Despite hype, Chevrolet Volt has limited appeal

For the second time this year, GM idles the plant that manufactures the plug-in hybrid.

By Jonathan Berr Aug 28, 2012 11:40AM
General Motors (GM) is idling for four weeks its plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt, the much-hyped plug-in electric hybrid, because supply outstrips demand. This is the second time this year the Michigan plant has been shut, which indicates the vehicle has limited appeal.

Though Volt sales are up 272% since last year amid largely positive press, many consumers remain reluctant to buy it because it carries a high list price of around $40,000. Even with federal and state tax breaks, owning the Volt is expensive for most consumers. Further, those who buy the vehicle should probably also buy charging equipment, which can cost as much as $2,000.

"If you just want long range, good fuel economy and low emissions, a VW Golf TDI or Toyota Prius is cheaper and more readily available," according to Kelley Blue Book, which, like most reviewers, was complimentary about the Volt.

Shares of GM, which have gained 4% this year, were down slightly Tuesday.

The Volt, which has been heavily promoted, is a tough sell for GM. Sales last year fell short of the company's 2011 targets. The fact that GM has had to idle the Volt plant twice this year indicates the automaker may again have difficulty meeting its goals.

GM has a huge potential market for the Volt. Government data show more than two-thirds of commuters travel 15 miles or less to work, while 11% travel more than 30 miles each way. The Volt is a good fit for car-sharing services such as Zipcar (ZIP). But the economics of the vehicle are just so-so. For example, someone with a 60-mile commute, who would fuel up regularly, averaged 31.4 mpg, according to

"This isn't a bad mileage figure compared to regular gas vehicles, but it is seriously subpar when compared to the mid-40s mpg that a standard hybrid typically provides," the website says.

People who own Volts should hold on to them, because in coming years they are sure to be collectors' items. For now, though, the Volt's appeal will be limited to people like Ed Begley Jr., the actor and environmental activist, who wants to do right by the environment regardless of cost. Most people will take a pass on the Volt until it becomes far more economical.  

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.

Tags: gmZIP
Aug 28, 2012 10:12PM
Why do we complicate these arguments?  Isn't it simply this - the car costs so much for its size and usefulness, that the government believes it has to HELP people to buy them.  How ironic, too. The last time I checked, the average income of a Volt Buyer was $160,000 per year.  A moderate-income family who can only afford one car, could never live with the limitations of a Volt's performance.  So, people who can well afford to buy their own cars get a tax credit to buy a car that makes them "feel good".  And the tax credit is just that much more money on the pile of the National Debt.  Are we nuts, or what???
Aug 28, 2012 9:21PM
if everyone drove a volt how many coal power plants would need to be built?   These cars are advertised and promoted as clean energy.  Where does most electricity come from?????  COAL!!
Aug 28, 2012 7:54PM

All of these hybid and all electric cars are a waste. Of course, the public eats this stuff up. Do some research and find out what it takes to recycle these batteries. Oh, and by the way, you can't recycle an entire battery so the hazardous waste has to be disposed of properly. The rest will end up in land fills. Just wait until you have to replace those thousands of dollars worth of batteries. Oh, who would have thought? They don't last forever.


How much has your electric bill gone up since you bought one of these cars? Electricity doesn't just show up meraculously. It takes a lot to produce electricity and then get it to our homes. These cars aren't helping the planet. Not in the context they are promoted they are not.


All of the resources needed to build these products far outweigh the results they are supposed to provide.


I'll just spend my money at the pump.

Aug 28, 2012 8:29PM

The day will come when we have no choice but to capitulate and drive these abominations but that day is not upon us. There is plenty of oil available but the administration has put the kibosh on any new drilling in this country and insists on making us more dependent upon foreign sources while telling us we must drive fuel efficient auto's in order to circumvent foreign sources. This is all a scam and I see no reason to ruin our economy any further to please the Chicken Little's.

