July 30th, 2010 // 2:23 pm @ Shannon Arvizu
The Chevy Volt’s long-awaited price tag was finally unveiled this week – $33,500 to purchase (after the $7500 federal tax credit) or $350/month to lease (with $2500 down). Despite what underpaid journalists have reported this week in regards to the Volt being “too expensive,” this is a sweet price for many Americans.
The main reason why the media is wrong when it comes to characterizing the Volt price is their reference of comparison. According to Edmunds.com, other sedans in that price range do not come close to offering any of the features or efficiency that the Volt has to offer. Sedans in the $35-$40,000 price range include base models of the 2010 Buick Lucerne, 2010 Cadillac CTS, 2010 Acura TL or TSX, or the 2010 BMW 3 Series. Typical gas mileage of these models is between 18 and 25 mpg.
The Chevy Volt, by comparison, has a much lower overall total cost of ownership as a result of its 40-mile all-electric range and gas-sipping extended range mode. It also comes standard with a new energy-efficient Bose sound system and five years of OnStar service free-of-charge. For consumers in in the market for a hyper-efficient, stylish sedan with a rockin sound system and the most technologically advanced propulsion system in the world, they cannot go wrong with $33,500 sticker price.
Another faulty Volt comparison is with the Nissan Leaf. While the Nissan Leaf is priced at $25,280 (after the federal tax rebate), they belong to two different vehicle categories with distinct electric drive systems. They will have an entirely different consumer base altogether. For those looking for an economy urban commuter car, similar to a Honda Fit or a Nissan Sentra, the Leaf would be an ideal vehicle with its 100-mile all-electric range. Any respectable journalist would not compare the price of an urban commuter car with that of a relatively luxurious sedan…so the Leaf vs. Volt price debate is completely irrelevant.
To better communicate the Volt value to the public, it would be highly advantageous to spoon-feed this information directly to the media. For example, when justifying the 40-mile all-electric range, GM included the statistic that this is suitable for “75% of each American driver’s daily commute.” When discussing the price, it is absolutely necessary to say something about the target market for this car, their purchase power, and how they will benefit from the overall lower operating costs.
It is critical to foresee all possible media perceptions of information before it is shared. Having been present at the Chevy Volt Press Dinner at Plug-In 2010 the evening before the price was publicly released, I learned something very crucial. Journalists are excited about plug-in cars, but they are not market researchers. When not given accurate market research information, they will manufacture it. This is dangerous, since we know that the media plays a key role in shaping public perception.
GM and the Chevy Volt team have worked hard to create the technological masterpiece that is the Volt. So have all the other plug-in vehicle manufacturers in this space. Rather than let the media get hung up on faulty comparisons, let’s create compelling and resonant stories that communicate the real value of a plug-in future.