Volt, Leaf, And The Rest: How Automakers Pitch Electric Cars

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We don't envy the makers of electric cars. They have to deliver vehicles that look as great as their gas-powered counterparts, and they have to explain those vehicles, too -- how they work, battery range, and so on. They've got a long, tough battle to win over consumers.

But while we wouldn't necessarily want to be an EV manufacturer, we love watching them at work. Now, in the early days of mass vehicle electrification, we've got a unique opportunity to see manufacturers figure out what gets customers' attention -- and what doesn't. Here's a quick look at four early arrivals and how they're being pitched to the public.

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The Volt is technically a hybrid, not a full electric vehicle, but its battery range of about 40 miles is enough to get most consumers through an average workday without using a drop of gas. Given that flexibility, how is Chevy pitching it? Take a look.

Imagery: Close-up of the perfect wall socket, some car-on-road shots, a friendly woman plugging in the Volt's charging cable. Lots of grays and blacks and whites -- you know, manly colors. Not like others we could name.

Voiceover: Manly Tim Allen giving the aforementioned wall socket a pep talk. (A pretty damn well written one that gets straight to the point.)

Lingering message: "Dude, this is totally like your other car. Except it plugs in. You like things that plug in, don't you? This is the best of both worlds. Awesome!"


2011 Mitsubishi i

The Mitsubishi i has been on sale for some time in other parts of the world, where it's commonly called the i-MiEV. Sales in the U.S.won't start until the end of this year, and the car is virtually unknown right now -- though to be fair, most of us haven't seen an ad for the i, so what do you expect? (Given Mitsubishi's fairly low profile in the American car market, this is par for the course.)

We're pretty sure this is a Euro ad, but feel free to let us know if you've seen it on American television. We'd be a little surprised, given the one that follows for the Leaf, though.

Imagery: Semi-striking imagery of gas-powered objects that commonly run on electricity.

Voiceover: None. (Hope you're not listening in from the other room.)

Lingering message: "Wow, gas is pretty dirty. Maybe we should use something else. Wait -- is that a real car at the end?"

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Comments (6)
  1. this is rediculous! 3 car companies using the same ad? is that even legal?

  2. Yup, perfectly legal, and somewhat reasonable, given the tie-ups between some of the parties involved. Not such a great idea if the ads were running in the same markets -- after all, the cars *are* in competition with one another, and it's important that they carve out their own identities. In cases like this, though, advertising elves usually make sure that the spots don't cross over.

  3. The 'Mitsubishi ad' was developed by a student as an entry in a competition attached to a film festival. Mitsubishi have not aired this ad in any of their markets. Nissan have reproduced the ad with the aid of a much bigger budget and therefore better quality ad (Mits should be kicking themselves for dropping that ball). I can only imagine that renault has gone down the same path due to the Nissan-Renault alliance.

  4. Even though the ads are all the same I do like Nissan's the most because of the music they play at the beginning. It does a great job at grabbing your attention and then keep your emotions high and ending it on a smile. Tim Allen, I think has done a great job with GM commercials as well.

  5. ads, schmads. it dont make a difference. what does make a difference is how well the car works. that will be known once people start owning them. i hope all of the real evs do well. we need to get the supply side up ASAP.

  6. The shot of the Volt driver actor looking longingly at a Leaf is hilarious. Had to be an actor as they couldn't find any unhappy Volt owners.

    I saw this: "The Charged 2011 EV Symposium in Silicon Valley recently received some unplanned negative press when a few participants were left stranded by their all-electric Nissan Leafs. One participant stayed late to charge the vehicle and still required a ride home from a gas-guzzling vehicle."

    Oops. Will Nissan, et al be adding the smoke belching tow truck to their commercials?

    In the US, a Volt makes more sense, especially as a primary vehicle. Like the Leaf, it can be all electric (most of the time), but won't get stranded. And it can be driven cross country like any other car.

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