By on June 30, 2011

Leaf or Volt? Ask the average person on the street that question, and you might get a response acknowledging that you’re talking about plug-in electric vehicles. Ask for more detail, and you may well be disappointed. Despite the many differences between the two vehicles, some simple and obvious, others subtle and complex, it’s unlikely that the average consumer is going to be able to tell you much about them. Why? Because chances are, your randomly-selected consumer doesn’t even know who makes which car. Automotive News [sub] reports that a Compete, Inc study shows

a little more than 17 percent of consumers polled knew that Nissan sells the Leaf. Another 13 percent incorrectly believed the car is offered by other brands, including Chevrolet and Toyota.

The Volt fared better. The study found that 45 percent of shoppers identified it as a Chevrolet.

Yowza. Considering that Nissan is betting bigger on EVs than any other manufacturer in the business, selling the only pure EV on the market and ramping up to 500k annual units of global battery production capacity, it needs to get on top of this branding awareness issue yesterday. Because as things stand, Nissan is making a gigantic global gamble only to find Chevrolet and Toyota stealing nearly as much credit for the Leaf as consumers give Nissan itself (13% versus 17%… what’s wrong with that picture?). Ads like this one are a good start, but Nissan needs to do more to ignore the Volt and make itself synonymous with pure-electric cars the way Toyota made itself synonymous with hybrids.

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22 Comments on “Consumer Like Those Electric Cars, They Just Don’t Know Who Makes Them...”


  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    To the average consumer, should it even matter who the manufacturer is?

    Most people don’t know how to keep their tires inflated. Why should we expect them to have a general knowledge on car manufacturers?

  • avatar
    clutchrider

    Just more proof that the sheeple know nothing about what they drive or what is available out there. Give them a fridge with a motor to get them from A to B and that’s it.

    Not that I blame everyone since they may have other interests like boating, golf, walmart shopping. But it’s quite surprising that these companies put so much into advertising and gimmickry to get noticed and people cannot even identify the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      “…people cannot even identify the brand.”

      I think Chevy, Nissan and Toyota have created new brands in the Volt, Leaf and Prius. Each of these vehicles are distinctly different enough from the rest of the manufacturer’s offerings that they are best recognized by their name. Corolla owners drive a Toyota, but Prius owners drive a Prius.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “a little more than 17 percent of consumers polled knew that Nissan sells the Leaf. Another 13 percent incorrectly believed the car is offered by other brands, including Chevrolet . . .”
    ^This can happen when Nissan’s Leaf ad features the Volt.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    I seem to see a lot more Chevy Volt advertising and PR, and other than the bear hugs man ad, I am not sure I’ve seen much for the Leaf at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Who watches advertising anymore?

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Not us. We turned off our TV subscription several months ago. Switched to a Roku+Netflix+Hulu+AmazonVOD and some free channels. Much more kid safe, cheaper and more easily regulated by me. One TV and we watch it – or not – together.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @joeaverage:

        We’ve done the same thing.

        Netflix costs 1/4th as much as cable, there are no commercials, and my kid can watch what we/he want when we want to. And when the show’s done, it’s done — no parking my kid in front of my TV for hours.

        It’s MUCH more kid friendly than having a kid watch what someone else thinks “kid TV” is, and my kid isn’t being propagandized with commercials for junk. He can see commercials when he’s old enough to realize that people lie to him for their own selfish interests — but I don’t know why a person would subject themselves to advertising voluntarily.

        I got all of my information about the LEAF and the Volt from Internet sources. They’re far from perfect, and I have to read a lot of news sources to get a coherent picture — but it’s far better than getting “information” from advertising.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Luke – exactly what you said.

        “no parking my kid in front of my TV for hours.”
        “1/4 cost”
        commercials = lying or manipulation at least
        “I don’t know why a person would subject themselves to advertising voluntarily.”
        “I got all of my information about the LEAF and the Volt from Internet sources.”

