Recently car companies have taken to advertising cars they don't sell. Like this one for the BMW Hydrogen 7,
or this one for the Honda FCX Clarity, and lastly this one for the Chevy Volt.
When I first saw these ads I was outraged. None of these products can be purchased, and they could be nothing more than empty promises. However, after reflecting on these ads, I concluded that they could actually improve things for fuel efficient vehicles. Read on for why.
The ads make the cars seem really desirable
For fuel efficient vehicles to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions they have to become hugely popular. So it's important that consumer know about the cars, and are excited about them. These ads actually do that, they show the cars, touch on the benefits, and definitely build excitement. This is a huge contrast to the old GM EV-1 ad that never even clearly show the car and seem to deliberately cast doubt on it. The current ads make the cars seem accessible and desirable, and they actually clearly show the car. I even think the fact that the ads are come well in advance of the cars is actually a good thing. This way when the cars actually do come out people will be less skeptical about them because they've been hearing about them for so long. People will assume that in the time between the ads and the cars actually becoming available means that the manufacturer has been working on the cars all this time and has finally perfected them. I think that's a great contrast to the ToyotaPrius which was not heavily advertised before it's release and was met with some initial skepticism.
The ads could make people wait
Some people may watch these ads and conclude that it's better to wait for the next big thing in fuel technology than buy a car today. That may only be the case for a very small number of consumers, but I think there will be those who will wait for a plug-in hybrid or even hydrogen car because of these ads.
Politicians watch TV too
Lots of people will see these ads, including politicians. In a best case scenario this could make Congress more willing to mandate higher fuel economy standards. Also, big auto companies that advertise a car that will go 40 miles without a drop of fuel, but then claim that 35mpg is unachievable won't have a leg to stand on.
People will get really annoyed if the companies don't deliver
Car companies will risk a huge public backlash if they don't deliver these cars. Hopefully, they won't be dumb enough to try.
My big complaint about these ads is that they're all very vague on the details. The Chevy Volt ad doesn't even attempt to describe how the two engines work together. Also, the ad suggests that you need to plug it in, which might not actually be true (as the conventional engine is there to recharge the battery while driving). Also, I'd love for the Honda and BMW ads to use the words "Hydrogen Fuel Cell" just to help make that terminology more mainstream. I also wish the ads touched on how those hydrogen cars would be fueled. Honda seems to have it pretty well worked out with a the Home Fueling Station idea. But as for the BMW Hydrogen 7 that bit at the end about "ready for the World, when the World is ready for it" makes me think BMW is expecting someone else to solve their fueling problems. Still, I'm looking forward to a time when cars like the ones advertised are common. And I can't help but think these ads will help boost their adoption and popularity.