The Volt Song: What Happened, and What It Could Have Been

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The (terrible) Chevy Volt dance from the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

The (terrible) Chevy Volt dance from the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

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And we thought our piece on the LA Auto Show's Volt dance was pointed. Hah! Look here. Or here, followed by here. Or here. Ouch.

Like a good journalist, we wanted to know more. So we asked for an interview with Maria Rohrer, Director of Global Volt Marketing Operations at Chevrolet, to understand the thinking behind the controversial song and dance. Regrettably, there was no room in her schedule.

Written for kids 7-12

But we had a long chat with a weary-sounding David Darovitz, Volt launch manager for GM Communications, who gave us the sequence of events. As part of its pre-LA Auto Show publicity, Volt marketers had done an elaborate presentation on electric cars and the Volt to 1,000 students at Harvard Westlake School, along with a webcast to 120 schools.

The Volt song was meant to be played during that event, as background music for Ms. Rohrer's presentation, among other uses. But it wasn't ready. In fact, it didn't get cleared until just before public access days at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Electric Car video, by They Might Be Giants

Electric Car video, by They Might Be Giants

Enlarge Photo

The Volt marketers decided to pair a dance routine with the song, which was written for kids 7 to 12, as a way to add some razzle-dazzle, get peoples' attention, and lure showgoers over to the Volt area. According to Darovitz, the Chevrolet Volt message reached more than 28,000 showgoers. So there you have it.

It could have been different

What makes it worse is that we've been told, by two sources--one inside, one outside General Motors--that it almost didn't go this way. Instead, former marketing chief Bob Lutz  wanted to license the song "Electric Car," by whimsical rock group They Might Be Giants.

Lutz passed the song along to Chevrolet Marketing, the folks who are now responsible for promoting the 2011 Volt to target buyers and the public at large. What happened?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Lutz ignored?

He wasn't overruled; we heard he was simply ignored.  Chevrolet Marketing seemingly felt it could do better. Just like at the old GM, the one that went bankrupt, where everything generated inside the company was by definition better than anything from outside.

We're told, in fact, that Rohrer, was openly proud of the song and dance routine. We'd still like to talk to her, to get her side of a story that by now may have spiraled far out of control.

For the record, Darovitz of GM Communications said he had no knowledge of the alternate song.

But we'll let you be the judge. We've put the two videos below; They Might Be Giants comes first, then the Volt dance. You tell us which one makes you feel happier, more optimistic, and better disposed toward the Chevrolet Volt. Please comment, below.


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Comments (9)
  1. I have loved that TMBG song since it came out. My daughter, age 8, sings along. Don't know why they didn't pick it up.

  2. John,
    GM certainly is good at lighting up the blogosphere with interesting content!
    Here are some more questions about the Chevy Volt that I have:
    1. How many miles will the Chevy Volt be able to go on the battery alone when the car is driven at high speeds?
    2. How many miles will the Chevy Volt be able to go on the battery alone when the car is driven in cold weather?
    3. How long will the batteries last?
    Fortunately, it won't be long before the focus turns to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles which are the real solution to the oil crisis.
    Check out the following short article.
    "7 reasons to love Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicles"
    Greg Blencoe
    Chief Executive Officer
    Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
    "Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog

  3. Chevy marketing doesn't understand the target market at all. TMBG would have been perfect. Every high-income eco-nerd was a HUGE fan of TMBG in the 80s and 90s. HUGE. I wasn't a fan at first, but came around by the late 90s. I saw them live, and they were really, really good. Like Frank Zappa good, or Buzzcocks good, or T-Rex good. TMBG+Volt would have worked on me.
    Another good choice would have been to get Philip Glass to do new versions of some of the Koyannisqatsi songs.

  4. First rule of the hole, guys: stop digging! The song you created for kids wasn't ready in time, so rather than shelve it for a better opp, you thought you'd use it to condescend to the early adopters you're trying to get to buy the Volt? It was a faux pas- acknowledge it (loved how Chris Preuss poked fun at it on Twitter), learn something, and move on.
    There are some smart folks on this project, and the Volt is shaping up nicely. But oh my how it will suck to see another GM EV taken down by things that have nothing to do with the car.

  5. I hate song and dance numbers in any capacity. The dance routine does nothing for me. Car commercials that utilize a good song always generate more attention in that people on message boards are always inquiring as to who sings it and where can I download it. The Might Be Giants paired up with a clever (INFORMATIVE) video for the commercial.
    Hey Greg Blencoe, how about you read some other articles on the Volt on this site and your questions will be answered. EVs = now. Hydrogen = ...

  6. Hi Greg, seems like you could use a new song also. After all these years you must realize FC's can be run on substances other than hydrogen, like methanol, or something an order of magnitude more practical than hydrogen. Good luck in your future endeavors.

  7. That TMBG video is like an automatic ad for Chevy. Just trim it down, put in some Volt beauty shots, and even some humorous small print like "Our lawyers said that we have to tell you the Chevy Volt cannot travel under water" and voila! instant TV ad. WTF is wrong with these people at GM?

  8. Both stink. The Volt is the most advanced, technically sophisticated piece of machinery in the automotive world. It deserves a tone that speaks to it's intelligence. Not baby themes!!!

  9. What's a songwriter gotta do to get her electric car songs heard? WIRED & ELECTRICITY were created to drive the message home that adults want greener, sustainable transportation alternatives. Plug me in!

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