Cars, Colbert and Chutzpah

Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place just put in an appearance on The Colbert Report, and I have to applaud him for playing a role to the hilt. Who else is trying to make electric cars hip and sexy? Colbert’s first remark noted Shai’s casual outfit. In jeans & black t-shirt with white wind-turbine graphics, Shai looked the antithesis of an automotive industry exec.

Most of the interview centered on comparing cars to cellphones (swappable, disposable, etc.) but Colbert pointed out that hefty cars have traditionally played a role in courtship. Hmm. Agassi shrugged that off, giving the impression that he believes that cool, new environment products can provide the cachet that cars (traditionally) and phones (currently) offer young consumers.

So my question is: can we wait for them? Or do we need to promote electric cars to drivers of all ages, right now, to get real traction in this market? Given that Colbert’s audience probably skews to youth, I’ll credit Better Place with effective use of their charismatic leader on this show. But I still think we need to persuade a larger market, faster, to switch to electric drive. Can Shai reach those boring, suburban seniors who put on so many miles, or must he simply outlive them?