Automakers Should Market Electric Cars As Fun-To-Drive, Quiet, Responsive

1 year ago by Eric Loveday 54

Both The BMW i3 And Tesla Model S Are Fun-To-Drive, Quiet and Responsive: Image Credit Tom Moloughney

Both The BMW i3 And Tesla Model S Are Fun-To-Drive, Quiet and Responsive: Image Credit Tom Moloughney

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

With gas prices still low and gasoline cars becoming increasingly fuel-efficient, perhaps the marketing departments should re-examine the methods used for marketing electric cars.

Rather than focusing on the green aspects of electric cars, execs from General Motors, Ford and even Toyota are now suggesting that marketing should instead focus on things like fun-to-drive, quiet and responsive.

Larry Nitz, executive director-hybrid and electric powertrain engineering at General Motors, stated (admitted):

“Most customers don’t even understand the benefits (of electrification). Quite frankly, we’ve been bad at explaining our technology to customers.”

“One thing we learned that was really profound, and you’ll see it in electrified vehicles going forward, is that after the initial (Chevrolet) Volt, after customers bought the car, lived with the car, owned the car…the first, second and third (feedback) they came out with was, ‘It’s fun-to-drive, quiet, responsive.’ It wasn’t ‘Saves me money, energy efficient, cool technology.”

Kevin Layden, director-electrified programs & engineering at Ford, commented in regards to PHEVs:

“We have to make sure that first communication point is, ‘It’s so damn easy and so convenient, it’s better than just a (vehicle with) just an ICE.”

Jackie Birdsall, executive engineer-Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America, adds that she has never come across an electric car owner who wants to go back to an ICE car after experiencing the smoothness and responsiveness of an EV.

It seems the automakers understand how they should be marketing these plug-in cars, yet the commercials/advertisements we’ve seen most often times fail to get these points across in an effective manner.

Source: Ward’s Auto

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54 responses to "Automakers Should Market Electric Cars As Fun-To-Drive, Quiet, Responsive"

  1. jerryd says:

    I agree with this as EVs with their race car low cg, instant and massive torque are very fun to drive.
    And if you take one to an autocross course you will if a decent driver beat a lot of expensive sports cars .
    .

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        To be fair, Maserati isn’t all that quick or fast for its so called “performance car status”…

        There are plenty of other 4 door performance cars out there that are way better..

        Notebly those that comes from MB/BMW/Audi with their respective AMG/M/RS logos. Or those cars made by Porsche or even Cadillac’s V-series..

  2. SparkEV MD says:

    As an owner of both the Volt and Spark EV I can say the “fun” aspect of the car diminishes pretty quickly once you figure out the cars don’t handle well. The first gen Volt squats and dives like crazy, feels floaty at times, and need more chassis rigidity. The Volt also suffers from a type of lag that is almost dangerous (step on accelerator and wait…wait.wait…acceleration).

    The Spark EV is fun, throttle is responsive, torque is great, but scares me in the handling department. It’s bouncy, floaty at all speeds, numb steering, and inspires no confidence. This is a pure city commuter.

    I don’t expect the Bolt to be any better and is why Tesla 3 is my next EV.

    1. Mxs says:

      You will be replied by people here with a link to a test where Leaf was concluded to be a well behaved/handling car, because it claimed highest G obtained when running in circles … (rolling my eyes)

    2. Eduardo Pelegri-LLopart says:

      The 500e is a blast to drive. It handles better than the ICE 500 I rented a while back.

      1. Just_Chris says:

        I think this comment hits the nail squarely on the head. I suspect that the Cruze and the ICE spark are much less fun to drive than the volt or the EV spark. They probably handle much worse as well. A Tesla model 3 (once everything has settled down) will probably cost the same as a BMW not a Nissan or a Chevy. Compared to the Nissan or Chevy, it will probably also cost more to service, the tires will be more expensive to replace and the electronics will be more likely to go wrong. This is not because there is a problem at Tesla it is because grippy tires cost more and wear out faster, servicing a more complex vehicle requires better trained and equipped staff, and more electronics means more things that can go wrong.

        An ev is a better drive than an equivalent regular car the problem is they are still sold at a massive premium.

        1. Just_Chris says “An ev is a better drive than an equivalent regular car the problem is they are still sold at a massive premium.” – and – that Premium in Canada for GM at least, is even higher than in the USA! Notably – at the Toronto Canadian International Auto Show – I noticed a Spark EV List in the ~$38,000 Territory!Quite a bit above the ~$16,000 Base LT1’s listed up here!

