Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Klout And Chevy Hooked Me Up With A Chevy Volt

I’m a BMW guy. Always have been. Always will. Once turned down a job to work with Audi’s interactive agency because I couldn’t trade-in my BMW 530 for an Audi. Brand loyal and stubborn. If anyone was going to offer me a Klout Perk or ask me to test drive a new car, it should have been BMW. I begged BMW and their agency to do this in 2008. Sadly, I never even heard from them. Might help explain why they no longer have the business…but, I digress.  I’ve also been critical of Klout.  I think what they’re trying to do is ambitious and I applaud their efforts, but I still think their scoring model is not reflective of true influence.

Talk about an intro.  Well, with all the above stated, you could imagine my surprise when I received a Klout notification via twitter and email that I had been granted a perk from Chevy.  I was even more surprised when I learned that Chevy would be giving me a new Chevy Volt to play with for 3 days, as part of their Driving The Midwest campaign.  My Klout Perk read:

The Chevrolet Volt is Yours to Drive
Klout, Chevrolet and DrivingtheMidwest.com invite you to be one of the first consumers to get behind the wheel of the all-electric Chevrolet Volt. Participants will receive a $50 gift card and an awesome driving experience which combines the efficiency and benefits of an electric car with the long-range capabilities of a traditional gasoline vehicle.”

I want to pause for a second and I think its important to talk about this whole program through two critical lenses:

  1. The Klout Experience
  2. The Chevy Volt Experience
Each of these is a separate, but related part of the entire experience.

The Klout Experience
Honestly, really solid.  Their notifications via twitter and email got me to click and learn more.  After seeing how awesome of a perk this was, I did start connecting some other social networks in an attempt to increase my Klout score and earn other perks.  Perks were a great motivator to link and sync more accounts…and in doing so, provide more information about me, to Klout.  The folks at Klout may not have mastered measuring influence, but they certainly are mastering gameification.  The entire acceptance process of the Perk was also simple.  Two clicks, if I recall, is all it took.

While the process of earning, accepting and ultimately redeeming a Perk was simple, I still question the value of Klout.  Think about this for a second.  I’m not influential about cars.  I don’t have car enthusiasts in my network.  Nearly everyone I know and am connected to has a foreign car.  Add into the mix, that I’m not a fan of hybrid cars…kinda hard to be be when you’re a BMW enthusiast, and you have to start to scratching your head.  Now, I will say, I have been a Chevy car owner before.  Around 2005 I was a Chevy Malibu owner.  It was a great car.  Prior to that car I owned a Suzuki Grand Vitara and a Toyota MR2.  After that car it was a BMW 530i and the BMW 328i I currently own.  I’m giving you this background, because I don’t understand how it is I “qualified” to earn a Perk for a Chevy Volt.  There’s no doubt a cool factor in being selected, but as a marketer, I hesitate about working with Klout.

The Chevy Volt Experience
The first thing I have to say is what a cool car. Seriously. It’s fun. It has oomph (is that a technical term?) that other hybrids lack. Having driven the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius, I can say there’s simply no comparison. The Chevy Volt is a car, the other two are just go karts masquerading as cars. I was impressed with the style of the Volt. The exterior is striking and the interior has refinements that are usually saved for luxury cars. For example, not only is their a stylish, easy to read heads up display, but the center console has a large full featured touch screen display that basically controls the entire car. Having used BMW’s iDrive, I can tell you the usability experts at Chevy nailed this. The menus are intuitive, the iconography clear, the screen responsive and they’ve minimized the steps you need to accomplish a task. In most instances, I found myself needing only 3 taps.

There were some oddities though, that I need to call out. Leather seats? Check! Heated, leather seats? Check! Awesome, right? But, the seat adjustment options were all manual and quite difficult to use. The key fob was a mixed bag as well. It had remote start capabilities and didn’t need to leave your pocket to start the car. But, there was no keyless entry; yes, that means you have to use the fob to unlock the car by pressing a button. Even Toyota offers full comfort access where the fob never has to leave your pocket to open the door or start the car. Also, and granted this sounds like a nitpick, but I was stunned the car didn’t come with a moonroof. It just seemed like it would be such a great fit.

The handling was better than expected. Seriously. The steering was tight and responsive. I thought I’d feel every bump, but I didn’t. Honestly, when you consider how bad Chicago’s streets and highways are, this was a real accomplishment.

Ok, so what didn’t I like about the Volt? I think there’s really 5 big things I can point to; 4 of them Chevy could/can control and the other is just life.

  1. The seats were uncomfortable.  I know they’re bucket seats, but even a 30 minute drive left my back and butt sore.  They’re leather and they’re heated.  But, they feel like a slab of marble.
  2. The view through the back of the car was narrow and difficult. There’s a split in the hatchback window that makes seeing out the back nearly impossible.
  3. Keeping with #2, the mirrors are either strangely placed or too small.  No matter how I adjusted them, I never felt like I could actually see to the left or the right.
  4. The Volt is a hybrid.  To really maximize the value of the Volt you need to be driving the car on electric power.  Simple in theory.  But, to fully charge the car takes roughly 10 hours.  And, unless you live in a house or have an apartment/condo that has indoor/covered parking with charging stations, you’ll never be able to take advantage of the Volt’s amazing electric performance.  In my case, I have to park on the street.  That doesn’t exactly leave a lot of options for charging the car.  I will say this, charging the car, when possible, is easy.  You simply plug a cable that looks like an extension cord into an outlet with one end and into the car with the other.  Simple.  There’s really nothing Chevy can do about this. Even if they found better batteries, you’d still have the same plugin challenge.
  5. Lastly, the cost.  Yowza.  The model I drove, ran roughly $45,000.  To put that into perspective…that’s more than a BMW 335i Diesel.  It’s more than a lot of cars.  Yes, I know we’re talking about two different mindsets for car owners, two different demographics, two different types of cars, etc.  But, still…
I liked my Chevy Volt experience.  Honestly, I wish the experience lasted more than 3 days.  In a perfect world, I would have loved 10 days with the car.  It would have given me at least 1 weekend to take the car on a long drive and really put it through its paces.  A car like the Volt would put Chevy into my consideration set if I was in the market for a new car, but it’s unlikely that the Volt, priced at $45,000 would every sway me from purchasing a BMW 1 or 3 Series.  That’s just being honest.  That said, I’d definitely recommend the Volt any person thinking about a new car.
I’m thankful to the folks at Chevy, Klout and their partners for letting me enjoy the Volt.  It was fun, entertaining and certainly a unique experience.