By on March 13, 2012

 

The Chevy Volt has probably been the most over-reviewed vehicle of modern times. You want some insights on a Volt? Go here, here, and here without ever leaving the homely confines of TTAC.

Then there are hundreds of reviews from other sites throughout the web and beyond. From Mommy blogs to the more conventional auto enthusiast locales, the Volt has been given tons of exposure and tens of millions of dollars in marketing.

Yet it flounders. GM decided to temporarily shut down the Hamtramck factory so that demand and supply can begin to balance themselves out. What happened? Did GM shoot right past the goal of mainstream tastes? Did the irrational exuberance of corporate marketeers transform the promise of the Volt into little more than a cynical plea for corporate funding?

I don’t believe the Volt deserves that much credit, or criticism. If you want to explore the strengths and shortcomings of the Volt, just look at the car for what it is.

 

The Walkaround: An observant reviewer once mentioned that the Volt looked like a cross between a Prius and a Cruze. In my eyes there are a lot of other ingredients in the styling recipe. Some work well such as the SVX inspired upper belt lane in black that carries a nice congruent flow to the rest of the vehicle.  This unique design element offers a nice way of adding sleekness to an otherwise bulky design. However there’s one problem.

The Volt in person looks heavy and bulbous. An anti-hybrid design in a market where lightness is a virtue.  The fender flares of the Volt bulge out in an almost squarish manner to accomodate 17 inch tires instead of the typical 14’s and 15’s that still find a home with the competition. Instead of simplicity, the Volt is weighed down with an enlarged rear end, a compact Cruze like front end, and a middle that to me looks more like an outgoing Sentra that had been given some serious weight gain pills.

Which is indeed what has happened. The Chevy Volt has been given several hundreds of pounds of very high strength steel along with a powertrain beefed up enough to handle two engines that can easily propel the Volt by themselves. The end result is a strong, bulky, and discombulated design that tries to make 3780 pounds of heft look sporting.

It’s a tall order.

The Interior:  The sporting compromises stretch to the inside where Chevy apparently chose to install door panels and a center dash instrument panel that are based on the Chevy Camaro. It works surprisingly well.  The ceramic styled panels are a nice departure from the chintzy low level vinyls and plastics that are found in most other hybrids. The upscale theme continues with leather seats that are double-stitched and exude a level of quality and comfort you would normally expect from a Cadillac instead of a Chevrolet.

GM does a great job with interior these days. The Volt is no exception.

All the usual touch points are well padded and the interior visuals rank among the best you will find in any hybrid. The wraparound dash is well-padded and, as is the norm these days, GM gave the steering wheel plenty of leather with a well balanced layout for controls all within a finger’s reach. The interior is almost an ergonomic masterpiece if it weren’t for one glaring thing.

Introducing the green bouncing ball.

The Feedback: In all my years of hybrid ownership I have never seen a system that offers as little real time information as the Volt. Forget about the brilliance that is the Cruze’s trip computer or the ability of the LEAF’s interface to improve the longevity of the battery with a few button pushes. The Volt simply offers a green ball that you have to constantly center to maximize MPG’s. Nothing more..

The Volt has no instant MPG’s. None. Want to know how well you’re driving given that the battery is done? Tough! There are no interfaces at all where drivers can immediately benchmark themselves.

Instead you are given a green ball that jumps around and changes color if, and only if,  you accelerate hard or use regenerative braking. This may not sound like that big of a deal, and it wouldn’t normally be if we were talking about a Camry or some other vehicle that caters to those who only want the absolute basics of information.

But hybrid owners are different. They compete with MPG’s in the same way sports car enthusiasts compete with lap times.  Hybrid owners want to be better and best… with fuel economy. They want to know that the long downhill run where the engine temporarily cut out yielded a near infinite level of fuel economy for them since only the battery was used. They want to win, in their own frugal way.

For whatever reason, GM chose not to offer the type of technical data that most hybrid owners (and millions of other drivers)  use to amuse themselves during their boring commutes.

This lack of immediate technical feedback limits the Volt’s appeal.  We now live in a world where a Prius offers constant cost per mile calculations, and even non-hybrids provide a wealth of valuable data available to the driver. I believe offering real time information to the Volt would make this model far more attractive and marketable than is now the case.

The Ride: On the road Chevy decided to couple a somewhat luxurious interior with a taut ride. You feel nearly everything on the road and with an MSRP of $46,165, you shouldn’t have to.   But despite the Germanic thumps that come with the Volt’s ride… there are also some unusual benefits to the Volt’s design.

Handling is top notch. I would categorize the Lexus CT200h and Volt to be leaders in this segment in terms of their handling. However the Volt comes with a more laid back and luxurious interior that makes it a bit of a nicer companion for the long road trip. On a long drive the Volt is a better match than any other hybrid-only vehicle.