          In Any Case – if Federal and State /Provincial Governments want to encourage EV Adoption, the rebates on used EV’s should be at least 50 – 60% of what they are for New EV’s, as that helps move EV’s into the Second Tier user, who usually has less money to spend, buys used cars mostly, and often drives cars with less than the efficiency of new cars, hence – making a pathway to encourage the uptake of used EV’s for such buyers, actually helps clean up the air even more so, as a used EV should be as soon as possible – gotten off the used car lot and used to replace another Gas Burner!

          Finally – there Should also be a Program to encourage the process of EV Conversions of any vehicle over 5 years of age, and benefits like No Tax on EV Conversion components – like Motors, controllers, Batteries, and Battery Chargers(on the vehicle), and Schools, Colleges, \Universities, and Professional Trade Schools, should be offering courses in EV Conversions! (Maybe should be part of an Alternate Energy/Solar & Wind Course!?)

    3. SparkEV says:

      Some guy changed tires and suspension bits for SparkEV to race in SCCA races. He kept the changes minimal so that he can also drive it on road. If you want fun SparkEV, that might be the way to go.

      http://www.mychevysparkev.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3656

    4. Texas FFE says:

      My FFE is one of the funest cars I’ve ever owned. I may not be able to smoke the tires through second gear like I could on my ’65 SS Malibu but the FFE hugs the corners like its on rails. I often think of my FFE as a big electric go-cart.

    5. Texas FFE says:

      I had a car pull out in front of me just as was passing a crossroad. I thought there’s no way I’m going to miss hitting this car but I whip the wheel of my FFE to the left as fast as could. I don’t ever remember having a car that handled that well.

      The FFE made a perfect 90 degree turn onto a side street at full speed. No sliding, no noticeable body roll, it just turned. Anybody that thinks EVs aren’t fun and don’t handle well really needs to take an FFE out on some serious twisties.

      1. Brian says:

        I think I should give the FFE another shot. The one test drive I took was on a straight course, with little opportunity to pull a maneuver like that! My impression was that it is a more solid car than my Leaf, but less torquey at low speeds. Sounds like maybe I underestimated the little beast!

    6. Michael Will says:

      Try Volkswagen eGolf or BMW i3 for good handling EV. I love driving the eGolf we got last year.

    7. jerryd says:

      That is GMs fault for converting a gas car and using a gas engine too with much higher cg than designed from scratch EVs with cg 4″ lower than a “Corvette.
      Also for really good handling you need to change from low drag tires to race.

    8. Joe says:

      With all respect, and having a Volt and SparkEV myself, I can only partially agree with you. Yes, the SparkEV is a very short wheelbase car that gets squirrely at speed and if you enjoy too much of the 400 lbs feet of torque at one pedal push, you may soil yourself. I like the car but it needs to be seen for what it is. Meanwhile the Volt feels very solid and controlled at speed and corners well *in regular everyday driving*. The problem is, one person’s description of a car handling well is not the same as someone else’s. These are not sports cars and were never designed to be. Yet if you compare how they drive and handle to a *similar* gas model – and this is very easy to do with the gas Spark – you definitely see the benefit the EV system brings to the table. Of course, neither of these cars will compare in handling to a car designed from the ground up to be a luxury sport sedan, such as a Tesla. Why would you expect such a thing? But compare a Volt to a Cruz and you again see why people think the Volt handles respectably.

      Skilled sports car drivers (or wannabes) may talk about needing a more rigid frame or steering with more feedback… those are dedicated sports car features not to be confused with cars with average power steering and unibody construction. If you like what Tesla has to offer, that’s great. But Chevy has two, soon to be three, excellent EV products that, while not sports cars, are indeed quiet, fun to drive and very peppy compared to the comparable gas model.

    9. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “As an owner of both the Volt and Spark EV I can say the “fun” aspect of the car diminishes pretty quickly once you figure out the cars don’t handle well.”

      Well, neither are sports cars…

      The EVs are better than only its comparable ICE version.

      Volt drives better than Cruze and Chevy Spark EV are better than ICE Spark.

      But they aren’t better than other performance cars in similar price (before incentives).

      That is the issue with all EVs, even with Tesla. Tesla is at least on par or beating ICE versions in 0-60mph (which is what most people understands anyway). Handlings are harder to appreciate for most soccer moms/dads.

      Evs are on average heavier. Regardless of how low you go, it is always an issue. By placing it lower, it helps, but it won’t get rid of the problem.

      The Volt and Spark EV are also limited by their stock “green tires”.

