General Motors Explains Why Marketing The Chevy Volt Is So Damn Difficult

3 years ago by Eric Loveday 95

Chevy Volt Dancers

Chevy Volt Dancers

The Chevy Volt is unique in that it’s still the only true extended-range electric vehicle available.  This “extended-range” aspect has made it incredibly difficult to effectively market it to the general public.

Recently, CNET posed several questions on marketing the Chevy Volt to Dora Norwicki, Volt marketing manager at GM, and Randal Fox, a spokesman for GM Electric Vehicle Technology.

The answers show us that General Motors has found it difficult to get the Volt’s message across.

Here’s an excerpt from CNET’s Q&A session:

What are the biggest markets for the Volt outside of California?

Norwicki: Michigan. Illinois. And New York and New Jersey are also big markets. The Washington, DC-Baltimore area: the i95 corridor. And then you have pockets in Florida and Texas.

Is there a barrier to Volt sales in the sense that not everyone understands fully what the Volt is?

Norwicki: It’s an extended-range electric vehicle. It’s a unique car in that sense. That fact that some people may not be familiar with the Volt technology is a function of whether they were interested in alternative-fuel vehicles available to them. If you’re not in market, you’re not likely to pay attention. Is it a little confusing to people? Perhaps.

But how can you get a simple, easy-to-understand message to consumers about what the Volt is?

Norwicki: One of our key messages is that our owners — and we track them quite extensively — on average go 900 miles between each fill-up. Which is an attention-getter and stops people in their tracks when they think about [that statement]. Most of our owners have told us that they spend very little time driving on gas. The majority of their travel on the Volt is in electric mode. So, to them, it is an electric vehicle.

Fox: The situation that you’re describing is exactly the challenge that we have. In order to communicate the message on how the Volt works, you can do that on the Web site, but if you look at a 30-second commercial, that’s where it’s challenging. And unless you’ve been in the market specifically looking at the Volt, the awareness is still something that we’re working on.

What about TV ads?

Norwicki: Generally speaking, the category isn’t advertised on TV. You go where the target customer for your vehicle is. And oftentimes people that are drawn to specific categories of cars, alternative-fuel vehicles in particular — those people do not view TV. They are online. They’re in social media. But they are not typical TV watchers. So just because you don’t see us on TV doesn’t mean we’re not advertising online and in social media.

If you advertise on TV, you’ll increase awareness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll increase consideration. So, by targeting we can more efficiently use our marketing funds.

It’s clear to us that General Motors is still trying to find the magic formula for marketing the Chevy Volt.  We tossed in a few Chevy Volt videos to show how GM has evolved in terms of marketing the Volt.  These days, GM seems to have the formula close to right, but in the early days, the Volt advertisements clearly showed that GM had no clue how to market this revolutionary automobile.

It may have taken several years, but GM is now the only automaker with experience in marketing a range-extended electric vehicle.  We suspect that BMW will have the most difficult of times in trying to market its i3 REx.  Perhaps a phone call from BMW to GM is forthcoming.

Source: CNET

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95 responses to "General Motors Explains Why Marketing The Chevy Volt Is So Damn Difficult"

  1. vadik_veselovsky says:

    People with an extra couple of dozen thousand dollars to spend on a new car are generally not complete morons.

    Those who can’t explain Volt’s fairly simple concept despite millions of marketing money are.

    1. Mint says:

      The message should be as simple as this:
      ” Power your daily life with 100% American energy,
      and have the freedom of gasoline when you need it”

      But I think the biggest problem is the one that Elon realized from the beginning: You can’t sell an EV/PHEV effectively without directly comparing to and trashing gasoline, be it for fuel cost, patriotism, air pollution, GHG, etc.

      A dealer selling primarily gasoline cars rarely wants to go down that road.

      1. Chris O says:

        Good point! Must be tricky business to market this without detracting from the cars that make up the other 99% of GM’s business.

        1. io says:

          Nissan did, at least briefly. I thought it was pretty brilliant.
          http://insideevs.com/video-nissan-leaf-commercial-100-electric/

      2. no comment says:

        only EV enthusiasts care about “trashing gasoline”. one thing that Tesla does well in the near term is that they tap into EV enthusiasm. the problem is that this is not a very good long term strategy.

        the reality is that gasoline is not going to disappear as a means for powering automobiles any time in the foreseeable future. the real long term strategy is in making intelligent use of electric propulsion to reduce gasoline usage; not eliminate it. some EV enthusiasts foolishly believe that the solution is bigger batteries, but bigger batteries means longer charging times. when it comes to refill versus recharge, it is a matter of minutes versus hours.

        1. Mint says:

          I think you’re taking me too literally.

