After a little over three years on the market, is the Chevy Volt a hit or a miss? With 58,000 units sold, it’s one of the world’s top-selling plug-ins to date. However, its sales are still minuscule compared to its legacy gas-powered cousins.
CNET’s Brooke Crothers recently spoke with Volt Marketing Manager Dora Norwicki and Randy Fox, a spokesman for GM Electric Vehicle Technology, about the challenges of marketing a vehicle that many consumers still don’t understand.
Asked how GM can explain the Volt to consumers in a simple, easy-to-understand way, Norwicki said, “One of our key messages is that our owners – and we track them quite extensively – on average go 900 miles between each fill-up, which is an attention-getter and stops people in their tracks when they think about it. Most of our owners have told us that they spend very little time driving on gas. The majority of their travel on the Volt is in electric mode. So, to them, it is an electric vehicle.”
“In order to communicate the message on how the Volt works, you can do that on the Web site, but if you look at a 30-second commercial, that’s where it’s challenging,” added Fox. “The awareness is still something that we’re working on.”
Norwicki seems well aware that many consumers still don’t understand the differences among the different types of hybrids and EVs, much less the pros and cons of the Volt versus other PHEVs such as the Prius Plug-in: “The Volt is an extended-range electric vehicle. It’s a unique car in that sense. That fact that some people may not be familiar with the Volt technology is a function of whether they were interested in alternative-fuel vehicles available to them. If you’re not in market, you’re not likely to pay attention. Is it a little confusing to people? Perhaps.”
Asked whether the Volt has been successful, Norwicki says, “In the alternative-fuel space it’s at the top, and we have been there for some time. Expectations need to be set. This is new technology and it’s going to take time for people to understand that this vehicle could be for them. The customer enthusiasm for this car is huge. And it’s been on top of the pile in all of the Consumer Reports owner satisfaction ratings. And we’re beginning to see consumers trading in their first Volts and getting a second one. And that’s how it starts.”