Electric cars in 2017 are selling at a snail’s pace – in the tens of thousands per year. At this rate, they won’t meaningfully reduce carbon emissions for decades (too late).

Creative, aggressive marketing is needed, ASAP, to change this. Unlike the Prius, which quickly became “the car to buy if you care about the environment” and has sold millions (5.7M so far, despite being ugly), electric cars are still “the car you wish you could buy, maybe in a couple years.”

The major objections to electric cars are these: 1) it wouldn’t fit my lifestyle because of all the driving I do; 2) it’s not economical, still too expensive; 3) plugging in could be a hassle; and 4) just seems early, I don’t know anyone else who has one.

This is a tragedy, because even at current prices and range limits, for hundreds of thousands of families today, these objections are completely wrong. Many would love an electric car if they just tried one for a week.  (Full disclosure: I’ve driven a Nissan Leaf for four years and it’s the best car I ever had; I will never go back to gas).

Creative and aggressive marketing programs could overcome these objections, converting Prius buyers to electric buyers. Somebody with deep pockets needs to step up to do them!

Some examples of radical marketing to address each objection:

Objection: It wouldn’t fit my lifestyle because of all the driving I do. Fact: most people don’t ever drive more than 70 miles per day, especially in the family car used for errands or a short commute. Marketing program: a Pepsi challenge where current Prius drivers can win small prizes for every month they drive their Prius under 80 miles per day without exception. Many would quickly realize they don’t need to wait for a 200-mile range electric car.

Objection: it’s not economical, still too expensive. Fact: you can buy a used 2014 Nissan Leaf in great shape for under $10,000. Maintenance costs on electric cars are a tiny fraction of gas vehicles costs… no oil to leak, and far fewer moving parts. Marketing program: offer a prix-fixed program to electric car buyers where all their non-warrantee maintenance is paid for, for $10 per month, for the lifetime  of the car. This would offer a hard guarantee of saving many thousands compared to buying another gas or hybrid car.  

Objection: plugging in is a hassle. Fact: it’s like heaven compared to stopping at gas stations. Marketing program: TV commercials showing violence at gas stations, giving stats about the dangers of gas stations, showing how much time stopping at them takes from your week, and what that smell on your hands and in the air really means for your health. Gas stations suck in every way… this should be an easy case to make.

Of course, there would need to be major dollars behind these programs, especially for excellent and provocative TV commercials. The upside: for relatively little money, someone could kick-start electric cars onto a new growth trajectory.

Who will do this?


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