Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports that Chevrolet has handpicked 15 people to test drive the Chevy Volt before it hits the streets later this year. Among the group of test drivers are celebrity scientist Bill Nye, eight people described as “electric vehicle enthusiasts,” a film editor who leased one of General Motors’ EV1 electric cars a decade ago, a physician who runs a Chevy Volt web site, and the president and founder of TreePeople, among others.
“We are eager to learn as much as we can from potential customers about their experience with the Volt,” said Tony DiSalle, a Chevrolet marketing director quoted in the story. “We want to know their thoughts, impressions, and perceptions.”
Yes, I can imagine.
For most of us, though, the opinions of the 15-member Chevrolet Volt Customer Advisory Board aren’t going to mean much, even if many of its members are quite knowledgeable. Why? Because GM isn’t going to build a market for the Volt by appealing to wealthy electric vehicle enthusiasts who made up their minds three years before they ever plopped themselves down in the Volt driver’s seat.
The truth is, General Motors needs to convince everyday consumers: people who drive back and forth to work; tote their kids to college in another state; make road-trips to see grandma; and take their car on vacation. It needs to convince those people that a $35,000 or $40,000 investment provides some practical payback. And by comparison to Nissan’s forthcoming Leaf electric vehicle, the Volt should compare favorably in most of those areas.
GM has referred to the Volt as the biggest program in its history. If that’s really true, then the company has to begin looking beyond the environmentalists and enthusiasts, and start dealing with consumers who haven’t made their minds up yet.
Chevrolet Volt Customer Advisory Board (according the site gm-volt.com)
Robert Becker – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Peter Corsell – Chief Executive Officer of GridPoint
Lyle Dennis – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Tom Kuhn – President, Edison Electric Institute
Andy Lipkis – President and Founder, TreePeople
Bill Nye – Celebrity scientist and electric vehicle enthusiast
Eric Rotbard – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Chelsea Sexton – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Colin Summers – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Mark Swain – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Kris Trexler – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Bryan Voltaggio – Celebrity chef and owner of Volt restaurant
Jim Woolsey – Former Director of Central Intelligence and Renewable Energy and Energy Security Investor
Brian Wynne – President, Electric Drive Transportation Association
Mike Maria – Electric vehicle enthusiast