Paris Mondial de l’Automobile Flaunts the Plug

Five years ago Toyota relaunched its Prius with a Saatchi & Saatchi ad blitz with the EV-bashing tagline “and you never have to plug it in.” Toyota’s corporate marketing manager said the idea was to show the Prius was, “not an idea that’s ahead of its time.” 

What a difference a few years can make. At this year’s Paris Mondial de l’Automobile, which opened to the press yesterday, plug-in hybrids and full-battery EVs are everywhere — and their plugs are displayed conspicuously. 

Smart, the Daimler/Swatch joint venture, towered a dangling plug over their floorspace to highlight its development of an EV model of the tiny trendy Smart Car due out in 2010. GM executives gamely held the cord of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid for photographers. And check out the plug on Ligier Automobiles’ EV city car!

Frank Weber, GM’s Global Vehicle Line Executive for the Volt, explained the shift to me in dollars and cents, or rather euros and centimes. “If you say that the charge costs less than a euro per day, it’s that simple,” says Weber. “Plugging in means saving, being able to drive and don’t watch the signs at the gas station. This is what the plug means. It’s now looked at as an opportunity and like, well ok at night you have to plug it in but you would do this anytime because the moment you plug it in you know that you save.”

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This post was created for Tech Talk – Insights into tomorrow’s technology from the editors of IEEE Spectrum.

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