The electric vehicle (EV) revolution only works if consumers buy them, and studies show a big factor in choosing an EV is if a customer has driven one before. That sets an agenda for government agencies that is shared with the marketing departments of automakers. The goal? Let people try these cars out.
At the 2023 Detroit Concours d’Elegance Newsweek talked to Wendy Orthman, Executive Director of Marketing at Genesis and Justine Johnson, Chief Mobility Officer for the State of Michigan about what it takes to put electric vehicles in front of ready customers as part of a sponsored panel discussion.
Newsweek: How are you working to convey to potential buyers that electric vehicles are the right choice?
Orthman: “I think there’s so much conversation when it comes to electrification and what it means but at the end of the day, I think the challenge all of us are facing is how do we help people see how EVs fit into their lives on a very practical level and very day-to-day level. We are building a narrative on helping people in a tangible way to understand how they could come to see an EV in their garage, how to help them upgrade their home and what it will do for their life.
“We can help you with your charger at home, we can put solar panels on so that you won’t even see impact your electric bill. There are all kinds of ways the entire ecosystem can really benefit you. We’re trying to not just sell the vehicle or the technology but how it fits into your lifestyle.”
Newsweek: Tell me a little bit about what the state of Michigan is doing to help consumers and residents understand electric vehicles.
Johnson: “It’s really an interesting time as we talk about this transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. An important part of this conversation is exposure, people actually seeing EVs and how they work. I drive an EV and oftentimes people just ask me how does this work? What about charging? How do the incentives work?
“Another important part of what we’re doing is we have essentially a goal to reduce carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible. We have the goal to decarbonize the state of Michigan by 2050. A lot of that is going to be from the transportation sector. So that’s going to be a huge part. We also have to hold ourselves accountable.
“We’ve also made a lot of great investments in charging infrastructure. We have a goal of installing 100,000 EV chargers by 2030 so that we can have space for at least 2 million EV drivers. We’re super excited about this and the State of Michigan has the funds to really build out the charging infrastructure, which is just as important as the education and exposure.”
Newsweek: What partnerships is the State of Michigan exploring to help bring the EV charging infrastructure to reality?
Johnson: “One of the most exciting is called Electreon and they put wireless charging in roadways like Michigan Avenue. That’s exciting when we talk about not actually needing to physically plug in, but just use our roadways. They just laid the asphalt on the coils about a month ago.
“Another important part is the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform that helps early-stage companies who are in the space of mobility, charging infrastructure to be a part of the conversation.
“This is the one time that we’ve ever seen this level of alignment when we talk about sustainability and charging infrastructure. Michigan is a recipient of the National Electric Vehicle Investment (NEVI) funding program right now to build out the infrastructure to support electrification. I think that this particular administration, from the federal level all the way to the state, is in alignment that we need to invest in the infrastructure and the jobs that are going to be supporting that.”
Newsweek: Genesis has both EVs and internal combustion engine vehicles, how do you convey to customers that both are worthy of consideration?
Orthman: “It’s important right now for luxury customers to be thinking about choice and fit into their lifestyle, and to be able to be there when they’re ready to make that transition, but also to be able to serve their needs for today. And so that’s been the strategy to be able to offer, for example, both electric and gas GV70s.
“What that’s doing for us is taking the conversation away from, ‘is it an electric vehicle first and a Genesis second?’ Then customers will decide what they’re ready for in terms of powertrain. And certainly we’re seeing that adoption and interest increase. For those that are prone to want to be the first one to have the technology, wanting to really be on the cutting edge, we will see more and more interest in EVs and our portfolio will shift accordingly.”
Newsweek: How do you market electric vehicles here in the state of Michigan?
Johnson: “We talked about exposure to electric vehicles, I think it’s important that people can touch them and ask questions. Events like these are important. I do think there is a broader conversation where we talk about range anxiety and people may be afraid of what happens if there’s not enough charge. It’s about meeting people where they’re at. People are at the grocery stores, people are going to hospitals, we started to think about how we can create a space where people looking at a vehicle ask the questions. We as EV owners share part of the responsibility too.”
Orthman: “I love the community around EVs, the owners and people coming up to your car is fascinating. When you walk out of a store you add an extra five minutes for someone to ask you a question. It’s about education, about partnership accessing the network, and also demystify some of those just fears of the unknown. Genesis is making sure that we’re spending as much time talking about 18 minutes for fast charging, three years of free recharging and your battery warranty is 10 years or 100,000 miles, no different than if you bought an ICE vehicle.”
Newsweek: Finally, talk about these brand ambassadors that you used to launch this green ecosystem for Genesis.
Orthman: “Our biggest challenge is brand awareness and finding new people to discover a luxury brand. You can’t always get that just through industry and automotive outlets. So if I can work with influencers or people who have done other interesting things, we can make that connection and introduce ourselves through their communities in fashion or developments.
“For the Electrified GV70 campaign we worked with a couple of different influencers. One created textiles out of algae. She’s just a really interesting person. She had worked with some famous designers and created fibers and dresses and textiles and we used that as an opportunity to introduce our new GV70 there.
“But since then, we’ve also been working with other influencers we have a Korean vegan influencer whose name is Joanne Molinaro. Also Bobby Berk, the interior designer from the Fab Five is one of our originals and he too is driving an electric GV70 as well and just sold one to his neighbor. So using influencers in other spaces like interior design, fashion and food help us.”
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