2012 Buick Lacrosse eAssist: TV Ad Sells MPGs, Avoids H-Word (Video)

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2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist Live Shots

2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist Live Shots

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The 2012 Buick Lacrosse with eAssist is now beginning to roll into dealerships across the country, and we've been curious to see how GM would market the car.

On our preview drive this spring of a prototype Lacrosse with eAssist, we noticed that the dreaded H-word (hybrid) had been virtually eradicated from the car, the press materials, and GM's talking points.

The Lacrosse with eAssist is GM's first new mild hybrid since the less-than-stellar end of the previous generation, which featured the Belt-Alternator-Starter system.

Like that system, eAssist restarts the engine after stops and adds supplemental torque to the engine so it can stay in higher lower gears longer, which keeps it at lower speeds and uses less fuel.

Perhaps to sever any connection with that history, GM calls the eAssist system "mild electrification."

So how do you sell a hybrid in 30 seconds without using the H-word?

Simple: You focus on the benefits (better gas mileage) after explaining one salient feature via a clever human analogy. The ad shows good-looking but appropriately diverse and recognizably American people in everyday activities, all of them jogging in place, all the time.

The concept, patiently explained in the voiceover: You don't run while you're stopped, so why should your engine?

Detailed explanation of how it actually works is limited to "technology that shifts from gas to electric power, and back, seamlessly--another way that Buick Lacrosse with eAssist can offer 36 miles per gallon."

Buick eAssist Hybrid Technology

Buick eAssist Hybrid Technology

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The words "electric power" show the car's tachometer needle falling to zero, and a battery icon (very similar to the one used on the 2012 Chevrolet Volt electric car) lighting up in green as it happens.

In other words, Buick isn't saying anything about adding electric boost for acceleration; the ad is focusing only on the start-stop aspect of the system.

The screen at the end simply shows the gas mileage figures ("36 HWY MPG" / "4-cyl models. EPA estimated 25 city / 36 hwy mpg."), followed by the price: "Starting at $30,820" / "As shown $33,300".

Frankly, we think that given many of stereotypes and preconceptions about what hybrid cars are and who buys them, GM may be onto something in avoiding the word altogether. And perhaps "electric" is a more appealing word with fewer problematic connotations than "hybrid".

But we'd like to know what you think. Check out the ad and tell us: Does it matter that GM doesn't really say what eAssist is or how it works?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (12)
  1. My wife thinks that they all need to go to the bathroom.

  2. "...adds supplemental torque to the engine so it can stay in lower gears longer... "

    I am confused by this. Firstly, is 1 a low gear or is 5 a low gear.

    I would have guessed the that adding electric torque would allow the car to shift to a HIGH (like 5) gear sooner to reduce revs and fuel consumption.

    But you are saying that the electric motor allows the car to stay in low gears (like 1) longer. Which says to me that more fuel would be used.

  3. @John: You're quite right. I typed "lower gears" when I meant "higher gears" / "lower engine speeds". I've revised the article to fix the error. Thanks.

  4. I am surprised you didn't factor in that the average age of a Buick driver is 65.
    Maybe with this age group, you have to sneak the changes in without telling them. "Here, it is a car, drive it, you'll like it."

  5. Well I mean the people who buy cars because they liked an ad campaign probably wouldn't be too happy with a 10 minute commercial about how a starter/alternator that is belt driven can add 15hp of assist to the gasoline motor. Then move on to explain it also offers regenerative braking and start/stop. I just don't think ad's can really be that informative because they are so expensive to produce in the first place.

  6. Hite-n-seek - bait-n-switch - shell-in-pea; GM is getting more clever in fooling trusting senior people at the nursing homes who can barely understand what a third-grader is talking about. The only people GM is fooling are themselves; why do they even bother to try and fool people who do not suffer from deep seeded dementia. They should come out with an ICE that can get at least 35 MPG and say, "This is the best we can do...take it or leave it." To ask GM to tell the truth is asking too much from GM, I reckon.

  7. @James: So, ummmm, GM is fooling viewers because ... what? Because the car will not achieve its EPA mileage rating? I'm not following the logic of your ill-tempered rant.

  8. Why bother to even respond, John. You can lead a mule to water, but you can not make him drink. Some mules will never learn to be anything but a mule.

  9. You followed the logic just fine, John, when you said, "Because the car will not achieve its EPA mileage rating?" You would got the whole idea if you said, "will not and cannot achieve its EPA millage rating?"

  10. @James: And you base this on what FACTS, DATA, or personal experience? Since the cars are just now reaching dealers, it seems unlikely you've driven one (although I could be wrong). So, point me to the independent, third-party proof that the car "will not and cannot" achieve its EPA ratings, please.

    Otherwise, it's nothing more than another entry in your endless string of anti-GM commentary. We welcome comments, but we prefer that they be based on facts and data rather than blanket bias.

  11. I think they handled the explanation as well as it could considering the American public's level of attention span. The commercial was OK, although I thought they spent too much time on the "running in place" portion. But a good attempt.

  12. I guess that's an acceptable strategy given that it appears that Prius owners apparently hold the patent as to exactly WHAT constitutes a "hybrid"- Engineers be damned! LOL
    Good article John!

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