          By “trash gasoline”, I mean pointing out how much it costs per month to buy gasoline and do average maintenance, do a side-by-side comparison to illustrate throttle lag, etc. Basically the type of thing that car dealers do to put you off from buying a competitor’s product.

          These are all things that would sour someone from buying a gas car when you point it out, so GM and BMW dealers won’t be doing it for a customer considering either ICE or EV.

  2. DaveMart says:

    GM is indeed the only company which has years of experience marketing extended range electric vehicles.

    But depending on how you define ‘extended range’ Mitsubishi has been selling vastly more Outlander PHEVs in every market where they are available, and is not limited by problems selling them, but in ramping up battery production fast enough to cope.

    Unless one wants to go along with GMs rather peculiar distinction between their own offering and everything else on the market, made on the grounds that they have decided to give the Volt a really big all electric range, then there are scads of other car makers in the game, from Toyota who have ‘considerable’ experience in hybrids and now have the PHEV, to the mighty VW group with umpteen offering shortly.

    1. no comment says:

      the Volt is a very practical vehicle in that the battery is sized such that it can be recharged in an overnight recharge from a 120V outlet.

    2. Koz says:

      It’s not peculiar at all. The people at GM that conceived and developed the Volt knew exactly what they were doing when termed it an EREV and it was done for good reason. There are superior qualities to 100% electric drive; instant torque, NVH, size, weight, and reliability being the most notable. Tesla is keenly aware of these advantages and capitalizes on them. GM marketers, sales, and admin are much less cognizant and competent.

      Tesla (and Toyota with the Prius) does not confine nor define their vehicles by some pre-existing tiny subset of EV enthusiasts. They announced they were designing the best car, not the best EV and have celebrated all the characteristics that make it so. Reviewers and car critics have mostly agreed with glowing reviews and awards. They see the whole car market as potential, not just a small subset of buyers and there sales show it. Porsche had its best sales year ever in the US and sold 42k vehicles total. Tesla sold 18k Model S in the US in its first full year of production. Tesla is limited by cost and access to home charging first and foremost. A lot of their customers are tech savvy and/or car enthusiasts that didn’t particularly follow nor pay close attention to EVs prior. They have obviously drawn in the EV enthusiasts too but those buyers found Tesla. This is lost on GM marketing and sales. They have tunnel vision in believing the Volt can only appeal to “established EV enthusiasts”. They have throttled Volt production and marketing for this vision since the 2014 model introduction and have confined sales to a lesser number. Even beforehand they rarely acknowledged nor celebrated the advantages of electric drive beyond the displacement of gas consumption. This did little to dispel the comparisons to the Cruze and the commonly themed commentary about the Volt being just and expensive Cruze with a big battery. Of course this may have always been intentional as GM always stated the Volt would be a halo vehicle to also help them sell all vehicles in the brand, particularly the Cruze.

      Tesla doesn’t have a bowtie albatross on the front that dampens most recognition of the Volt’s more refined qualities. Stick another badge on the grill (I.e. Lexus, Acura, BMW, Mercedes), market it proudly, produce enough, incentivize the dealers and the same exact Volt at 2-3 times its current volume or more. GM has to overcome a lot to convince buyers that the Volt is worth a premium but clearly the first obstacle is in house.

      1. no comment says:

        i agree with your assessment that the Chevrolet nameplate is a disadvantage, but other than that, i think that you are incorrect everything else you wrote. contrary to what you state, Tesla *is* focused on EV enthusiasts and on people who can afford to spend 6-figures on what is a second car so that they can appear “trendy” and “high tech”. by contrast, the Chevrolet Volt was designed for the general public. this approach, however, is less exciting to EV enthusiasts. the net result is that the Tesla is a lot closer to reaching its ultimate market potential sales volume than is the Chevrolet Volt. consequently, growth in Tesla sales depends upon aggressive expansion into new markets. eventually, however, you run out of new markets, so at some point Tesla is going to have to demonstrate that they can expand sales volume in *same* markets.

        as to the comments by reviewers that you reference, i have read some of those reviews and found most of them to be pretty worthless. one of the problems with reviewers is that you don’t know what incentives are going on behind the scenes. another problem is that reviewers tend to follow the “flavor of the day”. so reviewers tend to rave over the latest product introduction; then they cool in their enthusiasm when a new “toy” is announced as they turn their attention to the latest new toy.

        as to your assertions about attributes that GM did and did not promote about the Volt, i suggest that you go back and look at various promotions from GM and you will find that GM did promote the product attributes that you claim they failed to promote. for example, GM did promote the feature of “instant torque”, so factually your comments are quite wrong.

  3. Bloggin says:

    “The Chevy Volt is unique in that it’s still the only true extended-range electric vehicle available.”

