By on October 3, 2011

I’m sure the resident anti-GM-bias patrol won’t look kindly upon this double-dose of Volt skepticism, but at the point that GM’s Volt production is ramped up well above its sales rate, we should be paying attention to what GM is saying about the challenge of marketing the Volt. Automotive News [sub] reports that it’s still too early to compare Volt and Nissan Leaf deliveries in terms of a competition, arguing

Chevrolet and Nissan are still selling to early adopters and green enthusiasts and will be for most of the coming year. Their real challenge is to learn how to market the high-profile cars to mainstream U.S. consumers in mass-production volumes in 2012 and beyond.

To prepare for that, both automakers are using 2011 as a sort of practice year, taking notes, tinkering with tactics and honing their marketing messages.

And according to GM sources, there’s a lot of honing to do…

“We’ve learned that this product is a different experience,” says Cristi Landy, the Volt’s product marketing manager at GM. “No customer who buys this vehicle is replacing a vehicle that was anything like it. So it’s new for the customers; it’s new for us.

“And we’ve also learned that it is confusing to people.”

What that means for the marketing mission, Landy adds, is that “we have two issues: There’s marketing to the people who are going to buy it, and then there’s marketing to people who just want to know about it.”

And we’re starting to see that confusion show up in Chevy’s ads for the Volt. The pair of ads above started running about two weeks ago, and they exhibit the confusion that Chevy was inevitably going to have to confront (and seem to be a response to this Nissan ad). After all, we saw the first signs of trouble in this respect within days of its launch, when controversy arose about exactly how efficient a Volt really is. Our take: the Volt is as efficient as you want it to be (or as your lifestyle allows). But the truth, in this case, doesn’t make the marketing any easier. Nor does the fact that the Volt wasn’t designed for maximum efficiency per se, but rather to give consumers a typical day’s driving worth of electric range and then gas power thereafter. This design brief was certainly innovative, but it forces marketers to ask consumers to think of their vehicles in a fundamentally new way, which causes “confusion.”

When I met with Bob Lutz, this issue was at the top of my “questions to ask list,” so I asked him: do you think [the Volt's eco-halo effect on the Chevy brand] is mitigated by the fact that it’s such a complex machine, and that things like measuring its efficiency on an apples-to-apples basis is very difficult? Do you think [this complexity] creates a mixed message? He answered:

Yeah, even internally some people were bringing up that argument, saying we’d be far better off doing a conventional hybrid. And I said “look, the issue here is that people want to drive 40 miles electrically.” They said “yes, but once they’re on the gasoline engine…” and I said “will you stop saying that? That’s not what this is about. The Volt buyers are going to feel as if they’ve made some sort of mistake if they’re on gasoline, or if they’ve made an especially long trip…” But that’s the beauty of the Volt, is that it gives you that flexibility. But for most people, most of the time, it’s a pure EV.

That’s the way people look at it. They don’t look at it and say “well, if I were to do 500 miles per day, I’d only get 40 miles electric, and the rest would be facing all this added weight, etc.” They just don’t do that. If you look at it through the eyes of the customer, as opposed to through the eyes of the way the EPA measures efficiency (which I think is… strange), the way the customers see it is “I’m getting 40 miles almost for free every single day, and twice a day if I can plug in at work.”

Yeah, it’s counter-intuitive if we had assumed the average Volt buyer would drive 500 miles per day. [If that were the case], I’d have agreed with the engineers [who advocated for max efficiency rather than the extended-range electric configuration] and said “stupid solution, we need to do something else.” But we know that average Americans drive 40 miles per day or less, and the car is for them. [The engineers] were looking at a usage cycle that’s hypothetical, rather than a usage cycle that’s real… and I was focusing on the real customers’ usage cycle, which is going to be predominantly electric. It’s like… and airplane engineer will tell you “you know, we can make this fighter plane much more efficient if we don’t add all the weight and complexity of an ejection seat, and I can prove to you that this airplane will be superior in combat… so let’s leave all that ‘needless complexity’ out of it.” Yes, but… good luck finding someone to fly it.

As the father of the Volt, Lutz knows all the arguments for going with the extended-range model… but whether his logic resonates with consumers is an entirely different question. After all, from his perspective, it’s just a matter of “seeing things through the eyes of the consumer.” Meanwhile, the majority of actual consumers still need to understand why a second car isn’t a better choice than the Volt’s range-extending hardware (after all, how many households with a $40k car in the garage have only one car?). And if you believe you’ll use your Volt almost exclusively on electric power, as Lutz thinks most consumers will, why not buy the cheaper Nissan Leaf with a 70-mile pure-electric range? Especially when Nissan has an interesting approach to apples-to-apples efficiency comparisons. GM’s marketing team is only just scratching the surface of its Volt challenge, and as production ramps up, the pressure to find buyers will only increase.

In the meantime, here’s what the Volt marketing team seems to have learned thus far:

• The Volt is skewing toward more of a luxury customer, often with a luxury trade-in.

• Volt owners are environmentally conscious but moderately so. They mainly like the idea of not buying foreign oil, Landy says.

• Once they own the car, customers’ impression of it changes. Instead of describing it as an environmental purchase, they describe it as “fun to drive.” Joel Ewanick, GM’s head of global marketing, recently commented that the Volt’s marketing must sell the vehicle as a car first — meaning as a product that appeals for the same reasons that any other GM model appeals.

• In order to sell Volts, dealers need a demo car. That wasn’t part of the plan. For that reason, GM is goosing production for the next few weeks to make sure all 2,600 participating Chevrolet dealers have at least one demo.

• Even as it focuses on the Volt as fun to drive, Chevrolet also has to educate consumers. According to Landy, future advertising will focus on how the Volt differs from other vehicles.

“When you try to explain the Volt to people on just a piece of paper or with a few quick words on a screen, they don’t necessarily get it,” she says. “You have to remember that most consumers have still never driven a hybrid.”

• Volt owners enjoy talking about their ownership experience with prospective buyers, and prospective buyers seem to enjoy hearing from current owners. Chevrolet hopes to tap into that consumer-to-consumer communication in future marketing.

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96 Comments on “The Chevy Volt’s Marketing Challenge...”


  • avatar
    RRocket

    “I thought these were electric?”

    Shouldn’t he have replied “No, it’s a plug in hybrid. Sorta. Depending on how fast you go and whether the gas engine is powering the wheels or not.”

  • avatar
    ajla

    And if you believe you’ll use your Volt almost exclusively on electric power, as Lutz thinks most consumers will, why not buy the cheaper Nissan Leaf with a 70-mile pure-electric range?

    Because almost is not the same thing as always.

    • 0 avatar

      ajla,

      That second line could be the basis for an entire marketing campaign for the car.

      I’ve got a non-hypothetical from my week with one: what if the driver forgets to plug the car in when they get home?

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Then they run on the gas engine until they do.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        and they probably never make that mistake again, but for some, the worry ofdoing so will gnaw at them, at min strip some joy from the ownership experience, and at max, for a few, bring them to despise their car.

