This is not flattery, it is a fact: GM needs you. And for that matter, Nissan needs LEAF owners, and all other EV makers will need their early adopters as the most credible part of their marketing efforts.

If you are an early adopter, then research shows you are probably already more forward thinking, better informed, and potentially more risk tolerant than an average consumer.

As things stand, everyday consumers not prone to be the first in line for new technology need a whole lot more convincing to think about buying EVs.


Manufacturers know exposure must come from many sources to make a paradigm shift in society's collective unconsciousness.

This is not our opinion; this is what the car companies themselves are saying.

According to AutoWeek, at the Automotive News Green Car Conference on Tuesday in suburban Detroit, a Nissan executive added his voice to what we have already heard GM say.

"Collectively we can spend hundreds of millions of dollars, but at the end of the day it will be friends, neighbors, shared experiences, seeing vehicles on the road, seeing cars in a grocery store parking lot, seeing access to public charging" that will stimulate sales, said Mark Perry, director of product planning, Nissan North America.

Did we read Nissan correctly? Did it essentially say the marketing value of shared experiences and EVs being seen in everyday life is worth hundreds of millions of dollars? Is this true also for Chevrolet?

In recent weeks we have read similar things from GM’s Rob Peterson – also speaking frankly to industry peers at the EDTA conference – about the need to amplify customer stories for many more to hear.

“It’s their passion, their enthusiasm that will drive what we have right now which is early tech adopters,” Peterson said. “They’re going to drive the fast followers: that segment of people who don’t want to own the first technology, but quickly want to own the second one and want to be right behind them.”

So let’s see: Take a year's worth of 10,000 Volts produced, divide into hundreds of millions of dollars. How do we fairly put a dollar value on EV drivers' worth to the movement? Should you send a bill to GM for having a conversation with your neighbor about your Volt? Would they give you a discount if you agreed to wrap it with a logo saying “I love my Volt!”

Kidding aside, the reality is the manufacturers are counting on you saying it anyway without compensation. This way it will be more authentic, and truly grassroots. Anything sponsored looks contrived. True, marketers have done real-owner photo-ops and press releases, but these were to inspire reporters and others to also spread the word as plausibly, and not canned, as possible.


It does not hurt that the Volt has stacked up a number of significant awards, and exceptional safety recognition as well.

AutoWeek also interviewed Cristi Landy, product marketing director for the Chevrolet Volt, who added that the need for clear information is pressing.

"The mainstream market is still really confused. We need more customer education as we move into the mass market and expect the volumes to go up,” Landy said, “It is not an easy task. The fuel economy label confuses people because there are so many different terms on it. There are three different ways the EPA calculates miles per gallon."

Lost in the information age?

Given that we are living in the most connected society in history, why else is the mainstream market so confused?

A number of reasons, including one objection GM has heard enough times for Landy to mention.

Many people who have never driven a Volt have "a preconception that electric vehicles drive like a golf cart," Landy said.

At GM-Volt we know the Volt is actually a quiet, well-appointed, sporty sedan, but this is what GM is still having to overcome at least with some people.

Beyond this, there is a good bit more misinformation floating out there.

In recent months, Consumer Reports, a trusted source for many shoppers, has said the Volt does not make sense. It missed the point, but its portrayal was widely quoted. Tales also of a garage fire in which a Volt was involved were strewn around the Internet trying to implicate it. The Volt was later cleared, but the PR damage was done.


For those unsure, the Volt comes with its own charger and plugs into house current.

Just this week, in an article titled, “Homes not quite ready to charge electric cars,” another highly ranked, ostensibly trustworthy source, Reuters, opened with these misleading sentences:

“Few homeowners who are interested in owning electrical vehicles are equipped to charge them, a survey found on Tuesday. More than three-quarters, 78 percent, of potential buyers of electric cars like the Chevy Volt do not have the high-voltage electrical outlets in their garages that can quickly charge such vehicles … “

Citing an SPX survey, and mixing up the LEAF and Volt, the sort-of-good news was 99 percent of homes could have a 240-volt outlet and charger installed for an extra $900-$1,500. Nowhere did Reuters mention a standard 110-volt outlet will work fine for charging the Volt, and the necessary cord and charger come with it.

Drivers Needed

Unlike VW, drivers of EVs are not just wanted, they are needed. In the maelstrom of misinformation, the one voice with the highest credibility factor could be yours.

If you are a Volt owner, or other EV owner, and are happily living with the car, it is the sincere hope of its manufacturer that you spread the word – in conversation with friends, families, who ever may be interested.

Yes, the Volt has also had its fair share of praise from a number of reputable sources.

Sadly, there is a trust gap out there. People are used to being sold false information, or outright lied to. They grasp at some sources in their busy day, but we know those considered bastions of reliability can also get the story wrong.

Who are today’s Volt buyers?

Landy said 90 percent are male, a high percentage are college graduates and 45 percent have advanced degrees.

The top reasons given for choosing the Volt have been reducing dependency on foreign oil, the car is made in America, it has a range extender, and it is technologically innovative.

Interestingly, Landy said a rather high 86 percent did not own a GM vehicle previously. Among the trade-in vehicles have been BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Landy cited a number of common characteristics for first-generation Volt consumers.

They are:

• People who others come to for advice about cars and electronics.
• Typically are the first to have the latest technology.
• Willing to try something new and unproven when making a big purchase.
• Read about technology advancements and new product introductions nearly every day.

"They like to talk about their experiences, and we know they will serve as advocates for the next few waves of customers," she said.

So there you have it early adopters. If you fit even the last category – and like to talk about your experiences – the traditional advice of “just be yourself” is suddenly fresh and relevant when it comes to helping EVs move from fringe to mainstream.

Source: AutoWeek , Reuters .