Overcoming 'range anxiety'
GM preys on fear to scare consumers into buying the new Chevy Volt
By Jennifer Hadley 11/04/2010
I’ve written tirelessly about the borderline moronic schemes that GM seems to roll out on a near-monthly basis. From trying to eradicate the term “Chevy” in favor of Chevrolet, to the near dizzying turnover of CEOs, to the introduction of the Chevy Volt, if there is one thing I can count on, it’s that GM will never fail to provide me with fodder for this column.
But this time, GM, you’ve just gone too far. Fear mongering should be left to the experts like politicians to sell their agendas and the media to sell advertising air time and space. But you; you’re just trying to use it to sell cars, and that’s inexcusable.
As of press time, it is still to be determined whether GM’s application to trademark the term “range anxiety” will be granted. The fact that they even applied to trademark the term makes my skin crawl. Incidentally, the term refers to a fear that you will run out of battery power while you’re driving an electric car. Sure, some sources have claimed that this fear does keep people from buying an electric vehicle. But to trademark the phrase “range anxiety” so that any time it’s used without GM’s explicit consent constitutes trademark infringement is, in my humble opinion, just plain ridiculous.
Generally, I can deal with ridiculous. But I can’t deal with companies blatantly preying on our fears. Or even worse, creating fear. Until hearing about this new pseudo-psychological disorder that GM has decided to make a household word, it never ever would have dawned on me to worry about this potential happenstance. So thanks, GM. Now not only am I afraid to buy an electric vehicle, I’ll think twice about riding in one too, you jerks.
To be sure, GM is making no bones about the fact that they are doing this to show that their Volt is grossly superior to say, the Nissan Leaf (both cars are hitting the market at about the same time). The electric Leaf should get 100 miles on a single charge. The Volt, by contrast, is reputed to get 30 to 40 miles on a charge before switching to gasoline. But GM is still calling the Volt an electric vehicle, one with extended range provided by its gas-powered motor.
This essentially makes the Volt a hybrid, like a Prius, which has been around forever. Granted, the way the engine on a Volt works is slightly different from that of a Prius (you can read how they’re different at motortrend.com). But still, to call it an electric car when it’s an electric and gasoline car is a bit of a stretch. This reinvention of the wheel is pathetic, which I suppose is why GM is resorting to fear as a way to keep customers from their competition.
Although this aggressive marketing tactic may prove to work in GM’s favor for some people, all it has done for me is solidify the fact that I will probably never ever buy a GM car. It just seems that they are setting a fear-based precedent for all other companies. Next thing you know, Nike will be trademarking “flat tire anxiety,” whereby I’ll be so terrified of getting a flat on the freeway that I’ll have to walk to my meetings in Orange County. And therefore I’ll be forced into buying their shoes.
So, again, thanks a bunch, GM. You’ve managed not only to embody all that I fear about giant corporations — namely that they are sneaky, underhanded and willing to make a buck at any cost even if it means scaring us into not purchasing a car that is the most ecologically friendly mode of transport available for those who must have a car.
Contact Jennifer Hadley at email@example.com.