        The Volt concept is an insurance policy against 1. Range Anxiety,and 2. Failure-to-Connect Anxiety. Ejection seats are also insurance policies, Volt could do an “Eject!, eject!!, eject!!!” ad to draw the parallell, to wit: First scene voice-over, jet pilots have plenty to worry about, but anxiety over getting out in an emergency is not one of them. They have the surety of knowing they have an ejection seat. Volt drivers have plenty to worry about in their busy lives too, but Range Anxiety isn’t one of them. They have the comfort of knowing they are driving a Chevy Volt with its unique Range Extender Hybrid System. When jetting about in your daily routine, nothing will comfort your inner jet-pilot better than Chevy Volt’s exclusive Range Extender Hybrid System, because after all, While Getting Home Is Good, Knowing You’ll Always Get Home is Better!”** Add images of random plug-in hybrids pulling to the side of the road in the desert, frozen tundra, and finally tree-lined residential street, with dejected jet-pilot types climbin-out and putting their their helmet on the roog, throwing it on the ground, resigningly tucking it under their arm and beginning the long trudge home, each time as the Volt goes happily cruising by.

        Or a woman in labor being being aggrivated by her sheepish-looking husband if she can hold off pushing because he forgot to plug-in their battery-car…

        Three more mktg themes for ya Chevy, TTAC knows where to send the residual cheque.

        **(C)2011 by RW

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Even better — and this happens to everyone who commutes at one time or another — suppose there’s an unexpected traffic jam . . . maybe caused by a wreck maybe caused by a little rain (here in The Capital of the Free World, a little rain will cause traffic havoc), or, the obvious biggie . . . a snowstorm. Last winter, we had one snowstorm, but it was a very, very wet snow, which came down fast and hard beginning early afternoon. After a few cars drove on it, it packed down to a greasy mess . . . and traffic was too heavy for the salt/sand trucks to do much about it. Living in the city about 5 miles from work, I parked the car (legally) on a side street rather than spend another hour sitting in traffic and walked the rest of the way. There were two city buses stuck in an intersection of a street for which there is no alternative route. The next day, I had to go to the airport . . . and saw dozens of abandoned cars on the way there. I can only imagine what it would be like sitting in an electric car, with the battery running down, powering the lights and the heater (necessary to defrost the windshield). As it is, in those situations, there are always the gasoline-powered cars that run out of fuel.

        That’s why I would never own a Leaf. In its own way, its a toy . . . just like my Z3. But the Z3 is more fun and, in certain respects, more practical (as in I can use the Z3 to visit my father in Annapolis, 40 miles away; and I couldn’t use a Leaf to do that.)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Bruce, a 80 mile round trip w/o charging is possible with a Leaf in all but the worst circumstances, assuming you start with a fully charged battery. But if you have some range anxiety because your are running near the expected range you could always use the 110v cord and boost your charge level while visiting, to insure you’d have the range to get home. Of course that is assuming that your father doesn’t live in an apt or condo so there isn’t an outside outlet for his use, or where you’d need 200′ of extension cord and of course that your visit lasts more than a few minutes.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @DC Bruce: “and this happens to everyone who commutes at one time or another — suppose there’s an unexpected traffic jam”

        You’re missing something about modern green cars. Both EVs and vehicles like the Prius shut down their engines/motors when they’re not moving, in order to minimize the exact type of waste you’re talking about. Sleeping in a Prius with car in “run” mode and with the A/C on won’t drain the tank, unless it happens to be really warm/cold out — it’ll run the engine at low-throttle for a few minutes on the hour and power the heat pump from the battery the rest of the time. EVs are even better off, since they have to turn the power on to the electric motor in order to move in the first place. If you turn off the AC when TSHTF, and you can sit there for days with the car turned “on” without draining your tank.

        Modern hybrids and EVs are similar to conventional cars in a lot of ways than a lot of people want to think — but it’s still more different than if you were to just change the gas tank for a battery.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    The fact that GM didn’t even think it was a necessity for dealers to have an actual car for customers to check out . . . well, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

    Internet marketing only goes so far. After reading the reviews, many savvy electronics shoppers will check out the real thing at a brick & mortar store before going home and buying it online.

    But if there isn’t a Volt within 200 miles of you to go check out, you might as well head on over to the local Toyota dealer and look at the new Prius variants instead!

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I think it says GM has done a lousy job of marketing the Volt so far, and given it’s limited availability, that’s not too surprising. Sounds like there’s a lot of room to improve in the marketing area, so if they’re not total idiots (admittedly the jury is still out on that), it appears that there’s a lot of potential for increased Volt sales.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        The people who choose to buy the Volt must do so out of conviction because you can get TWO Cruze for the price of ONE Volt and get better mileage (mpg) with a Cruze than a Volt driven beyond its all-electric range.

        It isn’t just marketing. People who choose a Volt for the (more than 40-mile one-way) commute must have a support structure in place to be able to charge it at their destination AND at their home.

        You have to be more than dedicated to EVs when buying a Volt. You have to be committed, financially, psychologically and you have to pay a lot in income taxes to be able to benefit from that $7500 tax deduction. That leaves out a lot of people.

        This is more than a marketing challenge. This is a lifestyle change for the majority of gas-addicted Americans.

      • 0 avatar
        newcarscostalot

        @highdesertcat +1000

      • 0 avatar
        zerocred

        @highdesertcat – It’s a $7500 tax credit not a tax deduction. Different animals.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        highdesert, I think you’re confusing the Volt with the Leaf. The Vold doesn’t need a support structure, if you forget to plug it in you just run it on gasoline. No lifestyle change required.

        I do agree it’s too expensive, but one hopes the next generation will be cheaper.

      • 0 avatar
        protomech

        Base Volt is $32.5k delivered, after rebate.

        Cruze Eco automatic is $20k delivered, $21k for the automatic. I’d suspect the automatic would be the most popular option by far, though there are more users reporting data on fueleconomy.gov for the manual.

        Cruze Eco is rated by the EPA at 30 combined automatic, 33 combined manual. User reports are 35 mpg automatic, 42 mpg manual.

        Volt is rated by the EPA at 37 mpg combined on gas. User reports are 123 mpg combined, which means the reporting users are driving around 70% of their miles on electric energy.

        “People who choose a Volt for the (more than 40-mile one-way) commute must have a support structure in place to be able to charge it at their destination AND at their home.”

        That’s the WHOLE point of the Volt – that you *don’t* have to have that infrastructure in place. It’s awesome if you do, then you can drive for one-half to one-third the cost of gas. But if you don’t, you still get reasonable mileage.

        “[Y]ou have to pay a lot in income taxes to be able to benefit from that $7500 tax deduction. That leaves out a lot of people.”

        Assuming you take the standard deduction, you can max out the credit at $55k income filing as a single taxpayer or $74k filing jointly. If you have a lot of itemized deductions the bar will be higher; but I doubt there are too many fiscally responsible individuals earning $55k that are purchasing $33k+ vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Guys, I understand about the gas-generator onboard the Volt, but my comment related to those who wanted the Volt so that they could drive on pure electricity for their daily commute.

        If that commute is greater than the magical 40 mile radius the gas generator would kick in, and defeat their goal of driving the Volt on electricity for ever.

        Protomech, I think that many commuters who gravitate toward buying Chevrolet have chosen to buy the Cruze over the Volt, not only because it is cheaper and more readily available, but also because they don’t make as much money as you outlined in your comment.

        For most people the Volt is a toy, and an expensive one at that. I live in the middle of the desert and my friends and neighbors commute many, many miles in four directions of the compass.

        And the vast majority of them choose a cheap throw-away car like Kia, Hyundai, or Nissan over a Prius or a Volt. Mostly old people toot around in a Prius around here. Commuters choose cheap cars and dump them or trade them when they break after the warranty expires. No keepers among them.

