UK Volvo DRIVe Vehicle Marketing Draws Criticism

In some cities, a so-called ‘War on Cars’ is being waged by governments as well as other groups citing environmentalism and congestion concerns. Passing certain rules and user fees against car owners residing in metropolitan areas has become common place. Some cities had posted special licensing taxes for residents to own an automobile within city limits. In England, vehicles traveling into many areas within the city of London streets are assessed a minimum £9 (equating to around $14.45 in US money) Congestion Charge to encourage alternative transit over excessive personal vehicle travel.

Proposing an option that motorists can make a lump sum payment to obtain unlimited travel into Congestion Charge areas, a website called has been advertising the benefits of a simple badge. For £799 (approximately $1,283 US), a DRIVe badge provides a driver exclusion from the Congestion Charge payment. While, in essence, the DRIVe badge can truly grant no cost access to the streets within City of London, the website was actually a guerrilla marketing campaign for a the much more expensive accessory to the DRIVe badge. Though the initial impression of the website leaves Internet viewers believing the domain is an independent website, the true motivation is made clear as the Volvo name and products began to pop on screen. After being automatically redirected to a new page, the invitation to see the newest CO2 low-emission vehicles of Volvo is offered. Diesel-powered Volvo C30, S40 and V50 make up the brand’s DRIVe range.

Through their web of marketing, Volvo presses that the three DRIVe-badged vehicles indeed apply for special driving considerations. For vehicles emitting less than 101 gCO2/km and conforming to Euro 5 emission standards are granted a Greener Vehicle Discount. Another perk of this incentive allows these lower emission vehicles to enter Congestion Charge areas without payment. Road use incentives for low or zero emission automobile purchases is not unique to the English city of London. In the case of electric and hybrid vehicles in North America, some jurisdictions allow alternative powertrains automobiles to run in HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane or better known as carpool lanes even with only the driver behind the wheel.

While some believe the marketing campaign as clever, Next Green Car, an automotive site advocating the awareness of widespread green transportation solutions, voiced concerns in regards to Volvo Cars UK advertisement. In a compliant published Friday on their website, Next Green Car is troubled by this guerrilla marketing guise as convincingly leading some consumers to believe the Volvo DRIVe promotional page was another company and another product (It should be noted as of January 31st the website has since been labeled with a bottom claimer “This is an advertisement created by Volvo”). Even using the language “fictional scam”, there was also disappointed as Volvo appears to imply their three DRIVe vehicles are the only choices to gain relief from the Congestion Charge. In the case of the incentive, 38 vehicles have been listed eligible including the Audi A3, Smart Fortwo and the Tesla Roadster. Though advertising, what reason would Volvo have for distracting potential buyers from their products.

Relating to the United Kingdom, this innovative automotive marketing strategy shows the difficulty of selling products creatively without With the upcoming 2011 Super Bowl some car companies including Porsche, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and even a returning General Motors will work to entice audiences to their products in 3 million dollar, 30-second ad spots. Even with the heavy expense on buying television ad space and producing a commercial, the effectiveness of a Super Bowl ad is not assured.

Information source: Next Green Car via Newspress UK
Photo Source: Volvo Cars

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