There's a pretty sizable difference between traditional hybrid vehicles and plug-in hybrids. But Chrysler is banking on consumer ignorance as it swaps between the two terms based on where its plug-in minivan is marketed.
Within the state of California, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid will be marketed as a plug-in hybrid, whereas in every other state it will just be called a hybrid, Bloomberg reports, citing a conversation with Fiat Chrysler brand head Tim Kuniskis. The reason for this marketing strategy is pretty straightforward -- Chrysler doesn't think the rest of the country will "get it."
Plug-in hybrids have a much larger battery than traditional hybrids. Thus, they come with plugs where users can juice them up at will, and if the electric-only range is far enough, drivers could conceivably only use electricity most, if not all of the time. Hybrids don't have that luxury. Trouble is, according to this marketing strategy, Chrysler believes mentioning the words "plug-in" will cause non-Californian consumers to believe the battery could somehow go flat.
For the record, it won't -- the gas engine will kick in and charge the battery while also contributing to forward motion. It'll act more like a traditional gas-electric hybrid at that point.
"People [in California] see it as a benefit and understand that that's worth more," Kuniskis told Bloomberg in an interview.
That isn't to say Chrysler has given up on the other 49 states entirely. It will eventually bring its plug-in-specific marketing to the rest of the country, but only in the future, after the public has been given time to warm to PHEVs. Until then, it'll run two separate marketing campaigns.
Chrysler will start its PHEV Pacifica assault in California this week with its Charge Across California Tour. The automaker will give presentations and offer test-drives, and most stops on this tour will be at companies that encourage electric-vehicle ownership.
No matter how it's marketed, though, it's still a damned good minivan, and that's what really matters to buyers.