        The Leaf would not make it here outside of the towns. It would only be a local grocery-getter with its limited range.

        While your argument is sound, it finds no application in the real-world. If it did, Volt would be more widely accepted than it is, and GM would not face this marketing challenge of persuading the public to accept the Volt as they have the Prius. Whatever else the Prius may be, first and foremost it is a success.

        I don’t care for either one of them, but a lot of people choose Prius. Volt claims that Prius is the overwhelming trade-in on a Volt. Great marketing hype, since there was nothing before Prius. What else would people trade? Most people choose cheap ICE cars for their commute.

        The Volt is a novelty act at this stage. Hopefully it will catch on and become a cash cow for GM and GM will repay the tax payers for the big bail out bucks they owe the tax payers. But I’m not holding my breath.

        BTW, the Cruze in my area sells for $16,995 with plenty to choose from in stock. And that is with AC. A must in this area.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        There seems to be an underlying fallacy in thinking among some here.

        Volt sales are constrained by limited production capacity, not poor marketing. They are not having any trouble selling every one they can produce.

        GM plans to ramp production up to 60,000/year.

        Only then will we see whether the car is successful, or not.

        Hypotheticals aside,as a practical matter, it is reasonable to conclude that buyers with the wherewithal to buy a $40K car are also capable of determining if the 40 mile battery range meets their typical driving needs! If it does, with relatively rare longer distance travel, Volt may be a reasonable choice. If not, other alternatives offer better mileage. Choice is good!

        The real truth is that lower cost, high efficiency Cruze Eco competes favorably with anything, including Prius, when total operating costs for the life of the vehicle are considered.

        Inside GM, the real technological truth has long been understood. Folks buy Prius for reasons

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        …Folks by Prius for reasons other than lowest cost of ownership and operation. The Volt fits into a similar niche.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    “Volt owners are environmentally conscious but moderately so. They mainly like the idea of not buying foreign oil, Landy says.”

    Really? Nobody I know talks about foreign oil. The only place I hear that mentioned on a regular basis is as a talking point for Team Obama’s program of funneling $billions to friendly, generous folks who make solar panels and windmills.

    “…prospective buyers seem to enjoy hearing from current owners. Chevrolet hopes to tap into that consumer-to-consumer communication in future marketing.”

    And prospective buyers will! Cue the astroturfers and fake blogs. Hip, smiling, photogenic people will be popping up on threads and social networks everywhere to cross-talk the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Just because people you talk to don`t mention “foreign oil” doesn`t mean it doesn`t happen. Anecdotal evidence and all that.

      As for your second point, just because some people disagree with you doesn`t mean they are not genuine. Not everyone you disagree with is “bought off”.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        LOL! Does he know that the oil we get from Canada is ‘foreign’ oil?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @highdesertcat:

        Mexico and Canada are our number one and two suppliers of oil.

      • 0 avatar
        vww12

        80% of our oil comes from our backyard: US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Nigeria. We actually get very little oil from the Middle East.

        Fun fact: it is actually the Europeans who live off of Middle East oil.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        “80% of our oil comes from our backyard: US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Nigeria. We actually get very little oil from the Middle East.”

        Oil is fungible, and our demand contributes strongly to the global price for it.

        If you want to hurt Saudi, Venezuela, Iran, et al., reducing demand for oil (and this its price) is a way to do it.

        Me, I’d rather have LFTR power, and see the oil despots reduced to sucking camels off in the deep desert.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        When did Nigeria get into our backyard? We gotta fix that damn gate!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Mike (Freed), I thought it was the other way around. I live in South Central New Mexico and ALL of our fuel and refined product comes from the refineries in El Paso, TX, which gets ALL of its oil from Mexico (by pipeline).

        However, I think that in the heavily populated areas on the East Coast and the Heartland much of the oil and refined stock comes from Canada, with even greater amounts coming from Houston and Louisiana (by pipeline).

        Seems to me I read a white-paper on that published by the API. I suppose things could have changed by now. My data could be old. Which is the trouble with facts – they are only a snapshot in time.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I’ve been driving a ForTwo since 2005 because I was disgusted with myself for enriching middle-east dictators and mullahs and guys like Chavez and Putin…

      • 0 avatar
        vento97

        I’ve been driving 4-cylinder vehicles since 1980 – not out of concern for some middle-east dictator or mullah, but because of the fact that I don’t like to spend a lot of money on gas.

        I got rid of my gas lawnmower in favor of a rechargeable battery-powered one because paying $20+ just to fill a five-gallon gas can got old real quick.

        My point – once the price of gas REALLY hits consumers where it hurt$, that will become the motivating force towards fuel efficiency and energy conservation more than any hip marketing strategy will come close to achieving….

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      psst, tparkit. The federal green tax credit for these cars was signed in to law almost 5 years ago by BUSH. A little fact that you should know… And Obama has been trying to roll back goofy tax credits for almost 2 years years now, and every one he has suggested has been blocked…. What makes you think that this one would be any different?

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Free Ad idea for GM. Have 2 guys getting up from their desks and walking out to their cars Fri afternoon. Guy #1 asks what are you doing this long weekend. Guy #2 says, as they walk out the door,hanging around the house and having some people over for a BBQ, what about you? Guy #1 says sat we are going to the lake, for a little fishing in the morning, then Timbucktoo, to the wife’s parents house, for their party, then on to….., and then…. while we see guy #1 getting into a Volt and guy #2 with a dejected look gets into his Leaf.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Sweet. Nice but nasty, makes the point with a velvet covered sledgehammer.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “Sweet. Nice but nasty, makes the point with a velvet covered sledgehammer.”

        Except that it misses a number of fundamentals of the situation.

        In reality, Guy #2 looks at Guy #1 and wonders why he’s squandering the world’s resources on a motorboat engine and hauling around thousands of pounds of metal he doesn’t really need.

        Then, Guy #2 walks past the leaf that he drove to work all week, gets in to his minivan, and proceeds to do the same thing that Guy #1 said he would do, while patting himself on the back for saving gas during the week.

        That’s how it will be working in real life, self-congratulatory contradictions and all.

        Seriously, the LEAF is mostly going to be purchased as a commuter car by multi-car households. It’s well suited to that role, and it will save a lot of fuel. There are a few people who will purchase the LEAF who will kick the oil habit entirely but, like the people who buy bicycles to kick the oil habit, I expect that they’ll be a small proportion of buyers.

        I’ll be guy #2, but happy to cut my oil dependence by another 90% or so. I cut my oil usage 90% about 4 years ago by moving in with my now-wife into a house that’s 2.5 miles from the university where we both work. Replacing the good ol’ Prius with a LEAF for around-town driving ought to cut our oil usage by another 90%. By having another vehicle in the driveway for read-trips and heavy hauling, I won’t be making any lifestyle changes, really — I’ll just have to remember to take the right vehicle for what I plan to do that day. If the day’s plan involves a road-trip, or moving heavy objects, we’ll take the old-fashioned SUV/Minivan/whatever. If the day’s plan doesn’t involve that, the LEAF will be the ride of choice. Easy!

        The Volt combines the two vehicles that are likely to end up in my driveway, but in one very refined small package. With fewer seats, and without the towing capability. If you want an electric car, but can only own one $40k vehicle, then the Volt is what you want. That doesn’t really describe anyone I know, though. The early-adopter types that are buying the Volt now, though — the ones I’ve seen on Internet forums are green-minded engineering-enthusiasts with above-average incomes who are willing to pay the early-adopter premium. More than one successful business has been built on that demographic, but the Volt could be so much more if the price were a little lower.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Luke yes it does leave a few facts out, but hey this is marketing. You certainly haven’t seen Toyota telling you all the fact about the economics of owning a Prius and the fact that the fuel savings don’t come anywhere near making up for the premium paid.

        You are correct that the Leaf is usually not the only car in the family, but not always. I know 2 people with Leafs. #1 is a young guy (20 years old) and it is his only car (yes he paid for it himself from working his butt off). #2 it is the 4th car in the family and the 3rd EV, yes they have 3 EVs and the Leaf is the short distance one. They converted a Fiero with is the performance version with a ~150 mi range, and a converted S10 which is their long range machine with a ~300mi range (thanks to over 40K worth of batteries) and if they want to take it on a long trip they hook up the range trailer for a 600mi range.

  • avatar

    The ads give me the impression that it would be an absolutely horrible experience to buy a Volt! All those negative unfriendly comments from rude people. That definitely makes me want to spend $40k.

    Incidentally, if I go to a “purchase only” gas station to borrow the restroom, and they don’t want me to, I simply buy a bottle of water or a pack of Swedish Fish. That mollifies them just fine, probably because there’s a higher profit margin on those anyway …

    D

    • 0 avatar
      peteinsonj

      David — absolutely right — it leaves the impression “Volt owners are losers” — what a mistake! The campaign should make Volt owners seems smarter than other car owners (and sexier, but, alas, even marketing has its limits)

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah, the ads don’t present a friendly experience from others when you are out and about in your new Volt.

      Yes the store owner is going to make more money selling you $1 worth of “inside items” than $20 worth of regular gas.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    The Volt has always been a compromise in ideology. There is no pragmatic justification for the Volt over Cruze Eco, neither in functionality or in price. Meaning that the primary reason that they would want to own a Volt is because they don’t want to use gasoline.

    This is where the ideological crisis comes into play. For a smaller price, a pure-EV is available with much longer range is available as the Nissan Leaf, as is now the PHEV Prius which is $32k before rebates. So there are cheaper alternatives to the Volt which are more pragmatic and ideologically sound.

    Surely, the case is made that the Volt has an “ejection seat” for when EV is just not enough- for folks that just can’t stomach the fear of the EVs range. Obviously, not having the EV as your primary car is simple solution, and I’m sure most Leaf owners own more than just the Leaf, the second solution in the PHEV Prius.

    So he Volt’s prospects would have been more sound if Nissan hadn’t released the Leaf. Next year we are expected to see a huge plethora of EVs from Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Tesla, amongst others.

    So the question moves far beyond just the Volt. I’m sure the Tesla S will be a hit with wealthier of the eco-conscious, especially in California which it will be made. Forget the Cadillac Converj/ELR. Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi can fight it out for the low-end EVs. Toyota wants to sell 20k of the PHEV Prius in the US alone next year. These are an awful lot of cars trying to capture a niche market that may not be large enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The Volt is more practical than ideological, I’ll grant you that. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

      I’ve met a lot of people who’ve started out as idealists, but I’ve only met one idealist who truly achieved his goals. Pragmatism makes everyone else compromise, but some compromises are better than others. If your ideal is to get off of oil, being able to get through the week without gasoline (while still using a little bit from time to time) is a better place to draw the line than a lot of the others that I can think of. It’s certainly a big step in the right direction, and 90% solutions are 90% better than no solution.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    While people may trust GM’s product quality enough to buy a conventional compact, muscle car, or V8-powered pickup, paying $40K for a vehicle with a unique and unproven powertrain may be too much of a stretch.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The Chevy Volt has similarities with the Solyandra fiasco. In both situations, production speed away without significant customers to justify the money spent. Whether it’s solar powered buildings or $48K cars being marginalized by conventional methods we still have emotion, not common sense, at the helm.

  • avatar

    they don’t know how to market traditional cars, what makes anyone think they’ll have any success with this goofy thing? I laugh at their continued incompetence and self righteous attiude. “GM Management” there is an oxymoron if there ever was one.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Well, Prius was able to turn hybrid cars into mainstream, so at least they know it’s possible. But still, Prius is priced right in the meat of the market, while Volt is not. Discount the price by $10,000 and Volt is making much better argument for itself.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Those commercials are TERRIBLE. The problem with these cars is cost vs utility. With the Leaf, you have a limited range then you need to either park it and either sit and wait, or have a second vehicle as a back up. If you have a second vehicle, who have a $35k boat anchor plugged in in your garage. With the Volt, it’s great that you can drive 40 mile on electric, and then use gas, but if you use gas, then you destroy the MPG savings you are trying to achieve. Better of with a regular compact at 1/2 the price.

    And both the Leaf and Volt are butt ugly. Want me to buy a limited use alt fuel vehicle? Make it beautiful like the Tesla Model S. There are only so many eco weenies that want effeminate looking vehicles, and they all already bought a Prius AND they have run the numbers and figured out that the Leaf and Volt make no sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “If you have a second vehicle, who have a $35k boat anchor plugged in in your garage.”

      That’s only true if your household only needs one car. And, if the LEAF is going to be your only car, it may not be the right car for you. EVs are niche vehicles for the moment, and that’s OK.

      If you’re a busy family, though, you probably need two cars anyway — so one parent takes the LEAF, and the other takes the minivan.

      Also, most people already own cars, so I’d think that the typical LEAF-owner won’t be trading in a vehicle for it — or, if they do trade it in, the trade-in will be a Prius. I’d be that most LEAF owners, though, will just keep their old paid-off gas-powered beater sitting in the driveway for the few days a year when the LEAF isn’t the right tool for the job (and if it’s more than a few days a year, they won’t be buying a LEAF in the first place, so it’s a moot point).

      Also, modern gas cars last forever, especially if you don’t drive them much — so an old gas-powered beater that feels like it’s near the end of its life might be goof for a decade or so when it’s backing up a LEAF.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Luke, in the case of the Leaf it is not that difficult to rig a 12KW Generac on a small trailer and tow it behind the Leaf. Less than 200 pounds including gas. I’ve seen motorcycles pull them.

        That’s what the Roadside Assistance trucks have mounted on their flatbeds (AC generators for charging EVs) along with gasoline and diesel fuel tanks to refill ICEs.

        Break down on the road in many places, call AAA and here they come a’runnin’, ready to get you going again. They take credit cards.

        Check out California’s Interstates sometime. See how much assistance is available there to motorists (at a cost). How about I-95?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I think most people know how a railroad locomotive works – it’s diesel-electric. Try marketing the Volt as a gasoline-electric and see what happens – nothing to lose by trying, unless I’m wrong, which is entirely possible!