      Change them to regular luxury or performance tires, they improve significantly. Stiffer suspension would help too but it would impact the ride slightly.

      As far as the so called “lag” in Volt goes, you need to set it in Sport model if you want less “lag”.

  3. Mxs says:

    Yeah, surely …. The problem is that it applies to only very few on the market. Again, price gets in the way … Tesla being out for most humans, there’s only i3 and Volt, which would tick the fun mark somewhat.

    You can have many ICE cars at 20-25K which I am willing to call fun and peppy ….

    1. Nick says:

      They feel like driving Rube Goldberg devices after the LEAF.

      Accelerator response is SO good and reliable in the LEAF compared to the ICE vehicles I’ve driven.

    2. Texas FFE says:

      The i3 might have more power than the FFE but an FFE will definitely do better on the twisties. Ford didn’t skimp on tires on the FFE the way BMW did with the i3.

      1. ffbj says:

        I think I would go FFE over the i3 in the handling department too. Plus looks.

      2. 3laine says:

        Car and Driver would disagree. Their i3 (which was the heavier REx version) stopped 25ft shorter than the FFE (160 ft vs 185 ft) and saw higher lateral acceleration in the road holding test (.8g vs .78g). There’s far more to handling than these two tests, but if the tires aren’t holding the i3 back from demolishing it’s competition during braking (it stops shorter than many “performance” cars, even) and beating the FFE and the other 5 EVs tested (tied Leaf), it is unlikely that it will all of a sudden not do better than the FFE in a slalom or auto-X situation given its much lower weight.

  4. jmac says:

    Electric cars get the girls every time. Sex sells cars.

    For the men you appeal to that part of the anatomy just that’s just below the belt buckle with testosterone fueled stop light burn outs that will make them feel like real studs..

    For the women you must sell the car as something that will make them fashionable, alluring and more beautiful and sexy, and the envy of other females. Electric car mascara.

    I guarantee you that gorgeous, sexy men and women draped all over gorgeous, sexy electric cars will sell more automobiles than the Nissan Leaf polar bear ever did.

    1. SparkEV says:

      George Clooney endorsed EV didn’t sell well, so human sex appeal won’t do much.

      1. Marshal G says:

        To be fair that was a horrible NEV.

        1. Marshal G, I Have Ridden in the Tango T600 – like the one George Clooney Had, and – on acceleration, and cornering – it was a bit like a Rocket Sled, on a Monorail – Almost Absolutely NO LEAN, and Acceleration and Braking were Roller Coaster Quick (Or More so)!

          As for Strangeness – it had a very high factor in the Strange Department – and that – plus a price even higher than a Tesla Roadster when they went to Headway (LiFePO4) Lithium Iron Phosphate Cells, made it a very tough sell! Mostly that high price was caused by insufficient Financial backing and trying to recoup too many dollars of development cost per vehicle! (Way too high Development Costs, and way to high Margins on such early cars!)

          The Tango T600, at even the Tesla Model 3 price of $35,000, could be too much, due to its extremely high ‘Strangeness’ Factor, basically – so much different than most cars, too hard for people to get their head around! An excellent Hollywood Commuter, and Movie Prop, though – it was not so over priced in such rolls!

      2. Mark c. says:

        That Tango was $100k, 2 seats front and rear like a motorcycle and was fast.. Did I mention $100k?

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Thanks, I’m glad someone pointed that out.

          I have no doubt the Tango would have sold much, much better if it hadn’t been so astronomically overpriced, George Clooney or not.

          1. jerryd says:

            It would have done both in mass production but it cost too much to get it though US auto regulations , so only a couple were built.
            It was extremely fast and good handling beating many sportscars as it’s cg was so much lower allowing it to be narrow.

  5. SparkEV says:

    Thank you Eric Loveday! I’ve been harping on this often. EV gets bad rap for being expensive turtles, and only driven by those who think the world’s going to end due to CO2. Cars like iMiev and even Leaf (Zero emission printed on its side) perpetuate this perception. Everyone automatically assume I’m some sort of eco-nut when they find out that I drive EV, and that SparkEV is slow.

    My reason was entirely financial (new SparkEV lease was cheaper than used cars, now almost free), then got jazzed on EV due to its performance. Green had nothing to do with it, and never will.

    1. jmac says:

      Sparky–

      I wasn’t aware that Clooney was actually paid to advertise the Tango. I thought he appeared in the press to promote one of his celebrity causes – electric cars.

