One learns so very much about marketing complex technical products in the three month sales cycle of a Volt … What got answered in the research/sales process and what didn’t and what got met with silence. There’s a few Bob Lutz quotes rattling around the trade and enthusiast press which are super-duper instructive here, but they’ll only make sense once one has taken delivery.
I’ve had the following conversation like about five or six times so far in the journey:
- I got a Volt.
- Really, it’s electric, right?
[as in: but, um you always ever owned V-8 vehicks right?]
- Uh, yeah, it’s mostly electric.
[as in: keep it short, it's a social situation]
- What’s the range?
- About 35 miles.
- That’s pretty risky isn’t it? I mean, what do you do when you’re out of juice?
- There’s a gas engine, you just drive it. I did that last week.
- Really? I’ve never heard of this.
- it varies a bit after that.
- Oh, so it’s not like a Leaf then?
- Yup. The gas engine takes over. In fact, I don’t bother to charge at work. Too pesky with all the pure battery folk in a panic to get home.
- Is that what they call a hybrid?
- blah blah blah series-parallel hybrid blah blah blah lead with the battery, follow with the engine to make up average power but not till ~70 mph blah blah blah
[the laugh here is that last bit is right out of the GM media campaign 2010, it's good patter]
- Interesting, what’s the 0-60?
- it’s pretty much straight home after that.
There’s this rule of thumb in marketing somehow that one must recite simple messages over and over and over. Everyone knows this but then you learn it again and again in the trade. And then once again because you get so steeped in the process that you can’t begin to see the concerns of the prospects who aren’t really listening to you anyway.
- The Volt is just a car, drive it like one.
- It’s not a toy. Use it as you would a family car.
- You buy this car and you buy freedom. Enjoy that.
I got endorsed by the focus group: “Dad, this car is way cool. I want it.” age 14.5
[I now have a problem when that focus group element hits 15.5. Kids these days love their computers and this machine is way full 'o computers. Maybe the ELR will get built and I can trade up.]
The “range anxiety” concept is accurate, precise and honest. But it’s a fancy enough term that it reminds me that it’s a problem I didn’t have before, so entering into a situation that buys that problem, owns it and solves that problem is a wash. And bathing is … um, um, cough, a good idea. But it must offer some other benefit. Faster, cheaper, bigger, rougher are a thing, and in that, you can’t beat coolness.
The charging cord is not really a demonstrable symbol of freedom. The leash aspect has to be argued away somehow. As in “if you don’t want it, don’t use it.” They have some of this simplicity in the brand campaigns, but it’s totally overdriven by blaring angry self-righteous EV culture.
The success recipe here has to be:
- hide the sanctimony
- hide the save-the-planet stuff
- hide the entitlement
- hide the tech policy stuff
- hide the job subsidy stuff
- hide the accounting cost basis stuff
- hide the acronyms unless they’re in the frat, know the secret handshake and are a serious serious policy wonk.
To wit: AC AEV AEV-100 AEV-300 ANL BEV BSC CAFCP CAISO CARB CDFA CEC CHAdeMO CMAQ CPUC CVRP DC DGS DMV DOE DRIVE EERE EPIC EREV ETP EV EVSE FCEV GEELA GOBIZ HCD HEV HOV HVIP ICE I-HIB L1 L2 L3 LCFS LG LMC LMP MAP-21 NAIS NEMA NEV NGO NREL NRG OPR PACE PEV PEVC PHEV PV SAE SAE-J1772 SAE-J2929 SGC SOC TCO V2G VA VMVSS WGB WOT ZEV. I read all this stuff just to figure out if I could own this vehicle, they’re all real places, orgs, standards, programs or concepts. Most of ‘em are irrelevant. A few matter. The ones that matter aren’t colocated & separated from the irrelevant ones. Everyone is a policy wonk and an expert in their own affairs so all this stuff gets interwoven in arbitrary ways. Such is the magic of social proof.
I still have worries & questions. But most aren’t directly related to owning & operating the voltec technology in a “daily driver” vehicle, not really. The car “just works” It’s the stuff around it that’s pesky: the smartphone apps don’t work, for-pay nav is expensive & confusing, for-pay radio is expensive, confusing and wow is it expensive on any cost basis you choose to measure, and getting into the fine world of residential L2 charging is a longer process than one might imagine, etc.