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I doubt most people know how a locomotive works, most people nowadays don’t have a clue about how their car actually works so why would they know how a modern locomotive works?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Yes, but back when a pickup truck fit me needs to a T, I really wanted to show up at my brother’s house with a diesel-electric hybrid pickup truck. All of the goodness of a rail locomotive, with the versatility and utility of a pickup truck. That’s about the manliest vehicle I can imagine, and I’d love to show my (older) brother up with it. The catch is that the only thing manlier than that is a practical vehicle that best meets the needs of my family — and that turns out to be a small/midsized station wagon or a minivan with a modest towing capability.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I always thought the Volt’s propulsion system worked ass-backwards myself, turning it into something like the the diesel-electric drivetrain of a modern locomotive or most large ships and switching the huge expensive and problematic EV battery-pack for some conventional batteries while the lion’s share of the power comes from the generator operating at a constant fuel-sipping RPM range makes sense… which is why GM will never do it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The problem is that the EPA won’t let it work that way and be in the emissions tier that they were shooting for. The most efficient way to go would be to keep some batteries and have a dual position ignition sw. Mode 1 runs as the Volt currently does, drive until the battery reaches the designed min SOC and then the ICE kicks in and provides power to propel the car with only incidental charging of the battery. Then when you know from the get go that you are going to make a long trip put it in mode 2. That would run on battery power till it meets the min SOC but this time when the ICE kicks in it runs at it’s most efficient rpm and uses power that isn’t powering the car to recharge the batteries. Once the max SOC has been reached the ICE shuts down and the process repeats itself. The problem of course is that the average consumer is too stupid to do so, on the other hand the people buying Volts at this point aren’t the average consumer. Still we can’t be trusted to choose the most efficient mode for the current needs.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @Les- Volt is an Electric Car. Unfortunately, the current state of the best batteries means it has the equivalent of a $10,000 fuel tank that only holds about 1 gallon!

        That is where the on-board range extending capability comes in, a necesssity to make the car practical as opposed to being a glorified golf cart.

        Volt is a unique class of vehicle (until Fisker gets into production), an Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV).

        Volt is designed to be used primarly as a pure EV with the backup range extending capability intended to be used seldomly. Volt’s EV range will work for roughly 80% of American’s daily commutes, but is not the ideal choice for those who travel over 40 miles without the opportunity for a full recharge, 4-5 hours with a special 240V charger or 8-10 hours with a simple 110V plugin.

        I have had the opportunity to drive a Volt, including at 80MPH in pure EV mode as the battery charge fell to the point that the ICE started. It was imperceptable in any way except for the power flow graphic display on the instrument panel.

        To be commercially acceptable, the car has to “manage itself”, which is part of the reason Volt reportedly has some 2 million lines of software code. From a customer standpoint, it is transparent. All you have to do is plug it in, and occasionally refill the 9 gallon fuel tank, if the range extending ICE has been, or is to be used.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @scoutdude: “The problem is that the EPA won’t let it work that way and be in the emissions tier that they were shooting for.”

        Except that it actually does work the way you suggest. A switch was added to the Euro-spec Volts so that you could drive to a major city on gasoline, and then proceed inside the “congestion zone” under battery power (and hopefully avoid the congestion charges).

        The American-spec version seems to have the same switch, called the “mountain mode” switch. I guess the idea is that you can climb a mountain and save some EV range for whatever you’re going to do at the top.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        @Doctor Olds.

        Yeah, I get how the Volt is supposed to work. It’s the electric motor that does all the pushing, primarily drawing on the same big heavy and expensive battery-pack being stuffed in current-gen Hybrids and pure-EVs, then switching-over to drawing power from a generator when the batteries run out. I undestand, and still think it’s crap.

        In the 1940s the US Navy experimented with something called Turbo-Electric drive. Instead of hooking the steam turbines that ran their warships at the time through reduction-gears and on to drive-shafts, they hooked the turbines of a few experimental battlecruisers to generators and put electric motors on the propshafts.

        The result was staggering, not only did it reduce mechanical complexity and make the ships easier to repair and service it also gave remarkable increases in range and throttle-response.

        In the end Turbo-Electric died out in the Navy as ‘too new’, it was too much of a leap forward for the innately conservative naval procurement board at the time to get behind it, but that wasn’t the end of the technology. Today it’s been adapted to commercial shipping vessels, cruise-liners, and on land a variation of it (using Diesel engines instead of steam turbines of course) is the standard for locomotive engines.

        @Scoutdude

        Yeah, the EPA can get bent.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Luke, from my understanding the Ampera’s switch is set up it preserves the existing battery SOC at what ever it is, doesn’t allow it to discharge but doesn’t really charge it other than incidental charging. The Mountain mode switch on the Volt will bring the state of charge to up to 45% if it is below that level, and maintain it there.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I agree with the comments that the marketing of the Volt has been lousy soo far. First, simply educate the general public on how it works as most(98%) are completely clueless.

    Next, pull a Ford and get testimonials from actual Volt owners with real world results. The Volt has an excellent consumer satisfaction rating.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Biggest problem by far is that the vehicle is expensive and was brought out during a deep recession. It’s a tough sell right now. But as a halo car, I think it functions beautifully – it shows that GM CAN do great things, and the importance of that cannot be understated for the company, even if the car doesn’t sell.

  • avatar
    redav

    Chevrolet and Nissan are still selling to early adopters and green enthusiasts and will be for most of the coming year. Their real challenge is to learn how to market the high-profile cars to mainstream U.S. consumers in mass-production volumes in 2012 and beyond.

    As long as it costs over $30k (including govt incentives), they will sell only to “early adopters and green enthusiasts.” If a person doesn’t want it for the technology’s sake, they will find alternatives for $10k less, and if you think marketing will make up that much of a difference, you are more optimistic than me.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    The name, Volt, is too depressing. They should have called it Old Sparky; at least that would garner some laughs.

  • avatar
    ohiomax

    Attended the EcoArts festival in Manayunk, PA, where GM had a Volt car on display and Chevy reps on site discussing the vehicle. I watched and listened with amusement which turned into disgust at the false and misleading statements being made by the Chevy Volt marketing representative trying to shill the public on this vehicle. The marketing demonstrated with the Volt is going to doom this car. There were false or misleading statements being proclaimed by the Volt folks. I was very surprised at how many consumers actually called them on their BS statements and watched with a smile as the Volt reps twisted in the wind then tried to weasel their way out of the statement they had just proclaimed to be fact. Statements such as “the Volt is not a hybrid vehicle, I will say again not a hybrid and please do not refer to it as a hybrid it is a pure electric car, the gasoline engine ‘never’ runs this car. Followed by the Chevy Volt is the ‘only’ electric car on the market so we (Chevy) are trying hard to educate the public to refer to it properly as an ‘all electric vehicle’ and not incorrectly call it a hybrid” straight from the GM volt rep to the public over and over again. This statement was repeated to such an extent that it had to feed to the ground troops from a marketing higher up as a talking point for the day. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of consumers’ who rebutted the Chevy Volt reps. A large number of festival goers immediately mentioned the Nissan Leaf as being purely electric and on sale so the Volt is not the only electric car available to the public. The common Volt response was, oh, we meant in production as the Leaf is a limited test car. One festival goers response was to tell the GM rep I think you need to visit a Nissan dealership, as I bought my Leaf because it was available well before the Volt and for significantly less money, he then added I thought Nissan has sold more Leafs than Volts so maybe they only needed limited production. On two other occasions, festival goes rebutted the Volt rep about the false claim of being the only electric vehicle on the market. The GM reps simply walk away, not want to back up their statement that the Volt is the ‘only’ electric car for sale. A good number of people were aware of the Nissan Leaf so it appears the Leaf has a much better marketing approach that is resonating with the public. To be fair even Tesla and Fisker were mentioned by festival goers as being on sale to the public. I really don’t get why Chevy would try to claim no other electric cars are being sold other than trying to explain its high price. Got to be kidding was probably the most common response after a customer inquired about the price.
    I could tell the Volt reps did not expect multiple consumers to challenge the Volt is a pure electric car and the gasoline engine never drives the car statement. Either the hydrid buying public has a greater car education or the Volt booth had the unlucky experience of getting the few engineers that knew the truth, and GM has admitted that the gasoline engine does engage the Volt drivetrain at highway speed so why keep insisting it is not a hybrid vehicle is just stupid in my opinion. One person actually went so far as to inquire on the planetary gear set (?) engagement as proof that this statement was a lie. The look on the volt rep’s face was priceless. Their response was above 50 mph the gas engine does drive the car but 90% of the time people drive under 50mph so GM stands by the statement and is correct that the Volt is purely an electric car. Several consumers insisted then the volt is a hybrid not an electric car, the ensuing argument just made GM look bad as their rep insisted the Volt was an electric car not a hybrid as most people don’t drive over 50mph. Not good to try to argue with your customer. One older woman overhearing this back and forth discussion, asked so you can’t drive this thing on the highway before walking away.
    This marketing/sales approach made Chevy appear very shallow and dishonest like they were trying to cover up faults in the car as opposed to highlighting the technological achievements. Based on the change in facial expressions and body mannerism from the crowd after they engaged the Volt reps, I would say a good number of people left with worse impression, getting the Volt/GM is a sleazy car dealer trying to pull one over on the public impression due to its half baked reasoning of ‘the volt is an electric car not a hydrid since you don’t drive over 50mph’ marketing not the intended GM is an eco friendly, technology advanced company. This type of marketing is the totally wrong approach, it is hurting more than helping sell the Volt. Quit trying to split hairs on the pure electric claim definitely drop the no one else is on the market BS head in the sand view. Sell the technology as dual propulsion electric with gas backup to give you go anywhere capability something the electric plug cars you are competing with can’t not offer the public. The ground troops selling the volt appear either lost or are trying to toe a badly managed marketing approach.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Are paragraphs illegal in Ohio?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The Volt being a “pure electric car” is as about as true as the Chevy Citation having “better than BMW handling”.

