Chevrolet Volt Sets All-Time Monthly Record For Sales In August

4 years ago by Jay Cole 38

How Did Consumers Like A $5,000 Price Drop On The Volt?  We'd Say They Cared For It A Great Deal

How Did Consumers Like A $5,000 Price Drop On The Volt? We’d Say They Cared For It A Great Deal

As foreshadowed by GM North America President Mark Reuss, the Chevrolet Volt beat its best result, set last October (2,961) this month.

2014 Chevrolet Volt In New Brownstone Metallic Color (we aren't fans)

2014 Chevrolet Volt In New Brownstone Metallic Color (…would not be our first choice to be sure)

In fact, it set the all-time monthly record for plug-in sales of any car with 3,351 sold in August, which was an increase of 18.4% over August of 2012 when 2,831 Volts were sold.

What was the secret sauce that lead to this extraordinary result?  There wasn’t any – just a good old fashioned price drop of $5,000, which pegs the 2014 model year Volt at $34,995 (details here) – meaning the Chevy is finally “comfortably under $30,000” with the federal credit applied at $27,495.

For the year Chevy has now sold 14,994 extended range plug-ins, versus 13,397 in 2012 – up 11.1%

The new “top 10” looks like this:

  1. Chevrolet Volt – 3,351 (Aug – 2013)
  2. Chevrolet Volt –  2,961 (Oct – 2012)
  3. Chevrolet Volt – 2,851 (Sept – 2012)
  4. Chevrolet Volt – 2,831 (Aug – 2012)
  5. Chevrolet Volt – 2,698 (June – 2013)
  6. Chevrolet Volt – 2,633 (Dec – 2012)
  7. Nissan LEAF – 2,420 (Aug – 2013)
  8. Tesla Model S – 2,300* (Mar – 2013)
  9. Chevrolet Volt – 2,289 (Mar  – 2012)
  10. Nissan LEAF – 2,236 (Mar – 2013)
Cadillac ELR Production Will Begin Alongside The Volt In Late Fall AT GM's Hamtramck, MI Facility

Cadillac ELR Production Will Begin Alongside The Volt In Late Fall AT GM’s Hamtramck, MI Facility

Of the Chevy Volt’s record setting August, the bulk of the sales still came from 2013 models (heavily discounted to compete with the new 2014 pricing) as near 3,000 units sold were last year’s model.

As predicted, 2014 MY production began in mid-July, and the fruits of that labor began to show in late August as GM managed to pump up local dealer inventories to almost 1,200 units.

General Motors likely will continue to produce the Volt an a accelerated rate in Michigan as the company as averaged about 7,000 units in stock over the past 12 months – and still has to stall Volt production somewhat to begin producing the limited-run Cadillac ELR sometime around November.  The ELR is scheduled to arrive in customer’s driveways in “early 2014.”

Just of interest (because we love lists), here are the “top 10” single selling month’s by brand in the US:

  1. Chevrolet Volt – 3,351 (Aug – 2013)
  2. Nissan LEAF – 2,420 (Aug -2013)
  3. Tesla Model S – 2,300* (Mar -2013)
  4. Toyota Prius PHEV – 1,889 (Oct – 2012)
  5. Ford C-Max Energi – 1,259 (Nov – 2012)
  6. Ford Fusion Energi – 416 (May – 2013)
  7. Mitsubishi I-MiEV – 337 (Mar – 2013)
  8. Honda Fit EV – 208 (Jun – 2013)
  9. Ford Focus Electric – 180 (Mar – 2013)
  10. Fiat 500e – 160* (July – 2013)

Update of randomness:  Just spoke to a Chevy rep and updated our Monthly Scorecard product update to reflect Spark EV sales numbers for August (which GM does not split out over the gas Spark in their official press releases) – 102 for August

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38 responses to "Chevrolet Volt Sets All-Time Monthly Record For Sales In August"

  1. GeorgeS says:

    Yeh but I have heard that it now costs MORE to lease a 2014 chevy Volt.

    What’s that going to do to sales?

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      The lease price is going up by $30/mo. So, $1,080 more over a 36 month lease. Nothing like the tax credit disappearing, but could push some away at the bottom end. However, with the MSRP drop also cut sales tax, excise and insurance(?), they should get some potential lessees shifted to sales and increase sales nationally.

