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Cars Chevy Volt Olympics Ad Attacks 100% Electric Vehicles Rather Than Gasmobiles

Published on February 8th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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Chevy Volt Olympics Ad Attacks 100% Electric Vehicles Rather Than Gasmobiles (VIDEO)

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February 8th, 2014 by Zachary Shahan 

Apparently, GM hasn’t ditched efforts to sell the Chevy Volt, despite reportedly not caring to increase production to meet demand. To grow demand even further, GM ran the following Volt ad just between the evening news and the start of the Winter Olympics down in Southern California, and perhaps elsewhere. That’s good to see!

Sadly, if you watch the video, you’ll see that it takes yet another stupid shot at 100% electric vehicles rather than taken a shot at much, much worse gasmobiles. The logic is really unclear to me — there’s a much greater market of potential customers who don’t yet understand the many awesome benefits of electrified vehicles, while those looking to buy a Nissan Leaf or other 100% electric vehicle are likely already extremely aware of the differences between a fully electric vehicle and an EREV. Is getting perhaps a few more customers through negative EV advertising really as helpful as educating the public about the tremendous benefits of EVs (many of which are not known by the majority of the population).

Can’t figure out if this ad is 1 step forward, 2 steps back; or 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Have a look and feel free to chime in with your own thoughts:

However, I’ll note that the folks over at GM-Volt.com really liked the ad — at least, the ones who chimed in about it. On the plus side for GM & the Volt, it does address an apparently common misperception that, like 100% electric vehicles, the Volt doesn’t have a gas engine that can kick in to extend the range. Anyone who follows EVs would know that well, but given how low the general awareness about plug-in cars is, perhaps it is a good ad strictly for this model. Anyway, again, I’m curious to see what our readers think.

Also recommended: 28 Electrified Vehicles, 47 Electrified Vehicle Videos (Commercials, Reviews, Etc.)

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Kevin Roberts

    Every person I have told about the Volt ask me if I’m prepared to walk when the electric runs out. They can’t believe anyone would spend that much money on a car for 45 miles a day of electric then I explain the gas kicks in then something stupid kicks in like that’s to confusing or I would rather just buy the gas and not worry about the electric. I give up 2500 miles on 8 gallons so far

  • Anthony Lee

    If they were wanting to slam EV’s, they could have had the car pass by a Nissan leaf on the side of the road with skeleton behind the wheel.

  • Buckywunder

    GM had their chance — it was called the EV-1. Will never, ever buy a GM car. Ever.

    Once I saw “Who Killed the Electric Car” in 2005, I vowed that I would get an electric car to make sure that they couldn’t be killed again. That’s why we got a LEAF. That’s right, 100% electric from hydropower and community solar so it is completely zero emission. And that’s our goal as we pass our third YEAR anniversary.

    FWIW, when my spouse heard me playing this video on my laptop she said, “Do they still make the Volt?” We don’t see them around Seattle — lots of LEAFs though.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The people who were running GM in 1999 are not the people running GM in 2014.

      Did GM kill the EV1 or did the battery technology owner kill the EV1?

  • johnnydunes

    As a volt owner, I see an innocent comparison noting the advantages of the Extended Range EV. I believe most understand the limitations of pure electric and like my self commuting to Los Angeles from Palm Springs area every other week. 2 hours on gas and all week on electricity is a great technology opening up a great alternative for us EV enthusiasts.

  • RemyC

    The ad is targeted to traveling salesmen.

  • Rockne O’Bannon

    Look. Understanding the ad is no problem. I see people looking at this as “politics” or “sociology.” It is marketing. DUH. As in advertising.

    There is a certain segment of the population that will buy an EV. The rest of humanity is not going to. Let’s start there. Maybe it is price or range anxiety. Who cares? The point of the very expensive ad is to sell cars. You do that by concentrating on your target market, not spouting a social agenda. Period. GM has not led a social revolution in…. forever…. so chuck that notion immediately.

    If you can accept that GM is actually a for-profit company, then you can probably connect the dots and figure out that the ad is intended for people who are likely to buy AN EV, and induce them to buy GM’s EV. Therefore, they will spend their time going after EV competitors rather than internal combustion non-competitors. The marketing firm that produced the ad knows the EV market better than anyone posting here. I bet they ran 20 focus groups of likely buyers and test screened 20 versions of the ad. And please let’s remember that a “potential buyer” is not the same as “owner.”