    Not true.

    The BMW i3 REX is the only ‘true’ extended-range electric vehicle available today. Extended range engine only charges the batteries.

    The Volt is a overly complicated plug-in hybrid that charges the batteries and drives the wheels when necessary like any other plug-in hybrid.

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      No bloggin, you’re incorrect. The i3 REx is severely performance limited after its battery is depleted, and its gas tank is too small to be useful for long trips.

      The statement in the article is true. Don’t start going down the road of indirect mechanical linkage, because it is semantics and a straw man argument.

      The fact is the Volt is propelled using electric motors 100% of the time. If you don’t like the innovative way Chevy boosted fuel efficiency while still having the drive be accomplished 100% by electric motors, then go pour some gasoline on the road every time you fill up to make up for it. 😛

      1. kdawg says:

        @ Bloggin

        The BMW i3 just became available where the Volt has been out for 3.5 years.

        Why do you say “overly complicated”. It’s not that complicated to me, and it’s much less complicated than the automatic transmission in a typical ICE car.

        Note the Volt’s engine does NOT charge the batteries, it only maintains SOC. Same with the i3.

        And as Clarkson noted, the i3’s performance in CS mode is not the same as it’s EV mode performance. On top of that, its overall range is only 180 miles, where the Volt can go 380 miles. The i3 is basically a city car.

        1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

          Well, you _could_ charge the Volt’s batteries with the motor by depleting its charge and then turning on Mountain mode, but if you do that, you’re a dumbass unless you’re actually intending to drive up a mountain.

          1. Bloggin says:

            Part of the confusion about the Volt is GM’s own fault:

            “The Volt is a series vehicle meaning only the electric motor powers the car at ALL times, the gas engine is just a generator for making electricity once the battery is depleted.”

            But wait….in the same paragraph…

            “A little like the Prius, the engine does help spin the wheels after the battery is depleted. ”

            Just like any other plug-in ‘hybrid’.

            Unlike the i3 REX with a more powerful electric motor, has a gasoline engine NEVER spins the wheels.

            GMs issue is that the Volt needs a more powerful electric motor, so a gasoline engine is not necessary for steep hills, hard acceleration when battery is low.

            1. Open-Mind says:

              “GMs issue is that the Volt needs a more powerful electric motor, so a gasoline engine is not necessary for steep hills, hard acceleration when battery is low. ”

              You have that backwards. The Volt electric motor makes about twice the power of its engine. So it’s the engine-alone that is not powerful enough for steep hills. Hence the need for the “mountain mode” feature that buffers up some charge in the battery.

            2. kdawg says:

              The electric motor size has nothing to do with it. The Volt’s traction motor can propel you over 100mph when it has juice left in the battery. It’s the fact there isn’t enough juice in the battery buffer that the ICE has to couple. Note this is more efficient than running the ICE at an even faster rate to create enough electricity to run the traction motor alone.

            3. Koz says:

              Buy an i3, drive it until the range extender is close to coming on, then drive up an extended incline. Come back here to comment again after your enlightenment.

              The Volt needs nor uses power directly from the engine to turn its wheels up a grade of any consequence. It needs the electric energy from the generator driven by the engine to add to the energy from the battery. Volt’s max drive power output under all circumstances is 100% electric. The only time any power from the engine can directly reach the wheels is during steady or very slowly changing speeds above 30ish mph. You are wrong and confused about how the Volt is designed and works.

      2. Chris O says:

        @ClarksonCote: It’s simply not true that the Volt is propelled *only* using electric motors 100% of the time. That’s just a GM apologist argument. Under some circumstances the ICE will add direct traction to the mix. It was something GM wasn’t happy to admit because it sort of underminded their EREV definition, technically it really is a PHEV.

        1. kdawg says:

          I don’t know why you say GM “wasn’t happy to admit”. IIRC they didn’t apologize for anything and explained how it was a ~10% efficiency improvement by doing it that way. Note this only occurs at speeds over 70mph in CS mode. It NEVER occurs in EV mode. The Volt is still not the same as I think what you are calling a PHEV, such as the PiP or Energis since they can go into gas mode even with a full battery. I refer to the Volt as a PHEV sometimes just to make it easy, but not all PHEVs are the same, so if you want to split hairs, the Volt is more of an EREV than a PHEV.

          1. Chris O says:

            Not criticising GM’s decision to throw direct ICE drive in the mix; clearly it’s needed to make the car more efficient. Just criticising people who try to deny that fact and GM for initially trying to obfuscate this fact because they figured direct ICE drive stood in the way of marketing the car as an “all electric vehicle”, based on it supposedly always being an electric motor driving the wheels. But actually according to a more relevant definition the Volt, like any plug-in is only an electric car to the extend it’s powered by electrons from an external source.