      If GM keeps this up sooner or later we’ll be seeing a Cadillac badged Daewood Aveo sedan, it’ll be called “Cadillac Buzz”, a “sporty” compact for young hip naive professionals.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Volt actually is a pure electric PLUS onboard range extending capability. Much is made of the potential for series hybrid operation, and some mechanical drive assistance in a very narrow operating range, but the fact is Volt NEVER requires gasoline. That is not true of any other car on the market,with the exception of the Nissan Leaf.

        Volt’s advantage is essentially unlimited range with fuel refills every 300 miles, while Leaf can NEVER be driven more than 35-40 miles from a recharging station. Even then, it requires 20 hours to recharge at 120V, and 10 hours with special 240V charger.

        It is disappointing that Chevrolet (or was it the local dealer?) contracted reps who don’t know the product, but it is inaccurate to claim Volt is only a hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        Doctor Olds;
        What about Tesla?

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @srogers- I believe Tesla is an EV that does not have on-board range extending capability and requires off-board recharging only.
        The upcoming Fisker EREV is to be built at the former GM wilmington, Solstice, Sky, Opel GT and Daewoo GT plant. It will use GM’s 260HP urbo 2.0L for on-board range extending capability. And will be $100K+ or so.
        I have seen reports of a company that contemplates building a tow-behind ICE Range extender for pure EVs such as Tesla and Leaf.

    • 0 avatar
      djs

      You’re kidding, right? $40,000+ for what is essentially a Chevy Cruze? How many years to work off the $23,000 difference (not including the Gov’t subsidy of $7,000 that we’re all paying for).? And even including the tax break, it still takes crony capitalism of fleet purchases by GE to even get the Volt within eyesight of break even. And what happens to the poor schlubs who drive this thing and get stuck in traffic due to brutal snow storms as occurred last year on the east coast? What is the emergency rescue procedures for high speed collisions will all those batteries? Are the batteries completely recyclable when expired? Take away all the subsidies, all the Green nonsense, who buys this thing? A sap with more money, and guilt, than brains. If the US aggressively explores the Canadian and Dakota oil sands opportunities, and fuel prices lower even to a more reasonable level, this is another GM white elephant.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Indeed, the Volt IS an electric vehicle because the drive mechanism is purely electric. The gasoline is for a generator that can easily be removed and replaced with fuel cells, additional batteries, or any other energy source without altering the drive system. That is not possible with conventional hybrids as the ICE is directly tied into the drive system.

      However, this being said, Chevy definitely has taken a poor approach at informing the public about the car and the technology.

  • avatar
    evan

    I’m not much of a GM fan, but I think the powertrain solution they’ve come up with is the wave of the future. A ‘zero’ emissions car for the daily drudge, backed up by a gas engine for those ocassional long trips. This might easily be nirvana for a one car family.

    The removal of range anxiety is simply a huge selling point. If you still think part of the joy of a car is freedom, then a traditional gas engine has it all over everything else; pure electrics won’t get a look in until decades from now.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    @ohiomax – Sounds like neither the people at GM or those asking questions really understand how the Volt works. Only after the battery pack is exhausted and you drive over 70 MPH in charge sustaining mode does the ICE generator help move the car. And that was done only to imptove effciency. Personally I woud have gotten rid of the extra weight, cost, and complexity of the planetary gear set and taken the hit on reduced efficiancy. Bit I didn’t engineer it either.

    Calling the Volt a hybrid is somewhat of a stretch because if your able to drive it with a charged battery pack the ICE engine is not needed to move the car. More than enough power from both the battery and electric motors to do that. Even if you need to step it up to 95 MPH for a few miles!

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Carlson Fan- You are right on the money! Volt can be operated as a pure EV up to 100MPH with a range of around 35-40 miles for the average driver. Owners who can manage their travel to allow a recharge during the day could handle a 70-80 mile daily commute and NEVER need to buy gasoline. In that sense Volt certainly is an EV.

      In fact, the ICE could easily be removed from the car, if the owner was willing to forego the range extending capability.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Volt is the only TRUE Hybrid on the market, IE one that can derive it’s power from gas or electricity. All the cars that are currently marketed as Hybrids receive all their power, other than the initial charge at the factory, from the ICE.

      The Volt thanks to the EPA is never allowed to run in true charge sustaining mode the ICE is only allowed to do incidental charging of the batteries.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The Volt is the only TRUE Hybrid on the market

        I suppose that someone should break the bad news to TMC that they’ve spent all these years selling fake hybrids. (Over a million, last time that I checked.) Hearts will be breaking, I’m sure.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @pch101: “I suppose that someone should break the bad news to TMC that they’ve spent all these years selling fake hybrids.”

        As a Prius owner who’s interested in green car tech, I have to concede that the Prius is just a very clever conventional car. While it uses electricity under the hood, all of the energy comes via conventional gasoline — and that means it is *not* an alternative fuel vehicle. It’s a very cleverly built and efficient mainstream vehicle that I’ve come to respect over the years.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes PCH, TMC has bastardized the term Hybrid which originally meant a vehicle that could be powered by more than one source. All the cars on the market sold as hybrids are just ICE powered vehicles with a motor-generator battery energy recovery/storage/release system. TMC does incorporate it into an innovative E-CVT further increasing it’s efficiency during acceleration unfortunately at the cost of peak hwy efficiency. To create the overdrive ratios one of the motor-generators generates electricity to power the motor-generator that controls the gear ratio.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        TMC has bastardized the term Hybrid which originally meant a vehicle that could be powered by more than one source. All the cars on the market sold as hybrids are just ICE powered vehicles with a motor-generator battery energy recovery/storage/release system.

