The new 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid keeps and expands on all the good points of the first-generation Volt, while fixing a number of the old car's quirks.
As we wrote in September, "The new Volt's a great car, and brings practical electric drive to U.S. drivers without a shred of range anxiety."
But, we noted, "We just hope that Chevrolet's marketers can figure out how to tell that story soon, quickly, and persistently."
More than a year ago, Chevrolet's global chief marketing officer, Tim Mahoney, said marketing efforts for the new Volt would be rethought--and would use owners as evangelists to explain the car to potential buyers.
Now Chevy is starting to explore some new tactics. As HybridCars.com writes, the company has e-mailed prospective buyers to invite them to take part in a test-drive program called "Drive My Way."
Rather than visiting a dealership, the program will bring a new 2016 Volt to a location of the prospect's choice for a 30-minute test drive, accompanied by a vehicle specialist who can explain the car and its unique features.
The quid pro quo is that the driver agrees to have Chevy collect information about the drive that includes location, speed, braking, and acceleration data.
Presumably a test effort to see what kind of feedback it gets and sales it produces, the "Drive My Way" program lets Chevy marketers provide the first contact with the car for target buyers.
That lets potential buyers hear directly from a Volt specialist who knows the car, and can ably demonstrate its features, rather than the first point of contact being the next salesperson in line at a franchised Chevy dealer.
Dealers have proven to present one of the major hurdles to sales of plug-in vehicles.
The new program lets interested buyers avoid the well-documented frustrations of a showing up at a Chevy dealer to learn more about a Volt, only to encounter sales staff who aren't informed about the car, provide factually incorrect information, don't have a fully-charged test car, and work to push buyers into a gasoline car instead.
State dealership lobbyists have long made it illegal for Chevrolet to sell Volts to actual customers. So the carmaker will still have to deliver buyers already convinced of the Volt's merits to a dealership to close the transaction.
Steve Majoros, Chevy's director of car marketing, says that the company learned a lot about how to market the Volt from its first-generation experiences.
While the new program is far from a wholesale deployment of enthusiastic owners to demonstrate the car, it's still an innovation in the world of car sales--especially for a non-luxury vehicle.
Electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton, a member of the Volt Customer Advisory Board when the first generation launched in 2010 and 2011, told Green Car Reports she thinks the program is "a great idea."
MORE: Three Years Later, Most Consumers Don't Understand The Chevy Volt (Apr 2014)
"It doesn't take the place of an unsupervised drive or loan program," she added, "but we know that first-hand driving experience is the single most effective tool to get people to consider buying a plug-in vehicle."
So, she concluded, "all avenues to do that (especially outside the perceived hassle and pressure of a dealership) are welcome."
As we wrote at the end of our 2016 Volt First Drive, "Over to you, marketers. Show us what you've got."