            1. ClarksonCote says:

              The Volt is much closer to an EREV than it is a “normal” hybrid or a “plug-in” hybrid.

              It is:
              1) Driven entirely by the electric motors at all speeds and accelerations, so long as the battery has charge left.
              2) With charge depleted, it generates electricity needed to maintain the same performance as in battery mode, no degradation.
              3) At times, an indirect link is established through the motor generator to the engine to avoid a conversion loss.

              The fact that #3 exists does not cause it to fall from EREV status. It is an improvement, same EREV performance with greater efficiency, and it is a mode that only happens under some conditions.

              So the majority of the time the Volt is a “Standard” EREV, and sometimes it is an “Enhanced” EREV.

              There’s no other vehicle on the market that does what the Volt does. Which goes back to why it’s so hard to market. As others point out, even enthusiasts don’t understand it, or condemn it, for precisely the wrong reasons.

            2. Koz says:

              Sheesh. This rediculous semantic argument all over again. The Volt does everything as an EV, save the times short of 40 miles EPA rated, that GM said it would be capable of and you want to dink them on semantics because they made some choices to make it better by taking advantage of the engine is some special circumstances. It is every bit an EREV by it’s definition. Is it a pure series EREV for 100% of the range extended operation? No, but does that really matter? No. They could have easily stuck to 100% series but they would have thrown away some efficiency for nothing but a name.

        2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

          Unless you go with a range extender type that only operates efficiently while in serial mode (such as a turbine) or doesn’t produce reciprocating motion (SOFC), GM’s decision is the right one, as much as it might infuriate dopey purists.

        3. ClarksonCote says:

          Chris,

          Yes, it is absolutely true. I’m sorry that you fail to understand what I’m stating. Yes, sometimes a conversion loss is avoided by having the mechanical power of the engine translated directly to the wheels, but that is done THROUGH the electric motor.

          Hence, it is 100% propelled by electric MOTORS (note I did not say electricity) all of the time.

          I’m sorry that you’d rather have it propelled by electricity all the time for identical performance and operation but with 10-15% hit in efficiency at higher speeds.

          I on the other hand, will applaud GM for taking advantage of this patented approach to improving efficiency under some conditions. As a result, it is 100% propelled by electric motors, and almost always done with electricity, but GM is smart about when to do it.

          Good for them, as an engineer I applaud their ingenuity. And I scoff at people that fault them for finding a way to improve efficiency with zero effect on the electric performance of the vehicle.

        4. ModernMarvelFan says:

          “It’s simply not true that the Volt is propelled *only* using electric motors 100% of the time. That’s just a GM apologist argument”

          It is typical of a Volt hater who thinks that “extended range” would require the mode to be in series mode only.

          Where most people MISSED is the fact that most PHEV’s EV mode is NOT exactly 100% EV. That is where the Volt is different in that its EV mode is a “true” EV mode where other PHEV is NOT. Thus, GM created the “EREV” term.

          As EV supporters, I would think people care about EV mode more than “extended range” mode.

      3. Aaron says:

        Sorry, Clarkston. You didn’t do your homework.

        With the triple-clutch system on the Volt, the ICE can be used to supplementally drive the wheels along with the electric motors when all three clutches are engaged.

        1. pjwood says:

          ..A virtue, not a vice

        2. Jeff says:

          I think that this discussion, while interesting, is not really all that productive. What you call the Volt or how you classify it is completely irrelevant. I think that GM should market the performance of the vehicle and drop the emphasis on calling it an EREV. All that does is lead to these arguments which isn’t helping their marketing.

          The fact is that on a full charge, the car will go 38+ miles (I regularly get 42-44) without ever using any gas at all, traveling at any speed. If your daily commute is less than that, you could literally go months without ever stopping at a gas station. Who cares if you call it a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or an EREV? Once you deplete the battery, you still can drive 340+ miles, stop and fill up, and keep going for as long as you need.

          As far as I know, the Volt is the only vehicle that con do that. The other plug-in hybrids have much shorter electric ranges and actually will engage the engine under heavy acceleration or high speeds even when the battery has a charge. The BMW i3 comes closest to the Volt, having about twice the electric range, but only has a gas range of about 80 miles, so once the battery is depleted it is not a viable option for long trips like the Volt is.

          1. GSP says:

            Well said Jeff.

            GSP

        3. ClarksonCote says:

          @Aaron, as I responded to Chris above, I was very careful in choosing my words. It is always propelled by electric motors (though not always by electricity).

          I’m sorry if you don’t understand the difference, or if you choose to fault GM for using this to provide identical electric performance with greater efficiency.

