With the launch of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid sedan, the Chevrolet Volt now has its first serious competition among long-range plug-in hybrids.
About 25,000 second-generation Volts were sold last year, and this year's number will be about 20,000. Honda says it may sell about the same number of plug-in Claritys.
On a media drive last week to give automotive journalists a look at the Clarity Plug-In just as it hit dealers, Honda addressed the question of marketing.
The company showed the 30-second advertisement at the top of this article to the assembled press.
What's notable is Honda's approach to explaining a car that's both electric and gasoline-powered.
As we've written before, the huge challenge for plug-in hybrids is that mass-market shoppers simply don't understand what they are, how they work, or why they might have advantages.
Frame from 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In HybridEnlarge Photo
By now, shoppers understand hybrids: You put gasoline in them like a regular car, but somehow the magic gerbils under the hood use less gasoline.
And they understand electric cars: Like your cellphone, it's a device that works on a battery and you have to recharge it regularly. Oh, and Tesla.
What they don't necessarily understand is a car that's both at once.
Meanwhile, shoppers continue to find Chevy and Toyota dealers who've left their Volts and Prius Primes uncharged, so they don't run in full electric mode, and salespeople who have no idea how a plug-in hybrid works.
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In HybridEnlarge Photo
The Honda's "Beyond the Battery" ad for the Clarity Plug-In presents the car as an electric car with a backup: "The end of your battery charge isn't the end of the world: It runs on electric, and has gas if you need it."
And that's about the substance of the ad, which has no voiceover for the first 10 of its 30 seconds—just footage of a happy family in their sedan running through gorgeous green scenery.
We note in particular that the only range rating Honda discusses is the plug-in Clarity's combined electric and gasoline rating of 340 miles.
That's probably a good thing; it avoids the question, "Wait, so it's an electric car with only 47 miles of range? Why would I ever want that?"