2016 Chevrolet Volt Ads: Attacking Prius, Leaf...And Bolt EV?

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The 2016 Chevrolet Volt, for which deliveries began just this week, is going into attack mode against the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius in a set of new ads.

But in one of those ads, it almost feels as if GM is attacking its own (upcoming) product.

They build on focus-group-themed ads that Chevy has launched against Ford, and its new F-150.

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In that one—the “grizzly bear spot,” as it’s come to be known—members of a focus group are asked if they’d use the steel cage or the aluminum cage, as a bear enters the room.

In another spot—to promote the automaker’s embedded 4G LTE hotspots—the focus-group leader leads subjects to believe he’s run their phones through a wood chipper, showing their reactions when they think they’ve lost their data.

The ads feel like they’re designed to make the viewer squirm nearly as much as the unknowing subjects in them.

A tougher translation vs. Prius, Leaf

While that format has been highly successful—and we think the truck ads toy with deeply rooted Ford Vs. Chevy allegiances—it’s a tougher translation to pitch the Volt, an extended-range electric car, against the Prius, primarily a hybrid, and the Leaf, a pure battery-electric car.

One of the spots, here, likens running out of electric range in the Leaf to being stuck in an elevator. Another tries to impress participants with technology from the last couple of decades, associating it with the Prius.

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The Hybrid Synergy Drive vs. Voltec jabs are funny, and they feel more along the lines of that truck ad, but we’re puzzled as to why GM would pull out what's essentially a version of the range-anxiety card—with its own pure-electric model, the Bolt, slated for production by the end of next year.

It’s difficult to see how the electric-car market can benefit from such polarized comparisons. With ever-expanding electric driving ranges and public-charging options, that’s increasingly tough to parse out.

Yup, Chevy’s working on one of those vehicles you get ‘stuck’ with...

GM should know that. Given its adherence to the CCS (Combo plug) standard for fast charging (admittedly not so relevant to the Volt) and its agonizingly slow rollout here on the West Coast, there’s actually probably going to be more of a chance of getting ‘stuck’ in a Bolt—even by the time that model reaches the market.

The Bolt EV will have a range of around 200 miles; but with the 2016 Nissan Leaf now offering up to 107 EPA-rated miles—and likely to offer significantly more in its next-generation form, which will go on sale shortly thereafter—any disadvantage in getting from one CHAdeMO charger to another is going to be very quickly erased.

In other words, while the Volt nameplate might benefit somewhat from the smearing of EVs, Chevy's picking one very awkward fight.

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