        4. ModernMarvelFan says:

          Why are BEV purist always stuck on the “extended range” mode while they over look the “superiority” of the Volt in its EV mode over all other PHEV?

          Isn’t that what sets the Volt apart?

          If EV community can’t even get their heads around on the Volt, how do you expect the rest of the World to?

          1. GSP says:

            +1

            GSP

      4. no comment says:

        to add to this comment, the Volt is not a “typical” hybrid because unlike hybrids like the Prius, the Volt is always an electric car first. if you lose the battery in the Volt, you no longer have a driveable car because you cannot operate the Volt under power of the ICE alone. in fact, the ICE never links into the drive train at speeds below 20MPH because the ICE is simply not designed to supply enough torque to get you off the line.

    2. vadik_veselovsky says:

      +1 Bloggin

    3. Eric Loveday says:

      The statement was meant to imply that the BMW i3 REx is not available in the US yet. It still lacks the EPA monroney label. Therefore, it’s not available.

    4. QCO says:

      No wonder GM has trouble explaining and marketing the Volt… Even the enthusiasts on this web site can’t agree on what the Volt is.

      Might be best to not get hung up on the uniquely flexible drivetrain design, but focus on the effective functionality: Its a pure EV for about 90% of the average users driving (40 miles), and it’s a hybrid for the remaining 10% of the time/distance. And no range anxiety.

      1. kdawg says:

        That’s how I explain it to strangers. 90% of the time an EV, 10% of the time a hybrid. I go about 2 months between fill-ups.

        1. no comment says:

          my gasoline usage cycle is more seasonal in nature: i buy most of my gasoline during the winter months (when i get around 25 miles/charge) and rarely during other times of the year (when i can get 50 miles/charge).

          1. kdawg says:

            Me too. My average over the year is about once every 2 months, but more accurately 6 trips in a year.

          2. Koz says:

            You don’t pre-heat to warm the car and battery off of the grid instead of itself? I’m in Florida so we don’t have this concern but I thought with pre-heating you should be getting in the 30’s even in the coldest of climates as long as your initial drive is significant.

            1. no comment says:

              i charge from a 120V outlet, so the problem is that the gasoline generator can engage during preconditioning – that is a big problem for me as i keep my car in an enclosed garage.

      2. Nick says:

        I do wish it could fast charge.

        I did a day trip in my leaf this weekend that covered 180 miles w/ 3 quick charges. If I’d done that in a Volt, I’d have been burning gas.

        I’m hopeful for the next generation. Give me one more seat, and DCQC capability.

        1. kdawg says:

          Even w/DCQC in a Volt, at 180miles you would have burned gas. I just don’t know at what min battery size where DCQC starts to make sense. I think the Volt’s 10.8kWh usable, isn’t the best candidate for DCQC. Maybe once you get closer to 20kWh.

          1. kdawg says:

            ^ with 3 charges ( 3 x 38 = 114 miles)

        2. Koz says:

          That makes for a long 180 mile trip, even in your Leaf. Not for me and not for most. GM does need to up their onboard charger to 6.6kw or more but I don’t see much value in DCQC for it.

  4. John F says:

    The GM marketing formula is the dealer associations. Its the dealers that can carry the message and make the sale. This may explain why videos that directly market the Volt to consumers have difficulty getting the message ‘across’. More than just across, the message has to get over, around, and through the dealers.

  5. Anon says:

    GM can’t market what it itself, doesn’t understand. The gulf between execs and vehicle engineers is huge.

    Just find a different marketing agency, if it’s taken the current one this long to figure out how to sell the Volt… GM execs have little to do with most of the ad agency’s decision making.

    1. Koz says:

      Exactly and their impaired vision doesn’t help either.

  6. Mark C says:

    My brother-in-law took me for a ride in his Volt. We talked about the guy who wanted to race him from one red light to the next and how he ridiculously beat the guy. At the next light, the guy yells across, “Hey, what do you have in that thing?” My b-i-l replied, “Dude, you just got beat by an electric car!”

    At the next stop sign, he floors it on take off. Wow! That’s how you advertise a Volt!

  7. kdawg says:

    I think GM is missing an opportunity by not advertising more on TV, even if it’s not the target audience. By showing your advanced technology, you increase your brand’s perception as a leader, and this will help increase all sales. AKA ‘Halo-effect’.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      Don’t forget that GM doesn’t WANT to sell the Volt. Therefore there is NO REASON to market it.

      1. kdawg says:

        I see TV spots for luxury/supersport cars that Joe the Plumber will never be able to buy, yet it’s on daytime television when the target audience isn’t watching, if the target audience even watches TV. This is called branding, and GM could use the Volt & ELR more effectively in this regards. Rising tide floats all boats.

