‘Fire Sale’ Prices Can’t Save Chevy Volt

MARCH 5, 2012

By JOSEPH PERKINS

Wouldn’t you know it: No sooner did General Motors start shipping its Chevrolet Volt toCalifornialast month before the automaker decided to halt production of the low-emission vehicle.

Californiacar buyers must be bummed. To bribe them to purchase the $40,000 (and up) sedan, the state not only offered a $1,500 taxpayer-funded rebate, but also its blessing to Volt owners to drive solo in H.O.V. lanes. And the federal government kicks in a $7,500 tax credit.

GM sure expected to sell a lot of its electric flivvers here in the GoldenState. “The Volts with the low emissions package are certain to be a strong draw for California commuters looking to travel the state’s notoriously congested freeways in the carpool lane,” Chris Perry, VP of Chevy Marketing, told the Detroit Free Press.

But then came the automaker’s announcement this past Friday that it is shutting down its Volt assembly line until April to maintain “proper inventory levels.” That follows a similar shutdown that began back in December that didn’t end until last month.

Chevrolet sold only 8,000 Volts in 2011, 20 percent below GM’s overly optimistic forecast. That was due at least in part to the bad press the EV got after two battery fires in crash tests.

Downside

But the bigger issue is that, to most of the car-buying public, the upside of owning a Volt, or most any other electric vehicle, is outweighed by the downside.

Yes, state (and federal) rebates are appealing. Yes, a sticker entitling a solo driver to use the carpool lane certainly is valuable. And, yes, there is a certain satisfaction for some Californians in doing their part to arrest climate change.

Yet, most of us do not consider those incentives, that satisfaction, sufficient to abandon our gasoline-powered cars and SUVs for electric flivvers.

We prefer the lower purchase price for our old-school cars. We like that we can fill our gas tanks in just a few minutes, whereas it takes as many as eight hours to fully charge an electric vehicle. We like that even the most-guzzling car can make a roundtrip between Sacramento and San Francisco, or Los Angeles and San Diego, with no sweat, while the average electric vehicle has driving range of less than 100 miles.

That’s why Chevy Volt sales have been so disappointing that GM has halted production of the electric vehicles twice in the last four months.

That’s why there is less than zero chance that Fisker Automotiive, the Anaheim startup, will generate annual sales of 115,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2015, as it guaranteed when it was awarded a $529 million federal loan.

That’s why Tesla Motors, the nine-year-old Silicon Valley company, has manufactured little more than 2,000 of its much-hyped roadsters, the first fully electric sports car — and at a $109,000 base price that is far beyond the means of the 99 percent of us that are not Hollywood actors, professional athletes or lottery winners.

There may come a day when there is a viable market for electric cars. Not one artificially created by government subsidies (like $1,500 to buy an EV), incentives (like carpool privileges for EV owners) and mandates (like the California Air Resources Board requirement than one of seven cars sold in 2025 must be plug-in hybrids or fully-electric).

But until EV prices are comparable to gas-powered vehicles, until EVs can be fully charged in minutes rather than hours and until the driving range of fully-charged EVs is comparable to at least the most fuel inefficient gas guzzler, that day is a very long way off.

9 comments

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  1. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 5 March, 2012, 12:26

    Volt = modern day Edsel.

    Remember when we bailed these pigs out and we were told by the President that Volt sales would ensure a gov profit??? 😀

    The reason GM sucks is precisely due to executive decisions to manufacture POS cars like the Volt!

    Nothing has changed.

    Government Motors fails again!

    They should have been allowed to FAIL and GO BANKRUPT!!!

    Reply this comment
  2. MrLogical
    MrLogical 5 March, 2012, 15:54

    Buyers remorse yet?

    I mean Obama, not the Volt…

    Reply this comment
  3. Escovado
    Escovado 6 March, 2012, 07:34

    @MrLogical: Remorse for both Obama and the Dolt–I mean Volt. 😉

    Reply this comment
  4. Rick chandler
    Rick chandler 6 March, 2012, 07:49

    Wow, it like the GOP wrote this. Thanks Karl Rove for this completely false reporting.

    Reply this comment
  5. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 6 March, 2012, 07:53

    Rick: What’s “false” in the reporting? And remember, it was Bush/Rove who green-lighted the funding for the Volt. So if you’re a Volt fan, you must be a Republican. And have you bought a Volt?

    — John Seiler

    Reply this comment
  6. llsolisenterprises
    llsolisenterprises 8 March, 2012, 14:03

    it’s just so dang expensive

    Reply this comment
  7. Dean
    Dean 20 March, 2012, 16:14

    Fricking AMAZING car!

    Reply this comment
  8. gsned57
    gsned57 31 March, 2012, 12:24

    I’m a republican and I love this car. As long as we import oil this car is important to America. I’m for anything domestic, anything that gives the middle finger to terrorists, dictators, and thugs. I’ve got nothing against our neighbors to the north but half of our trade defecit is crude oil and if we could cut our trade defecit in half and move from oil to domestic electricity that’ll be great for America. Politicians have been promising energy independence for 50 years and it’s never happened. This is a product citizens can buy to ensure energy independence for themselves. Yes it costs more than a conventional car but Iphones cost a whole lot more than the free crap they give you with a contract but people still buy them.

    For those who don’t know much about the Volt give one a test drive and make up your own mind. The car is amazing, fun to drive, quick, and handles great. For those who only know about the volt from this article you are misinformed. The volt is an electric car but also has a gasoline generator so after 40 miles or so of electric drive you are burning gas for the next 300 miles and can fill up with gas or electric at whenever you want. You won’t be left stranded with a Volt.

    As for the 2 battery fires. The first was 3 weeks after a crash test when the volt battery wasn’t drained and the car was stored upside down (Please don’t plan on staying in your volt upside down for 3 weeks after a horrible accident). The second fire was just the battery because they were trying to recreate what happened the first time and oh by the way it took 3 additional crash tests to reproduce that result. The volt has a 5 star crash test rating and was found as safe or safer than any modern gasoline car (Do you think they leave gas in the tank of crash tested cars?).

    This car is a republicans dream. Reduce dependence on foreign oil. Put fuel money into American electric generation. Take money out of the hands of terrorists and dictators. Reduce our interests in making sure oil flows around the world (wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t give a crap that IRAN shots down the straight of Hormuz).

    I was no fan of the GM bailout and thought we should have let them fail. I can’t do anything about that now but vote out the politicians. I am glad the Volt (Bush’s car) made it to production and as soon as my current car needs replacement I’m buying one. The Volt is a car for patriots. Don’t let the left lay claim to it.

    Reply this comment
  9. Neal Kluge
    Neal Kluge 10 September, 2012, 08:42

    Mr. Logical,

    Both the dolt and the volt ( no typo)

    Reply this comment

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