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Volvo, Betting on Electric, Moves to Phase Out Conventional Engines – New York Times

Swedish automaker Volvo announced that all models it introduces beginning in 2019 will be either hybrid or battery powered. This news was covered by major news outlets around the world from The New York Times, to business media like the Wall Street Journal, to trade publications like Car and Driver. It was one of the most popular stories of the week.

But not every news outlet followed Volvo’s messaging with a few media posting critical stories. So what can we learn from Volvo’s press release and their strategy?

What Works:
  • News Hook. Volvo’s announcement used a historic milestone news hook by highlighting that their move marks the end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine. Volvo pointed out that this is a watershed moment for both Volvo and the car industry and that it was leading the charge.
  • Trend. Volvo capitalized on customer and media interest in the electric vehicle market and used a quote that highlighted this trend: “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs,” Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said.
  • Integrated Mix of Media. The announcement included a promotional video and was tied to a press conference in Stockholm, which gave the media more material to work with.
What Doesn’t:
  • More Forthcoming. Volvo didn’t say in its announcement when it will stop producing its current internal combustion engine cars, so that left the media guessing. USA Today said that automakers typically sell new models for several years before completely redesigning them, so it will probably be 2025 by the time Volvo is selling only electrics or hybrids. Forbes said Volvo’s announcement is being “badly misrepresented” or “misunderstood” by the press and also said it will be 2023 or 2024 by the time Volvo phases out its purely internal combustion models.
  • Missed Opportunity. Volvo could have highlighted in the headline and lead that they are the first large traditional automaker to announce the end of the internal combustion engine. While Volvo just called their announcement a “significant move,” The New York Times said Volvo is the “first mainstream automaker to announce the end of the internal combustion engine.”
What We’ve Learned: Use Milestones to Your Advantage But Be Forthcoming

Volvo did an excellent job highlighting the historic element to its news and showing that it was on the cutting edge of a trend. Volvo created lots of buzz within the media and the news was picked up around the world.

But the Swedish automaker lost credibility with some media outlets because its new electric line-up announcement didn’t include the final end date for the production of its internal combustion engine cars. The headline of Volvo’s press release —  “Volvo Cars to go all electric” — should have come with a footnote and a caveat saying when its last internal combustion engine car would roll off the Volvo assembly line.

Check out Volvo’s press release here and let me know in the comments section below why you think it was so effective and what lessons you will likely apply in your next press release.

Alex Armitage is co-founder and CEO of Publiqly, whose step-by-step systems help small and mid-sized companies write press releases that journalists and bloggers can’t ignore. Were you forwarded this post? Sign up to receive our weekly press release lessons directly in your inbox.

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