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