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."
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.