What Will It Take for You to Buy the Volt?
Chevrolet aims to boost sales in 2012.
In a Chevy Volt ad that aired during the Super Bowl, a Volt owner lectures a group of aliens peering under the hood of his car. "It's electric, but when it needs to go further it uses gas," he explains for what he says is the third time. "Please, tell me you understand," he pleads. The ad, of course, raises the question of whether Americans understand the Volt -- and judging from its poor sales in 2011, the answer may be no.
The Volt, which sold just 7,671 units in its debut year, well below Chevrolet's goal of 10,000, may have suffered from being too newfangled for Americans to grasp. But it also had another potential public-relations problem: the well-documented -- and later highly controversial -- Volt battery fire that occurred several weeks after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performed a crash test. The fire doesn't seem to have hurt sales in late 2011; numbers were up in that time period. But sales were down in January, and the Volt has lagged behind its less-expensive competitor, the Nissan Leaf, so far this year.
Perhaps NHTSA’s recent announcement regarding its investigation into the Volt’s fiery past will help. The agency found that "no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts,” according to an official press release. Furthermore, NHTSA says it does not believe that electric vehicles are more fire-prone than their gas-powered counterparts.
Moving forward in 2012, Chevrolet has renewed its Volt promotional efforts -- hence the Super Bowl ad, along with a reported print campaign in 21 newspapers nationwide. And a new low-emissions package debuts in March for Volt buyers in California, a perk that qualifies it for a $1,500 rebate and the state's much-coveted car-pool sticker. Good news for prospective Volt buyers -- alien and human alike.
The undeserved attention to a problem that never existed certainly hurt sales, but the number one problem with the Volt is the fact that GM has failed to market it correctly.
The fact that most people don’t understand the Volt is GM’s fault. I understand the Volt very well, but mainly because I’m a car guy and I did the research. If I based all of my info on GM’s marketing, I doubt I would understand it at all.
EXPLORE NEW CARS
MORE ON MSN AUTOS
ABOUT EXHAUST NOTES
Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.
Have a story idea? Tip us off at email@example.com.