QOTD: Is VW Actually Harming EV Adoption With Its Renaming?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

It’s no secret that we here at TTAC don’t agree on everything when it comes to cars, culture, or politics (Or sports. Using memes to troll staffers who cheer for rival teams is a favorite pastime in our Slack channel).

We don’t speak as one editorial voice, nor do we practice neutral news reporting — we allow for editorializing, analysis, and commentary/opinion, as long as we’re fair, factually accurate, honest, and upfront about any potential biases. It’s one thing I love about working here — I can, if appropriate, put a little commentary into a news post. Overall, I try to allow everyone to be free to express themselves.

Yet, for all our various viewpoints, sometimes we agree on something. And I was right there with Matt yesterday when he fumed about Volkswagen becoming Voltswagen. The change is official, by the way — VW confirmed it.

I agree with Matt that the move is cringe-worthy marketing. I agree that it’s dumb. And I really, really, agree with this passage: “We’re now reaching the point where the segment is becoming a parody of itself. And it’s gradually turning mainstream buyers away while only serving to create more obstacles for an industry that claims to want to normalize EVs. Automakers need to stop worrying about how they’ll be branding their push into electrification and profiting off customer data and start worrying about whether or not consumers are going to be interested.”

In other words, instead of focusing on terrible marketing efforts, focus on coming out with a strong EV product, especially if you’re interested in becoming an OEM that’s considered a leader in the EV space.

Like Matt, I think these awful marketing efforts are actually counterproductive. If EVs are to grab the lion’s share of the marketplace, consumers need to see them as normal, and not exotic.

Obviously, some of that will be addressed by technology. Once ranges increase and charging times drop, and chargers become more accessible, the biggest technological hurdles to EV adoption will be cleared, and slowly, consumer adoption will increase.

But for now, with EV market share under 5 percent and many consumers still hesitant to go electric, some attempts to make EVs (and other electrified vehicles) seem special seem to be backfiring.

It’s not just VW. Remember the Volt dance? How about Ford being so afraid the Mach-E won’t sell that it borrows the Mustang name for cred, despite the fact the two cars don’t even share a platform? Or all the EV marketing that only seems to focus on green cred, while ignoring that EVs can be fun to drive and/or attractive and/or still offer utility?

I get why OEMs want to position themselves as leaders when it comes to EVs. The shift towards electrification is slowly picking up, the political winds have shifted, and there are very real concerns about climate change. OEMs want to be seen as being ahead of the curve.

But there’s a fine line between showing the masses that you’re all in on a massive technology change, one that is perceived as good for, and may actually be good for, the planet, and showing your asses when it comes to tooting your own EV bonafides.

So I ask of you, not one, but two Questions of the Day. Question one — are these marketing blunders counterproductive when it comes to getting the masses to adopt EVs? Question two — how can a manufacturer show that’s a leader when it comes to EV adoption without stepping in this sort of quicksand?

Have at it, folks.

[Image: Volkswagen Voltswagen]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 46 comments
  • RRocket RRocket on Mar 30, 2021

    This is a well constructed April Fool's joke IMO.... Quite surprised that TTAC thinks otherwise.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 30, 2021

    VW should change their name to Voltswatten it might electrify their sales.

  • ToolGuy This guest was pretty interesting.
  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber