Some Chevrolet Dealerships Passing on Volt EVs After Fire Concerns, Dwindling Customer Interest
January 23, 2012 5:07 PM
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Dealerships are turning down Volts GM wants to send them due to the recent battery fires and lack of sales
Earlier this month, GM announced that it was looking to pull in all 8,000 Chevrolet Volts off U.S. roads as well as the 4,400 for sale in showrooms for
a battery recall
. Volt dealers addressed the battery issues by adding steel to the plate that protects the EV's T-shaped, 400-pound battery. This steel would protect any penetration that could occur in an auto accident, and also evenly distribute the force of a crash. NHTSA tested the steel addition and announced that it would be a good fix.
Fixing the battery problem still hasn't made dealers feel any better, though. In fact, some Chevrolet dealers are turning away Volts that GM wants to ship to them partially because they're waiting for the fire situation to settle, and partially because the car just isn't selling the way GM wants it to.
Last month, GM sent 104 Volts to 14 dealers in the New York City market. The dealers only took 31 of them, which is the lowest rate take for any Chevrolet model in that particular market last month according to
Over on the west coast, Brett Hedrick, dealer principal at Hedrick's Chevrolet in Clovis, California, sold only 10 Volts last year total. For December 2011 and January 2012, he turned down all six Volt EVs allocated to him.
"[GM's] thinking we need six more Volts is just crazy," said Hedrick. "We've never sold more than two in a month."
This is particularly odd because Hedrick said he normally accepts most of the vehicles that GM allocates to his dealership.
GM sold a total of 7,671 Volts in the U.S. in 2011, which didn't quite hit the 10,000 mark the automaker was hoping for. Now, instead of pursuing the original Volt production goal of 60,000 units (where 75 percent would be for U.S. sales) for 2012, GM said it would simply make as many as customers wanted.
Rob Peterson, a GM spokesman, said that dealers were indeed making less Volt orders in recent months and that the dealers were "waiting for resolution of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's investigation."
Back in May 2011, GM's Chevrolet Volt underwent a series of tests at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) facility in Wisconsin. Three weeks after a side-impact crash test conducted on May 12, the Volt caught fire while parked in the testing center.
prompted an investigation
of the safety of lithium batteries used in plug-in electric vehicles. Lithium batteries can catch fire if the internal cells or the battery case are pierced by steel or another ferrous metal. In November, NHTSA conducted three additional side-impact crash tests with three separate Volts, and two out of the three sparked/caught fire after testing.
These battery issues caught a lot of attention from GM, customers, NHTSA and now dealers. GM was more than willing to do whatever it took to fix the problem, including
offering loaner vehicles
to scared Volt drivers and
buying back Volts
from any owner that asks.
GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson was
called to testify
before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in regards to the Volt's battery fires last year. This testimony coupled with the recent recall should hopefully offer some resolution and put worried minds at ease.
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It's just a crappy overpriced car
1/24/2012 6:52:42 PM
The fires are fodder for the media. Forget the fires. Just focus on the car.
It has an extremely complex engine that will be difficult for an average mechanic to work on. The "electric" portion of the car travels 30-40 miles (on a GREAT day) without switching to gas. The design is nothing to rave about. The interior is nice but not Lexus or Mercedes "luxury." The ride is smooth but not as smooth as luxury brands. And it's priced in the $40,000 range before tax incentives.
I wouldn't buy a Volt for $20,000 much less $40,000. It does exactly nothing of which I don't need.
Usually I am all for advancing technology but this isn't even an advancement on battery technology. They punted on battery tech. 30-40 miles is pathetic.
RE: It's just a crappy overpriced car
1/25/2012 9:49:24 AM
You expect this car to cost less than a modestly equipped Cruze or Civic? And you still wouldn't buy it? Good thing you aren't their target customer.
Do you realize that the Prius plug-in will cost between $35,000 and $39,000, depending on options? With a 12 mile electric range and 62 mph electric top speed?
How about the Focus electric, which has a 100 mile range (with no gasoline assist) that starts at $39,995?
The Volt "only" gets 30-40 miles per charge because it has a small battery (afforded by having a gasoline backup), not because its inefficient. It's electric efficiency is almost the same as the Leaf's, despite being larger and heavier (36 kwh/100 miles, or 94 MPG equivalent).
RE: It's just a crappy overpriced car
1/25/2012 11:34:34 AM
Given the feature set, quality, and "luxury level" I would expect the car to retail for $20k. Given the complex engine and headache of having to work on it I would not purchase it at that price point. I realize I am not the target audience because I am not a fool who enjoys lighting 100 dollar bills on fire.
I can't comment on the Prius or Focus Electric because I haven't seen them in person much less driven them. Their value really depends on the ride quality and how well they are made. At those prices they better be very very smooth.
"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes
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