21 Jun 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
I watch a lot of sports on TV: baseball, college basketball, tennis and soccer, as examples. Hence, my living room is inundated with a busload of TV commercials for new automobiles as well as oil company products.
My sons love to pick apart commercials that make no sense or frankly, do not tell the whole truth. And both automakers and oil companies lead the way in the doublespeak category.
Many oil companies, Arco and Chevron for example, make the claim: No other gasoline gets you better gas mileage. Examine that statement. Of course not! All other petroleum products are basically the same: None of the “Top Tier” [cq comment=”added”]variety provides better mpg or worse mpg, just the same.
Instead of new information, Arco ads give you a dancing hula girl who magically jumps off your dashboard into your engine, making her hair stand on end. So? Is this supposed to make me buy Arco gasoline?
Using cute, animated cars (usually with a female voice), Chevron says their “Techron” additive cleans your engine and therefore, if you use Chevron “Top Tier gas” you will get a cleaner internal combustion engine and better gas mileage. A recent AAA study says additives in “Top Tier” gas do clean carbon deposits “known to reduce fuel economy,” but the benefit is not exclusive to one brand. Chevron gasoline is not the only gasoline containing additives and rated by the government as “Top Tier.”
Clark.com, an energy newsletter that examines oil company claims, lists more than 50 retailers across the United States selling “Top Tier” licensed gasoline (yes, the government certifies these). Besides Arco and Chevron, these include BP, CITGO, 76, Exxon, Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Valero. Even you patient folks who wait in line at the Costco to fill up are getting certified Top Tier gas.
The folks at Clark.com point out the ads are a marketing strategy to get you to buy Chevron and to think it’s the only one with the additive. A recent study found “you can have what the study finds is the best gas at the lowest prices.” In short, Chevron and others are using the strategy as a way to say their gasoline is better than other “Top Tier” rated gasoline, a questionable claim. [cq comment=”i added this to make it more clear”]
Morgan Crinklaw, a public relations person at Chevron in San Ramon, was not available on Friday.
Now, let’s turn to the question: Why aren’t more carmakers advertising their battery electric vehicles or plug-in electric models on TV? The answer may be hidden in what kinds of autos they DO advertise. Usually, these are higher-priced luxury cars running on fossil fuels, including SUVs and pickups, models with poor gas mileage and most importantly, high markups.
Buying a pickup truck to ride in the city is ludicrous. It’s also bad for the environment. Here are some mpg numbers from popular pickups I grabbed from Car & Driver and Consumer Reports:
Nissan Frontier: 17 mpg
Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: 17 mpg
Ford Ranger XLT: 20 mpg
Toyota Tacoma SR5 V6: 19 mpg
Ford F-150 XLT 2.7 EcoBoost: 19 mpg
More gas-guzzling autos are robbing our children of a livable planet. They are also adding to the bad air we breathe.
If you don’t care about the environment, think about your wallet. Gasoline prices are set to rise July 1 by 5.6 cents as the second round of a California gas tax for repairing roads kicks in. The amount of money you would save from a car with superior gas mileage is substantial.
Better, driving an electric vehicle saves you even more money. Fueling up an ICE car that gets 30 mpg at a cost of $3.49 per gallon at 50 miles per day is about $2,124 per year. The cost of plugging in an electric car is $744 a year. And if you install solar and use the sun’s power to charge your EV, that drops it to $307 a year.
Plus, you save by never having to get tune-ups, oil changes, transmission fixes, etc. because EVs have fewer moving parts.
A Facebook group of EV owners discusses the lack of TV ads for Chevy Bolts (an electric vehicle with 238 miles per charge), Volts (a unique plug-in which gets around 60 miles on a charge plus a gasoline-engine boost that adds about 324 miles.) Some say Chevy believe smarter shoppers don’t need ads: They look online for EVs or shop by word of mouth.
Audi does run TV commercials for its all-electric e-tron (204 miles per charge). The ad attempts to slay myths about electric cars: They’re slow; there’s no charging stations; they don’t go far.
Car and Driver writer George Levy quotes Loren Angelo, VP of marketing for Audi of America, explaining a long-term strategy. Starting in 2025, Audi will make only electric cars. “As part of our commitment to electrification, we’ve recognized the need for more consumer education on what it really means to go electric,” Angelo said.
Elvis Barksdale of the FB group chides Chevy. “Now is the time for GM to tell the buyers they are the leader. We own 2 Volts. People still tell me they have never heard of them,” he wrote.
People still ask to me to explain my Volt to them. It’s been out since 2013. It’s like explaining a smart phone to my 88-year-old mother.
[cq comment=”The following content will display as an info box.”]
How much can electric cars impact climate change? New report says a lot
Edison says California needs one-quarter of its vehicles to be electric to meet climate change goals
With electric cars available, the question arises: Why don’t you drive one?
These researchers want California to be a global advocate about climate change
With gas prices rising, sales of cheaper, ethanol-blended fuels are surging in California
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Electric car owner Robert Dickson, 63, of Glendora drives his 2017 Chevy Bolt EV which can go about 240 miles on a charge during celebration of National Drive Electric Week at The Center for Environmental Research and Technology at UC Riverside Sept. 10, 2017. (photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG.)
More ads can’t hurt. But without more government help and more charging stations, U.S. consumers may continue to buy internal combustion engine pickups and SUVs because they drive automaker profits. And oil companies can still tout nonsense claims that keep the public blind to the real news: Electrification of automobiles is the future. Not some dancing hula girl.
Steve Scauzillo covers public health, environment and transportation for the Southern California News Group. He’s a recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @stevscaz or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.