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Chevy Volt Educating Americans One Sale at a Time

PORTLAND, OR – All things considered, Cristi Landy might have the toughest job at General Motors.

As Chevrolet’s small- and electrified-car marketing chief, Landy must educate Americans about the Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle. It’s a task she readily admits might be greater than anyone at the auto maker anticipated when the car launched three years ago.

“It’s harder than anyone expected,” she says from the back seat of a Chevy Spark battery-electric vehicle during testing of the car here this week. “Even people on the fringes get confused.”

It seems folks just can’t get their arms around the concept: the Volt travels about 38 miles (61 km) on battery power, depending on driving styles, and once the battery is depleted of energy an internal combustion engine takes over acting as a generator to provide electricity and another 250 miles (402 km) of range. After that, the driver needs to plug in for more juice or refill the gas tank.

The odds of getting stranded in the Volt are no greater than a car with a gasoline engine.

But the difficulty understanding how the Volt works isn’t because Americans are clueless about technology. Quite the contrary.

According to a report from CNN, wireless carrier Verizon activated 3.9 million iPhones in the second quarter of this year alone and now more than half of Americans own a smartphone. So no, John Q. Public is quite tech savvy.

America’s difficulty understanding the Volt’s technology, which five years ago was practically unknown outside of advanced engineering laboratories, lies with misinformation surrounding the car since GM’s taxpayer bailout in 2009 and the fact that a business case does not exist to spend the necessary marketing dollars on a nationwide educational campaign.
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