Aug 28, 2012 8:25PM

Gee maybe Obama has to pay the entire sticker price to get some more propoganda and justification from stealing the company . Close the plant forever people don t want Obamamobiles PERIOD

Aug 28, 2012 9:30PM
All I know is that my 2000 Explorer gets 15 MPG, but its paid for and $40,000 buys a lot of fuel even at $4/gal...
Aug 28, 2012 6:39PM
Here's how you save on cars.   Buy a fairly good used car for about $1,000.   Get the tires, brakes and battery done.  And get as much  driving out of it.  When its done buy another used car and do it all over again. . You will save thousands.
Aug 28, 2012 8:06PM
If the Volt price dropped about 20% they would probably sell 50 to 100% more of them.
Aug 28, 2012 1:00PM
Who killed the electric car buyer? The volt burns coal if your electricity is produced from coal power, natural gas from natural gas power generation, makes nuclear waste if your power comes from nuclear power and burns gasoline on long trips. Unless you have lots of solar panels on your roof, and few owners do, to charge this joke of a car the volt is not nearly as green as the lies would have you believe. On top of that the Volt is way over priced for the masses. Can anyone just tell the truth anymore?
too expensive you dont recover your money in gas saving
Aug 28, 2012 8:01PM
I sold these things at one point in my career, and these cars are horribly overpriced.
Aug 28, 2012 8:02PM
The Volt is a dog, pricewise and functionally.  It's best features are its plug-in feature and quiet ride.  Mileage is only so-so.  Looks like a Camry.  Few people will get the full tax credit, unless you are 35% bracket.  So, ending price is at least $5000 more than a Prius, without the range and mileage.  Continued stupidity and greed at US carmakers keeps the Japanese and Koreans still at the top of the heap.
Aug 28, 2012 6:43PM

Asked a stranger at the local post office how he liked his Volt.  He was a sharp guy and said he sat down with his calculator.  $40/month to charge - 250 MPG - $17 in gas over 4 months - $.05 per mile to operate - true cost of car $25,000 based on his driving habits which were lots of shorter trips - in summer over 50 miles per charge versus 38 in winter  It was literally like the commercial.  He said it was the first car he and his wife absolutely loved and was a blast to drive.  Quick and quiet.  He invited me to sit inside and I was surprised how nice the car appeared inside and out.  He said the online users groups all voice his exact thoughts.

Aug 28, 2012 9:51PM
GM bet the farm on this BS. When the price of these car comes to earth, and more people can buy them they might have a good start.  Electric cars are not really green. This car was doomed from the start. Exxon, Mobile, Shell, and all the others OWN our government. Oil moves the worlds economy. These greedy pigs are not done fleecing the world's dollars.
Aug 28, 2012 7:49PM
Well, I am a happy Volt owner. My real numbers, 4,100 miles and I have used 1.0 gallons of gas. Had the car since April 2012 and apparently it fits my driving habits perfectly. The writer states $2,000 for a charger, which is absurd. You can buy the 240V charger for $500.00. Until you actually DRIVE a Volt, you should not be commenting on the quality of the car. I traded in a high end SUV and haven't looked back. With the state tax rebates I received ($3500 in PA and $7500 from Federal) and the discounts on the car, I paid under $29,000 (again, REAL numbers). No regrets for me! I love my Volt!
Aug 28, 2012 11:47PM
Maybe they should merge with Amtrak so Obama's boys can write half as many checks to them.  GM needs those checks to move all their operations to China like they are doing with Cadillac. I wonder if they bother to send a thank you letter to the White House for the outsourcing reimbursements.
Aug 28, 2012 7:12PM

How the blazes is Edmunds coming up with those numbers.  I am a very proud Volt owner the car rides as well as the BMW 530i I previously owned. Plain and simple I have gotten from 35-45 miles on a single charge. (35 in the very hot weather we had this summer and I needed more airconditioning).  After that we get about 38mpg on gas.  Our current avg MPG is at about 150mpg.  Yes you can go directly through the dealer and spend close to $2000 on a charger in the house, but that is like having the dealer apply fabric protection to the seats. We spend $500 for the charger and $200 for a local electrician to install.

Aug 29, 2012 5:54AM
Government Motors will never be the same since the bail out from us the American Tax Payer. If we do not make a change at the voters boothes this November this country will not survive. it may already be to late. WE ARE BANKRUPT, WE HAVE NO MONEY AND ARE IN TROUBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aug 28, 2012 9:55PM
My battery operated car is remote controlled ... GM is dead; it just hasn't fallen over yet.
Aug 28, 2012 10:01PM
Deustchland Leben! I have a 1963 volkswagen beetle with a 1300 engine giving me 39 MPG.Why did they stop making these?! Get a Volkswagen people!!
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