While the CT200h feels ‘tight’ to the point of near claustrophobia, the Volt has a bit more spaciousness to it. A family of four can get comfortable and remain so. There is a tunnel that encroaches on space. But this is also true for the CT200h. The ‘Lexus Prius’, that is the CT200h, represents the closest competitor to the Volt.  By some everyday driving standards, the Volt far surpasses it.

Sans Battery: Then there were other elements to the drive that surprised me quite a bit. The Volt performs surprisingly well even outside of battery mode. I was able to get the fuel economy close to 43 mpg while using the 1.4 Liter 80 horsepower gas engine for most of the Volt’s long-distance driving. The powertrain’s ability to go back to the 149 horsepower battery during brief moments of coasting and in-town driving also helped, which makes me believe that the ’37 gas only’ EPA rating is a bit modest.

There is also a feeling of security you get with the Volt that you don’t get with most other hybrids. You feel the bulk of the vehicle in spite of the fact that the steering feels direct and easy. This is a major benefit in a car market where parents often want to encapsulate their kids away from the risks and dangers of  the open road. GM should be given kudos for addressing one of the main reasons why families still avoid hybrids in this era of $4 gas.

The Build: One other aspect related to the ride that deserves kudos is the overall architecture, which may likely become a gold standard for the next generation of GM products. Over 70% of the Volt’s structure is made out of high strength steels, with the majority composed of ultra-high strength steel. As someone who has seen hundreds of salvage vehicles at the auctions with the words ‘biohazard’ scrawled on their windshields due to the prior occupant’s blood loss and in some cases, death, I believe this structural improvement alone is nearly as important to GM’s future as the dual mode hyrbid design of the Volt.

This commendable level of engineering translates into a directness and stability on the road that is better than most other hyrbid designs. The Chevy Volt feels like one strong, firm, supremely welded piece of steel. It’s also notably heavy at 3780 pounds. But unlike the thin panels and overall perceptual flimsiness of other hybrids, the Volt has a feeling of ruggedness that could become more appealing to mainstream buyers in the United States.

The mainstream consumer wants safety AND fuel economy; which the Volt definitely brings to the marketplace. Albeit at the price of a Cadillac before tax incentives are concerned.

The Price: If you are among the 13 states that provide a state and federal tax credit of $12,750, you have a choice to make.  One one side of the marketplace is the aforementioned Lexus CT200h. A fourth generation hybrid that represents Toyota’s killer app in today’s marketplace. With a light foot and occasional glances over the course of a week, the CT200h provided me with over 51 miles per gallon and the first dose of adrenal excitement I’ve ever realized from a hybrid.

A loaded CT200h comes at right around $36,000 which is within $1000 of the Volt if you buy within the 13 states that offer generous state tax credits.  Don’t buy from those states? Well, then the price /value ratio starts to deteriorate for the Volt. This is not surprising given that Toyota’s hybrid technology has been developed for over 15 years while the Volt is a first generation effort.

Consideration:

A consumer considering the Chevy Volt should be willing to ask themselves a few hard questions.

1)  Am I willing to buy a vehicle whose technology is only in it’s early stages of development?

2) Do I want to change my driving style and see how my choice yields savings and MPG’s over time? Or do I just simply want to ‘go’ without a care about these things?

3) Am I willing to pay nearly double the price of a Chevy Cruze Eco for what amounts to a similar sized package that offers comparable highway fuel economy once the battery is depleted?

4) Is most of my driving done within a 30 to 45 mile range?

5) What about cost? Do I really care about a hybrid’s breakeven point versus an internal combustion engine? Or am I willing to pay more money for a vehicle that uses battery propulsion for most of it’s driving, and offers the added range of a gas engine.

Overall:

Overall, the Volt reminds me a lot of the first generation Prius. The economies of it don’t make sense given today’s realities. But the technologies that have been developed within the Volt may truly change and evolve the automotive landscape. Everything from the Volt’s 400 pound lithium ion battery, to the advanced steels and polymers, to even the software that makes dual mode transportation possible, can now become a part of GM’s future product development.

The Volt may indeed become a long-term success story.  But despite GM’s current best efforts, the Chevy Volt remains  a work in progress that may take several years and multiple attempts to yield profit and popularity. I applaud GM for making it. Hopefully it will lead to better things.

Note: I received the obligatory gas, insurance, and use of the Volt for a week. 

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88 Comments on “Of Hybrids and Electrics: 2012 Chevy Volt...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    The Volt is undoubtedly a good car…were it selling for mid $20s.

    Given that it cannot sell at all without gummit subsidies speaks volumes about GM’s still incompetent management.

    And – as an ex (very very ex) GM customer, I’ll nevah purchase one of their junkmobiles again.