      1. SparkEV says:

        Whether Clooney was paid or not, point is that human sex appeal can only go so far if the car itself is not good. Tesla is an example of this from opposite angle. You don’t need to put some bikini next to it for it to sell.

      2. jerryd says:

        He paid full boat for it jmac

  6. “gasoline cars becoming increasingly fuel-efficient” … BUT cars have a declining market share in the larger vehicle market.

    The real concern is the increasing number of large SUVs and trucks (55% market) which are driving fuel-efficient numbers the wrong direction.

  7. Tom K says:

    It seems Tesla has gotten the word out that their cars are fun to drive and responsive without spending any advertising dollars…..

    1. SparkFiatOwner-M3reserved says:

      That’s why the large hope for the M3 will bring fun EV driving to the BMV/Infiniti masses. Own a G37 and looking to replace that and Fiat 500e with the M3.

      500e out of the box is a lot of fun. The Spark is fun straightline, but really bouncing and drifts with a dead stick around corners ans high speed lane changes.

      Sure, part mod is doable and can make a yugo purr, but most casual fun drivers (including myself) won’t be doing that.

      Affordable, fun out of the box EV — 500e. Hands down.

  8. David Murray says:

    Been saying the same thing for 5 years.

  9. Mad says:

    Tesla is doing this. They are selling good cars. No compromise cars.

    The other car companies are going to lose out because they are competing with the prius, which has been a compromised car. They think ev nuts want compromised cars.

  10. SparkFiatOwner-M3reserved says:

    Bolt won’t be doing the fun category–but it hits the very important local, do-it-all hauler status which RAV4/CRV/Hatchbacks/Compact Crossovers will be doing — without the range anxiety.

    Looking forward to retire out the CRV and upgrade our SparkEV to the Bolt!

    1. SparkEV says:

      Will Bolt allow towing? If it doesn’t, Tesla 3 might be better for occasional hauling duties by using $250 trailer from Harbor Freight. Bolt is about the size of Kia Soul, and it’s not nearly big enough to carry 4×8 plywood, my benchmark for hauling capacity.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        We had a Chrysler Town & Country minivan which was, barely, big enough inside to carry a full uncut 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood, with the hatch closed.

        But very few people are going to demand that kind of cargo space. So far as I know, even fairly good-sized SUVs don’t have that much room in the back. (And if I’m wrong on that point, then please say so!)

        1. SparkEV says:

          You’re not wrong. Most mid size SUV cannot carry full 4×8 plywood flat. Town and country needed to push the seat forward to carry flat. Even many pick up trucks cannot carry it flat. That’s why I love my Astro van; 5000 lb towing capacity + 4×8 flat.

          Regardless, any car that can tow 1000 lb can use the cheap trailer to carry lots of cargo (almost a half ton worth). Most (all?) SUV/trucks are capable of towing but none of the EV other than Tesla X for now, and soon Tesla 3.

          1. hi SparkEV – While EV’s don’t offer towing, and most likely Recommend against it, the primary issue with towing – is people start towing excessively large, bulky, into the ind trailers, and over stressing the drive lines of ICE Vehicle’s and on EV’s that would likely mean more load/heat on the battery packs!

            I Expect, if a Kurt or other hitch was made to fit your Spark EV or even an iMiEV, towing a 500 Lb load would be not that big of an issue, just it would cut into range by another 5% – 15%, depending on speeds and grades!

            Going up to a 1,000 Lbs Load, it starts to be as much about Vehicle Frame attach points, as it is about managing heat loads, but there are many cars that can tow a 1,000 load on a trailer, with up to 100 lbs or 250 lbs hitch weight! I can See that light weight towing will become an issue of interest for EV’s as much as it grew for ICE Vehicles, maybe even more so, as the smooth throttle response, and instant torque, work well in a towing environment, I expect!

            The Trick becomes – how much range is lost, and how much additional thermal management is required to offer towing on an EV, beyond just frame and body strength elements!

            I think there is a drastic missing level of trailer design in the below 1,000 Lb category: From light weight Bulk Carriers for the 4×8 ft sheet of plywood, to the aerodynamic long haul trailers, with light weight, and excellent Aerodynamic design!

            1. jerryd says:

              My EV trike pickup tows 1k lbs nicely on a trailer says it isn’t hard.
              And let’s not forget all training ‘s are electric shows just how good EVs can be.
              Fact is can’t even be without e drive às the transmission to replace it would require another Loco size to carry the transmission.
              What is a FFE?