      1. KenZ says:

        We looked at leasing a 2013 this weekend, but all the low trim models were gone in our area, so we went with a 2014. But yeah, we were a bit irritated as had be been three days earlier, we would have saved some cash. I mean, it’s just a lease vehicle!

  2. Spec says:

    Well done GM!

    If they can redesign so they have a 5th seat, they should be able to sell even more.

  3. Assaf says:

    Awesome. Let all those “GM is desperate with the Volt” idiots eat their hats.

    Even better news is that they are cranking out Volts at increased capacity now, rather than stalling them as happened in the past.

  4. Ziv says:

    A nice result for GM. If they had dropped the price by that much and not gotten a record people would have been lining up to bash them. As it is, the 2013MY Volts are disappearing fast. I think Autotrader has 3244 2013’s, that is down from over 5000 just a month ago. And the number of 2014MY Volts is climbing pretty slowly, as they get bought almost as soon as they get built. They have 941 2014’s listed and they have been building since mid or early-August, I believe.
    Too bad GM is getting paranoid about their production numbers, they stopped publishing them a couple months ago.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Re: publish production numbers

      – the whole industry is kind bummed about that, as it is something all the OEMs do universally, it takes a lot of insight off the table…but more specifically, it can be really tough on their suppliers as well. They have attempted to remove the data in the past before, and then realized the cost wasn’t worth it…hopefully they reach the same conclusion again.

      1. Ziv says:

        It would be cool if they back off on this, but Akerson really seems to like to keep information close to the vest. Did you notice that the Volt VIN’s are no longer sequential? The last 2013MY Volt to come off the line was DU150006, I believe. I strongly doubt they built 50,000 2013MY Volts/Amperas. And the first 2014MY Volts VIN on Voltstats was EU110693, so they may be starting the new MY at 10,000 and going up from there. There is one lower VIN (05656) but it hit Voltstats before the changeover to the 2014MY, so I think it was simply entered incorrectly on the website and is actually a 2013.
        But the main point is that GM is making it harder to track production in a lot of different ways.

  5. Spec says:

    The Chevy Volt deserves more press coverage and I hope they get it. The Tesla Model S seems to get all the coverage but the Chevy Volt is handily outselling the Tesla Model S.

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      The Model S may get more press because:
      a) It’s a more im_press_ive vehicle to drive. (According to drivers).
      b) It’s part of the Tesla story, which is far more interesting than the GM story.

      You may find that really it’s Tesla getting more press.

      1. Spec says:

        Oh I understand why they get more press but it has become ridiculous. Every tiny little thing from Tesla gets a flurry of stories while everyone else is completely ignored. It creates a misperception. The Tesla is NOT the biggest selling plug-in car. Teslas make up probably less than 1/4 of plug-in sales.

        1. Dan Frederiksen says:

          It’s the only one that’s even a little interesting. It looks good, it moves fast, it goes far and it charges quickly and has an emerging fast charge infrastructure.
          Do you know what the others have? ****
          The Leaf is ugly and slow. The Volt is boring looking and slow. The prius is lame and boring. You see a pattern?
          There is a sense of revolution attached to Tesla Motors. The others have the stench of corporate soul death on them. Fine for the hardcore treehugger but not inspiring.
          BMW i3 might get a bit of play, they have some excitement but it might not be enough to distract from Tesla. It’s not fast and its appearance is not loved by all.
          Tesla have had an almost magical sequence of events that kept them in the press every single week. One could suspect masterful PR work but I don’t think that’s anywhere near true. It seems more like divine providence. It succeeds despite every obstacle. Even bad press like the Broder incident made them even more famous and the fanboys even more excited.
          TM has sort of become synonymous with the electric car revolution, they were first in that they had a working prototype of the Roadster at the time of the Who Killed the Electric Car revolution. Noone else was moving at that time (with the exception of Venturi Fetish who were actually first but never got attention because it cost 4x as much). And it wasn’t just an electric car, it was a fast and exciting electric car with record range. Fast enough to demand attention of the world.
          That’s what **** Nissan, GM and BMW don’t understand and don’t want to understand because they are afraid to let the electric car shine because it detracts from all their other investments. And because they are unimaginative and they don’t want any of their cars to shine other than the most expensive ones because otherwise it would ruin their artificial market differentiation. The sheep only get the dull cars even though it doesn’t cost anything to make a racer. But that type of sheep herding doesn’t fly so well when you have someone like Tesla who goes after exciting and doesn’t necessarily care about profitability.
          So the focus is not really arbitrary. It’s deserved. Or at least deserved in that all the other cars are even worse than their products.

