Nissan Q&A Site Lets People Hear From Leaf Owners

If it's true for books and bikes, it’s true for cars, especially electric cars: people want to hear what owners have to say. How far can you go on a charge? How does weather affect mileage? How hard is it to find a charging station? How long does it take? Are you happy with the purchase, or do you have buyer’s remorse? 

To get owners and consumers to talk amongst themselves about its Leaf electric car, Nissan has launched a new Q&A Web site, "Real Owners. Real Questions," where visitors can ask questions about the car and get algorithmically filtered comments from owners. The automaker says the timing is tied to its celebration earlier this year of having sold the 100,000th Leaf.

The new site, via digital agency Critical Mass, is populated with crowdsourced videos, images and text responses. Organized as a live-tile page, the site has about 500 quotes, 200 images and a mix of produced and crowdsourced video. The first film, via Critical Mass features a Leaf owner in Hawaii who drives to Maui’s Haleakala Volcano to catch the sunrise, and then charges the vehicle simply by driving back down using regenerative braking.  

Mike Awdish, senior manager of interactive marketing at the Franklin, Tenn.-based Nissan U.S.A., tells Marketing Daily that the site is populated with archived answers to an array of questions Nissan put to Leaf owners via social media, and that Nissan’s contribution are asides to elucidate whatever jargon an owner might throw out there. 

He says the company started thinking about a site like this months ago based on how voluble owners have been about their cars. "Our owners are great evangelists for the product, and they were excited to do this. They really aren't shy about input on how to market the car. So while we have featured them in advertising, we felt there were opportunities to include them in a bigger way." 

Nissan has been focusing Leaf campaigns on regions based on target demographics and local infrastructure. The top market is Atlanta, but the company has generally been advertising on the West and East Coast urban markets as well, notes Awdish. "We've really been focused at the heart of the intender market." He says the company last year launched a online "savings calculator" where shoppers can compare their current car to the Leaf not just from a fuel perspective but also in terms of environmental impact, local incentives. and perks like access to carpool lanes. 

The sandbox is getting crowded. On the mass-market side, Ford has an electric Focus variant in its lineup; Honda is represented in the segment by the Fit EV; Toyota has an EV version of the RAV4; and Chevrolet fields the Spark EV. Kia is about to turn the key in Korea for production of the Soul EV. Volkswagen is introducing the e-Golf later this year. There is also a redesign of Chevrolet's Volt on deck. 

The premium side is just as hot. Tesla S will soon be joined by cars like Audi’s A3 e-Tron (early 2015) and Mercedes-Benz B-class (this summer); BMW is in the U.S. market with the i3; and Cadillac is selling the ELR electric hybrid coupe. 

Nissan and sibling Renault are optimistic, saying they can sell 1.5 million electric vehicles before 2020 worldwide, though the two companies have currently sold around a tenth of that, notes Green Car Reports.

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