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    As to the Leaf, is there a lot of point to getting a big branding campaign going before consumers can even buy one? Most NA markets are not carrying Leafs, so a big campaign would only frustrate interested buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      It’s going to be worse – by the time Nissan is ready to roll out the Leaf in volume, it’ll be winter – the absolute worst time to sell BEVs. The desire for heat, and the reduced battery performance in the cold mean that range gets much worse.

      Nissan’s marketed “100-mile range” drops from a typical summer of around 70-odd miles down to something like 50-odd miles. With the typical daily drive being 40 miles, suddenly, there’s no margin for error.

      And Nissan obviously knows this, which is why the Leaf “long term test” fleet is only 3 months (summer), rather than a full year (including winter). Nissan is afraid to let the Detroit / Ann Arbor mags try to use their product during the Michigan winter.

      IMO, come winter, when the Leaf production is up, the “hot” US summer sales are gone, the Leaf is going to look like GM’s EV1, and it’s going to be yet another debacle for BEVs.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    As has been remarked in another thread, daily commuting has taken the majority of love of cars and caring about what one drives away. Most do not care what they drive, as long as they are reasonably assured it won’t break down and that the A/C and stereo work well. Too many people spending too much time out of necessity in their cars. Nothing to get excited over.

    Many on here dismiss the Impala, but I’m passionate about it, I care about what I drive, even if it is an everyday, or common car. Put it this way, I care enough about what I drive, I chose an Impala over a Camry or Accord because I hate Toyota and Honda! Not crazy about Ford, but respect them. I want to like Chrysler again. All others, I don’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      I don’t understand why anyone would really “care” about any greedy multi-national company (same as I don’t understand why people get into arguments about the merits/de-merits of Tiger Woods to the degree that some seem prepared to virtually go to war to defend their particular viewpoint…but I digress….)…

      Why do you “hate” Honda and Toyota? This seems a very immature perspective.

      From what I can see Honda and Toyota are marginally less reprehensible in the way they treat their customers than GM or Ford have been in the past but, lets face it, NO CAR COMPANY GIVES A DARN ABOUT YOU so why should you give a darn about them?

      Judge the product and the local service situation and don’t worry too much about the “corporation” is the way I look at it.

  • avatar
    silverc10

    Currently taking place at a Chevrolet dealership:

    Customer: I’d like to test drive a Leaf
    Salesman: Sure thing m’am
    -guides customer to Volt
    Salesman: Let me just go grab the keys..

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Marketing failure for Nissan. They are betting big on EVs and people don’t even know who makes their first EV.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Not necessarily.

      Both GM and Nissan seem to be trying to ramp up the sales of their EVs slowly. It seems to me that they’re just as nervous about new technology as everyone else — especially the possible warranty costs, and also building the EV battery industry.

      It seems like a reasonable strategy to me. You don’t have to advertise to people who read AutoblogGreen, because they’ll search for and then discuss every green-car press release. So, if you want to sell 10k cars to see how they perform in the real world with real owners (without risking a huge recall), you would put up obtuse commercials to create a vaguely green-halo impression for the dwindling number of people who still watch cable TV. But the real target market, at this point in time, probably knows more about the product than the salesman.

      I expect this to change, though, as the technology matures and Nissan and GM wants to sell to a more mainstream market. But, as the EV-haters rightfully point out, EVs are a niche vehicle now — even though I really want one and would be standing in line buy a LEAF RIGHT NOW, if I could afford one. The EV doesn’t have to be all things to all people at this point — it just needs to be the right things to some people, and the LEAF and the Volt both match that description. All of this will change as the technology matures, and as oil prices continue on their inevitable rise.

  • avatar
    srogers

    I’d guess that anyone who is seriously interested in EVs knows very well who makes the Volt and Leaf.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    General Motors?

    Winning a marketing battle???

    For hearts and minds on electric vehicles?!?!

    Chest tightening.

    Right arm throbbing.

    Hard to breathe.

    Vision going into a tunnel.

    Having MI…


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