        1. GeorgeS says:

          If they want to float other boats then they could spend the money more effectively than advertising the Volt.

          1. kdawg says:

            How so? I think showcasing your most technologically advanced vehicles is effective for branding.

            1. Nick says:

              That’s true.

              The problem is that part of the Volt’s message is that burning gas stinks. This isn’t a good story for the rest of your gas only fleet.

              1. kdawg says:

                But in all industries, companies advertise their top-of-the-line products knowing full well that most consumers will have to settle for a lesser model. Consumers seem to be OK with this. People will be attracted to attractive companies, then buy what they can afford or what fits best.

  8. Nelson says:

    Any GM exec. making over $100K per year should be driving a Volt or ELR.

    NPNS! SBF!
    Volt#671

    1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      Back in the day, GM execs per division had to drive their division’s products, which is why each brand ended up with luxury vehicles or option packages in full-sized sedans. Good way to kill Cadillac, by watering it down for GM, Olds, Buick and Pontiac (and of course, migrating to badge-engineering to save bucks on that strategy)..

      But yeah, having all execs drive Voltec vehicles might end up netting some actual larger cars/CUVs and some more attention paid to performance and range.. Hold my breath? Not so much.

  9. GeorgeS says:

    The Volt has a marketing manager at GM??

    What does she due all day at her desk? Clean her fingernails?

    Ha Ha George. I actually thought her reasoning made sense and I’ve seen the same things in people……If they are not interested then they don’t listen. In fact they don’t want to be told about it.

    I had one semi close male friend actually shout: “I’m NOT INTERESTED.” Which totally pissed me off and they haven’t been invited back.

    1. kdawg says:

      Tim Mahoney is GM’s worldwide Chief Marketing Officer.
      Paul Edwards is Vice President of U.S. marketing for Chevrolet.
      Cristi Landy is Marketing Director for Chevrolet Small Cars.

      There’s not a specific Volt person, AFAIK.

      1. GeorgeS says:

        Article quote:

        ” Dora Norwicki, Volt marketing manager at GM,”

        1. kdawg says:

          LOL, how’d I miss that. Also Randy Fox is spokesperson for GM’s EV tech.

          Looks like Dora has been around for some time and was working on marketing the Sonic last year. So let’s give her some tome to see what she can do w/the Volt.

          “Dora Nowicki is responsible for the merchandising of the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic to both dealers and customers ensuring sales growth and increased market share. This includes positioning, messaging, pricing, promotion, communication, packaging and retail/wholesale training. She’s been with Chevrolet for 36 years, and prior to launching Sonic, she successfully introduced the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox.”

    2. Koz says:

      There are certainly people with the mindset you describe but they aren’t 100% or even a large percent of non EV enthusiasts. Most people are not car enthusiasts of any sort but are open minded enough to accept the virtues that the Volt offers.

      This is where GM’s marketing and management epic fail greatly resides. The EV enthusiasts will generally find the Volt on their own and it takes little marketing effort for them to understand the Volt’s benefits. They can pull some sales in from the margins of this subset with the range anxiety argument but no many. They need to reach the Prius, 3 series, C series, IS, Accord, Camry, etc non-EV enthusiasts with open minds to get them to at least consider the Volt. Most people in these categories are very positively surprised when they see and ride in the Volt. This can also be seen in Volt buyers and the cars they traded in for their Volt. If GM’s vision of just EV enthusiasts being potential buyers were accurate then a much higher percentage would be coming from other hybrids and high mileage vehicles. While there is an elevated percentage of former hybrid owners, there is also an elevated percentage of former entry level luxury owners.

  10. Malcolm Scott says:

    Given that Chevy Volt, Vauxhall Ampera, Opel Ampera and Holden Volt have all had different advertising companies (I think), and yet sales have been universally modest, or very poor in some regions. For such a fine car I have been very surprised.

    My own experience after Holden must have spent a fortune on promoting the Volt, using a variety of engaging and innovative methods, there is very little Volt product recognition at large and amongst my friends. Only rarely in my Volt travels does a conversation develop about the car.

    Perhaps the GM brands simply can’t carry a car like the Volt, and can’t sell them in competition with its other products

    And then of course in some respects transforming our behaviours in response to global warming, wars, etc, have gone off the boil a bit. The compelling imperative to act personally has been compromised.

    1. kdawg says:

      I did like the Holden Volt ads. For more conversations to happen, I think GM may have to go a bit more viral. Remember the stir that the ELR Poolside ad created?

      1. Koz says:

        That add did nothing, or next to nothing, for ELR sales. GM absolutely has a perception issue to overcome, certainly with Chevy and it sounds like Holden and Opel as well. The luxury values of the electric drive are lost on the typical Chevy customer and non-Chevy customers simply don’t look to Chevy for those features. Perhaps Holden and Opel suffer from similar issues or at least American manufactured auto’s do in Europe even if they are sold with Euro badges.

