The EV Press has eagerly awaited the Chevrolet Spark EV, which recently went on sale at selected dealerships in California and Oregon. The big question, of course, was: will GM be actively marketing the new model, in hopes of selling some?
The news looks good so far, as GM has launched a TV campaign. Better yet, the new ads appear to be pushing the Spark EV as a fun and stylish ride, rather than as a sensible choice to save money and “the planet.”
In the first of the TV spots, the little hatchback zips around at improbable speeds, as lightning crackles out of some sort of Van de Graaff generator/Tesla coil gadget, and the voiceover talks torque: “Now you can give up gas without giving up performance. [The Spark EV] packs a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque – that’s more than a Ferrari 458 Italia – with zero emissions. A car powered by electricity, that moves like electricity!”
In a speech at last year’s Electric Vehicle Symposium in Los Angeles, Dean Devlin, producer of the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, said that advertising EVs as sensible money-savers is bound to fail.
“The Volt is an amazing, groundbreaking car,” he said. “The LEAF is a gigantic breakthrough – but they’re being sold as medicine.”
Devlin singled out several ads as examples of this doomed strategy, including a commercial for the Volt in which the narrator says, “This isn’t just the car we wanted to build – it’s the car America had to build,” and a billboard that shows a Nissan LEAF, with the single word “Electric.”
“Does Porsche show its car with the tagline, ‘Unleaded’?” Devlin asked. Instead, ads for EVs should focus on how much more fun they are to drive than gas-burners. “These are the coolest cars in the world. They should be sold like iPads…iPad ads don’t talk about the chips. They talk about how it changes your life, how it adds joy.”
This shouldn’t be such a hard thing for automakers to figure out – any first-year marketing student knows that people don’t buy cars for sensible reasons. Elon Musk and company have kept this in mind from day one, and it’s one of the biggest reasons for Tesla’s success.