        Well, gee whiz, if that’s all it is, then it’s shocking that Detroit didn’t come up with it first. I suppose that they were too busy creating engineering marvels such as Dexcool and exploding fuel tanks to bother with anything as mundane as hybrid technology.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Umm.. GM had a Hybrid design in the late 60′s that didn’t see production, though the very first Hybrid was designed by Ferdinand Porsche in the late 1800′s.

        This technology is neither new nor revolutionary… and I thought everybody knew that the exploding gas-tank fiasco with GM trucks was a BS Dateline set-up.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        GM had a Hybrid design in the late 60′s that didn’t see production

        If you’re trying to convince me that GM has problems with turning ideas into reliable, real world products that can be mass produced at a reasonable price, then you need not continue.

        TMC brought hybrids to market and has since sold over a million copies of them. If it was so easy, then Detroit would have done it. Obviously, they couldn’t.

        The sniping sounds like cheap envy. Instead of trying to convince the world that TMC sucks, it would be more productive if GM would simply prove itself by doing better. The alleged (and largely imaginary) flaws of the transplants don’t do a thing to improve Detroit’s standing.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Not saying that GM is all that and a bag of chips and a pickle, far from it. :D

        I’m just saying, your snark needs work young padawan. ^_^

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        At the time TMC brought the Prius to market it made absolutely zero sense. Ford had done much work on Hybrids starting in the 70′s the problem at the time was that computer technology was not advanced enough to leave room for you know people and their belongings in the car. Ford produced a couple of prototypes of a true Hybrid, their 100/100 car, in the late 80′s/early 90′s when the market changed from small efficient cars to SUVs. The Explorer became the best selling “car” in the US (even if it wasn’t really a car it was used by the vast majority as a car) and Ford shelved the idea. Their 100/100 car was a car that provided similar interior room to the first gen Taurus and could go 100 miles on battery power in charge depleting mode or get 100mpg on it’s 1.0l 3cyl turbo diesel engine in charge sustaining mode.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        At the time TMC brought the Prius to market it made absolutely zero sense. Ford had done much work on Hybrids starting in the 70′s the problem at the time was that computer technology was not advanced enough to leave room for you know people and their belongings in the car

        You Detroit fanboys are very quick to make excuses. Unfortunately, the companies that you love don’t reward your excuses with results.

        I respect results. I’m not fond of excuses. As it turns out, the market is willing to award results, but not excuses, so I’m not alone.

        Again — instead of putting forth so much effort to snub the competition, just deliver results, instead. Trying to dump on TMC won’t do anything to make Ford or anyone else look better.

        And if you’re going to insist on being losers, you could at least try to be a bit gracious about it. Nobody likes a sore loser.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Pch you are the sore looser that likes to make excuses. I just state the facts even if some are based on my experiences that you’ll just say are anecdotal.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Pch you are the sore looser that likes to make excuses

        What’s a “looser”?

        I just state the facts

        Your idea of a “fact” differs from mine (or, for that matter, what could be found in the dictionary.)

        The reality is that TMC made this technology ready for market, and has managed to turn a profit doing it. The companies that you worship have, at best, tried to play catch-up, and then haven’t gained nearly the sort of traction that TMC has with this.

        If you want facts, those are facts. Try to be a bit gracious about the result — TMC clearly and decisively won this round, and no amount of sniping from the likes of you will change that. You can try to deny the reality, but the effort only makes you appear to be out of touch and more than a bit envious.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Pch I did not try and cut down TMC for the Prius I just stated the FACT that it (and ALL cars currently marketed as Hybrids including the Fusion and Escape) is not a Hybrid in the original definition of the term.

        IF the “other guys” are so busy “trying to play catch up” why is that TMC approached Ford and entered into an agreement with them to develop “Hybrid” trucks? Maybe it is because Ford has passed them by. Look at the Fusion it almost doubles the MPG of the 4cyl gas only version in city MPG and has a higher electric only speed and range than a Prius. Also they managed to do it by dropping it into a virtually unchanged version of the gas only car. The Prius on the other hand is a unique body with better aerodynamics than their comparable sized gas only car and lots of weight saving tricks like magnesium seat frames.

        None the less I do admit that Toyota’s Synergy drive is a great way to do a CVT, super simple in the mechanical area and way more durable than any other CVT built to date. It was also much cheaper to build than a conventional AT, at least until the price of copper went through the roof, not sure where it stands currently. On the other hand the original Insight with it’s pre-transmission assist motor provided much better hwy MPG than the original US Prius, though again they employed a lot of aerodynamic and weight reduction tricks as well as a unique lean burn strategy and special (read expensive) storage style catalytic converter to still meet emissions standards. Unfortunately due to the 2 passenger configuration, such unusual styling, and no AT it did not get the market share and the Toyota system became the standard bearer.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Last I checked, which admittedly has been a long time ago, Toyota didn’t disclose whether or not it made money making the Prius. Has that changed?

        The word hybrid could mean lots of things. I think of the flexfuel enabled cars as hybrids because they can use two different (liquid) fuel sources. But that’s using a wide latitude of the word hybrid.

        FWIW, first really popular item to market gets to define the market. The original Insight was too small to be used as a ‘regular’ car, 2 seat configuration and all. The original Prius in 1999, was pretty tiny, too, but had four doors and a more conventional shape. The next version in 2004(?) ramped up the size and style.

        To my eye, the best hybrids are the Camry and Fusion hybrids. They deliver the utility of a regular mid-size sedan with the economy that the ‘hybrid’ technology is supposed to deliver.

        I’m still fascinated with the Volt, but remain on the sidelines until the economy picks up or they become less expensive. I could see one as my daily driver, and in my current commuting situation rarely using gasoline. That would be just fine with me.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I did not try and cut down TMC for the Prius

        Sure, you did. You must not read your own posts.

        I just stated the FACT that it (and ALL cars currently marketed as Hybrids including the Fusion and Escape) is not a Hybrid in the original definition of the term.

        I’d like to see a source for this “fact.”

        A hybrid is a car that uses two power sources, not just one. The specific approach taken to harnessing those two sources of power can vary. The earliest one, invented by Ferdinand Porsche, used a gas motor to power electric motors (but I suppose he was a “fake” in your book.)

        Toyota didn’t disclose whether or not it made money making the Prius.

        Toyota spent about $1 billion developing the hybrid drivetrain. They have since sold over one million of them. With numbers like that, combined with the “hybrid premium” that some posters here like to complain about, it would be impossible for them to have not made money on them. Amortizing R&D of that amount across such a large base is inevitably going to be profitable.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    If marketers are handed a complex product, they have to distill it to its essence for public comprehension, and infuse the product and its advantages with emotional appeal. People buy what they *want* to buy and they buy what they *want* from people they *want* to buy from. Seldom does a strictly left-brain analytical case fuel great market acceptance when there is a superior emotional player in the mix. It’s much better still if what is understood as marketing is not an afterthought to the product itself but instead elemental to product development. In consumer products, Apple masters this, and to varying degrees companies like Samsung, Sony, General Electric, Kitchen Aid, Black & Decker and others. The marketing is in the product itself, not merely delegated to a cascade of go-to-market functions that kick in after the product is tossed over the wall by engineering.