        These are difficult obstacles for GM to overcome. Apparently it is easier to blame the car and the consumer market than it is to blame themselves.

        1. kdawg says:

          It doesn’t work like that. The ELR could have been any Cadillac, (ELR was a last minute change). It’s called branding. And it doesn’t change everything overnight. It works more like the process of osmosis and spreads.

  11. kdawg says:

    Eric – FYI CNET got her name wrong. It’s Nowicki.

  12. vdiv says:

    Yeah, and remember how many ELRs were sold last month after that stir?

    Perception is everything and for too many reasons GM has lost the perception battle.

    1. kdawg says:

      But how many more people now know what an ELR is vs. a Volt, and did this result in any other Cadillac sales?

      GM only planned to sell a couple thousand ELR’s over a couple years, so they are on pace for that.

      1. Koz says:

        They did not and they are not. It was throttled to a couple thousand per year and they will be lucky to sell 600. That add created a lot of buzz in the EV community mostly. It pissed some people off and Cadillac has barely sold ELR’s despite relatively high inventory and marketing. The add and the car at $75k are failures.

        1. kdawg says:

          Ad did what its supposed to do and created buzz. Price the ELR was started high and now is being discounted.

          Patience grasshopper before you start throwing the “F” word around.

        2. Thomas J. Thias says:

          Koz, what if I told you that I was getting 850+ MPG in my Stunning Cadillac ELR Extended Range Electric Luxury Coupe!
          Well, I’m not but this guy is!

          Link Goes To Volt Stats/ELR

          http://www.voltstats.net/ELR/Stats/Details/4884

          Try that in a BMW i8!

          Best-

          Thomas J. Thias

          517=749-0532

          Twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt

  13. QCO says:

    At the risk of touching some nerves, I think there is one other significant marketing flaw with the Volt, and that is the name “Chevrolet on the front.

    GM took a very sophisticated vehicle with a relatively high price and stuck on a brand and grill associated with the lowest socio-economic group of car buyers out there(Sonic, Cruze, bad credit…), many of whom can’t even take advantage of the full tax credit.

    GM has obviously seen and reacted to this problem, but overshot in the other direction with the absurdly overpriced ELR.

    Had it been introduced under a mid tier brand (maybe as a Buick Volt with a more sophisticated Ampera-like front end), it might have attracted more people who could understand and afford it.

    1. Mikael says:

      It should have gotten it’s own brand. A new brand for a new technology. Maybe even call it Voltec. But then they would have to put more models out there besides the “Voltec Volt” and the “Voltec ELR”.

      1. Rick Danger says:

        And perhaps with it’s own brand, they could have found a way to sell it through other than their good ‘ol boy gas slurping dealers.

    2. Thomas J. Thias says:

      QCO-

      In just 30 short months since the Amazing Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle Left limited beta sales, over 80,000 Voltec Platforms have been sold.

      This is Stunning!

      Best-

      Thomas J. Thias

      Sundance Chevrolet Inc.

      517-749-0532

      Twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt

  14. taser54 says:

    The Volt is hamstrung by the vehicle size/cost ratio.

    The vast majority of large Americans will not spend $35k+ on a small car.

    GM is trying to lower the cost while keeping the same small car, but, IMHO, increasing the size would garner more additional sales.

    If the voltec drivetrain was in the Impala and started at $35k, it would sell many more.

    1. kdawg says:

      From the spy-shots it appears they are hedging their bets. Reducing cost and increasing size. The wheelbase is longer in the spy-shots.

    2. Koz says:

      -Volt is $28k after fed tax credit
      -Volt is $40-$250 less per month to operate. People do generally know what they spend per month on gas, contrary to pundits espousing
      -Plenty of Americans buy $35k small cars. GM has no trouble throwing hundreds of millions of marketing dollars and more in development at this market with the Caddy ATS. They probably have nearly as many BMW converts with the Volt and without a lick of marketing targeted at this group.

    3. Thomas J. Thias says:

      I am always looking for a new Global Electric Fueled Vehicle Guru that can teach me things ahead of market financial moves.

      Thank Gawd that you have told me this information regarding size of vehicle vrs pricing marketability.

      I now know because of your insight that all 23 of these Upscale Midsized cars as listed on the US News, “BEST CARS” Leader Board are near term marketing failures at $35,000 and up!

      Link Goes To US News- “Best Cars” #8-

      http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/rankings/Upscale-Midsize-Cars/

      Best-

      Thomas J. Thias

      517-749-0532

      Twitter.com/AmazingChevVolt

  15. realdb2 says:

    Besides the fact that neither GM nor it’s dealers make good money selling a Volt (my personal opinion) the bottom line is it’s a complicated vehicle to understand.

