DETROIT -- General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson acknowledged Tuesday in a live Web cast that the automaker was indeed behind the mysterious, unbranded Web site whatis230.com, as first reported by Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News, last week.
The number's significance, Henderson said, is that the Chevrolet Volt plug-in car due in 2010 is expected to get city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, or 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles.
That performance, based on fuel-economy methodology being developed for plug-in cars by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would make the Volt the first mass-produced vehicle to achieve triple-digit fuel economy. Henderson said GM expects the Volt could be totally recharged for about 40 cents.
GM expects to produce roughly 60,000 of first-generation Volts, which are scheduled to go on sale in late 2010 as 2011 models.
Today, the 230 Web site now links directly to the Chevrolet Web site.
So why run a blind teaser campaign?
Henderson said that in order to win a new generation of buyers, we need to relate to people between 16 and 30. They communicate differently and we need to make sure we plug into that. It's going to change advertising and it's going to change marketing and, over time, how we sell cars.
Campbell-Ewald of suburban Detroit created the 230 site. Chevrolet's longtime agency of record subcontracted with All Terrain, Chicago, which activated street teams to distribute hats and T-shirts with whatis230.com in several major cities.
GM also is ready to start its car-selling pilot on eBay, which Henderson announced July 10 during a Web cast the day the new GM exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Henderson said the program extends the showroom into Americans' living rooms and makes the customer the center of our universe.
He also vowed to put more of GM's communications resources to its four core vehicle brands -- Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC -- instead of the GM brand, because we don't go to market as GM. This move is likely to severely slash the amount of work handled by McCann Erickson, also of suburban Detroit, which has GM's corporate account.
The GM chief's Web cast on Tuesday followed a session with invited consumers, many of whom he described as past GM owners and thoughtful critics of the automaker on its blog at fastlane.gmblogs.com.
GM on Tuesday launched a microsite called The Lab, which will feature future projects and will be another place for consumers to share their reactions. The marketer said visitors who provide detailed demographic information may be invited to participate at a deeper level in future sessions.