  11. David says:

    I took a test drive in a 2017 Volt this week. That thing is fast! Much quicker than my 2014 Volt. I spun the tires one of the times I took off. It is very fun to drive. I wish it wouldn’t be such a hit to trade up.

  12. Kent Barnes says:

    I’ve owned a Leaf and A Volt. I found both to be outstanding and far superior to any ICE that I ever owned. (and a lot of fun too) I think they would do well if they advertised period. I’ve never seen a TV add for any electric cars in the south.

  13. Elroy says:

    The Focus feels heavy and secure, but the i3 is definitely more responsive and gives you feed back. In an autocross I would venture to guess the i3 would take the FFE rather easily. High speed cruising at 85mph, the Focus is more relaxed than the BMW, but not necessarily better handling.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      I’ve never ridden in an i3, but I’ve read lots of reviews that say it has a rough ride, so you feel every bump in the road. Supposedly the narrow tires make that situation worse.

      Perhaps some people like a rough ride and call that “responsive”. I’m not one of them. I learned to drive using a post-war Ford pickup, but I far prefer the smooth ride of a car with well cushioned suspension.

      1. John MB says:

        My neighbor and his wife just picked up a Cadillac… 2017 Escalade …they too like a smooth ride and to be surrounded by a heavy steel body.

        I prefer driving the most energy efficient car ever made..light and a bit bumpy..with carbon fiber life module ..low center of gravity, 0-60 in 6 seconds, tight turning circle, and able to power from the energy that falls on my roof.

        We all do have our preferences!

    2. Texas FFE says:

      They tested the i3 on the slalom course on MotorWeek. The i3 has a definite disadvantage to the FFE in turns because of the skinny tires on the i3.

  14. Brandon says:

    Well, I grant that advertising the fun quiet side of an electric car is a step in the right direction. As mentioned, those are the features that stand out to initial customers. However I propose that the main four factors why EVs aren’t selling in large numbers to the masses currently are these:

    1. Still much more expensive than a gas car.
    2. Not enough models yet (ie SUVs)
    3. Too low of range.
    4. No comprehensive fast charge network yet.

    The only thing that will change these things is time. But things are looking up, and 2020s will be the decade of the electric car!!

  15. Chris says:

    I’ve only drive a comparatively few EVS (my old Volt, the gen 2 Volt, BMW i3 rex, Tesla Model Ses, and the Audi A3 E-tron). Of those the i3 came across as the “most fun to drive” which isn’t surprising given its low weight and good acceleration. Unfortunately, it has a number of compromises which will likely keep it off my list.

    In all honesty, they ALL have some compromises whether it be EV range, handling, space, or price. At the end of the day you have to prioritize what’s most important to you and pick the best balance.

    I agree 100% that the EV driving experience is one of the most compelling aspects of EV ownership (its actually THE most compelling aspect for me). Heck, I wonder just how much hype Tesla would have IF the only thing they changed was the performance. If their cars were no faster than say a Chevy Volt would they have anywhere near the publicity???

  16. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Actually, beside the Tesla Model S/X and the BMW i3, most PEVs (EV only mode) are slow by ICE standard. When a V-6 Camry can beat you to 60mph, you aren’t fast all that.

    Granted that EVs are far smoother and instant torque is more likely to give you the impression that they are faster than they are.

    The new generation of PEVs are being upgrade in performance. Volt is getting faster, the new Bolt should be even faster. Model 3 is still respectable. So, they finally get the point that if you want a premium price on those cars, you got to sell at least with some forms of premium performance.

    As far as handling/braking go, with the added weight, it will suffer a bit due to simple physics. However, the lower center of gravity should help the cornering somewhat and an upgrade in tires will usually do enough to offset the weight for most daily driving.

    No, they won’t out handle a BMW M series or Cadillac’s V series or even a Mustang or Camaro, but they don’t need to for most drivers.

  17. Bacardi says:

    If you look at how many EVs actually sell and the top 3 vehicles selling in the United States, the F150, Silverado and the Ram which combined sell nearly ten fold over EVs you’ll see quite the opposite…Those trucks don’t even have independent rear suspensions are not fun to drive especially a 2WD with empty bed and aren’t quiet…”Responsive” is too subjective, in almost any vehicle if you floor it, it will be responsive…EVs only have a leg up in part throttle response…

    The only way to market these things while gas is cheap are with a blazing fast 0-60…You already have the green folks who’ll buy EVs no matter what, now it’s time to make a Camaro buyer think twice about buy a Bolt that has a 3.9 second 0-60…Tesla has proved this, 400K reserved…