Consumer Like Those Electric Cars, They Just Don't Know Who Makes Them

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Silverc10 Silverc10 on Jun 30, 2011

    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..

  • Steven02 Steven02 on Jun 30, 2011

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

    • Luke42 Luke42 on Feb 28, 2012

      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.

  • Srogers Srogers on Jun 30, 2011

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

    • SVX pearlie SVX pearlie on Jun 30, 2011

      Yes, and none of those people need to be marketed to via commercials.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Jun 30, 2011

    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...