    That Volt has survived many missteps to still emerge as a desirable car for people who understand and value its attributes is some testament to the internal will that brought it to market. But sensible engineering choices can complicate the marketing burden assumed by the business side for creating demand for a product and this is no exception. Communications are strategic because, well….you can’t sell what you can’t explain and secure comprehension for in the market.

    Going back a few years to GM’s gradual reveal of the concepts behind Volt before it was an actual car, it was cleanly explained first as a “serial hybrid” and then as an electric car with a gasoline powered range extender. Somewhere along the way to becoming a product, engineering saw that tapping some of the generator-powering gasoline engine’s torque could be tapped to assist the electric powertrain under certain torque and power demands, where the scheme’s depleted-battery electric performance might not match a conventional ICE car. So they tapped the ICE mechanically under specific temporary conditions while it is spinning to power the electric generator to power the electric drivetrain when the battery is depleted. Should they have done this? From an engineering standpoint, yes. Engineers correctly determined that through intelligent combinatory application of the drivetrain elements, under certain conditions tapping some otherwise wasted mechanical torque would be overall more efficient. From a marketing perspective, perhaps they shouldn’t have done this, because a gesture toward efficiency as an engineer understands it robbed marketing purity of message. Which compromises the car more: sub-par at-speed performance compared to an ICE compact or marketplace confusion over what exactly a Volt is? But should they have instead kept purity of message and instead address at-speed depleted-battery performance by using a larger generator powered by a somewhat larger ICE, thereby reducing effective EPA mileage in non-battery mode? That’s a discussion and at least it should have been made with early understanding and acceptance that the increased marketing burden of compromising the car’s “extended-range electric car” positioning would be willingly undertaken and effectively handled.

    Your iPhone is a complex device, with intentional and necessary compromises as a computer and as a phone, but it works holistically for huge numbers of people because the compromises are elegantly balanced and packaged in a user-interface that makes understanding the device’s inner operations moot for most customers. The actual experience of Volt is transparent and seamless for anyone not distracted by the politics of purity in both Green matters and the tugs of war over bailout and GM history. Chevy/GM are making a hash out of this car’s marketing, undermining the acceptance factors of an advanced car for specific customers.

    Volt is an extended range electric car with occasional intelligent mechanical assist. It’s not a hybrid as currently understood, because only the electric drivetrain is capable of moving the car. The drivetrain does not allow the gasoline engine’s power to be transferred directly to the wheels sufficient to move the car. It is tapped mechanically to assist when the drivetrain management system determines that torque requirements will render the total drivetrain most efficient if some of the gasoline engine’s power is mechanically coupled to the car. But the car cannot be driven from that mechanical coupling alone, whereas the power delivery system does tap one or both of the Volt’s electric motors to put the car in motion, always.

    Now that’s a lot of words for a marketer to have to use to explain Volt in its simplest proposition to the portion of the market that cares about electric car or even hybrid differentiation. When I explain Volt to people as “an extended-range electric car that plugs into itself when you’re far from a recharge socket and have distance to cover on a schedule,” people tend to get it. They get that a parallel hybrid like a Focus or Prius is not an electric car. If the person is interested enough, I’ll further explain that Volt does have a mechanical assist function to tap some of the gas engine’s power to maintain normal car performance under certain conditions, they tend to get it and aren’t concerned. If they’re *really* interested I might further explain what those conditions are.

    The market can handle an information hierarchy, but it needs a simple place to start. Chevy’s phrase, something like “the electric car that goes anywhere and everywhere” isn’t a bad place to start, but that gets lost in these ads. They have to hammer home a “charge it when you can, never worry when you can’t” position and be relentless about that. If they can win and even lead acceptance in the market of buyers who are predisposed or biased to an electric car, Volt can get traction to build on. It would be a mistake to right now throw it into the larger, less differentiated hybrid car market. A Volt that sells to and satisfies electric car intenders and which expands the market for electric drivetrain cars by removing risk of limited range, can then mount a challenge to the larger hybrid and larger-still fuel-efficient car market. But for now, keep it simple, master the sub-market most likely to comprehend the car, and build mainstream acceptance through effective sequencing of the market assault. This is how innovations are campaigned for mainstreaming, when product complexity hasn’t yet been fully abstracted yet a market segment can fully appreciate and value the benefits available now.

    What’s it good for, and whom? Volt is a great solution for the sub-market that has highly dynamic business or professional transportation requirements in a large metro. Sales professionals, consultants, anyone with independent field presence can find themselves not knowing whether their driving requirements will be for 50 miles or 250 in a given day, in a place like Los Angeles where I live. Sure, I can have multiple cars (I do now) but if I want the benefits of electric driving while confidently meeting spontaneous demands for mobility, Volt is the only car that works perfectly, given our current energy distribution systems. In our car market, are there 10,000 – 200,000 car buyers interested in this proposition? I think so, if it’s understood.

    Like smartphones that were too esoteric and expensive for most people, and got off to a slow start, Volt has to leverage early adopters who don’t mind paying for a cool gain that’s valuable to them. Chevy has to hammer home a single point about the car for a year or more. Volt is the only electric car that allows you to charge it when you can and when you can’t, you’ll never worry. Let’s start with people who like that idea. I expect to buy the Cadillac version when it ships, which means I’m willing to pay even more.

    Phil

    • 0 avatar
      PaulVincent

      So if we leave Chicago for a 10,000+ mile trip back and forth across America (as we did five years ago), I can run the Volt without any gasoline in its tank during the entire trip? By the way, where are the recharging stations between here and the west coast?

      • 0 avatar
        Phil Ressler

        I’ve done 10,000 mile continent-roaming trips. Wish I still had time for them. If I want to cover 600 – 1000 miles plus eat, imbibe, socialize, sightsee and sleep per 24 hour day, Volt is the only electric car that’s practical for the trip. Motive force is electric but the car stores energy in both or either battery chemistry or liquid hydrocarbon fuel for conversion and delivery as electricity. Unless you can plan the whole trip around charging intervals, you’ll be traveling with a tank of readily-available gasoline, refillable as you need it. Can I drive a Leaf from Maine to the Grand Canyon? I suppose so. But I can do it in a Volt with no more planning needed than with a conventional car. Then when I get home, I may not need to buy any gasoline at all for weeks on end. GM marketing isn’t doing a good job of structuring the information hierarchy for the Volt, instead trying to say everything they want to claim about the car in the top veneer of messaging.

        Of course if you don’t value the proposition of an electric car that removes the insecurity regarding insufficient range, then Volt likely isn’t for you and from a marketing standpoint, that would be OK as long as people who should get it, in fact do.

        Phil

  • avatar

    @ Les… your posts are informative with a twist of humor. keep it up!

  • avatar
    86er

    Wow, first Pch101 comes back, and now Phil Ressler. It’s like I took a time machine back to 2007.

    Man, I’ve been here too long…

    • 0 avatar
      Phil Ressler

      The last two-and-a-half years have been jammed for me professionally so I’ve been away from here pretty much since Farago left. I’ve been meaning to check back in from time to time but work crowded it out. I slipped back in today seeing mostly a different crowd but figured I’d see what’s what and throw a stone in the pond.

      Phil

  • avatar
    SoapyJohnson

    Sales failed to rebound and demand has been non-existent since February’s Chevrolet Volt 400 … http://placeitonluckydan.com/2011/05/nascar-pulls-plug-on-chevrolet-volt-400/


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