EV Advertising By Major Manufacturers Is Missing In Action, Presumed Dead


It’s obvious to everyone. Despite all their chest thumping and fist bumping by the major manufacturers that they are gonna do this and gonna do that, when it comes to EV advertising, there just isn’t any. Even the Sierra Club has taken notice of the gigantic disconnect between what car companies say and what they do. When it comes to telling the public about their EV offerings, they treat alternative fuel cars — especially those with plugs — like three day old fish. If you live outside California, the chances you have never seen any EV advertising.

EV advertising 2015

That’s according to a new study commissioned by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM). It was conducted by CompetiTrack and Motor Intelligence, two respected companies that track auto advertising activity. The study is for calendar year 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. The chart above makes the situation crystal clear. The blue bar represents national advertising for an electric car. The red bar is for ads that appeared only in the California market.

BMW has actually put some money into advertising its i3 electric sedan. Chevrolet has split its ad dollars between the national market and California, but the total sum is quite small. Oddly, Nissan invest almost nothing to promote its LEAF outside of California. Ford, however, is the worst. It spends nothing to promote the Ford Fusion Energi — which by all accounts is a pretty good car — outside of California.

Ford CEO Mark Fields, you may recall, is falling all over himself to kiss up to The Donald. He recently complained to the press that his company is being forced by the big, bad federal government to sell cars nobody wants to buy.

Too bad Fields didn’t ask his own people before running his mouth. In actuality, the Fusion Energi now accounts for 10% of all Fusion sales. How could the CEO of a major car company who enjoys a multi-million dollar compensation package not know that? Note to Ford shareholders. I would happily do Field’s job and only charge you half what he is making. Call me.

Overall, the industry has adopted a head in the sand approach to electric cars. Car makers spend billions every year to advertise their products, but in 2015, the total spent nationwide on EV advertising was under $25 million. According to my trusty Radio Shack calculator, that is a little more than 1% of the total budget. And you want us to believe you are doing everything in your power to promote electric cars? Please. You people lie almost as much as Donald Trump.

People marvel at how Elon Musk and Tesla Motors are disrupting the automotive industry, but it’s really no secret. The industry is doing everything it can to help Tesla succeed. It’s not that Tesla is so good — although their products are superior — it’s that the rest of the industry is so bad at recognizing the changes that are staring them right in the face.

It’s just another version of the “not invented here” syndrome that has been the bane of the American automotive industry since Engine Charlie Wilson ran General Motors. It’s what kept the Big Three from recognizing the revolution that arrived on their doorstep when the Volkswagen Beetle first came ashore in the early 50’s. Had they reacted sooner, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Hyuundai, and Kia would never have gotten a toe hold in the American market, but Ford, GM, and Chrysler couldn’t make themselves believe people actually wanted small, efficient automobiles.

Instead of recognizing what Tesla is doing and adapting to it, the American car companies are trying their hardest to block Tesla’s direct to customer sales model and whining to anyone who will listen that nobody wants to buy electric cars except a few wealthy tech geeks. When the dust from the revolution settles, it may turn out that one or more of the Big Three car companies is already dead and just doesn’t know it yet.

Source: Sierra Club


About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • curly4

    Are you trying to tell us that we need the auto companies to tell us what car we want to buy? I am an average Joe (I think anyway) and I have seen quite a lot of advertisement about EV cars. I will not yet buy an EV because of other reasons other than “not hearing about them”. My reluctance stems from the cost which should come down with time and range that is to short and will also increase with time. Another reason is the lack of recharging station and the time to recharge. Now both of these complaints will be addressed in the future but the future is not NOW!
    I also think these reasons are fairly wide spread among the average car buyer.

    • Steve Hanley

      No, of course not. I notice, however, the companies spend billion advertising pickup trucks. That seems to be convincing a lot of folks they really need a pickem up to be fulfilled happy adults.

      • Common Sense

        People buy pickups and SUV’s because they need the features provided by these vehicles.

        • Steve Hanley

          If that is so, why do manufacturers spend billions advertising them. If people want them so much, isn’t that just a waste of money?

          • Common Sense

            Competition of course. You want them to buy more of yours.

  • WebUserAtLarge

    Of course not. Why would they. They don’t make any meaningful profit on EVs. Most of the major automakers are producing compliance EVs only. This is not going to change any time soon. Especially with the orange ogre in the WH.

    This is where the environmentally conscious community has to step in. Personally, I just talked my brother-in-law into buying a Leaf. Any effort, from individuals to marketing companies ( perhaps supported by like minded wealthy donors ) should step in. Maybe crowd source a commercial ad for Super Bowl halftime – wouldn’t that be something. 🙂

  • IndyX

    I beleive the advertising and sales will pick up dramitacly in a couple of years after VW has built out some of the charging network and when multiple manufactures start making their dedicated EVs…
    But just the same they have already opened the door and rolled out the red carpet for Tesla and if they wait too long they will be doing the same for multiple Chinese companies…

  • Common Sense

    To be fair the ev market is about 1% right now, so maybe an ad budget of 1% is not that out of line. At the same time I would agree that they are not enthusiastic about evs and that they do in fact lie almost as much as Hillary Clinton.

    • Steve Hanley

      Leave my politics aside, said the man who just repeated verbatim one of the absurdities spouted ad nauseum to confuse the weak minded and make they believe one of the biggest liars the world has ever know really gives a flying fig leaf about them?

      You are looking at the the world through the wrong end of the telescope, methinks.

      • Common Sense

        Which absurdity? That Hillary lies? LOL. She does. And Trump does. They all do. All politicians lie.