The Marketing of the Electric Vehicle

May 10, 2017 9:40 AM ET

General Motors has designed the Chevrolet Volt and Bolt EV for markets across all 50 states and around the world – a demonstration of the company’s commitment to electrification. While growing the electric-vehicle market is a more complex challenge than simply bringing a new car to the dealership showroom, Chevrolet focuses on marketing and education efforts to help drive consumer adoption. 

But where’s the Super Bowl ad? That is the question Alex Keros, manager of vehicle and advanced technology policy at General Motors and Maven, gets when talking about how GM advertises its portfolio of electrified vehicles. The truth is the company spends more on EVs on a per-vehicle basis than many other models. He’ll also tell you that the car’s target audience is more likely to be consuming digital media than watching the Super Bowl.  

At the Ceres Conference in San Francisco, Keros talked to a sustainability-minded audience about the various components that go into marketing EVs. 

Product exposure

Electric vehicles bring significant benefits to the transportation ecosystem and benefit environmental goals. Most importantly, though, they are great cars to drive. Quite simply, people get into EVs and like the experience.  

People call it the “EV smile” – that look someone gets when they drive – or ride along in  –  one for the first time. The torque, the smooth ride, the quietness. And the Bolt EV is loaded with technology beyond the first-of-its-kind combination of 60 kWh battery pack and 200 horsepower electric motor at an affordable price. From a reconfigurable driver information center to the safety and security of optional OnStar service and a 10.2” color touchscreen, the list of standard equipment goes on. Not to mention you can go 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds. Just put your foot down and enjoy fun, dynamic, tailpipe emission-free driving. Auto shows and test drive experiences continue to be very effective marketing tools.

EVs in ridesharing and car-sharing fleets

How might GM supersize that type of experience to help generate awareness for EVs?  The company is incorporating Bolt EVs into Maven car-sharing services. In just two months with about 25 Maven Bolt EVs being used for ridesharing on California roads, 15,000 people have come along for the ride in the Bolt EV.  That’s a lot of seat time for people who may not otherwise have considered such a vehicle. Each of these cars is travelling over 100 miles per day on average, piloted by rideshare drivers mostly new to driving electric. And they are telling the EV story.

Save money. Save time.

Charging can be seen as daunting for an EV, but it just requires a plug. Keros, who has owned two Volts over the past six years, only used three tanks of gasoline in three years because he simply plugs in when he gets home. 

“I have two young kids at home and instead of spending 15 minutes at the gas station every week, I was able to spend those 15 minutes with my family,” he said. “When you work and travel, you might have an hour on either end of the day with your kids, and those 15 minutes are really important.”

And, workplace charging is a pragmatic benefit for employees and a positive tool for spurring EV adoption. Seeing chargers at work communicates the value of EVs to those that don’t own one yet. GM has installed chargers for employees and visitors at all of its U.S. sites, and evangelizes the benefits of other companies installing charging stations. 

When asked how long the cars take to charge, he simply answers, “Ten seconds to plug it in.” It’s not what people expect, but it’s true. 

Speaking with one voice

Having an educated dealer network who can speak to electric vehicle benefits is crucial to EV adoption. GM completes in-person and virtual trainings with sales and service staff at dealerships across the country. It also provides tools equally accessible to both sales staff and consumers for answers to the majority of questions an EV-curious customer might ask. Chat teams are similarly poised to respond to EV questions with the same tools at their disposal.

GM has the leading EV portfolio in the industry and regardless of whether a customer is looking for a pure battery electric vehicle, an extended range electric vehicle or an efficient hybrid,  dealership showrooms are open for EV business.

Keeping a long view

The EV market may be small, but it continues to grow quickly. Building the market takes time and it’s critical to take a long view. 

“Electrification isn’t going away and we’re committed,” said Keros. “We have the ability to layer in the connectivity, autonomous capability and shared mobility on top of the electrification for even more social and environmental benefits down the road.”