DETROIT -- Despite limited availability for the Volt plug-in sedan, Chevrolet is launching an aggressive mass-marketing campaign for the vehicle this month, Tony DiSalle, Volt product marketing director, told an audience here today.
DiSalle said the Volt can appeal beyond electric-car enthusiasts and fleets to a mass market because of the extended range that the gasoline engine offers even if batteries deplete and need to be recharged.
He said Chevrolet is taking its message to a mass-market audience with television commercials during World Series broadcasts. The ads will emphasize the green attributes and energy savings that the Volt can offer without sacrificing the freedom to drive anywhere without having to worry about being stranded by depleted batteries, he said.
“We're talking about newfound freedoms,” DiSalle said on the sidelines of The Business of Plugging In electric vehicle conference, put on by the Center for Automotive Research.
DiSalle said Chevrolet is going ahead with the mass marketing, although Volts through all of 2011 will be in short supply. He said General Motors Co. wants to raise public awareness not only of the benefits of the Volt specifically but also of the electric-vehicle industry generally.
GM expects to begin delivering the Volt to showrooms early next month.
DiSalle said GM will produce only 10,000 of the vehicles through 2011 to keep a tight lid on quality control. He said word-of-mouth will be key to selling Volts in the future, so Chevrolet wants to ensure that the buying experience is exceptional.
DiSalle concedes that the 650 dealers in the seven markets targeted for the first-year rollout already have promised much of the initial Volt production run to customers.
But he said the store traffic generated by the Volt will give dealers a chance to sell other Chevrolet products that might better suit the needs of those customers.
Some of the initial Volt dealers may get just one car in 2011 and a demonstration car to keep on hand, DiSalle said.
The suggested retail price of the Volt is $41,000, including freight charges, and it will be eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits.
Chevrolet also is offering an aggressive lease program on the Volt: $350 a month for 12,000 miles a year with $2,500 due at signing, DiSalle said. The available federal electric-car tax credit of up to $7,500 would go to the lease company to help make the lease attractive, he said.
But DiSalle said many dealers report that they have affluent potential customers who want to buy the cars outright.
In 2012, GM plans to increase production to 45,000 Volts or 50 percent more than the carmaker had projected earlier, DiSalle said.
He said Chevrolet has had 120,000 “hand-raisers” or potential customers for the car who have noted their interest either to dealers or through the GM Web site.
The Volt offers a battery pack and electric drive unit capable of an electric range between 25 and 50 miles. A 1.4L gasoline-powered engine extends the range up to an additional 310 miles on a full tank of fuel.
Separately today, GM said the new Web site, www.myvolt.com, will give Volt owners the ability to remotely access information about their vehicle and control various functions of their car. It will be available this month for select smart phones, OnStar President Chris Preuss said in a statement.
The Web site also allows owners to perform tasks including checking their battery's state of charge, setting the charge time and unlocking the doors.