2016 Chevy Volt Ads Attack Competitors: But Is the Volt a Better Car?

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Source: General Motors

We think the 2016 Chevy Volt edition looks like a home run on paper, but one lingering question was how GM would market its new plug-in hybrid. In a few spots released on YouTube, it appears the General is honoring the longstanding tradition of attack ads highlighting the car’s superior tech in order to neuter the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius.

Curiously, the ad going after the Leaf targets a model being upgraded for 2016, which takes the zing out of the “latest, greatest” angle. Issues arise with the Prius ad as well.

In the Leaf ad, we get a look at some “real people, not actors” who Chevy was nice enough to trap in an elevator to simulate the feeling of being stranded in an electric vehicle. Once the elevator doors open, a spokesman crows about the ability of the 2016 Volt to get 400 miles or more on a full charge and a full tank of gas. Otherwise, you could opt for that red-alert feeling you’ll get from a 2015 Leaf and its 82 miles of electric range.

Sometime between the shooting of the ad and its release online, Nissan announced its 2016 Leaf would top out at 107 miles of range. Chevy’s point might be able to stand the 27% bump in mileage if it didn’t go out of its way to attack the tech of the Toyota Prius in another online ad for the Volt. (By the way, for all its advanced tech, Volt’s 106 miles per gallon in electric mode remains behind the Leaf’s 114 miles per gallon.)

When it comes to superiority over Prius, Chevy compares the Toyota hybrid to technology that’s 15 years old — including fax machines, flip phones, pagers, and PDAs. It’s bound to get a laugh from anyone who loves to clown obsolete technology. The big idea is Toyota technology is no match for the latest in GM cars, which is certainly debatable.

These being green cars, we may as well start with fuel economy. Toyota has the edge with 50 miles per gallon versus the Volt’s 42 miles per gallon in gasoline mode. The advantage goes to the Volt for its pure electric capabilities, of course, but Prius bests GM’s plug-in hybrid on total range — a factor that weighed so heavily in the ad dismissing the Nissan Leaf. Compared to 420 miles of total range for the 2016 Volt, Prius can cover 595 miles between fill-ups at the pump.

As with the Leaf, Prius has an upcoming model that will outdo the 2015 edition’s capabilities across the board. According to the figures from the Vegas launch, Toyota says the 2016 Prius will be 10% more efficient (i.e., 55 miles per gallon). This upgrade doesn’t count the Eco model expected to hit 60 miles per gallon. In other words, we’re talking about a car that will cover over 700 miles on an 11.9-gallon tank of gas. At this point, the Volt’s range starts to sound puny.

GM hasn’t been known for its brilliant marketing for electric cars and hybrids of the past, as was painfully evident in the immortal n’est-ce pas ad for the Cadillac ELR. Upon launching the new Volt, the automaker decided to selectively bash the competition, apparently in the belief that the audience will forget one ad by the time it sees the other.

Compare range of the Prius to the Volt’s, and Chevy loses; compare the environmental impact of the 2016 Volt against the 2016 Leaf, with double the electric range, and Volt loses again. Maybe the tagline “Technology changes fast” is best served somewhere else. Rival automakers got the memo, too.

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