Print 85 comment(s) - last by Keeir.. on Mar 13 at 7:23 PM

The Chevy Volt is outselling the Nissan LEAF -- but not by much.  (Source: Autoblog (LEAF), GM (Volt))
EV hopes are weighed down by miserable sales

There certainly seems to be some members of the American public who are enthusiastic about alternative powertrain vehicles.  In February, hybrid auto sales soared 39 percent to reach approximately 23.3k units.  Leading the pack was the veteran Toyota Prius.

But amid that optimistic figure was a bit of not-so-happy news for a couple major automakers.  General Motors only managed to sell 281 Chevy Volts in February, down from 321 in January.  And worse yet, the Nissan LEAF only sold 67 units in the month of February.

To date the Volt has outsold the LEAF, 928 units to 173.  Neither number looks very promising, at face value at least.  

For GM, the issue may lie partially on the supply side.  Dealers are trying to gouge on prices of the scarce Volts, but ultimately these tactics may backfire.  We saw several eBay auctions (which aren't free, mind you) end with no buyers.  In each case, dealers were trying to charge several thousand dollars over the MSRP -- and customers weren't buying.

If GM can pump up its supply, like it's promising, the price may drop to the MSRP and sales may pick up.

With Nissan, the problem and potential solution is likely different.  Arguably Nissan's sales are the bigger disappointment, as the company was promising to beat GM in production volume and sales. However, it is currently failing on those fronts, by all appearances.  One major issue may be limited distribution.  In the U.S., the LEAF only launched in a handful of markets such as California and New York.

Still it's a bit of a mystery how the far-cheaper LEAF has fared so much worse than the Volt.  One possibility is that drivers are scared of not having a backup gas engine (which the Volt has).  At the very least, expanding sales to most of the rest of the country should help the LEAF catch up -- if only a bit.

To add insult to injury, Britain has temporarily banned LEAF vehicles from being sold.  The LEAF contains a noisy backup warning sound to warn pedestrians -- a necessity, given the vehicle's relatively quiet motors.  But apparently that warning violates British noise laws, which prohibits loud noises between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Where recent U.S. laws and federal guidelines require these noises, Nissan is having to race to remove them in Britain.  Rather than making the noises timing dependent, Nissan is attempting a cruder fix -- removing them entirely.  States the company, "The audible system on the LEAF did not allow for [a timing dependent fix], so the beeping sound is being removed entirely before the cars can be driven on roads in [Britain]."

As a result there's a "slight delay" in British sales while the vehicle's firmware is modified in the factory in order to convince Britain to lift the sales ban.

One company that is likely smiling at the sales numbers is Ford.  A late-comer to the EV game, Ford will release a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) next year, and a battery-electric vehicle the year after that.  It's clear that even though Ford is coming in a year behind GM and Nissan, that there's plenty of room for improvement in the nascent field.

Another company that is likely pretty satisfied about the news is Tesla Motor Company.  Tesla's Roadster sales pace looks pretty impressive given the higher sticker, when compared to the LEAF.  Dramatic price difference aside, one key difference may be looks.  In an era where the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna reign atop pop charts, perhaps the LEAF's bulbous form is a bit too ungainly for a superficial public to bite on.  The sexy curves of a Roadster 2.5 EV or a Fisker Karma might be a little bit more pleasant EV pill to swallow, assuming you can afford it.


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Time for some creativity...
By jharper12 on 3/8/2011 9:16:33 AM , Rating: 2
Chevrolet needs to reduce supply of the Equinox, Cruze and Traverse to any dealer that charges more than MSRP for the Volt. This is miserable publicity, and completely against the point of having the Volt for sale at this point. They can't just crack down and tell the dealers not to overcharge, unfortunately they just don't have the legal right to do so, but they've overcome this sort of thing in the past by choosing who gets a limited supply of top selling vehicles, and that's what needs to happen now. The plan for the Volt was to sell up to 15k this year, originally I heard up to 12k. That can and still will likely happen. These things are severely supply constrained.

What people don't seem to understand is that they are very luxurious and fun to drive... the price tag is unrelated to the economy of the vehicle. This thing compares favorably to a luxury vehicle in the class, which will typically be around the same price, but it just happens to be an electric car that can keep going using gas. No range anxiety. People who see, get in them, and drive them, want one. It's a very moving and enjoyable experience to drive the Volt. I'm sure it's also enjoyable to drive the Leaf, but most people realize that with an 8-20 hour charge time the Leaf isn't going to make a lot of sense for them with such a limited range. Those same people see a car that goes up to 50 miles all electric (4-8 hours charge time) and then gets 37 MPG while the generator is running and they think, "win-win" this is fun to drive, good for the environment, and easy on the wallet. Buy the Volt and you'll have practically no maintenance worries and a lower gas bill. In the end it's far cheaper than most luxury vehicles.

