'Language!': German Court Slaps Tesla for Bad Words

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
8216 language german court slaps tesla for bad words

Hey, how bout that bitchin’ new Bronco- whoops! Sorry, got ahead of myself there. The check hasn’t even arrived yet!

In news unrelated to a Ford model Car and Driver wrote 13 stories about in the last 24 hours, a German court has smacked Tesla for misleading its citizens. The ruling, brought on by a complaint from an industry group, involves something that’s plagued the auto industry for years. Essentially, the overstating of a car’s autonomous driving abilities.

Thankfully, we’ve reached a point where even the Associated Press Stylebook is warning about inaccurate self-driving language use, but old habits die hard at Tesla. Germany didn’t like what it heard.

Via Reuters, we learn that on Tuesday, a Munich judge banned Tesla from airing ads containing certain statements or phrases relating to its Autopilot driver-assist system and its vehicles’ future abilities.

The case arose when the Wettbewerbszentrale (an industry-backed group concerned with anti-competitive things, and a mouthful to say) raised an eyebrow at Tesla’s advertising and took the automaker to court. Now banned from Tesla marketing materials in Germany are the phrases “full potential for autonomous driving” and “Autopilot inclusive.”

Tesla has long garnered criticism in this country for its pronouncements of just-around-the-corner autonomous breakthroughs. Autopilot was played up from Day 1 as a self-driving system that allowed drivers to take naps and watch movies while underway, and YouTube and social media still crank out recent examples of people doing exactly this. Deaths have resulted from owners placing too much trust in their vehicle’s abilities and subsequently letting down their guard.

And while Tesla has dialed back its self-promotion on this front, the company’s “ Full Self Driving capability” has only added to the problem. Vehicles equipped with what Tesla says is the necessary hardware to support autonomous driving can’t actually perform this feat, but might at some point in the future. It’s a magic box just waiting to be opened when the time comes.

Recently, the automaker said it was on the cusp of developing true Level 5 capability for its products — in other words, the ability for a car to completely drive itself in all situations, without any intervention from an occupant (or the need for a steering wheel).

But back to Germany, where Tesla is in the process of building a local assembly plant for the growing German and Northern European EV market. The court ruled that an average buyer could be led into believing that their car is capable of hands-off, destination-to-destination driving, placing them i danger. So the words had to go.

Tesla still has an opportunity to appeal.

[Image: IIHS]

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3 of 14 comments
  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jul 15, 2020

    I honestly can't believe that Elon hasn't been prosecuted for criminal fraud over this in the US by some ambitious prosecutor. He's advertising "FULL SELF-DRIVING," taking people's money in exchange, and has no hope of ever delivering on that promise.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jul 15, 2020

      Agreed on that point. Worse, apparently the FSD option is removed from the vehicle when it is sold used, thereby reducing its value. So not only does the first owner get ripped off, but so does the used car dealer and the second owner, depending on precisely when that option is deleted. Tesla really should be taken to task on this, and I think it's a matter of time until there is a class action lawsuit. I suspect Mr Musk's tweets about FSD are just moves to buy time.

  • TakeshiHonda TakeshiHonda on Jul 15, 2020

    “ In news unrelated to a Ford model Car and Driver wrote 13 stories about in the last 24 hours...” shady, shady, shady! Haha

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.
  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.