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Chevrolet Volt and aerodynamicist Nina Tortosa (John F. Martin)
“Today, Chevrolet announced a $41,000 retail price and aggressive leasing programs for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt when it arrives in selected showrooms later this year, and we think this will help to ‘close the circuit’ for many potential buyers. The Volt has had one of the longest public gestations in the history of the auto industry, so interest has understandably ebbed and flowed since the concept was unveiled in January of 2007 and production model confirmed in mid-2008.
However, while GM has done much to address buyers’ concerns with regard to reliability and durability with an extended powertrain warranty and extensive, publicized testing, this announcement should help shift some hand raisers to check writers. In the time since the Volt’s various announcements, Nissan, Ford, Volkswagen and other mainstream OEMs have announced full-electric vehicle plans, but the Volt’s ace card is its ‘range-extender’ design that combines the benefits of a plug-in with the existing gasoline supply infrastructure. The Volt’s technology should comfort those drivers interested in owning an electric vehicle while also anticipating the dreaded ‘range anxiety’ that could exist with a battery-only electric vehicle.
While it will be easy and somewhat obvious to compare the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF pricing structures since they are America’s first mainstream plug-in vehicles, such a comparison is not 100 percent fair. Until a more robust charging network is made available nationwide, the LEAF probably will not be seen as a ‘replacement’ vehicle due to its inherent distance-per-charge constraints. It is more suited to be a second or third car in the household and used as a defined commuter car, and for this type of use it would be perfect. However, thanks to the extended range/generator structure of the Volt, in theory it could be the main vehicle for many drivers and therefore used on many different and much longer trips. The additional retail price is somewhat justified by this major difference. However, when viewed through the mileage-constrained lenses of a lease, the more comparable monthly lease rates make sense. Having driven both the Volt and the LEAF, we can say that either vehicle will be an intriguing option for the eco-minded car shopper.
According to June 2010 data from Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence’s EcoWatch study, half of in-market car shoppers remain skeptical about both plug-in hybrid electric and battery electric vehicles (49.8 percent of respondents were skeptical about plug-in hybrid electrics, and 51.4 percent of respondents were skeptical about battery electric vehicles). However, 18 percent said they were definitely interested in plug-in hybrid electrics, and 17 percent said they were definitely interested in battery electric vehicles. As more and more OEMs bring new alternative-powered vehicle options to the marketplace and time proving whether ‘range anxiety’ is warranted or not, we anticipate the possibility that the numbers of ‘definitely interested’ car shoppers could continue to grow as skepticism declines.”
James Bell, Executive Market Analyst
Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com
Chevrolet Volt at the July 4th Freedom Drive (Emile Wamsteker)
Editor’s Note: Chevrolet announced that the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of its extended-range electric car, the Volt, will be $41,000. Volt owners can qualify for up to $7,500 in U.S. Federal income tax credits, which can bring the net price down to $33,500. The Volt will be initially available in California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area. Participating Chevrolet dealers in launch markets will begin taking customer orders today for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.