With sales far lower than expected, General Motors says it will halt production of the Chevy Volt, its promising but high-priced plug-in car, for five weeks starting later this month. Still, just days after GM’s announcement, the Volt was named European Car of the Year.
Analysts blame the Volt’s low sales on the vehicle’s high sticker price, which starts at about $40,000. Even with gas prices on the rise and the government’s tax credit, the savings you might get from using electricity instead of gas would take years to realize.
The Volt is electric but has a small gas tank to extend its range. “By solving the problem of range anxiety, it is a remarkable step into the future of electrification,” said Hakan Matson, president of the EUCOTY panel, according to MSNBC.
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Still, luxury-car prices left the company with 7,600 Volts sold in 2011, missing GM’s goal of 10,000 for its first full year on the market. This year’s target was much higher — 45,000 — and the cars weren’t moving off the lots any faster, reports CNN Money. Car dealers are trying to use the five weeks without Volt production to sell the cars that are already on their lots.
“It shows that plug-ins do indeed have a long way to go, with one of the most critical factors being the high cost of batteries,” Kevin See, an analyst at Lux Research, a Boston-based renewable-energy market research firm, told the Christian Science Monitor.
One of the Volt’s biggest competitors is within its own family — the Chevy Cruze, which is not a plug-in but still gets impressive gas mileage and only costs half as much.
But there may be hope. “The first generation of the Prius didn’t do all that well, either,” Bill Visnic, an Edmunds.com analyst, told CNN Money. The Prius, a hybrid, is now one of Toyota’s best-selling models.
Only about 5,500 Prius models were sold in its first year on the market in 2000, reported the Wall Street Journal, and only 15,500 the following year. But by last year, Toyota sold 136,000 of them.
And, even as it faces trouble, the Volt has had no shortage of accolades.