How to Sell an Electric Car

Michael Thwaite, Roadster Owner, February 9, 2010

Michael Thwaite is a petrol-head who became a volt-head after seeing "Who Killed the Electric Car?" He's not sure he'll ever go back.

As time goes on, I’m surprised by the growing public awareness of the Roadster; when mine arrived last year, it got less attention than my old MINI. This year, I’m up to about 5cpw (comments per week). But this week, I got my first nutter.

"Aww, did you really fall for that electric car nonsense?"

I've prepared for this. I’ve spent long late nights in the dark, reading page after page of studies on carbon emission calculations and the realities of lithium production. I've watched "Who Killed the Electric Car?" including all the special features.

I've done my homework so when the questions came at me, I’d be ready.

We stood face-to-face, the world suddenly silent. People around us faded into a slow-motion peripheral blur. The only noise was a hushed rumble, quieter than tumbleweed rolling through a western town. Fingers twitched as we each readied ourselves to reach for the facts... who would take the next turn?

With a slight lump in my throat I retorted, "Yes. I did."

Not the most original come back but clearly technically accurate and very apparently true.

He paused for a moment, he clearly had an agenda and it was on its way...

"You know they produce more CO2 than a Prius, right?" he said resolutely.

A killer follow up - technically, he is not entirely wrong; just missing the whole point by a very wide margin.

"Or a lot less if you charge it from anything better than coal, zero if you can find a renewable source. Can you say the same of a Prius?" I asked.

That got him. Ha! He recoiled for just a moment before peppering me with questions.

"How long does it take to charge?"

"About ten seconds each night, I just get out of the car and plug it in."

"What happens if you go out on a long trip and it runs out of charge?"

"It stops."

"But what if you need to go further than a couple of hundred miles?"

"Same as when I wanted my old car to do 0-60 in less than four seconds… Rent something."

Oh no! He tricked me into saying something negative.

I'm not doing very well. So far, all I’ve done is defend my electric. I don’t need to defend it - just look at it, it’s awesome. I can feel the weight of disappointment from Chelsea, Martin, Elon and even Nikola. I need to turn this around, how do I make him want my electric car?

I could take a note from a recent French car company ad - they know who they are. The ad began by reminding us that cars are good to have and followed with a long weary message reminding us that we picked the wrong car. They implied that we must hate the environment and that they can help us change our ways if we buy their future electric dream cars. Thank goodness they’re here for us.

No. I’ve learned that bashing the status quo and telling people they made the wrong choice is foolish. A better approach is to find something that they want and show that they can have it now. This is my trick - my adversary could have it now & I need to create the right picture for him. I imagine a Roadster advertisement where not one mention is made of electricity, or carbon, or the environment. I imagine an ad where we see a happy motorist zooming along a canyon road simply happy that they’re driving a great sports car. Without saying it, we know the big grin on his face is from the secret that he is driving guilt-free – no gas, carbon, smog, etc.

"This is the best sports car I’ve ever owned. The handling is fantastic and it really moves!"

He grins, "Yeah, it looks awesome. I drive a Chevy pickup and I converted it to electric a couple of years ago, I love it."