    (Corvette – as always – excepted. That’s a d*mn good deal for the bucks…even with its lagging interior.) However, now that it’s gummit motors – I’ll never purchase another one of those either.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      That pretty much says it all. It’s crap coming out of a crap car company that went bankrupt because of its (Steven, it’s its, not it is, and families, not the possessive family’s) crap cars. And they will always build crap cars with loose steering wheels and no brake pads. I’m just waiting with baited breath for the next Three Stooges mistake to come from GM. I’m waiting, and probably not for long.

      • 0 avatar
        benzaholic

        Did I miss the section in this article where they mentioned loose steering wheels and missing brake pads on the Volt?
        Skimming back through it, I just see lots of mentions of how well designed and assembled the test car appeared to be, but nothing about loose steering wheel or missing brake pads.

        And how does the expense of new technology mean that GM’s management is incompetent? Does that mean that the extra 10 or 20 thousand that somebody like BMW or MB charges for their AMG- or M-engined models proves that the Germans have incompetent management?

        Like they say, Haters gonna hate.

      • 0 avatar
        285exp

        Kevin, since we’re doing Spelling Nazi today, that would be bated breath, unless you’ve been eating worms.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “However, now that it’s gummit motors – I’ll never purchase another one of those either”

      So I take it you wouldn’t buy a VW or Audi either? Or is “gummint” ownership fine by you as long as it’s a foreign “gummint”?

      • 0 avatar
        Yeah_right

        My kids and grandkids won’t be paying for Germany’s ownership of Audi. They will for the billions spent to save few hundred thousand union jobs. And saying “save” means you assume that GM would have ceased operations entirely during a legitimate bankruptcy proceeding instead of wiping out the union contracts, losing a few thousand jobs (including management’s), and restructuring.

        It also assumes that wiping out GM debt obligations will somehow magically fix the corporate mess that produced the 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix GTX POS that served as my price of admission into the GM Haters Club.

        If German taxpayers wants to help me own an A8, fine with me.

  • avatar
    Franz K

    The REAL Questions to Ask when Considering buying a VOLT

    #1 Am I stupid and gullible enough to be a Lab Rat at my own expense to benefit GM’s experiments ?

    #2 Am I dumb enough as a US tax payer thats already Paid for the VOLT several times over willing to directly give GM even more of my hard earned $$$ for the ( sic ) ability to own one ?

    #3 Am I wiling to pay Mercedes BMW prices for what is an over glorified Chevy Cruze with a Battery pack and a pretentious Hybrid system ?

    #4 Am I naive enough to pay more for the VOLT ( even factoring in rebates , tax breaks etc ) than the VOLT will ever save me in Gas bills , assuming $6.00 a gallon ?

    #5 Am I willing to buy into Lutz’s Rantings , Hyperbole and Lies ?

    #6 Has all vestiges of Common Sense finally left my being utterly and completely ?

    Conclusion ; The VOLT is a very bad Joke on behalf of GM towards the American Tax Payers and supported by ObamaClaus . Take away the incentives and rebates and the VOLT would of died the Death it deserves months ago

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      If this car had the Cruze power-train plus a V6 option , would it do as well as the Cruze or the Malibu, based upon its other attributes?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Volt230: “If this car had the Cruze power-train plus a V6 option , would it do as well as the Cruze or the Malibu, based upon its other attributes?”

        IT would do exactly as well as a Cruze, because it *is* a tarted up Cruze with a really interesting and technologically advanced powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      I believe that says even more….

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      You forgot a couple

      #7 Do I think it’s important for “American” car companies to remain technologically competitive for the next 10 or 20 years?

      #8 Am I proud of what my country does to maintain the incoming supply of oil?

      FTFY

  • avatar
    spinjack

    Too expensive. If it were the two seat rich man’s toy that was introduced at the car shows, it might well sell better and give GM time to refine the technology and introduce some economies of scale.

    Sell the Volt for $28,000 and watch it fly off the showroom floor.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Hear, hear!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “Sell the Volt for $28,000 and watch it fly off the showroom floor.”

      Having watched the Volt hype from the beginning, that actually was the plan.

      It looks to me like they stuck to the 40-mile EV range, at the expense of a) price and b) gasoline-only MPG.

      Those are probably reasonable choices. A cheaper car wouldn’t have achieved much of anything. And the battery compensates for the MPG in the real world — the only time it fails is when you try to make an apples-to-apples comparison to the Prius. I probably would have made the same decisions in their shoes.

      The 2nd-gen Volt is supposed to be a more cost-conscious effort. The question is: will the Volt survive until the 2nd generation design is available? I sure hope so. Alas, I’m not a rich enough geek to vote for my wallet for the viability of this technology. I’ll have to leave that to my geek homies with the 6-figure salaries.

      P.S. New technology is about the only thing that will get me to shell out new-car money. Used cars are just really damn good these days.

  • avatar

    “For all intensive purposes,”

    How intensive are the purposes?

    Really intense?

