Although it’s almost a year since the 2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevrolet Volt officially launched in key electric car markets, the majority of the U.S. population have yet to see their first highway capable electric car.
So its no surprise that automakers are spending a lot of time and energy trying to educate buyers in as-yet unexplored markets about electric and fuel-efficient cars.
But at Ford’s Power of Choice roadshow -- a nationwide tour designed to showcase Ford’s best ecologically sound cars -- its staff struggled to answer even basic questions about using its 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Ford Connect electric vehicles.
“They even struggled to come up with an answer about whether the Ford Focus Electric and other Ford plug-ins could be plugged in with the same type charging chord as a Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt,” wrote Chris Knape from The Grand Rapids Press. “In the end the event proved to be a disappointing public relations play that brought little new information to the market. It also made Ford look like it was only ready to talk about its plug-in and future hybrid car lineup when the conversation stuck to a script”
Even more disappointing, Knape reported that while Ford’s Power of Choice roadshow featured a working version of its 2012 Ford Connect Electric van, the 2012 Ford Focus Electric on display at the event was a locked, non-working mock-up of the real thing.
Instead of being able to touch and explore the car, both members of the public and press were asked to not touch the mockup after a fake charging door started to fall off the model.
With the 2012 Ford Focus months away from launch, it certainly doesn’t send the right message to potential customers.
All-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric
We’ve encountered examples of dealers making up facts about electric cars well before an official launch -- mainly due to not having received official training -- but the level of ignorance displayed in this case is truly shocking.
It isn’t an isolated case.
At Green Car Reports we frequent many press-only new car launches, complete with highly choreographed interviews with the teams responsible for designing, building and marketing it. Highly focused and informative, we use those interviews to help bring you -- our readers and potential buyers -- the very best information we can.
But roadshows and events are a different world to the hyper-informed world of the press launch.
Very often, booth staff are brought in specifically for the show from an employment agency., with little or no formal automotive background.
For mainstream gasoline cars, its easy for booth staff to essentially stumble through with a low level of product knowledge. Doing the same with an entirely new fuel type is a different matter.
Ironically, Ford staff at the event in Grand Rapids presented the statistic that 48 percent of local buyers did not know the difference between a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle.
Given the high amount of money Ford and other automakers have spent on bringing electric cars to market, we hope that educating staff charged with educating the general public becomes a top priority -- otherwise electric car adoption could be severely curtailed.
Have you encountered an ignorant electric car salesperson or have an example to share of exemplary, informative salespeople? Let us know in the Comments below.