DETROIT: Automakers and ethanol producers are launching efforts to promote the alcohol fuel and the vehicles that run on it. The efforts include national advertising and promotional and PR activity in the Midwest this year.
GM, which recently launched its national "Live Green, Go Yellow" campaign, and Ford are touting so-called "flex-fuel" vehicles that can run on gasoline or E85, which is 85% ethanol and only 15% gasoline. Roughly 600 E85 pumps exist across the nation, most of which are located in the Midwest.
At the Chicago Auto Show this month, GM illuminated city landmarks in yellow. Street teams in various downtown Chicago locations handed out T-shirts and information on E85, as well.
Dave Barthmuss, manager of public policy, environment, and technology communications for GM, said GM's PR efforts center on partnerships aimed at building a "robust national E85 refueling structure" for flex-fuel cars. GM partners include Chevron Technology Ventures, Pacific Ethanol, Shell Oil Products US, VeraSun Energy Corp., the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, and the Governor's Ethanol Coalition.
Among agencies pitching in for GM are Hass MS&L, Mullen PR, GreenOrder, McCann Erickson, and Digitas. GreenOrder, a New York-based sustainability strategy and marketing firm, helped GM link up with key blogs and green media, such as Worldchanging.com and Treehugger.com.
Tom Slunecka, executive director for the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC), said the industry group, launched last year, is tying in with the Indy Racing League (IRL) to build awareness among mechanics and enthusiasts. This year, EPIC-sponsored cars driven by Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice, and Paul Dana will feature the new "E" logo, as will the racers' uniforms. Next year, IRL vehicles will be fueled by 100% ethanol, and all of the cars will bear the "E" logo. "Although ethanol is becoming known in public, there is still great trepidation from the mechanic audience," said Slunecka.
Barthmuss said GM, which predicts that 2 million E85 vehicles will be on the road by year's end, is putting E85 information badges and yellow gas caps on vehicles and allowing its OnStar technology and advisors to help drivers locate E85 gas pumps.
Ford is focusing its efforts on the Midwest corridor between Missouri and Illinois. VeraSun, also partnering with Ford, is converting existing gasoline fuel pumps in Illinois and Missouri to E85. Ford will also work with other states to further develop that corridor.
VeraSun plans to do point-of-purchase education and communication efforts at the locations.