    There are 54 other comments, and I can’t see one where people seem to understand this. I suspect that people have “EV” and “”GREEN” on the brain. Look at the situation realistically without groupthink glasses, and the goal of the ad is obvious. GM is spending its funds to maximize profits as it sees fit.

    Instead of wringing our hands about GM doing something that is vaguely socially beneficial, maybe we can realize that if GM can’t sell enough Volts, they won’t make them anymore, anyhow. And if they cannibalize Tesla’s sales, well, that is Tesla’s problem, innit?

  • Janine

    GM probably realized that the volt is a layover of sorts on the way to a fully electric automobile industry and as battery prices and electric car prices keep dropping, gaining popularity, and increasing charging points, the advantages the volt had over electric cars (ie they can fuel up on gas anywhere and have a smaller/cheaper battery pack) become liabilities.

  • patb2009

    the ad strikes me as selling range anxiety

    • patb2009

      BTW, that is how the Prius was sold, the Ford C-Max aims into this,etc…

    • TedKidd

      I agree. The ad is much more about perpetuating irrational fears that are impediment to adoption than it is about emphasizing reasons electric is better.

      Pretty hard to argue this isnt an appeal to fear. Appeal to fear is a very low integrity approach to marketing, not surprising from a low integrity company.

      Arguing against self interest is impossible for most, even seeing it is extremely difficult. That those who own volt are unable to see beyond their own bias is truly human, to be expected.

  • Chris_in_Raleigh

    I was surprised, but I didn’t get the impression the ad was making any comparison to EVs at all, but instead just trying to explain how the Volt works (to a public generally clueless in this area).

    On a related note, I don’t think it makes any sense for EVs and Plug-in hybrids to be competing with one another. Hammers and Screwdrivers don’t compete. Each has its place. A family with a two-car garage housing one of each (EV and Plugin hybrid) makes perfect sense today (though maybe less so five/ten years from now).

  • Jon

    Obviously some sensitivity to range anxiety. The only ones offended could be owners that don’t have the option to keep going

  • John Hansen

    This ad not only doesn’t poke fun at electrics, as the author claims, it actually pokes fun at EV critics. The kid in the back seat represents Fox News and other anti-EV groups, and the father is gently poking fun at them.

    I congratulate GM on finally releasing and ad that explains to the general public exactly how a Volt works, and making it fun to watch to boot. More please.

  • bobbleheadguru

    I am personally very happy with the ad. The ad clearly shows the competitive advantage of an Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) over both pure EVs and over ICE cars.

    All the better than there is a child in it that makes the message of the ad “understandable to anyone” and there is some humor that make it memorable. Chevy ad team provided an unique way to break through the complexities of explaining the Volt. Something that they have not done well before.

    I do not see any direct rip of EVs, other than to show that EREVs are better because you can drive them through a long stretch of desert without range anxiety. Why should they not emphasize that… that is the whole point of the car.

    I do have one critique of the ad. It is the claim that there is the 900 mile range between fill ups claim. It implies that you could drive it 900 miles before stopping. That is a minor point, but perhaps slightly deceptive.

  • Mike Shurtleff

    Zach,
    I think you’re being a bit of an EV zealot. EVs have two remaining problems: limited range and cost. This will change of course, but that is what it is right now. In spite of this they are already the most economic driving choice for some, due to the reduced operating costs. EVs are selling very well in spite of the range limitation, but Extended-Range EVs like the Volt can help reach an even larger market …and still provide over an 80% reduction in oil use …on our way to 100% reduction using only EVs in the future. (No mandates, just because they out compete ICEVs in the near future.) EREVs like the Volt are mostly just EVs anyway. I know you already know all this, just trying to put a different context on it …for you and others.
    A significant number of people I talk to already do not like the range limitation of EVs. I see this ad as saying: “Want to drive electric, but afraid of getting stuck? Here’s an alternative that will work for you.”
    Stealing market from EVs? It doesn’t matter. They are all EVs at their core. Production of either pushes electric drive tech and battery tech to improved performance and reduced cost at greater scale of production. The transition to 100% is now inevitable. If we can get more people driving EREVs in addition to EVs, because of their increased range, then it still helps get us there.
    There is no question, this ad is going to attract a some people who are otherwise dismissing EVs because of their limited range. It’s funny. Relax and enjoy, you’re winning here!
    Mike

    • bobbleheadguru

      Completely agree. Well stated!

