The Governator goes undercover to promote electric vehicles

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Arnold Schwarzenegger EV prank Arnold Schwarzenegger

At Hagerty, we like all kinds of cars, whether they’re powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, batteries, or even hamsters running on a wheel. It’s a matter of powered wheels, not what’s powering them. If you choose well, an EV can be just as collectible and as enjoyable as something powered by internal combustion. That’s why we were surprised to see Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor, former California governor, and noted EV enthusiast appear in a bad-taste (although clearly tongue-in-cheek) attempt to sell new electric cars. 

California-based non-profit Veloz had Arnold Schwarzenegger reprise his role as Howard Kleiner. This time, Howard is a clueless used car salesman trying to dissuade consumers visiting a California car dealer from buying electric cars. The humorous video pokes fun at critics of hybrids and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).

Barely disguised with a pony-tailed wig and a big mustache, Schwarzenegger tells one couple that pumping gas can be more satisfying than sex, and asks another customer, interested in getting one of the tax credits available on electric cars and hybrids, if he wants a tax credit or street cred.

When a couple expresses interest in a quiet, fuel-efficient vehicle, “Howard” brings forth a murdered-out, barely muffled, exhaust-belching Hummer H2. I’m just cynical enough to suspect that Veloz had the Hummer purposefully mis-tuned so it could pump out a lot of black smoke, to make a better video, all in the service of promoting non-polluting electric cars.

The Hummer is a bit of an inside joke. As previously mentioned, Schwarzenegger is an EV fan and he personally has a Hummer H1 that Kreisel Electric converted to battery power with a 360-kw motor driven by a 100-kwH battery pack, along with another Kreisel-converted BEV based on a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.

As Kleiner, Arnold tells one incredulous couple that they should drive a gasoline-powered car to help curb population growth because more pollution means more people will die.

 Arnold Schwarzenegger EV prank
Arnold Schwarzenegger

One buyer said he wanted in a hybrid or electric so he could get a carpool lane sticker. California allows drivers of low-emission vehicles to use the less crowded and faster lanes for high occupancy vehicles. “Howard” says to the customer, “You want a sticker? Every car gets a bumper sticker.” Staring the customer in the face, Arnold deadpans his Terminator’s “I’ll be back,” and returns with bumper stickers bearing slogans like, “Carpool Lanes Are for Sissies.”

While a surprisingly small number of customers saw through Arnold’s disguise, frustrated from buying what they wanted, they all asked for a supervisor, so Schwarzenegger returned in another disguise, this time as “Harry, the sales manager.”

The video wraps up with Schwarzenegger dropping out of character, telling folks that they don’t have to give up the fun and excitement of driving to drive an EV.

Since the video openly mocks and stereotypes people who like combustion-powered cars, it’s not clear just how many consumers will be persuaded to switch from fossil fuel to electrons, and we hope that in the future, advertisers can find a more balanced approach. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about electric cars and Veloz, you can visit electricforall.org.

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