Warm-Up Lap: Misleading Lexus CT 200h Ad Targets BMW i3

Toyota has gone on the attack against electric vehicles with print advertisements highlighting the shortcomings of plug-in cars but none of the advantages, and executives claiming nobody wants to buy an EV. The latest attack comes from a five-minute “Funny or Die” commercial that takes aim at the BMW i3, while once again leaving out some pertinent facts.

The commercial sees two groups of friends set out on a 280-mile road trip from Van Nuys, California to Las Vegas for a “dad-chelor” party celebrating the impending fatherhood of one of the guys. The group decides to take two cars on the trip, a Lexus CT 200h hybrid, and the BMW i3 with the range extender (more on that later).

Naturally the group in the 42 MPG Lexus hybrid has a grand old time while the group in the BMW i3 has to stop to charge up several times over, waiting and waiting and waiting for the electric Bimmer to top off. Unfortunately for Lexus, whoever was in charge of editing the video forgot to edit out the gasoline port on the i3, meaning Lexus actually used a range-extended model for the video, conveniently leaving the fact that this feature about doubles the range of the i3 from 81 to over 150 miles using just a couple of gallons of gasoline.

Lexus also fails to mention that while the i3 can take 4+ hours to charge from a 240-volt charging station, Level 3 chargers can give the i3 an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. Instead though we’re left watching as the electric car are forced to drive at low speeds, with no air conditioning, as they struggle to reach their final destination on a nearly-empty battery. They arrive sweaty and haggard having missed a truly epic party.

Meanwhile in the real world, Lexus is losing sales to the Tesla Model S.

Make no mistake; these increasingly deceptive and desperate ads indicate that Toyota is feeling the pressure from plug-in vehicles, despite all the hype they’re sinking into hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a better replacement. If Toyota truly felt unthreatened by the rise of electric vehicles, they wouldn’t waste their marketing budget making easily-debunked commercials like this. The real tragedy here though is that the 2015 Lexus CT200h is by many accounts a fantastic automobile inside and out. Perfect? Not quite, but a solid competitor…though just what cars its competing against depends on whom you ask.

Is the BMW i3 and Lexus CT200h competing for the same customers? 9 out of 10 times I’d say probably not, which makes this heavy-handed attack all the more befuddling. Then again, 80% of i3 buyers are coming from other brands, so maybe my assertion misses the mark. Regardless though, this “commercial” comes off as more desperate than anything else, and the ad has already been pulled off the Funny or Die website after outcry from EV advocates.

But don’t take my word for it; watch this Lexus CT200h commercial for yourself and then tell us in the comments below if Toyota is taking things too far in their attacks against EVs.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.