1140Plug-In Roundup #2: Media & Marketing News
- May 17, 2011Here's our second extended post, with reports on how plug-ins are
being received in the marketplace, the long-awaited sequel to "Who
Killed The Electric Car," reporters and analysts trying to figure out
how big plug-ins will be how soon, some frustrating examples of
misreporting, and a possible new way to respond.
(Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting will also be
viewable at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there you can
add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)
GM'S ROB PETERSON OUTLINES VOLT'S (AND INDUSTRY'S) MARKETING
CHALLENGES: GM-Volt's Jeff Cobb has posted a series summarizing GM
marketing spokesperson Rob Peterson's presentation at the Washington
Electric Drive Transportation Association DC conference in April. He
discussed the transition from "early adopters" to "fast followers."
He talked about the company's transparency policy and about building
strategic relationships with multiple constituencies, such as
utilities, plug-in advocates (including gracious call-outs to
"enthusiasts" Chelsea Sexton, Felix Kramer and GM-Volt.com), and the
broad advanced-tech auto industry:
He focused on getting the word out about customers' experiences:
And he talked about managing expectations, both among plug-in
advocates and customers, especially as critics and detractors pile
REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR: We can't wait to see the long-awaited
sequel to "Who Killed the Electric Car," which premiered on Earth Day
at NYC's Tribeca Film Festival. CalCars' top two priorities get a
direct boost from two of the film's four stories: for PHEVs, GM's
outspoken Bob Lutz, and for conversions, the flamboyant Greg
"Gadget" Abbott from http://www.leftcoastelectric.com inspires us by
turning almost any classic internal combustion vehicle into an EV.
(We hope the enthusiasm spills over to lower-cost and higher-volume
solutions.) And of course we also root for Carlos Ghosn's Leaf, and
Elon Musk's Teslas. The film is still on the festival circuit, but
you can help get it into a theater near you!
EPRI'S CONSUMER GUIDE: The Electric Power Research Institute has
published "Plugging In: A Consumer's Guide to the Electric Vehicle."
It's free and handy in eight pages. (For more detail, see Plug In
America's 64-pager, CHARGED UP & READY TO ROLL.")
(Try again if URL doesn't work the first time.)
ANOTHER VOLT+LEAF HOUSEHOLD: Sacramento-area's George Parrott and his
wife started driving the Volt/Leaf combination shortly after Felix
Kramer.. Though journalists got some numbers wrong, the Consumer
Reports story and AP short video were positive.
TAKE CARE, CLEANTECH ANALYSTS: A mildly cautionary headline,
"Electric Car Boom Could Deliver a Surge in Grid Power," drew our
attention. But the story immediately escalated to "They're going to
be hell on the grid." Later the author implied we need to invent some
advanced technology to ensure that most charging is off-peak. (How
about a timer and time-of-use pricing?) Steve Lough of the Seattle
Electric Auto Association, Brian Wynne of the Electric Drive
Transportation Association, and we and others brought the issue back
to reality. Then Reuters picked up the story, but unfortunately
without our responses. Spawning a true whac-a-mole, the alarm
proliferated to over 8,000 sites.
WHAT SURVEYS ABOUT PUBLIC INTEREST IN PLUG-INS TELL US: We're a big
fan of Jim Motavalli (and he often quotes us). Jim has been around
the block many times: he wrote "Forward Drive: The Race to Build
'Clean' Cars for the Future" back in 2000, when he was editor of E:
The Environmental Magazine. Now he writes for the NY Times, BNET,
Mother Nature Network, The Daily Green, PlugInCars.com, and others.
He'll have a new book, tentatively called "High Voltage: The Fast
Track to Plug In the Auto Industry," out in November. His recent
inquiry into why gas prices are the only commodity whose cost is
posted everywhere is memorable. He has great interviews about its
Now, in "Sure, Americans Want Electric Cars--But Only If They're
Magical," Jim wades through vastly different public survey responses.
He concludes that most Americans are confused about electric cars. In
an exchange worth reading, plug-in advocates Paul Scott and Mike Kane
differ with Jim effectively and eloquently. The exchanges are well
worth reading. We agree that tens of millions of car buyers "get" the
lifetime savings of plug-in cars and their global benefits. Yet even
stipulating that survey questions and results are misleading, and
that most buyers are motivated by emotion and not by payback, we also
agree with Motavalli's fundamental points: Uninformed potential
buyers want plug-ins with an up-front price cheaper than their
gas-guzzlers. In other words, they want to eat their cake and have it
too (the right version of that adage). This isn't surprising in a
nation where so many worship "truthiness," paying more attention to
wishes and myths than to science and facts.
CHALLENGING J.D. POWER'S VIEWS:
The Consumer Federation of America has jumped on J.D. Power's
conclusion in its 2011 U.S. Green Automotive Study
consumer interest and sales of new plug-in vehicles will be low for
the next five years. Without even challenging the company's
methodology in surveying 4,000 potential buyers as well as gathering
info from other sources, the 300-group coalition says it draws
entirely different conclusions from the numbers.
. (Alas, neither CFA nor JDP, however, connected the dots to show no
matter what happens with new cars ales, plug-ins won't be a
meaningful percentage of ALL cars within even 15 years unless we also
convert millions of existing vehicles.)
ON WHETHER WE'LL GET A MILLION PLUG-INS BY 2015: The US Department of
Energy's latest projections say 1.2 million
And another take, from John Voelker (IEEE and Green Car Reports):
MISSING INGREDIENT FOR PLUG-IN MARKET INFORMATION: Building on ideas
we've proposed in the past, we have a concept for a new company that
would analyze and deliver market intelligence and new ideas from
current and future plug-in drivers. A side benefit would be better
ways to combat misinformation. If you are (or know) an entrepreneur
with time and resources to work on this, look back at the earlier
(non-profit) concept http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1116.html
and send us a serious email with the subject line "Drivers-To-Drivers."
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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