      The pie is getting bigger for EVs. Chevy Volt is a great alternative for people who want to cut their gas consumption by 80% without having any range anxiety.

      The Volt’s success as the #1 Plug In (under $50K) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in BOTH Sales and Satisfaction (Consumer Reports) clearly shows they have a product that the public would want. However, their sales could have much better if they had this message go out sooner and in a clearer way, IMO.

  • sinz54

    There are no “benefits” for someone like me.

    I rent an apartment without a garage, and I park my car in the street. How am I supposed to recharge an electric car, with a 500 foot long extension cord???

    • Bob_Wallace

      You can’t use one right now. Perhaps you could use a L3 charger if there is one around somewhere, but more likely you’re not a candidate.

      You could do something about that. You could start leaning on your city to install charging for people who park on the street. You could start working to get your employer to install charging.

      It will take a while bring charging to all. We didn’t get all the gas stations we needed overnight.

  • Rick Kargaard

    Aren’t you being a little touchy. I don’t see that as an attack on electrics. In my area an electric would be all but useless but a Hybrid could fit in.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      I don’t think so. Just paying attention to the broader EV “education” it is contributing, which plays into the most overhyped quality of EVs.

      • Rick Kargaard

        California was probably a poor place for the ad but they are only trying to reach a large market.

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Frankly, they could have highlighted everything the same way without playing into the overhyped range fears. The explanation of how the Volt works is useful and good.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I wonder how the ad department views the market segment they’re after?
            Perhaps they feel there’s a limited “electric” market and their job is to grab as many greenies as possible. As opposed to taking sales away from gasmobiles.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            That’s what it seems like. Sadly.

          • Rick Kargaard

            Agreed. but an ad is only effective if it gets people’s attention. In this case it certainly seems to have succeeded. The reaction here is evidence of that.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            In the wrong media market… :D

  • TedKidd

    Drive a leaf for 2 days, you’ll wonder if you’ll ever buy another car with an ICE.

    Drive a Tesla for 2 days, and you no longer wonder. Electric is SO much better, it just needs 200 miles.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      From the Norway Tesla Q&A i also posted yesterday:

      “One questioner noted that, not knowing anything about electric cars beforehand, he and his daughter were sold on buying the Model S after about 1 minute in it. He also noted that it was worlds better than the BMW i3. So, based on that, he asked if Tesla had a vision of becoming the largest car manufacturer in the world.”

      So many luxury car drivers got up and praised Tesla for creating such an exceptional car, sometimes calling it the best car in the world.

  • Gus Escher

    There’s too much thinking going on here. The ad is, well, an ad. It’s trying to sell Volts as they are today. It makes its point. And it’s cute. Relax and have a nice day.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Haha, sorry, I’m a sociologist — I pay attention to how this sort of marketing feeds into the range anxiety overhype. Subtle impact can still be very strong.

      • COGuy

        Well, I think you are LOOKING for range anxiety overhype, so you find it. Kind of like anything can be sexual innuendo if you think about it hard enough.

        I agree with some of the others here….as a gas car driver, I didn’t see this as a slam against EV’s. The overhype, if there is any, is you overhyping the overhyping :)

  • Jegund

    I don’t think so. GM is planning a Volt 2 and hopefully at a better price and a bit more EV miles so the customer base is much larger. It will take a lot of education and some luck. But as more plugin hybrids or EREV as GM calls the Volt, the market for them should improve. There are a lot of drivers that don’t quite fit the pure ev model. They may not be able to plugin regularly, don’t want or cannot afford a seconds car but have needs to travel a far distance every once in a while. So, no it’s not a dist of pure EV, it’s all about having cars that fill a customers needs.

    • microsrfr

      The problem is as much the dealers who don’t want to sell it because their service dollars are minimal.

  • Lou

    I think GM’s heart is not in it. I believe GM will be facing another bailout in about 8 years. The corporate model is more consistent with big government.

  • Ross

    So how often to Americans drive across deserts anyway?

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      haha :D

      • Pat

        Quite often out West here given the drought ….

