Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in
hybrid car capable of traveling 40 miles on a full charge, uses a
lithium-ion battery pack able to be recharged in a household power
outlet or can be trickled charged using the car's onboard gasoline
engine "range extender." Instead of just mimicking
the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, however, Chevy hoped to offer a
sportier vehicle -- which inadvertently drove up the price of the
GM Executive Bob Lutz, who spearheaded the Volt's
development, also noted a retail price tag believed to be in the high
$20,000s has turned out to be significantly more. Due to
expensive parts used in the car, including an $8,000 battery, more
expensive drivetrain, and other parts, the average transaction for a
Chevy Volt is somewhere near $43,000.
"When I said I hope
to sell it in the 20s, I just thought, well, if a conventional car of
that size with a conventional four-cylinder engine, we can sell it
for $15,000 or $16,000, then let's notionally add $8,000 for the
battery and we're at $25,000," Lutz told AdAge.com.
way my brain worked on that one."
GM had to modify
several standard systems it uses for its compact-car architecture --
a setback because it wasn't ready before -- which drove the price of
manufacturing through the roof.
Volt buyers are eligible for a
$7,500 federal tax credit, but that money won't be seen for several
months after the car's purchase, while the owner must deal with
financing and insuring the car.
Chevrolet will likely find it
very difficult to sell the $40,000 Chevy Volt, especially with
competition from Toyota, Honda, and other carmakers. For
recently announced the 2010 Nissan LEAF EV zero-emissions vehicle
that has already been dubbed a possible "Volt-killer,"
though auto industry insiders say it's far too early to say such
Automakers have shown a renewed interest in hybrids,
biofuels, and electric cars, as car shoppers also shift away from
regular gasoline to greener technologies. After GM opened its
Global Battery Systems Lab last June, there was a concern GM saw only
a short-term market for electric vehicles, which is no longer true.
Despite a more serious effort to develop fuel efficient vehicles,
Chevrolet may likely find it very difficult to sell its expensive
Volt in the face of new, cheaper competition.