Compare it to a Lexus IS 250, which gets 24 MPG combined premium. Assume half your driving is all electric with the Volt with an average range of 35 miles and a $1.50 in electricity to charge it... that's extremely conservative. Then the other half you're getting 37 MPG. Over 100k miles you'll have spent $15,745.83 in gas on the Lexus, not to mention the regular servicing that will need to take place, and $7,249.61 in gas and electricity on the Volt. Just the price to keep the thing moving brings the Volt into the same price range, not to mention the reduced servicing requirements. Now, let's do a more reasonable comparison: 40 miles to a charge, 75% electric driving, and everything else held the same. $5,365.88 for the Volt. Less than a 1/3 the operating cost. It's only going to get more favorable, the more gas prices go up. People are buying the Volt for a reason, and the second generation Volt is already in the works. Can't wait to see it.

RE: Time for some creativity...
By Spuke on 3/8/2011 12:55:48 PM , Rating: 2
What people don't seem to understand is that they are very luxurious and fun to drive
Wife and I went and looked at one. I wouldn't call it luxurious. As a matter of opinion, we were both surprised at how it was NOT luxurious. Even the spartan, Germanic interiors of BMW's are a helluva lot more luxurious than the the Volt. GM, charge another $2000 on the car and spruce up the interior a bit.

RE: Time for some creativity...
By Keeir on 3/8/2011 2:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
Even the spartan, Germanic interiors of BMW's are a helluva lot more luxurious than the the Volt.

Erm. BMWs have some of the best interiors (IMO) on Sub-100,000 cars out there. High quality materials and smart design choices are standard. Heck of alot better than the equivalent model Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, Caddy, Mercedes, Lincoln etc.

I think what the OP meant was that the Volt is not a sub-20k economy car with an electric drivetrain. Power Outlets, USB Ports, Automatic Climate Control, Bluetooth, Hard Drive based Naviation, 5 years of Onstar , Touch Screen center, Remote Starter, etc. Put every option on and you have leather, rear camera, heated seats, etc.

A Honda Civic which is still minus alot of features such as Automatic Climate Control, rear-backup camera etc, runs into the 26k range. Value of OnStar is debatable, but the Onstar site values 5 years at 1,500 dollars. TCO for a "loaded" Volt and an "loaded" Civic after 150,000 miles is remarkably similar.

RE: Time for some creativity...
By shin0bi272 on 3/9/2011 2:52:10 AM , Rating: 2
So in your communist mind they should cut the supply of cars that are selling well to push cars that arent? Do you not comprehend supply and demand at all? Supply goes up and demand stays the same ... price goes down. Supply stays the same and demand goes up Price goes up. If you want the price to go down on these POS EVs they will have to supply more of them first then when they dont sell the price will become more attractive near the end of the year when the next years models come out. Its like any new technology there's a price premium to be paid for early adopters. More people would put up with the volt if it were sub 15 or 20k... but till that day they wont sell well.

Luxury and fun are relative concepts. What you might call luxurious I might call bland. What you might call fun I might call dangerously loose in the corners... its all relative. You cant claim something is amazing and put everyone else down for not feeling the same way you do just because you enjoy something. I have a suggestion...why not drive a bently continental GT then drive a bugatti veyron (SP?) then drive a volt and then talk about luxury and fun to drive. Your entire post reads like you work for either GM or the federal government.

You cant assume that half of your driving will be electric with the volt unless you live and work less than 40 miles apart and never drive anywhere else without recharging the battery.

Instead of a high priced toyota lets compare it to an all gasoline powered saturn. I drive a saturn ION that gets 35mpg and it cost me 13,100 to buy. with gas at 3.50/gal I can fill its 10gal tank for 35 bucks. that 10 gal will last me a week worth of driving back and forth to my 2 jobs (working 2 jobs to buy a house not gas) which amounts to ~65mi/day. 35*52=$1820/yr in gas (again assuming gas stayed at 3.50 for this entire year... which it wont. the volt costs what 40k... pre government "incentives"? so 40k-13k = 27,000 bucks worth of gas I can buy before I even come close to what your volt cost. at 1800/yr in gas and I can drive for 15 YEARS before I come close to the cost of your POS Hybrid.

Please take your lips off obama's ass and learn to do math.

By shin0bi272 on 3/9/2011 3:00:19 AM , Rating: 2
Oh and also dont forget GM is still bankrupt... they are pushing a 40,000 dollar car that they arent even making a profit on in lieu of selling cars that they can make a profit on. I dont wanna hear that bs about they paid off their loan... they paid their first loan with money from the porkulus bill... so they paid us back with money we lent them... screw you GM!

And lastly you know what happens to batteries when they get cold (or hot) right? They lose efficiency... up to 50% efficiency in fact. So if the temp drops to lets say -10F your 40mi electric range will drop to about 20miles... enjoy your overpriced lawn ornament.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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