    • Larry

      Lots of them in CA and AZ

  • David Gilmore

    I think just about any Volt owner would be better at marketing the Volt than Chevy. They got so much about the actual car right and everything else wrong.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Agreed.

      • David Gilmore

        I just saw BMW’s ad for the i3. Now they know how to make EVs look fun! The ad portrays the phone app being used, young (attractive) people tearing a$$ around a city in defiance of their parents, the thrill of instant torque, quiet operation, cool tunes. All of it. Personally, I think the i3 looks anything but sporty. But when you market to sexy, it becomes sexy.

  • Steve Townsend

    For some reason, there is great confusion out there regarding how the Volt operates. It’s pretty clear to me, anyway, that they are only trying to explain in the simplest terms how the car actually works. Personally, I like the ad, and feel that they have done a good job. Honestly, I don’t fee that their intent was to insult anyone. Just a demonstration of how the Volt works, without even mentioning other cars or technologies.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      My more generous side thinks the same. :D Hope so…

  • Steve Townsend

    I really don’t see a problem here. The ad shows that the Volt runs on electric, then the cool animated changeover from battery to range extender on longer trips. The ad seems to allay fears rather than promote them. I don’t feel they were knocking anyone. Just showing the strengths that the Volt offers, and doing it in a cute way. Don’t stress. I own a Volt…. now, before everyone flames me for running a coal car, or some such other nonsense, I’d like to point out that my current gas mileage is 846.53. And, before someone starts hyperventilating about the math (or meaning) behind the MPG of the Volt, just remind yourself that we are all on the same team here, right? I barely use any gas (less than 1 gallon per month), and most of the electricity around here (Seattle) comes from hydroelectric and some wind. I love all electric vehicles no matter what form they take. Some time in the future, when the battery technology improves a bit more, my next car will be all electric, too. So, it’s all good…….right?

    • Wallace

      I don’t see anything wrong with the ad. Never once do they put down all electrics or gas for that matter. They just point out what the Volt can do, and in a cute manner with the kid in the back seat.

      • Wallace

        wrong site

        • Ross

          Cleantechnica is the right site!

          • Wallace

            I posted something about the ELR, then noticed wrong site. So I deleted it.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Ah, posted that commercial in the next article.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        They further feed into the range anxiety BS, something Leaf (and other EV drivers) find is much less of an issue for them after they get their cars than they were led to believe beforehand.

        • Robert Pyke

          I don’t know about that. The only Leafs that I have ever seen on the freeway are driving at 50 mph in the slow lane. Sure EV drivers adjust, but basically they adjust to the fact that EVs are just city cars, even the Tesla S. Well, maybe the Telsa is a suburban car as well, since they weave in and out at high speed on I-680. I’m all in favor of making more use of home-grown clean fuels but let’s not get carried away.

    • charlie_CA

      It’s all good, but GM is hurting our ability to make it all better.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Agreed. Think we’re on the same team. Which is why I’m not happy with further hyping the overhyped range anxiety concept.

  • todlo

    so… fuck the spark ev?

    • J_JamesM

      Chevrolet giveth and Chevrolet taketh away.

    • Robert Pyke

      No, the Spark EV is intended to be a city car. The point of the ad is that an EREV can cross the desert, go on longer trips, accommodate spontaneous decisions to go see this or that national monument. If you can’t see that, you’ve got blinders on.

      • todlo

        “how the fuck do i sarcasm” –robert pyke

  • TedKidd

    “Is getting perhaps a few more customers through negative EV advertising really as helpful as educating the public about the tremendous benefits of EVs (many of which are not known by the majority of the population).”

    GM needs to realize how low integrity ads like this makes them look like dishonest scumbags and does harm to their brand. They should leave this type of content to politicians.

    • charlie_CA

      As if GM gives a crap what a handful of greenie weenies* think about them.

      *What I suspect they consider anyone who cares about EVs.

  • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

    Ah, it wasn’t so bad. Remember Nissan took a stab at the Volt in this ad. Look at the 0:44 mark. That guy is filling up a Volt. A simple retalliation. ;)

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Yeah, i think there’s been retaliation since then already. But I’m not a fan of bringing even more nonsense hype to “range anxiety.” So pretty unhappy with this Volt ad. Problems of gas aren’t overblown. Range anxiety is. :D

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