Panel questions how EVs are marketed in U.S.
Bob Lutz: “There is nothing left-wing or socialistically sinister about energy security for the United States."
LOS ANGELES -- Electric vehicles marketed for their green benefits or societal reasons will never catch on with American consumers, a panel of EV experts agreed.
At the EVS26 convention here today, former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz noted that selling EVs with an "it's good for you" or global warming message will politicize the process, thereby turning away half of the vehicles' potential customers.
Instead, EVs should be marketed with the underlying theme of "energy security and the efficiency of the American transportation system," he said.
"There is nothing left-wing or socialistically sinister about energy security for the United States," Lutz said. He said "about 5 percent" of Americans might buy an electric car for altruistic reasons -- not enough to make the vehicles economically viable.
Dean Devlin, executive producer of the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? and producer of the 1996 movie Independence Day, said that automakers are making a mistake in marketing EVs as they would medicine.
In response to seeing a one-word billboard that merely proclaimed the Nissan Leaf to be "electric," Devlin retorted, "We don't sell Porsches with the word, 'Unleaded.' These are the coolest cars in the world. They should be sold like iPads.
"We need to reframe how we market them, how we talk about them. Apple iPad ads don't talk about the A5 chip or its memory. It's how it changes your life and what you couldn't do before," Devlin added.
Andy Palmer, Nissan Motor Corp. executive vice president, jokingly said he would fire his advertising agency and hire Devlin. More seriously, he said that Nissan needed first to educate consumers about EVs before it could get into more lifestyle-oriented communications.
"We took the view we needed to explain range anxiety," Palmer said, adding, "Winning hearts and minds, and getting people emotionally involved with the vehicle, that's where Nissan needs to start stepping up."
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