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

 Chevy Volt interior x390 (publicity) | Advocate.com

The Chevy Volt
itself won’t hit the market until late 2010, so GM is
counting on the continued hype and specifically targeted PR
to keep interest afloat. Peterson says the way
companies advertise to people is changing.

“You have
to talk to the people who talk to the people," he
says. "Monthly publications and print media
can’t keep up with the Internet. People
don’t want to hear what some corporate press kit
says, they want to know from people like them what they
think.”

One branch of
GM's public-relations department deals specifically with
diversity outreach -- and gays are the only minority
being actively targeted.

“Members
of the LGBT community tend to be early adopters of new
technology,” Peterson says, “[and] they seem
to be more open to change and ingenuity in
general.”

Saab, Saturn, and
Cadillac have advertised in gay publications starting
as early as 1993. Over the last 24 months, Parman says, GM
has been aggressively and actively pursuing LGBT
consumers. Special events like Gay Day at the L.A.
Auto Show are designed to bring members of the
community together as well as showcase GM products. General
Motors is also a big supporter of Motor City Pride in
Detroit as well as Affirmations, a Detroit LGBT group.
Parman, who is gay, understands the brand recognition
and loyalty that comes from placing a rainbow flag next
to your product. The idea is that by showing support for
LGBT people, we will in turn show support for GM and
the Volt.

The Chevy Volt is
mainly targeted toward urban and affluent areas where
the thought of spending $40,000 on a four-seat hatchback
isn’t such a bizarre idea, especially if it
meets consumer needs for environmental friendliness
and boasts the latest in cool technology. The interior is
designed to look like the sleek and modern iPod, with a
not-so-subtle nod to the people who can afford to buy
such things. It is a tougher sale in Middle America,
however, where some still think global warming is a hoax
and that they might strike oil in their own back yard.

“Trends
begin in the West and move inward,” Peterson says.
He, a Midwestern farmboy, understands the skepticism
and aversion to newness that plague his fellow
neighbors, but hopes that with education and targeted
advertising they will eventually come around.

With a range of
40 miles on just a single charge of the lithium ion
battery -- 75% of the U.S. population commutes 40 miles or
less in urban and suburban areas, according to GM --
there are some drivers who wouldn’t have
to put gasoline in their Chevy Volts at all. After the
battery’s charge has been spent, it can go another
100 miles using the onboard gasoline engine. But
unlike hybrid cars, the gasoline engine never directly
powers the vehicle. Instead, the engine is used to
recharge the battery, which is the only means of driving the
car.

Tags: Business

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