GM Stops Volt Production To Prepare for 2016 Model
General Motors will stop production of the Chevrolet Volt in early May, as it prepares for production of the second-generation version of the plug-in hybrid. The 2016 model will increase the all-electric range from 38 miles to 50 miles—while introducing a sleeker mainstream design.
Since the beginning of 2015, Volt sales have dropped to an average of about 625 units per month. At the current sales pace, there’s enough inventory in the GM’s distribution system to last until November. GM has sold about 70,000 Volts since its introduction in late 2010—well below what the company had hoped to sell.
From the beginning, GM faced difficulties in explaining the technical design and benefits of the Volt. The company previously marketed the Volt as “an extended-range electric vehicle,” but with the 2016 model, is embracing “plug-in hybrid” as the best term. Steve Majoros, Chevrolet car marketing director, told the Wall Street Journal that dealers will get “significant marketing support” for the 2016 model. “We will be out publicly and big,” he said.
GM generated a lot of publicity, and conducted extensive consumer outreach, during the development of the Volt, and during its first year or so on the market. In the past year or so, the company has been quiet about the Volt—ceding the PR edge to other EV makers, most notably Tesla. In March, the Nissan LEAF all-electric car passed the Volt to become the all-time best-selling plug-in car in the United States. In 2014, sales of the Volt dropped by nearly 20 percent compared to the previous year.
Sales of any car model typically drop as a carmaker makes the switch to a new design. The change commonly forces consumers to choose between the current model, sometimes at a reduced price, and waiting for the new model. That’s an especially big challenge for Volt buyers, because of critical improvements in the 2016 model—most notably the jump to 50 miles of all-electric range, brisker acceleration, and the ability to carry a fifth passenger, even if not entirely comfortable, in the middle of the second row. The current version is strictly a four-passenger car.
More Choices, Stiffer Competition
The Chevy Volt is the first plug-in car to be rolled out as a second-generation model. The hard-earned lessons of the past four years about EV consumer acceptance and the technical capabilities of battery packs will help broaden the appeal of plug-in cars, even as low gas prices dampen demand for fuel-efficient models.
When the Volt was introduced, it was the first and only vehicle to provide a set of electric miles, backed up by a gas engine to extend range. In 2015, there are nine plug-in hybrids on the market, with four more expected this year alone. Mercedes and BMW recently announced that nearly their entire model lineups will be available with a plug-in hybrid option. However, no company has come close to offering the Volt’s 50-mile all-electric range, with the exception of the BMW i3 Rex version, which is less suited to long-distance road trips.
Limelight for the 2016 Volt will also have be shared with GM’s plans to introduce a 200-mile pure EV, currently named the Chevy Bolt. Excitement about longer range battery-electric cars, from Chevrolet as well as Tesla and Nissan, will make it difficult for GM to create buzz around the new Volt, once considered the company’s main halo car.
The current Volt starts at $35,200 before federal tax incentives. Pricing for the 2016 Volt has not been announced.
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