    The car drives like a dream and does EXACTLY what the car was designed to do (cover most people’s daily commute with electricity but with the ability to drive as far as most gas cars if needed).

    Unfortunately in my experience describing the Volt to someone often leads down a never ending tunnel of, “yea, but what about this?” questions.

  16. JakeY says:

    One way to do it is to admit the car is a PHEV and explain how it’s better than other PHEVs (the longer all electric range).

    And stop treating the “hybrid” term like the plague; it’s a well established term with the public that describes a mix of electric and gasoline. It definitely helps to explain the car.

    No one in the public is interested in all the intricacies of what makes a proper EREV (even in our more informed enthusiast circle, we don’t have agreement on this, so how can GM expect the general public to understand).

  17. Suprise Cat says:

    Maybe they should ask Mitsubishi how to sell 4000 PHEV per month?

  18. no comment says:

    the problems facing the Volt include the following:

    a)Chevrolet nameplate: the Volt is too expensive for a Chevrolet and too small for a Cadillac. the fact that you see so much apparent enthusiasm for a substandard vehicle like the BMW i3 tells you how much importance can be placed on something as simple as a vehicle nameplate;

    b)EV is still an early adopter marketplace: the Volt is designed for the general automobile market, but the market for EVs is still a niche market. the Volt concept is actually the most practical long term EV concept; a vehicle that seamlessly integrates the electric powered and gasoline powered paradigms into a practical vehicle that you can own as your only vehicle without having to change anything about the way that people interact with their cars. but the current EV market is not a general market, but a niche market, with many EV enthusiasts: EV enthusiasts tend to not only be more fickle in their product preferences, but many are more inclined toward “pure” concepts like the BEV, even though the BEV is not a practical platform for EV adoption in the general market. so Volt marketing is going to require a long term approach that involves developing the market for the Volt in the general public and not so much for the EV enthusiast segment;

    c)the value proposition: the Volt is a really well designed and well engineered vehicle, but many of the features and benefits are different from ICE vehicles and are difficult to explain simply. people tend to be averse to things that aren’t familiar, so that just has to be a long term educational project that won’t happen overnight (that is true for all companies in the EV segment who wish to be more than a niche auto maker). from the cost perspective, people tend to think in terms of the “walk off” price and do not factor in tax credits and rebates that can reduce the cost of the Volt by over $10,000 in some cases.

  19. no comment says:

    i live in illinois and i see a fair number of people driving Chevrolet Volts. i rarely see cars like the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S.

  20. TomArt says:

    I don’t see much of any of them in Northern Virginia. I’ve only ever had about 15 sightings of a Chevy Volt since it came out (not including one in my community), about 12 Model S sightings since it came out, 1 Roadster ever, and about 3 or 4 Leaf sightings since it came out (not including the Leaf that a coworker drives every day).

    There is a lot of money here, and plenty of suburbs, but they’re buying 4-matic Mercedes SUVs and CUVs, and 6- and 7-series BMWs, Lexus models galore, Land Rovers and Cadillacs, etc.

    1. TomArt says:

      In fact, I’ve seen far more Jaguars than I have Model Ses, and I’ve seen more Maseratis than I have Roadsters.

      1. TomArt says:

        In fact, alternative vehicles and alternative energy (like residential solar) are extremely rare around here…almost like getting a glimpse of a snow leopard in the mountains of Afghanistan…

  21. lewl says:

    Instead of commercials trying to explain something that is very complex (reading the crapstorm above about ICE driving wheels by EV site readers, who should presumably know better than general public – hint: it never drives the wheels directly. Only electric motors do, with the ICE hooked into one of those motors, not the tranny directly)

    Anyways, forget trying to explain this stuff,and just do a ‘hidden camera’ style ad, showing the ‘EV Grin’ of people test driving it in sport mode and stepping on that pedal.
    Splice in a few of those, and add in some lines voiceover/text “A car this fun to drive, and 80% of people never need to use gas. But if you do drive far, it still gets at least 38MPG on gas.” (Better yet, use the fleet average MPG real-world, which will be higher)

    I’ll take a cut of your marketing budget now, GM.

  22. Jeff U'Ren says:

    The first question should be: “What is your daily driver?”

    If it isn’t a Chevy Volt, you should not be trying to market it!

  23. Koz says:

    For better or worse, GM brass and marketers currently see their volt as an electric Chevy. A Cruze with a battery and motors added. In this misguided context, they have correctly concluded it has limited market potential as currently configured and priced. This has become an unfortunate self fulfilling prophesy. The market and sales are limited to their vision.