          MOD EDIT ON CONTENT: We know you have a real passion/strong opinion on the topic, and that’s ok – but please keep language G-rated/suitable for the general population

          1. ClarksonCote says:

            I would say that most people find the Volt attractive, and most people also find the Volt and Leaf very quick and sporty. While they won’t smoke a sports car, they certainly are in a different class of acceleration and performance than a typical hybrid like the Prius.

            1. Ocean Railroader says:

              The volt and Nissan leaf don’t look to bad I think the bulk of the wow factor with Tesla is the range and the superchargers.

          2. David Murray says:

            I wouldn’t say that it “doesn’t cost anything to make a racer.” I mean, you need a more powerful battery (not capacity, but higher power rating) and a bigger electric motor, bigger inverter, etc. It DOES cost more money to make it faster. On the other hand, there is not much penalty in efficiency like there is in a gasoline car.

            I think the biggest problem Nissan and GM have had is that from the beginning the believed the market was treehuggers. I think now they’re beginning to understand the diverse market that is interested in these cars. I’m willing to bet the next generation of EVs will all be a little faster on the 0-60.

            1. J Peterson says:

              Good points David. However, I think that if GM and Nissan want to attract a greater diversity of buyers the 1st priority will be price, and the 2nd priority will need adding a model with a third row seat. Oh, and it has to be forward facing to work with child safety seats.

              0-60 times might get the people who read & talk about cars often and care enough to post on boards like these really excited. However, they don’t do much for TCO comparisons or sales volume though.

              Its all relative, and when there is a post like Dan Frederiksen saying ‘X is slow’ without more context it leaves me wondering what thinks he is comparing X and Y to. Is it a logical competitor, meaning it is in the same price range? Or is it something that has no business being compared? Volt is faster than a Prius. It feels faster than its 8.5 second 0-60 time. It handles better than the Prius too. Yet, a lot more people buy the Prius than all of these EV’s combined.

              I think it would be smart to go after the Prius segment — making a nice dent there could mean big numbers. Look at Prius sales volume to see how many people don’t care about 0-60 times. At any given year compare Camry I4 vs. Camry V6, Civic LX vs. Civic Si, or others, to see how many care about driving the slower car. Volt and Leaf ought to go after Prius, Prius C, Prius Plug In, Civic and Corolla buyers. At least for my zip, lower TCO than the cheapest Prius C trim model. It also has a much lower TCO than the Cruze people like to site incomplete ‘payback’ comparisons that leave out the whole concept of residual value, insurance and maintenance. The main thing the Volt seems to be missing is the marketing support — but maybe that is a local thing and better elsewhere. The Leaf seems to be marketed better where I’m at and I see more on the road despite the total numbers being close nationwide.

              I think there are a lot of people who don’t realize how well Leaf and Volt currently compete on the total cost to own. That’s with help of the credits, but those will only last so long. If they can get it down to the point they are still competitive w/out the credits, it will become a no brainier for the general public that isn’t interested in reading sites like these.

    2. TSLA says:

      volt is more than half the price

  6. KenZ says:

    Jay, do you have any insight or even pure speculation into what GM loses (or makes) on every Volt? Given the legend that Toyota lost money on every Prius for the first several years, a bet that clearly paid off, obviously a car company such as GM has accepted that a car may not be profitable for a while.

    But if that’s still the case, I’d think GM would simply cap the number of Volts at, say, 2,000/month and NOT have dropped the price by $5k. 2,000 Volts/month is still a lot of EVs, enough to satisfy the die hard enthusiasts, enough to seed the country, and enough to get a massive amount of customer usage and system performance data without losing an ever increasing amount of money on increased sales quantities.

    Thus, one could speculate that their willingness to drop the price by $5k means that they’re no longer losing money on every car sold/leased? The counter to that is that maybe they’re losing money on every car, but that’s offset by the value of the EV compliance credits or whatever they’re called, thus increasing sales is still worthwhile to GM, even if the Volt itself is losing money (for now).

    I’m super curious what your thoughts are.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      I think using the term “making money on the car” is a pretty wide brush…and generally I think people writing about the car have a very specific pre-conceived notion and will use and/or not use numbers to make their point.

