Monday, April 16, 2012



My love for most things automotive and my continuing interest in advertising has caused me to notice the following ad that runs frequently on WBBM Newsradio 78/105.9, the local CBS news affiliate here in Chicago. (I am sure it runs on other stations, and I suspect it runs on WGN, where I suspect I have also heard it, but I know I hear it a lot on WBBM. I can’t quote it because I don’t have a photographic memory, but any difference between my recounting of the ad and the ad itself lies in minutiae rather than the heart of the ad…or of the present matter.):

Check out the Chevy hat trick: Three models that deliver over 40 mpg highway: Chevy Sonic, Cruze Eco, and Volt. Hybrid performance without the hybrid price.


One cannot argue with including the Sonic and Cruze Eco in this ad, though one suspects that many drivers will not be able to quite achieve 40 mpg in those cars, though that probably isn’t Chevy’s fault. But how does one possibly include the Chevy Volt in this ad? How is the Chevy Volt not a hybrid? Okay, I guess that one could split hairs and say that the Volt is not a traditional hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, the hybrid versions of the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, or Honda Civic, or, stretching a bit, the Chevy Malibu Eco. Rather, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid, the technology of which differs substantially from that of a traditional hybrid. But even if one permits this rather persnickety and cantankerous objection, the “hybrid performance without the hybrid price” claim goes completely out the window for the Volt. The Volt costs around $41,000, or $33,500 after tax credits. That is MORE than a hybrid price, and don’t even try to tell me something like “more than a hybrid price” is indeed “without the hybrid price;” that is far too artful even for the slicksters of Madison Avenue.

Incidentally, the Volt is not selling well, primarily because of its aforementioned high price. But that’s not the only reason. The car’s interior is cramped. One has to remember to plug it in each night, or more often, unless one wants to have the gasoline engine ultimately charge the battery. (Okay, plugging in a car is not an arduous task, but in modern day America, where convenience is placed at such a premium, another task, even a small one, is not what consumers are seeking.) But perhaps the Volt’s greatest fault is that, once one goes beyond “pure” battery range (25-40 miles, depending on conditions) and starts having the engine run the back-up motor that serves as a generator that charges the battery, the Volt’s mileage advantage drops precipitously. Taking things to extremes, but not outlandish extremes, if one were to drive the car’s entire range electric/gas range of 379 miles (not all that far), the mpg falls to the high 30s to very low 40s. This type of fuel economy is less than that which can be achieved by many hybrids and diesels and can almost be reached by some very fuel efficient conventionally powered cars available here…like the Chevy Sonic and Chevy Cruze Eco, both of which sell for less than half the price of the Volt. Not only, then, is the Volt’s price high but, for any but those who will use it solely as a short distance commuter, its value quotient is alarmingly low. And those who would use the Volt solely as a short distance commuter might be better off with the pure electric Nissan Leaf of Mitsubishi MiEV. Have you noticed, by the way, the attractive lease deals now available on the Volt? Now you know why. But think about it awhile; if one drives few enough miles to make the lease work, the Volt makes even less sense as a value proposition.

So it looks like Chevy, or at least the Chicagoland Chevy dealers, have a misleading, if not downright false, advertisement…and maybe a lemon of a product…on its/their hands.

In Chevy’s defense, though, the Cruze, Eco or otherwise, and the Sonic are good, bordering on great, products; put automatic climate control and a manual transmission in either the Cruze or the Sonic, and yours truly is very interested. Keep the Volt, though.

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