  • avatar
    Robbie

    I missed in this review some discussion of the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which will start at $32,760…

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I hope GM is already spending 90% of its Volt R&D money on a clean sheet redesign rather than this generation of Volt. This one is doomed to a limited niche by weight, cost and quickly-maturing competition. A for effort. B- for implementation.

    The near future seems to belong to plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries and pricetags. A plug-in Prius, Fusion or Accord with 10-15 miles of electric range will get me to work and back on a charge (most of the time), and it can be charged overnight on 110 current. Although the plug-in premium will initially be much higher, it might be no more than $1000 or so (over a non-plugin hybrid) within 5 years.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @Conslaw “The near future seems to belong to plug-in hybrids with smaller batteries and pricetags.”

      I think you’re right (although I’d add 5+ seating to the list). I suspect the reason Toyota/Honda/Ford etc. are going that route is that they’ve done a fair amount of marketing research to back up that sort of configuration. They’re also basing their PHEV vehicles on existing vehicles which should save on production and design costs. Besides, if the production numbers aren’t that great, it’s not like that’s the only vehicle those plants are building.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I doubt it would take much more than some software updates to change the volt from its current EV only and IC only configuration to run in a hybrid mode.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Dynasty: Dude, just don’t plug it in. It turns in to a hybrid when you do that.

        The Prius, the Ford Escape Hybrid, and most other regular hybrids on the market beat it in MPG when you do that, though, which is one of the places where the Volt could have done better.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I meant the gas engine generating current for the electric motor before the battery is discharged. Greater performance at the expense of efficiency.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    What’s all the angst about the Volt’s mass? I don’t consider 3780 pounds to be very heavy. I have a two seat sports car (74 Mercedes Benz 450SL) that weighs a little more than this. It handles great while achieving all of 15 mpg albeit a fast 15 mpg in local driving So if the volt can attain 40 mpg at 65 mph while lugging a 400 lb battery, I consider that good efficiency.
    I would have no problem owning a Volt if they can nick about $10K form the price and keep the current tax credits while getting rid of the requirement to use premium fuel. The cost savings should be achievable with just a 60% reduction in the installed cost of the battery.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Wha’? You’re using a 450SL as an efficiency benchmark against which to measure the Volt? A few years ago I had a brief time behind the wheel of a low-mileage 1980 model – that was the year they they traded off a little top speed for a little improvement in economy, with the EPA ratings going all the way up to 12 city, 16 highway. It was a ponderous tank. Mass is mass. There’s no reason cars can’t continue to become both lighter and safer.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My Ford Ranger weighted 3300lbs. My Escape weighs around 3200lbs. My Prius weighs 2900lbs. My benchmarks are a compact car, a car-based SUV, and a compact body-on-frame pickup truck.

      The Volt out-weighs (and out-masses) them all.

      OTOH, the Volt engineers publicly claimed that the weight didn’t hurt EV range as much as they expected, presumably because of the regenerative braking. But, still, it’s easy to think that the weight must contribute to sub-Prius gasoline-only MPGs.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    I was figuring a way more informative if not cooler display than that, given that the panel and so on looked so modern and futuristic. I’ve only seen one in the showroom, and it wasn’t powered on. I still like the idea of the Volt, and would seriously consider trading my Prius in on one in a year or three if they are still making them by then.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Don’t do it. Do not be ignorant. There are enough oblivious people out there supporting a crap car company which should have been left to die.

      • 0 avatar
        JK43123

        Well, and wasn’t this touted as an ELECTRIC car at first? Big new ELECTRIC car. And then…oh, it’s a hybrid like everybody else is developing. Big deal.

        And after suffering through three of their POS vehicles in the ’80s and ’90s I wouldn’t touch one, period.

        John

      • 0 avatar
        glenroebuck

        it is an ELECTRIC Car and not a hybrid. It is an extended range EV the gas engine will charge the battery – it does some assist but 90% of it is charging the battery on extended trips.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Its an electric car, once the battery runs out it switches mode and becomes a hybrid.. its pretty amazing an 80hp engine can move a 3700lb car so well.. not even a Prius can match that.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “But hybrid owners are different. They compete with MPG’s in the same way sports car enthusiasts compete with lap times.”

    That’s a good insight. GM should follow your advice, and change the car accordingly.

    The Volt is a car that should be designed for early adopters but that appears to have been designed by late adopters to address the concerns of late adopters. Late adopters tend to think differently from, and often badly misjudge, early adopters. GM designed the car to cope with late adopter issues such as range anxiety, when the focus should have been on early adopter concerns such as the hipness of the technology or green cred.

    Combine this with GM’s dealer network, and the problem becomes two-fold. Most of them probably don’t know how to sell this sort of car, either. The issue isn’t with the product concept, per se, so much as it is with the company that is doing the executing.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Do you really think that GM car buyers give a crap about a readout? They probably all have pictures of their spoiled brats pasted over the display and are texting and talking while trying to get the pacifier in little Jordan’s mouth so he will shut up and watch his DVD of Dora the Illegal. That’s pretty much what I see on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        I would think that it would be hard to make such generalizations about GM buyers, considering they own a large portion of the world’s car market. I’m sensing that you have a problem with GM and people with children.

