What message is General Motors Canada trying to send out to millions of Canadians with the Chevrolet commercial GM ran during the most watched television event in the history of the country? As Canada made its way to victory over the United States in men’s hockey (as Canada did in women’s hockey, as well), one commercial break featured a Chevrolet Volt making itself sound weak-kneed and of little use.
For the record, The Good Car Guy is a big proponent of plug-in hybrids (extended range electric vehicles as GM calls them) as a long-term alternative to “normal” hybrid powertrains and believes the Chevrolet Volt looks terrific in black. However, the general populace in Canada isn’t aware of the Chevrolet Volt’s complete and utter lack of limitations. The Volt isn’t a Tesla Roadster or Mini E, built to be driven short distances before an exhaustive recharging is required. Yet, in the midst of a terrific opportunity to advertise the Chevrolet Volt, to educate Canadians on its ability while tossing in a helping of humour, GM went down the humour-only avenue and didn’t even make anybody laugh. At the same time, GM also caused Canadians to believe a Chevrolet Volt can’t make it through a night of driving ’round town without resting all day.
In the commercial you’ll watch on YouTube, the Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Volt take on human voices. This isn’t the only GM commercial where vehicles spoke to one another in the absence of humans. (The one where a Chevrolet Camaro backs away from a Chevrolet Traverse because of its cargo – smelly hockey gear – was halfway to okay.)
The first problem with this Chevrolet Volt ad is the script. “But” is used in a terribly negative sense. Moreover, the Equinox inquires twice as to the welfare of the poor little Volt. Worse than the Volt’s lines is its tone: exhausted, overextended, debilitated, weary. Combine the script with the way the Volt’s voiceover was done and you’ll believe the Chevrolet Volt is flimsy, forceless, and undependable.
That’s unlikely to be true. But for one reason or another, GM spent money and valuable time convincing you of the wrong attributes. The full script is below. Watch the commercial here.
GM employee hooks up the black Chevrolet Volt to a power source. Volt is parked beside a silver Chevrolet Equinox. In the background, a silver Chevrolet Malibu and green Chevrolet Spark are extras.
Volt: “Oof, I’m been going non-stop”.
Equinox: “Really? Late night?”
Volt: “Big medal win….”
Equinox: “Alright, go Canada!”
Volt: “Yeah. But they kept me out all night celebrating”.
Equinox: “Ooooh, gonna be alright?”
Volt: “Yeah. I just need to…. recharge….. Get it? Electric. Recharge?”
Equinox: “Don’t make me unplug you”.
Minutes after this article was posted, GM Canada’s communication director, Tony LaRocca, kindly responded with this: “I’m glad you agree that the Volt is a strong electric vehicle proposition thanks to its unique ability to eliminate range anxiety. The response to our Olympic ads, including the Volt spot, has been overwhelmingly positive. And you would be surprised how many people know all about the Volt and its unique extended range capability (we saw that loud and clear when we had 2 Volts in Vancouver recently in support of our sustainable transportation initiatives). Keep in mind this spot was a part of, and consistent with, our broader ad theme for the Olympics and the whole point of it was to convey its pure battery electric drive capability as part of Chev’s range of technologies that run from gas-friendly to gas-free.
We have over a year until the Canadian launch of the Volt to ensure consumers fully appreciate the other impressive capabilities of this vehicle (which is not a plug-in hybrid since it always runs electrically and, unlike hybrids, is capable of driving on pure battery electric power without any IC engine assist for up to 64 kms. Hybrids simply cannot operate for any significant range without routine engagement of the gas engine).”