Posted by: David Kiley on August 11, 2009
Never under estimate the power of a great headline, especially when it’s a number.
Witness GM unveiling its push behind the Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicle with a website www.whatis230.com.
The number refers to 230 mpg GM says the Volt will be rated for urban driving. The astonishing number reflects the fact that a Volt is expected to be able to go 40 miles or so on an electic charge.
The Volt should deliver 230 miles per gallon, or 25 kilowatt hours per 100 miles. That performance, based on fuel-economy methodology being developed for plug-in cars by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would make the Volt the first mass-produced vehicle to achieve triple-digit fuel economy. GM CEO Fritz Henderson said GM expects the Volt could be totally recharged for about 40 cents.
Why now? Toyota plans to launch a plug-in version of the Prius before the Volt, and GM is getting it’s story out now to build momentum, not to mention goodwill with skeptical tax-payers who are grumbling over billions in tax-payer loans so GM can keep building Tahoes and Cadillac Escalades.
GM expects to produce roughly 60,000 of first-generation Volts, which are scheduled to go on sale in late 2010 as 2011 models.
If you want to know the power of a number in a headline, take a look at what happened to sales of Ford Fusions after the automaker launched the hybrid version with a 41 hwy mpg headline. Not only did sales of Fusion hybrids get off to a rollicking good start, but the headline for the hybrid pumped up overall sales, searches and interest in the Fusion, the sales of which have pulled ahead of Nissan Altima in the mid-sized sedan category.
230 MPG is a marvelous headline for a car no matter if gas is $2.50 per gallon or $4.50 per gallon. Talk about cutting through the clutter. GM is very smart to get the headline out now, and build up anticipation for the car, which really is coming. GM’s bankruptcy kind of dimmed the spotlight on the coming of the Volt. This recharges the battery in the light.
Look out for Volt bashers and nay-sayers to come out of woodwork again and tell you all the reasons why Volt is a mistake. Let’s see…George Will is sure to weigh in again. And let’s not forget Holman W.Jenkins Jr., a member of the WSJ’s editorial board, who delights in bashing Volt. They miss the point. Vehicles like the Volt are going to help change the way Americans view automobiles and transportation. It is beyond the dollars and business case for the first generation Volt. There is huge symbolism baked into the Volt, not only for GM, but for the country.
Did GM CEO Fritz Henderson today use the 230 headline to grab attention for GM’s deal to sell cars via ebay, and some other new products coming down the pike? Sure. And it will be very effective. GM has a new story to tell the public about its brands and products. And 230 is an excellent chapter heading; whether you believe in the rationale of the Volt or not.