This past weekend I stopped by Larry H Miller Chevrolet in Provo, Utah. I thought it time for this green tech guy to see what the hype was about with the Chevy Volt electric vehicle. So, I bravely climbed the dealer showroom stairs, flanked by salespeople looking more like sharks circling a life raft. I stated my intention. “I’m here to check out the Volt.” My jaw dropped slightly with the reply, “that’s the electric one, right?”
Yow! I thought. Didn’t you watch the video of eco-friendly President Obama driving the Volt for a cool 20 feet off the factory line? “Yea, the electric one,” I said, somewhat unimpressed. The young salesman trotted off, bringing back a more seasoned young salesman, as I stood by the 16mpg (city) Camaro, admiring it’s craftsmanship, though not its EPA rating.
“I’m looking for the Chevy Volt,” I re-stated to the next victim of my evergreen inquiry.
“Well,” he said, smiling broadly. “We don’t have one. You’ll need to talk to my sales manager.” Woah! I thought. Already handing me off to the sales manager. 2 minutes and 2 clueless salespersons later, I was before the slightly elevated and expansive sales manager’s desk, which was bristling with computer monitors and other technology. The mighty man was flanked by 2 enforcers, I suppose, and I now felt like Dorothy brought before the might Oz. The salesperson approach the divine desk. “This guy is interested in seeing a Volt.”
The sales manager barely looked up from his monitor where he seemed engrossed in some highly important work–I wasn’t it. “Well, the Volt is really a Halo product.” That’s what he said. Now, marketing geeks know a halo product is a limited run product to show off future technology that is so cool, it reflects positively on all company products. In other words, you’ll feel better about driving that cool Camaro, although it’s a gas hog.
I got the guy to quantify his answer, saying this dealership would likely get one Volt in 2011 and three in 2012. Wow! Now that’s a commitment to the environment that a person can sink their teeth into. He also confessed to a $41,000 prices tag, which he offered as a huge barrier to really selling/buying the thing. Unstated message–I’m not interested in selling the Volt, or talking to you about GM’s environmental message. I guess he didn’t get the company’s green public relations memo.
Let’s contrast that with the Toyota Prius. Selling 1 million units since 2000, the U.S. accounts for half of current Prius sales. Well, that puts Chevy only about a a decade behind. Maybe it’s time to stroll back over to my local Toyota dealer.
(Jerry Seiner Chevrolet in Salt Lake City didn’t even return my voicemail regarding the Volt.)