      On a per car, ongoing basis, there is no question GM is making money on the Volt. It is what you do with all the initial R&D, marketing and infrastructure expenses in order to be able to not only sell but make 3,000+ cars in a month.

      If you are adding all the cost up and throwing it into the mix, then yes GM is losing money on the car, probably to the tune of almost 20K a pop…but that number lessens with each car sold. If you ex-old GM, pre-bankruptcy costs, that number is probably half that on the losses and falling fast.

      If you are writing off the R&D as the cost of doing business in the segment and/or amortizing all the expenses over the expected run of the Voltec platform (which is probably the right way to go), they are probably making ‘ok’ money on it.

      Definitely not standard automotive margins that GM would like to see (that is why all the OEMs are really not thrilled about EVs – high price points with entry level margins), but more than likely in the 20%ish range after the recent MSRP slash.

      1. KenZ says:

        Perfect, that’s exactly the kind of info and thought process I was curious about. (and thanks Josh, posting below as well)

        I’m in the camp of “cost of doing business.” That approach clearly worked for Toyota ala Prius. But knowing that on the ongoing basis they are profitable for every additional car sold was what I really wanted to know.

        1. KenZ says:

          I will also note an aside on the GM issue: I bought a Chevy S-10 back in 96. What a total piece of crap, even though it’s still running, somehow. I was so happy to graduate from college and ‘buy American,’ but after all the horrible stupid stuff with that car (bad brakes, multiple things going out in the first 15k miles, windshield wipers don’t work when it rains (!!!), parking brake cable snaps, battery cables fuse to battery, etc), I swore to God I’d never buy another GM car, ever.

          And now, even after only two days of owning a Volt, my attitude has changed as it’s a great piece of kit. And without GM making the Volt, I would not have bought from GM, so in that sense they did right. Granted, I’m not the average car buyer, but still…

        2. Ocean Railroader says:

          I think the price was over bloated to begin with in that they had plans of people paying a premium to own something more better then the eco Prius and the $5000 price cut might have been them coming down to reality. In that Nissan’s Price cut got them back into reality and they now can’t keep up production with sales. Now that they got the Chevy Volt in to reality they will most likely see their sales break though 4000 in the next two to three months and this time they have the production to support it.

      2. Tom says:

        There was an article that claimed GM is losing $75,000 on each Volt. This was very misleading as the journalist had divided development costs of batteries unrelated to GM. Also, they divided that number by the limited number of Volts that had been produced to that date. I believe the number of Volts was 7500 at that time. Why would anyone write such a ridiculous article? Big Oil politics!!!

        Tesla may appear to be getting honeymoon press but, reality is they’ve been hit with some bad reporting as well. Remember that reporter that ran the Model S out of electric?

        My guess is GM is making money on every car without counting R&D.

        GM has a competitive advantage with the range anxiety free Volt. It could use a slightly higher range of 50-60 miles and hopefully, a smaller, lighter, more efficient generator for the next generation.

    2. Josh says:

      Jay hit the nail on the head. Too often people confuse the arguments of Chevy not making money on the Volt. They absolutely sell it for more than the labor and materials that go into it. So every Volt sold goes towards paying off the investment. Only GM and their accountants know where the crossover point for the Volt program will happen. The ELR is an obvious attempt to speed up that timetable.

      As far as credits, the Volt does not receive the California ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) credits that have been heavily discussed with regards to Tesla (and their profitability). Are there federal credits that the Volt qualifies for?

      1. Jay Cole says:

        There Is a lot of compliance benchmarks to hit with CARB outside or pure electrics…and there are more than a few ways of hitting those numbers. The Volt takes all those issues away for GM.

        However, its the minimum ZEV floor percentages that gets all the attention (and which most OEMs hate), because it forces action where most really don’t want to go – which is why those credits have such value right now.

        1. Eric Cote says:

          Do you have any other insight here about the CARB benchmarks Jay? Specifically, what benchmark does the Volt satisfy, and can/will GM sell excess credits for that benchmark?

          I’ve tried to read up on CARB credit sales etc. but never seem to be able to extract the full story from their own websites that publish the various benchmark statistics. (Which, by the way, are usually years behind in being updated)

          1. Jay Cole says:

            Oh man, this could get ugly.

            Basically, many moons ago some new regulations come online, and in 2009 there was a horse trade-off of sorts with PZEVs to allow automakers 8 years to get up to speed with a 30% cut in pollutants (I believe..don’t quote me) via mileage standards, etc.

