The revamped Chevrolet Volt won't be available nationally until late next spring, but a series of attack ads targeting the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius will debut this fall on the Internet and later on TV.
At the press launch of the 2016 Volt in San Francisco this week, Chevrolet officials are showing the ads to auto writers and explaining the unusual rollout of the new Volt, which has been rebuilt from the wheels up.
Chevrolet began shipping the second generation of the Volt plug-in hybrid Tuesday to dealers in California and 10 other states. Those will be marketed as 2016 models in a shortened model year. In early 2016, Chevrolet will launch the 2017 Volt nationally, said spokesman Randy Fox.
But starting later this fall, two long-form ads will debut on the Internet. The first one, a shot at the battery electric Nissan Leaf, aims to show how the Volt eliminates range anxiety -- the fear of running out of battery power. The second ad compares the nickel metal hydride battery technology in the top-selling Toyota Prius to that of late 1990s consumer electronics. The Volt uses more advanced lithium ion batteries.
The ads will have a familiar look and feel. They continue the focus group setting featuring consumers -- not actors -- that Chevrolet showcased earlier this year when it touted high strength steel against aluminum in a bid to put a few dings in Ford's new lightweight F-150.
Chevrolet's global chief marketing officer, Tim Mahoney, said those ads have been extremely effective in helping improve Chevrolet's brand image. Mr. Mahoney said Chevrolet's "shattering perceptions" ads have bumped consumers' favorable opinion of the brand by 3%.
The Leaf ad traps the focus group between floors in dead elevators, leaving them stranded there to emphasize the frustration of being stuck, a major concern for drivers of battery powered cars such as the Leaf. The Prius attack ads points out the car's engineering is yester-tech.
The Internet ads will be cut down and broadcast on TV, Mahoney said. Volt ads will stress three things: The car's 53-mile all-electric range, its technology and a combined gasoline and electric driving range of more than 400 miles. Most drivers, Mr. Mahoney said, will go between 1,000 and 1,500 miles between tanks of gasoline.
"We're going to go head-to-head with Leaf and Prius," Mr. Mahoney said. "The ads allow Chevrolet to talk in one way and they allow Chevrolet's personality to come through. We're going to be taking more risks," he said.
Mr. Mahoney said a large number of unsold 2015 Volts did not change the company's launch strategy for the car. He said the states that will get the 2016 model are where the car sells strongest.
No incentives are planned at launch. Mahoney said the 2016 model still qualifies for a $7,500 federal incentive as well as incentives in other states.
The 2016 Volt has a sticker price of $33,995, including destination. That's down from the 2015 price of $35,110 including shipping. In California, the car could be as little as $24,995 with incentives.
Richard Truett is a reporter for Automotive News