      • 0 avatar
        spinjack

        Volt buyers are not necessarily GM buyers. It is very likely that most people that have purchased a Volt would ordinarily never consider a GM vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …watch his DVD of Dora the Illegal….

        You are an ass. Keep your bigotry to yourself. There is no room for comments like that at TTAC.

        The Volt is a win across the board except for the 800 lb gorilla…it costs too much.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      @Pch101: Good post. Geoffrey Moore described the differences well in “Crossing the Chasm”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Chasm

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Geoffrey Moore described the differences well in ‘Crossing the Chasm’ ”

        He did, indeed. I’ve referenced his work and the Technology Adoption Cycle here before. It would probably behoove a few people in Detroit to read it.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      That’s a great insight on hybrid drivers. Can’t believe the Volt doesn’t have an instantaneous MPG readout. I just figured they all had to have something similar to that bar chart in the Prius. I’m talking about this display.

      http://john1701a.com/prius/photos/display/PriusConsumption_End-Of-Summer_English.jpg

      This pic is taken with the car stopped I believe, but when driving the bar graph marked “Current” updates every second or two with your instantaneous mileage. Very easy to see out of the corner of an eye.

      • 0 avatar
        glenroebuck

        It does not have it because …it is not a hybrid. It is an ev. Hyrbid cars use a combo of elec to move the car at lower speeds then gas for higher and use advanced electronics to shut off the gas engine when stopped, and start it up past the speed limit of the electric.

        The volt is an EV. The gas engine in the car is used to charge the battery past it’s inital range if needed. If you never go above your extended range like I do you never use gas. I drive 30 miles to work, who lucky me, has an ev charging station. I drive home and plug in. If I go out ot eat or shopping or other errands, I am still on electric. In fact I have gone 7500 plus miles and used about 2.6 gals of gas. Most of that is the car turning the engine on to keep the gas fresh and cycled. There is an onstar android app that I use that keeps me posted on overall mgg but for my situation is is infinity..or 2600 MPG which ever number you prefer.

    • 0 avatar

      That first quote describes my brother, the Prius owner, for whom cars were appliances until he got his beloved gas sipper. (He even thinks the thing is fun to drive!)

      I think major problems of the Volt are the weight and the mediocre (by today’s standards) gas mileage when the thing is operating on the engine. And also the lack of feedback on efficiency as described in this article. Unless I had a very short commute, and that was most of the driving I did, even if I were in the market for green for green’s sake, I wouldn’t be considering the Volt, because of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @pch101: “hipness of the technology or green cred”

      Your comment hits the nail on the head.

      But, I can tell you’re not in my early-adopter crowd. Since I spent the morning editing a co-workers executive summary, I’d like to suggest some clarifications to the language.

      What you meant by “hippness of the technology” is probably the “elegance of the technology”. Technological elegance is something that you either appreciate or you don’t, it would seem — but a well designed machine becomes more and more beautiful as you take it apart and as you try to figure out what the designers was thinking. Not all machines are like this, but when a machine is beautiful and elegant, it strikes a deep chord with some people.

      What you meant by “green cred” is probably the pioneering aspect of being an early adopter. You’re hoping to blaze the trail that others will follow. You’ll probably help pave that trail with some of your dollar bills. You’re exploring the future. “Green” technologies are highly relevant to this, because a lot of people are concerned about energy supply and the externalities of extracting and burning the stuff. As an early adopter, you risk being wrong — but debating the future, and eventually putting your money where your mouth is happens to be part of the fun.

      Personally, I’m better at debating the future. My father-in-law is better at putting his money where his mouth is.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Luxurious interior? Hard ride? Goodness, there’s just no pleasing TTAC!

    I really didn’t need to read the part about “biohazard”. Ewww…

    I still want a Volt, but not sure even if I could afford one, it would save me much money in fuel costs. Right now, my Impala gets me more than 400 miles out of a tank, and I use it pretty much only for commuting – very comfortable, smooth commuting. If I want to punish myself, I drive the MX5, but with the top down, it makes it worth it!

  • avatar
    jmymlr

    I see the Volt’s sales problem as much simpler than politics or even the car itself. It’s a logistics problem. No one without a personal garage will buy the car. This almost precludes it from what it would be best as…a city car.

    I would seriously consider getting one, but I live in a condo with a 6 level parking garage and no electrical outlet in sight. No sale.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well, this is by far the most intelligent and balanced review of the Volt that I’ve read anywhere. Congratulations, Mr. Lang, I think you covered all the bases very well indeed.

