If the major automakers really want to begin selling their EVs in volume (and not everyone is convinced that they do), sooner or later they will have to start advertising them. BMW has been ahead of the curve in this regard – it has run several TV ads for the i3 featuring cool people discovering the joys of going electric.
These ads are obviously aimed at getting people to buy BMW EVs. However, it’s hard to see the point of a pair of video spots that BMW recently revealed, which target Tesla reservation holders, and imply that, instead of waiting for a Model 3, folks might prefer to buy a BMW 330e PHEV, which is available now.
The irony here is as thick as used motor oil. Where do automakers get the idea that ads for electrified vehicles should knock other electrified vehicles, as previous ads for the Chevy Volt and for Lexus hybrids have done? (More irony: some of these ads ridiculed the BMW i3.) Shouldn’t ads for modern plug-in vehicles be bashing legacy ICE vehicles?
Furthermore, a PHEV and an EV are two different products, which are going to appeal to two different types of drivers. “It’s the car you’ve been waiting for, without the wait,” says one of the spots. But it’s not. Implying that someone who wants a Tesla is going to settle for a plug-in hybrid with a minimal electric range is like saying that someone who lusts after a Corvette would be just as happy with a Corolla, as long as they can get it right away.
We don’t yet know whether BMW plans to give these spots any substantial exposure on TV, or whether they’ll just sit on YouTube for auto media like Jalopnik to make fun of (automakers don’t generally reveal how their ad budgets break down among different models, much less how much they spend on any particular campaign). But it’s safe to say that, while the few EV ads in existence are analyzed and discussed in detail by EV pundits, they are barely noticed by the general public. Even the i3 ad that aired during the Superbowl is a raindrop on the windshield compared to the torrential downpour of auto ads that consumers see every day.
So what’s the point of an ad for a car that BMW surely never planned to produce more than a few hundred of? Do the Bavarians really want to highlight the fact that over 370,000 people have ordered a Model 3, sight unseen, while only 218 customers have bought a 330e since the car went on sale in the US five months ago?