New 2016 Chevy Volt Leans on Improved Marketing, New Looks, and Better Tech

Last week, GM revealed the 2016 Chevrolet Volt at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show:

Not a bad looking redux.  Curvier, not as angular. Definitely a better looking grille.  Even “sporty”, to borrow an old car marketing term.  Increased range, up to 400 miles on the PHEV drivetrain.

Here’s a recap of the new Volt’s highlights, from GM:

  • New two-motor drive unit is up to 12 percent more efficient and 100 pounds lighter (45 kg) than the first-generation drive unit
  • Two-motor design enables 19 percent stronger zero-to-30 mph acceleration
  • Battery capacity has increased to 18.4 kWh using 192 cells (96 fewer than current generation) with weight reduced by more than 20 pounds
  • Regen on Demand™ feature enables driver control of energy regeneration via a convenient paddle on the back of the steering wheel
  • New 1.5L range extender, designed to use regular unleaded fuel, offers a combined GM-estimated fuel efficiency of 41 mpg (EPA estimate pending)
  • Stronger body structure and quieter ride
  • New braking system with improved capability and blended Regen feel
  • New, five-passenger seating with available rear heated seats
  • Location-based charging capability
  • 120V portable cord set has a simpler, compact design with more convenient storage location
  • Available illuminated charge port


But the big news (at least to me) about the 2016 Volt came in an August 2014 article at Automotive News.  Here’s the lede:

Chevrolet will overhaul its marketing plan for the Chevy Volt when it launches the second-generation in 2015, using existing Volt owners as product evangelists focusing marketing efforts regionally.


Now all of the marketers reading this should say “well, D-UH…” because testimonial advertising is time-tested and results oriented. It’s grounded in word-of-mouth. It’s the reason why we make a lot of the purchases we do.  It’s a reason our friends, acquaintances and co-workers buy what we’ve already tested.  It makes sense.

That it took the marketers at Chevrolet 6 years to start this kind of program around the Volt is…breathtaking.  And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Speaking to Automotive News on the sidelines of the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars, Chevrolet global marketing chief Tim Mahoney said the second-generation Volt already has something that the first-generation didn’t: existing owners.


He said Chevrolet will use Volt owners, especially in social media, to advocate for the extended-range battery-electric sedan.


From the beginning, Chevy should have been curating and following a group of early adopters, for the sole purpose of telling their stories in marketing campaigns.  Testimonials, especially locally-based ones, help assuage the anxiety about buying something new.  It helps inform in ways that a brochure, website, or sales person can’t.

That they’re making a hullaballoo about using social media to market the Volt seems so…2010-ish.  Insert pity clap here.

Testimonial marketing and social media isn’t new or anathema to Chevy marketers–even back in 2009.  It makes perfect sense for other GM marques. As well as other auto companies and entire industries.  Why didn’t it for the Volt?





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Sebastian James

Accept no substitutes

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