  • avatar
    dwford

    GM needs ot figure out how to market this thing. Most people still don’t understand how a hybrid works, let alone a plug in like this. The commercials so far have not presented the technology in an understandable way nor the benefits to it. No wonder it doesn’t sell.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      The best way to market this car was to recognize that luxury car buyers will pay for bleeding edge technology. If it was packaged and sold as a Cadillac, with Cadillac design cues and priced just below a Fisker Karma or Tesla Model S, it probably would be selling at double the current rate (pun intended), and making as much profit as an Escalade IMHO.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        I agree. I probably would have bought one already.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree. It has consistently surprised me that electric cars are being marketed to the middle class, with prices more appropriate for the affluent.

        My business plan would be a Cadillac Volt, fully equipped for $60k. That makes it competitive with the E-Class and BMW 5-series, which means it’s still in a relatively high-volume market. You’d have to put $5k of wood and leather into the thing to make it viable, but even without tax credits people would buy it. Many more people than buy Volts today.

        I think they made it a Chevy for political reasons, to make it more appealing for President Obama and friends, and that was a bad mistake.

        D

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        I disagree. Many green and no-imported-fuel buyers would feel uncomfortable piloting a Cadillac – a name associated with decadence/opulence.

        In addition, the interior would need to be upgraded to conform to Cadillac expectations, raising the price or increasing the loss on each sale.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        David, the Volt was known as the Chevy Volt before Obama was elected. But I do agree, shoulda been a Caddy.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Chevy has a new infomercial on their Youtube account that is pretty good. However, I have not seen it on TV. I haven’t seen any Volt commercial for that matter for months. The Cruze seems to get PLENTY of screen time at the moment.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Another commenter wrote, “I think they made it a Chevy for political reasons, to make it more appealing for President Obama and friends…”

      Just to make clear: The Chevy Volt prototype was shown in January 2007 (at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit). Barack Obama didn’t even announce his candidacy until February.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    People are willing to pay $23,000 for a stretched Corolla with a better interior, better exterior and awesome gas mileage. A car that, on a heavy commute, more than covers the cost of the hybrid technology in reduced gas costs.

    People are not willing to pay $46,000 for a Cruze with a better interior, debatably better exterior, mediocre gas mileage and the ability to drive without gas on a 30 – 45 mile commute assuming plug-in capability at work.

    Still, that GM was able to get anyone to buy a Volt at a $30,000 premium over a Cruze is an accomplishment.

    It would have helped to sell it as a Cadillac.

    The fire scare was the nail in the coffin.

    Not providing the kind of instant MPG readout that a ~$60 or less dash mount OBD II readout provides, in a $46,000 hybrid, is insane.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I have a theory that the Volt was intended from the start to become a Caddy, but the gub’ment stepped in, and wanted it to appear to be for the masses as a Chevy. Why? Look at GM’s past hybrid concepts. The Ciel, the ULC, the ELR, all Cadillacs.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        The Volt was intended to be a Chevy from the start. At least in public, the gub’ment didn’t stick its… nose… in until after the car had been given the go for production, again as a Chevy.

        That said, the timing of that decision is definitely interesting. GM had to have known it was on death’s door when it approved the Volt, so I’m sure the government (both Dubya and then Barry) had some “influence” on the matter.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Wow, I had completely forgotten that the Lexus CT200h existed. I remember the reviews were not very positive, and its hard ride and cramped cabin are just not worth it for the MPG (for me). I’d probably take a Prius (or even better, a VW TDI) over it…

    Similar things could be said about the Volt, unfortunately. The Volt’s main problem, as so many others have mentioned, is price. IIRC, the Volt was originally promised to start under $30K, and at its current price, it is just not worth it unless you qualify for some great tax rebates.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Steve – your mention of solidity and security and then spaciousness for the Volt triggered a memory in me that now has me wondering if GM did themselves a disservice in the way they rolled out the Volt in their public drive events.

    I went to one of those events and drove a Volt and came away with an impression of the car as a sort of cramped armoured personnel carrier/ electric hummer in a jogging suit. The low roof line with the high beltline and the high center tunnel gave me that ‘bunkered in’ feel. However- and here is where I now see the unconcious failing by the event organizers – there were only a few cars available, so I drove the Volt as one of four adult males jammed in the thing. First I was a rear sear passenger, and eventually a driver. Of course in any car the size of the Cruze that would have seemed a bit crowded but the styling and center tunnel amplified the impression. NOTE: When I drove a Leaf, it was only me and a minder, so I could slide the seats back etc.
    It didn’t seem cramped, just small. Obviously, though if they’d stuffed 900 or so pounds of Americans in it things would have been different.

    I wonder if GM didn’t unintentionally give thousands of potential customers a different first impression than they thought they were giving. Where’s Buickman for his spin on this?

  • avatar
    rnc

    Can someone explain why it’s not possible to put a 2 or 3 speed transmission b/t the engine and generator? would that not greatly increase economy?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Actually, this happens already during high-speed driving whereby the generator is and clutched to the planetary ring gear, thus entallening the effective gear ratio for the drive motor and allowing it to spin at lower revs. You can actually feel this transition when you’re going from 0-60, feels like a fairly soft upshift that is a bit slow, presumably lagging due to having to clutch and bring the ring up to speed.

