NAD Recommends Mahindra Disclose Basis for Worldwide Tractor Sales Claim Following Challenge by Deere & Company, Discontinue ‘Best’ Warranty Claim

New York, NY – June 21, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has determined that Mahindra USA, Inc., provided a reasonable basis for advertising claims that promote Mahindra’s tractors as the “World’s #1 Selling Tractor” and the “#1 Selling Tractor in the World.” However, NAD recommended the company clearly and conspicuously disclose that that the basis for the claim is the combined sales of Mahindra tractors, sold globally, and Swaraj tractors, sold exclusively in India, and that the company excludes certain equipment from its “tractor” category.

NAD determined that the advertiser had a reasonable basis to claim that certain types of farm tractors manufactured by the Mahindra family of companies are the best-selling tractors in the world.

NAD further recommended that the company discontinue claims that Mahindra has the “best” warranty in the business, but noted that nothing in the decision precludes Mahindra from making truthful claims that its warranty is the “longest.”

Mahindra said it would appeal NAD’s adverse findings to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

NAD examined claims made by Mahindra USA following a challenge by Deere & Company, Inc.

Claims at issue included:

  • World’s #1 Selling Tractor
  • #1 Selling Tractor in the World
  • #1 in protecting your back … with the industry’s best 5 year warranty.
  • Best and industry’s leading limited powertrain warranties

Key to NAD’s decision was the definition of “tractor” used by Mahindra in crafting its claims. Mahindra said it based the claims on the definition provided by the Agricultural Equipment Statistics Committee (AESC) of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which reads in part:

“A self-propelled wheeled or tracked machine, designed primarily to provide tractive power to pull, push, carry and/or provide power to implements designed more primarily for agricultural usage … .”

In addition, the AESC states that farm tractors have either an ASAE 3-point hitch with position control or an ASAE 540 rpm power take off, or larger, transmission.

John Deere argued that Mahindra’s definition excluded machines that reasonable consumers would associate with the term “tractor,” including large-format farm tractors and ride-on tractor mowers.

NAD determined that Mahindra reasonably relied on the AESC definition, but should accompany its claims with a disclosure that informs consumers how the advertiser defines “tractors.”

Further, NAD said that while the advertiser properly included the sales of Swaraj tractors, an affiliated brand, in formulating its sales claims, it should disclose that Swaraj sales are figured into the total to make clear to consumers the meaning of its superior global sales claims.

NAD also noted that, as with any sales superiority claim, the advertiser is responsible for assuring that the claim is not based on outdated data.

Turning to the advertiser’s warranty claims, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claim that Mahindra provides the industry’s “best” warranty, although nothing in the decision precludes the company from making truthful claims about specific attributes of its warranties, including the length of time Mahindra equipment is covered by warranty.

NAD considered Mahindra’s claims to “Superior Protection With Our Branded Oil,” in the context of the brochure in which the claim appeared and determined that one reasonable takeaway was that “superior” is being used in a comparative sense.

While the advertiser argued that “Superior Protection” is puffery, NAD determined that this is an objective superiority claim that requires substantiation.  Because the advertiser had not provided any evidence that Mahindra Oils outperformed its competitors’ engine oils, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim.

NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue challenged claims and testimonials related to comparative lift capacity, as well as claims that Mahindra is “#1 in customer Loyalty with a 98% rating of our owners likely to recommend Mahindra to friends and family,” and a testimonial segment related to a customer’s experience with John Deere.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claim that Mahindra tractors are the “BEST VALUE.”  NAD did not recommend that the advertiser discontinue the portion of the

“Value Driven” testimonial in which the consumer states that “Mahindra gave me more for my money.”

NAD found that the advertiser’s statements that Mahindra tractors and utility vehicles are the “toughest” were puffery.  NAD, however, recommended that the advertiser discontinue the “True Workhorse” testimonial.

NAD determined that challenged video advertising did not reasonably convey an implied claim that Mahindra tractors are stronger than John Deere tractors.  NAD recommended, however, that the advertiser discontinue the question “What makes Mahindra Tractors better than other tractors?” followed by three claims about Mahindra Tractors which, in context, conveyed an implied message that a user can do more work faster with a Mahindra tractor than with other tractors, that a user can do more difficult work with a Mahindra tractor than with a comparable John Deere tractor, and that John Deere tractors cannot do professional work.

NAD determined that the advertiser had a reasonable basis for the claim that “Heavier, Sturdier Chassis=Rugged, CAST-IRON chassis (not aluminum) means more built in weight for greater traction, stability, control and SAFETY.”

The advertiser agreed to permanently discontinue claims that Mahindra is superior in “digging capacity” and that Mahindra is “#1 in Customer Satisfaction with a 97% rating.”  The voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

Mahindra USA, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “intends to appeal NAD’s decision to the NARB. Although MUSA appreciates NAD’s careful review of MUSA’s claims, MUSA does believe that it has substantiated its claim that (i) it is the best-selling tractor in the world; (ii) it has the “best” and longest industry leading warranty; and (iii) Mahindra oils provide superior protection.”  The company said it “intends to comply with NAD’s other recommendations.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.