Chevy Volt: The Jolt GM Needs?

Launching a new vehicle while the American auto industry is asking Congress for a $25 billion bailout might seem like illogical timing, but for General Motors and the people behind Chevy Volt, it’s essential. With their backs against the wall, GM is rolling out their much-anticipated first plug-in electric vehicle -- and focusing their marketing efforts on the gay community.

BY Greg Fieser

November 21 2008 12:00 AM ET

Launching a new
vehicle while the American auto industry is asking
Congress for a $25 billion bailout might seem like illogical
timing, but for General Motors and the people behind
the Chevy Volt, it’s essential. The Chevy Volt
is the first plug-in electric vehicle from the domestic
automaker, and GM is betting the bank on this one. The
success of this vehicle is “vital”
 to the future of GM and to establish a
“leadership position” in electric propulsion
vehicles, says Volt vehicle line producer Tony
Posawatz. The Chevy Volt is without question an
amazing and innovative product, but are the hopes pinned on
its success too high to obtain?

With projected
production at about 10,000 the first year and a retail
cost of almost $40,000, no one is expecting the Volt to turn
the company around financially. Executives do hope,
however, that it will bring in people to purchase one
of the many new and fuel-efficient vehicles that GM
now has to offer. GM currently has nine hybrid models
available and over 3 million FlexFuel (able to run on
E85 ethanol) vehicles on the road. The Volt is a
public-relations darling used to get people into Chevy
showrooms, says Posawatz, but it’s also a promise to
the public that “this is happening and not just
a shell game” -- a la the EV1, General Motors
attempt in the ‘90s to launch an electric vehicle,
which it killed when public interest proved lukewarm.

GM has been
working hard for the past decade to try and change public
perception of its products after a long period of producing
substandard cars and trucks with abysmal fuel economy
and lackluster build quality. It was a company
mandate, says Rob Peterson, manager of electric vehicle
technology communications -- not only to get the Chevy Volt
to the consumer as quickly as possible, but to emerge
“as a leader in alternative propulsion
vehicles.”

In order to stir
interest and to show the public that it is serious about
electric vehicles, alternative propulsion sources, and
environmentally responsible products, GM has had to
change the way it approaches the customer.

“We have
specifically targeted people who are early adopters of new
technology and those concerned about environmentally
conscious products,” says Peterson.

Targeting LGBT
consumers is one way they are getting the word out.

Travis Parman,
LGBT media relations manager for General Motors, says that
“reintroducing members of the LGBT community to GM
brands and building brand loyalty” are
paramount to future success. According to data General
Motors used to brand marketing campaigns, the LGBT community
has a buying power of almost $700 billion dollars. On
average, LGBT people have higher disposable incomes
and spend more on their automobiles. And most
important, 82% of LGBT consumers purchase products or
services primarily from companies that have shown
support for them. With estimates ranging from 7% to
10% of all Americans identifying as lesbian, gay,
bisexual, or transgender, that’s a large loyal fan
base -- one GM is determined to keep.

Tags: Business

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