Norway’s consumer ombudsman has targeted automakers who claim that their cars are “green”, “clean” or “environmentally friendly” with some of the world’s strictest advertising guidelines.

Consumer ombudsman official Bente Oeverli said: “Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others.” She said automakers such as Toyota, Opel, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Citroen, Saab and Suzuki had all used phrases during 2007 in advertising that the watchdog judged as misleading.

One Toyota advertisement for a Prius described the petrol-electric hybrid as “the world’s most environmentally friendly car”.  She said: “If someone says their car is more ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ than others then they would have to be able to document it from production, to emissions, to energy use, to recycling. That can’t be done.”

The guidelines now say: “We ask that phrases such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘green’, ‘clean’, ‘environmental car’, ‘natural’ or similar descriptions not be used in advertising cars”.  Manufacturers risk fines if they fail to drop the words.