disclosed as part of the main claim; and (2) about the number or type of “off-road” features available with the Jeep Gladiator.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

The Jeep Gladiator competes with the Ford Ranger in a group of seven competing “midsize” pickup trucks on the market. Ford challenged FCA’s claims that the 2020 Jeep Gladiator has “Best-in-Class” payload and towing capacity, which appeared in online and television advertising. The Gladiator’s maximum payload is advertised as 1600 pounds and its maximum available towing capacity is advertised as 7650 pounds. A disclaimer in the advertising noting that the claims are based on the “FCA US LLC 4x4 Crew Cab Segment” is intended to inform consumers that the “class” being referenced is midsize pickup trucks whose configuration is 4x4 with a crew cab.

It was not disputed that the Jeep Gladiator, which only comes with a 4x4 drivetrain and with a crew cab, bests the other midsize trucks with that configuration in payload and towing.  However, Ford argued that the “Best-in-Class” claims were not supported because consumers could reasonably understand the “class” to also include all other midsize trucks sold in other configurations (i.e., 4x2 trucks and/or trucks with smaller cab sizes) and there are such midsize trucks that outperform the Jeep Gladiator in payload and towing capacity. For example, the Ford Ranger has greater payload capacity and the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon offer greater maximum towing.

With regard to the challenged “Best-in-Class” claims, NAD determined that consumers would reasonably understand a “class” of pickup trucks to mean trucks of similar size, rather than a specific configuration.  Further, there was no evidence that consumers understand that there is a “class” of 4x4 crew cab midsize pickup trucks, nor was there any showing that such a “class” was recognized by the industry generally. NAD noted that consumers’ reasonable expectation that the Jeep Gladiator falls into a class of pickup trucks defined by their common weight range and the general industry classification, rather than by configuration, is informed by the classification used in advertising by manufacturers, in third-party publications, and by a common sense understanding that vehicles are broadly grouped together based on size, with different configurations available.

NAD further concluded that FCA’s disclaimers that “class” is being defined as midsize pickup trucks of a certain configuration (“FCA US LLC 4x4 Crew Cab Segment”) do not cure the misleading message that the Jeep Gladiator outperforms all other midsize pickup trucks in payload and towing capacity regardless of configuration. Thus, NAD recommended that FCA discontinue its claims that the 2020 Jeep Gladiator has “Best-in-Class” payload and towing capacity. 

Ford also challenged FCA’s claim that the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is “the most off-road capable midsize pickup truck ever.” NAD determined that both the language of the claim and its context reasonably convey a message to consumers that the Jeep Gladiator is the “most off-road capable” in an objectively provable way. NAD noted that while FCA adequately explained how the quality and quantity of its features may deliver better off-road performance in theory, it did not offer any actual performance-based testing for the Gladiator or any other midsize pickup truck to demonstrate that the Jeep Gladiator in fact delivers superior off-road performance. Accordingly, NAD recommended that FCA discontinue the claim that the Jeep Gladiator is “the most off-road capable midsize pickup truck ever.”

NAD noted that nothing in its decision precludes FCA from making truthful comparative claims (1) regarding the Jeep Gladiator’s superiority in payload or towing capacity versus other vehicles which are within its class of midsize pickup trucks and have the same configuration as the Gladiator, so long as the basis of the comparison is clearly disclosed as part of the main claim; and (2) about the number or type of “off-road” features available with the Jeep Gladiator.

In its advertiser’s statement, FCA took issue with some of NAD’s findings, however it agreed to comply with NAD’s recommendations.

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About the National Advertising Division: National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation overseeing the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for truth and accuracy.

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.

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