Guess what? $40,000 may be more than most drivers are willing to pay for a smallish sedan that only seats four people — if two of them are hobbits. That’s a lesson that General Motors is learning the hard way. GM said it expected to sell 10,000 Chevy Volts by the end of last year. Instead, it sold about 7,600.
The problem isn’t the car. I’ve driven one, and it’s a perfectly fine vehicle. It just costs about double what it ought to if it’s going to compete with gasoline models. As CNN Money points out, even the $7,500 tax credit that many buyers will get isn’t much of an incentive. For one thing, you don’t get the tax credit up front, so you still feel as if you’re buying a $40,000 car. And even at $32,000 the Volt still seems overpriced.
It’s hard to justify paying BMW-caliber pricing when, as one auto analyst said, a Chevy Cruze, which is essentially the same car with a conventional engine, is sitting just across the lot for half the price.
The Volt in many ways is still an experiment. It may be that with the next generation, due out in 2015, the price will come down or the price of gasoline will have risen enough to make more people willing to spend more for an electric car. But my conclusion after driving the Volt more than a year ago still stands:
For the moment, the Volt is an expensive novelty defined by ifs. If the technology lives up to the promises and if Chevy can shave 18 grand or so off the price, it might have the first electric car with mass appeal.
Image 1 of 25
Image 1 of 25 | Best fuel efficient cars
2012 Ford Focus: The all-new 2012 Ford Focus - pictured here against the Southern California backdrop of the all-media drive - raises the C-segment bar for style, technology, driving dynamics and fuel economy. (1/25/2011)
2012 Ford Focus: The all-new 2012 Ford Focus - pictured here against...the Southern California backdrop of the all-media drive - raises the...C-segment bar for style, technology, driving dynamics and fuel...economy. (1/25/2011)