“I’d Like to Drive a Hybrid Car” Hyundai Commercial Debunks Stereotypes

[Note: This post was originally featured on Gas2]

Hybrid cars should have much higher sales in the U.S. They’re a compromise between the conscious knowledge that fossil fuel engines hurt the environment and the subconscious stress produced by range anxiety. So, why aren’t more people buying hybrid cars?

Maybe it’s because of misinformation campaigns from fossil fuel-funded news outlets like Breitbart, which states that, “Apart from being poky and tinny and smug and expensive and utterly useless for long distances, electric cars are also terrible for health and the environment.”


Whew! There is so much research out there to contradict these Breitbart fallacies. Here are some stories that demonstrate how foolish the Breitbart claims are. (Hang your cursor over the explanations.)

The popularity of hybrids is growing annually, and they have the potential to unseat gasoline as the fuel for our cars, which scares the bejesus out of oil companies.

Yet, let’s acknowledge a fact about consumerism: people tend to buy items that are highly marketed. Since U.S. automakers have devoted nearly nothing to advertise any type of electric vehicle, their appeal remains relatively low in the U.S.

That is, until now. The folks over at Hyundai have a new commercial out on the television airwaves right now that pitches the 2017 Ioniq, a hybrid vehicle. The commercial is an overt attempt to debunk stereotypes of a hybrid driver. Instead of hiding behind research data, Hyundai has created a marketing message that explicitly addresses the average U.S. person’s concerns about driving a hybrid car. It’s funny, self-deprecating, and very effective.

Title: “Hybrid Blues | Hyundai Ioniq HEV”

Voiceover/ male: “The world needed a better hybrid, so we built it. The all-new 2017 Hyundai Ioniq HEV.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “better,” “all-new.”  The implication here with the word “better” is that Hyundai learned from past mistakes with hybrids. So, it’s revealing an “all-new” hybrid, one that is a product on the cutting edge in the car industry.

Person 1/ male construction worker: “I’d like to drive a hybrid car, but I’m not sure it’s for me.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “like,” “not sure.” Many car consumers right now feel torn in two directions: a desire to move into sustainable transportation available through hybrids and other electric vehicles but an uncertainty that function won’t follow emotion. This is the essential tension right now in the electric car industry.

Person 2/ female Kenpō U.S. martial artist: “I don’t eat kale, and I’ve never hugged a tree.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “kale,” “hug… tree.”  Kale, alongside trendy, chichi items like quinoa and craft beer, signify a millennial generation’s quest toward a healthier lifestyle through unusual artisan foods and beverages. Likewise, environmentalists who work to protect the world from destruction or pollution, embodied by the image of saving trees, can have a negative connotation in some circles as being effete, privileged, or out-of-touch with the reality of the working class.

Persons 3 and 4/ female dog groomer and female in surgical clothes: “I’d like to drive a hybrid car, But I’m not sure it’s for me.” (refrain)

Key words/ terms/ messages: Refrains are repetitions that assert the importance of an idea while enhancing the rhythm of the whole. When composers really want an audience to pay attention to a certain point or set of words, they use a refrain to make it evident. The uncertainty of owning a hybrid, balanced by the sense of yearning, is repeated here to emphasize the binary of good vs. evil, so prevalent in western culture.

Persons 5 and 6/ male playing paintball and male working a deli counter: “Lawnmower engines, no cargo room, and crappy batteries.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “lawnmower engines,” “cargo room,” “crappy batteries.” Most gas lawn mowers have a 2 stroke engine, which would be unacceptable to power a car. SUVs are in such demand that almost every other segment has suffered as a result. Even Tesla battery partner Panasonic concedes that it is necessary to look at alternative battery power sources to gain more density; research into solid-state, lithium-air, and non-Li-ion batteries is the norm now.

Person 7/ female court stenographer: “I just wanna drive a good-looking whip with really great MPGs.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “good-looking,” “great MPGs.” The confluence of appearance and high mileage is intentional here. Automobiles have been central to the identity of U.S. citizens for a century. They define our ideological landscape and are central to the American economy. Hyundai uses this plea for “great MPGs” as a way to introduce the Hyundai Ioniq in the next and final segment of the commercial, describing it as “the most fuel-efficient car in America.”

Voiceover/ male: “You know, the world didn’t need another hybrid. It needed a better hybrid. Introducing the Hyundai Ionic. The most fuel efficient car in America.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “world,” “another,” “better,” “most fuel efficient car in America.” A majority of polled U.S. citizens are skeptical about the Trump administration’s approach to climate action and are starting to realize that each of us has to be conscious of our carbon footprint. Instead of adding “another” mediocre hybrid to their catalog, Hyundai argues that they have come up with a “better” alternative that answers many U.S. citizens’ concerns about electric vehicles.

Text: “The EPA est. 59 mpg. Hyundai Ioniq. The most fuel-efficient car in America. Better drives us. Hyundai.”

Key words/ terms/ messages: “59 mpg,” “better.” The Ioniq Hybrid has been officially certified by the EPA as getting 57 mpg city and 59 mpg highway. The Ioniq Hybrid will be joined in 2017 by an all electric version that Hyundai says will have 124 miles of range. “Better?” Are there any combustion engine SUVs in the U.S. that get this kind of gas mileage? Not.

The individuals depicted in this commercial are average people going through their daily work routines. They sing about their reluctance to buy a hybrid car, and their collective hesitation speaks to the next generation of car buyers in the U.S. Hyundai taps into this trepidation and refutes it successfully by allowing us to laugh at our fears.

Anybody who wants to know more about the Hyundai Ioniq after seeing this commercial could then turn to the Car and Driver product review. According to that publication, the whole reason the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid is here is that the manufacturer is ready to enact a long game that speaks to regulatory landscapes and fuel prices.

You can view the commercial here for yourself. Be sure to sing along with the Hyundai Ioniq song.

Photo credit: quinn.anya via Foter.com / CC BY-SA