      Now what I would like to see is a hack that engages the planetary gearset while on full electric at lower speeds, providing for an infinite set of ratios, not unlike the D-Drive.. Presumably that would enable you to ‘shorten’ gears for launches at the expense of efficiency.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A Volt comparo to the Prius. BLASPHEMY!!!

    Super Volt hatred rockets engaged, target acquired, FIRE!

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    The Volt has no instant MPG’s. None. Want to know how well you’re driving given that the battery is done? Tough! There are no interfaces at all where drivers can immediately benchmark themselves.

    This is incorrect, the fuel economy is updated ‘live’ with both trip odometers (which your pic doesn’t show, did you select it and tap ‘config’ to display it?) and there’s a lifetime economy display as well as a gas/electric pie/ball chart when you power off or go into the eco display by hitting the ‘leaf’ button under the drive mode button. It doesn’t show interesting technical data such as graphs of KWh used per mile or at particular speeds or times, but you can get a pretty good view of your economy, and it will report your electric “mileage” in terms of KWh/100mi. I assume all of these change when set to Metric.

    Plus, all that stuff is available thru the sh–ty myvolt.com website and the reasonably decent OnStar iphone/android apps.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      As I mentioned, it does not show instant MPG or kwh at all. Most every compact vehicle NON-hybrid already provides this instant feedback.

      The lack of instant visual feedback is a weakness for the Volt. I do think that this could be easily remedied, which is why I noted it in the review.

  • avatar

    I noticed that GM cars often have ridiculously large front overhangs. This does not only mean the cab-forward FWD models, but even old Camaro. I knew people who routinely dragged the nose of Impala.

  • avatar
    glenroebuck

    It amazes me how people talk out of thier asses without having even bothered to talk to an actual owner. I own a volt. I traded in my 2010 Avalanche LTZ and it’s 19 mpg 33 gallon tank in for the volt. One reason – gas cost me 480 dollars a month, my car payment was 470. My work has an ev charging station so between home and work, I drive to and from work approx 30 miles each way. Of the 7564 miles I have put on it, I have used 2.8 gallons of gas. That is almost 2600 mpg. That is not a typo – 2600 mpg. I have not changed my driving habits at all and have literally paid nothing for gas in almost a year (they filled it up when I got it)..and will pay nothing for gas since my local grocery store gives me 10 cents a gallon off for ever 50 I spend and not having used it in oh….6 months..I got a free tank when I do eventually need it (at this point I give away the free gas because I never use it and let my friends fill up). I my car payment is pretty much the same, I am saving 480 a month on gas. Can I haul a couch anymore? no, but I never really NEEDED a decked out 4×4 in reality and if I do need to haul something I can rent a truck..did I mention I save 480 dollars a month? The car itself drives great, hanlding, interior, style, it turns heads and when people ask me about it, I tell them just what I told you. If you drive 150 miles one way is this a good choice? Nope. I drive almost 60 to and from work plus errands after work and again….I PAY NOTHING IN GAS….this car would fit probably 80% of people.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You realize that because you’re not spewing rank hatred at the car, General Motors, the government bailout, etc. you’re going to be ignored. I don’t think there are too many people here who want to hear what you’re reporting.

      Gotta admit, I enjoyed it, though.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      What do you figure the cost of electricity has been for the 7564 miles?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Who knew a compact sedan consumes less energy than a full sized V8 pickup truck? It’s a revelation! I’ve been driving a cement mixer to my office, and a Volt would save me a fortune!(forehead slap!) $360 is a realistic estimate for the electricity cost. $800 is a realistic figure for gasoline to cover the same distance with a comparable compact sedan that costs ten to twenty grand less. It is hard to save money by paying far too much for a car no matter what it runs on. Even if he takes half his electricity from someone else’s bottom line, it still can’t offset much of the price difference compared to something like a Cruze Eco. I wonder what the depreciation on a two year old Avalanche does for the equation. Were people really still buying them as commuters in 2010? Life must be full of surprises with that kind of foresight.

    • 0 avatar
      Wally Vance

      glen,
      do you have any relatives in MS? My mother was a Roebuck.

      • 0 avatar
        glenroebuck

        IN reverse – no relatives that I know of I am first gen American..

        Wow CJ I totally never knew that a small compact uses less energy than a pick up…omg thanks for the clarification. How is that cure cor Cancer coming? FYI I got 6K less than what I paid for my truck two years after buying it with a 0% interest loan. So aside from gas it cost me 250 a month to drive a brand new $56,000 truck…probably what an eco leases for but ..whatever…and guess what people are still buying large trucks despite the cost of gas..and camaros and 300’s with hemis and all sorts of cars that get crappy mpg.

        I pay 1 buck a day approx to charge my car so 30 dollars a month.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      It amazes me how many people get hung up on the MPG nonsense with the gas engine.

      It’s a BACKUP generator people.

      “But it only gets 34mpg when running!”, “If I say this enough, it sounds no better than a Camry!”

      It’s a backup generator, as in redundant, as in just-in-case. It could get 10mpg, and to the right owner, they wouldn’t care. Does everyone commute 100miles to work? Maybe you should live closer if you feel your needs have not been addressed by this car.

      The worst is when the Premium fuel requirement is brought up. I do a facepalm every time. It uses Premium for a reason.
      http://gm-volt.com/2010/08/09/chevy-volt-can-use-regular-gas-in-a-pinch/

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    If it’s too expensive (and I agree it is) the problem is purely marketing and brand. That is, the only thing wrong with the car is the bowtie, when it should be a Cadillac.

    Every other carmaker offers tarted-up base cars with a massive sticker increase (Audi S4) and we don’t seem to mind.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    A.) They political ramifications of offering federal and state tax breaks to buyers of a Cadillac makes me wonder why anyone on this predominantly anti-government intervention website would suggest it.

    B.)) Steven Lang is right that hybrid owners are very competitive about mileage. The green ball read-out seemed designed for people moving over from a Buick. An additional level of information could be added to the display for buyers coming from other hybrids, like Mr. Lang. And in my case, I drive a 30 mile one-way commute. I work at a company where 60 percent of my co-workers have a hybrid and I’ve been hearing “50 MPG” for years. If a Volt goes 40 miles on a charge and gets 40 MPG after that, that sounds like 120 MPG even if I never plug in anywhere but home. It would be nice to be able to point to it on a screen and gloat a little; people like to feel good about their purchases.

  • avatar

    Sometimes I like to think about how the S 350 is the S-Class hybrid; decidedly low-end.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    This is a pretty good article about the Volt, not filled with hype and an honest look at it’s shortcomings and its impressions. Which sometimes with a car like this, is more important than facts and figures.

    Pointing out the green ball as a problem and why its a problem is a brilliant criticism.

  • avatar
    Herm

    Many people would not have bought a Cadillac Volt, too ostentatious

  • avatar
    Driver123

    It’s too expensive for what it offers. Typical sedan/hatchback buyer concerned over mpg just gets Prius for way less money. If GM wanted to sell $35-40K car then they should have targeted that segment. For example, they could target general public with an SUV/crossover. Pretty much only Toyota makes AWD hybrids with reasonable prices. Volt type crossover could compete with Rx 450h offering much better mileage.

    I can afford $50K car and certainly like electric mileage, but for me Volt appears to be an overpriced low end car. I does not provide enough luxury inside (no power seats??? gotta be kidding – seat poorly adjustable, only 2 seats in the back – even Prius is more practical), no AWD, crappy audio (Bose is not a good brand no matter that GM and Bose might think and that ‘energy having sound system’ means class D switching amplifiers – so no, thanks).

    Bottom line: yeah, mileage is better than Prius but Prius costs thousands less even fully loaded with same or better features.

    I’ll see what Tesla S is going to bring.

  • avatar
    glenroebuck

    the reasn no power seats or awd is it s an elecrtic car. not a parallel hybrid likeprius lexus et all.you get alot for your 33k (7500 tax credit) including the most sophisticated drive train on the planet (motor trend words not mine). leather int, heated seats, dual touch screens, excellet stereo with 30gb hdd nav and media/bluetooth ..It is an EV..not a parallel hyrbid like prius/lexus et all.

  • avatar
    Driver123

    I said until it gets proper features, no deal. You may think otherwise, of course. Just an explanation of why I wouldn’t buy one. And frankly, I don’t think power seats consume that much energy and they only do it when they are getting adjusted. You are also counting base price, not properly equipped + tax.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      The power seats were deleted to save weight, about 70lbs. The Volt with its heavy battery, based on a heavy delta II platform has weight problems.. and that affects mpg in the hybrid mode.

  • avatar
    Driver123

    Besides, for $35K you can get a lot of really good used cars. Such as CPO BMW 5 series (3 years old) which is waaaaay better car. Worse mileage obviously but otherwise incomparably better.

    I’d rather wait for Tesla. Probably more expensive than Volt but according to specs, properly equipped.

    Excellent stereo you said? Like 6 speakers with class D digital amps? I call it crap sorry.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    “1) Am I willing to buy a vehicle whose technology is only in it’s early stages of development?”

    Its.

    Its, its, its, its, its.

    ITS, dammit!!!

  • avatar
    glenroebuck

    I have had two bose sound systems in my cars and they sound good to me, maybe I am not an audiophile enough to satisfy your question. The Tesla roadster sis 109 and legitimized the term bricking..so good luck with that purchase…I am sure the stereo sounds great.

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