            There is a ZEV requirement in place, but those credits can be accumulated in different ways. For example, an automaker needs to attain 12% of production in California as ZEV…but in reality the actual floor (for the first large 6 OEMs right now through 2014, then the rest in 2015) is much lower

            The rest can be made up through other products (more or less) – in order 1) ZEVs 2) enhanced AT PZEVs 3) AT PZEVs 4) PZEVs. Number 1 can satisfy all requirements, while the lesser rankings can’t complete the transaction going up the ladder.

            Nutshell: The Volt can satisfy 11.21% of the current 12% ZEV requirement (which goes up to 14% in 2015)…technically. You actually only need about .3% of your production ZEV, but lets not get into that.

            1. ClarksonCote says:

              Thanks for the detail. Where do you get all this info? The interwebs don’t cooperate as well with me. 🙂

              I’m also assuming the Volt is an EAT-PZEV, from what little ZEV credit data I recall seeing on CARB’s website 😉

              1. Jay Cole says:

                You can see all the cars ratings here, but the Volt is indeed an enhanced AT-PZEV (well most of them are – the designation availability became available, uh…I want to say March of 2012 (without looking).

                As for the info, there really isn’t an easy way to get all the ins and outs of the systems. But there is lots of documentation…and that’s really the problem. The system is NOT straight forward, benchmarks change every couple years (as well as how you satisfy them) and the whole thing is seemingly always in flux.

                If you feel like getting lost in it – just hit up the ARB website, it is all there. Just be careful to not face-plant your keyboard.

                1. GeorgeS says:

                  somebody should write an article on this.

                  It is clear as mud to me but I have not studied it.

                2. David Murray says:

                  I second GeorgeS. Somebody who understands the requirements should write an article explaining it all. I actually tried to write one a few months ago and became so confused with some of the definitions, I gave up. I suppose the hardest part is trying to figure out which cars qualify for what definition.

                3. ClarksonCote says:

                  One other aside while I spam comments here… It looks like the 2014 Model Year Volt gets California carpool lane access regardless of VIN designations. Does that imply that the 2014’s for the entire country use the CA emissions standards?

                  The prior model years call out specific VIN designations for the CA emissions package.

              2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

                http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/zevregs/1962.1_Clean.pdf

                See page 5 in particular, which shows the splits.
                Do bear in mind that 1 ZEV is worth more than 1 ZEV credit.

                (
                http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/zevprog.htm
                (Left) Regulations->Current Regulations
                (Body) CCR Section 1962.1: 2009 – 2017 Model Year Requirements
                )

                1. Jay Cole says:

                  Oh great, now we have lost ClarksonCote forever as a reader…he will never come out alive, (=

                2. ClarksonCote says:

                  Keyboard faceplant saved me Jay! 🙂

                  Thanks for the links ItsNotAboutTheMoney.

                3. ClarksonCote says:

                  In the 1962.1 document, I don’t see EAT-PZEV’s on that list though aside from model years 2009-2011.

                  It’s strange to me that the Volt continues to be EAT-PZEV yet the document suggests that designation carries no real benefit over AT-PZEV beyond the 2011 model year.

  7. pjkPA says:

    I own a Volt bought in Dec 2012…. I can see why sales keep going up.
    I have not been to a gas station since I bought the Volt.
    I have been back to the dealer once to have the tires rotated in 8 months and 6000 hard city miles. The ride of the Volt is like no other car I’ve ever driven… even better than the EV1 I rented in 1999.

    I’m getting over 1,000mpg in addition to spending $4 to $5 per week for electricity.
    The Volt is costing me about 2 cents per mile to fuel… plus much less maintenance than any car I’ve owned in 40 years.

    The Volt costs $80,000 because of unfair trade in Japan Germany UK and Korea while we give them $7500 for each electric car they dump in the US.

    The Volt is performing much better than expected for me… the best car I’ve ever owned in 40 years of buying cars.
    The ride is smooth quiet powerful and relaxing.. the no shifting is so effortless when you get back into a ICE car the shifting and noises are annoying.

    1. Martin T says:

      Agree, has the performance of a V6, very nimble responsive to drive.
      Best car so far. Makes ICE cars so Vintage.

      Others talking waffle either have not driven a VOLT or do not own a VOLT
      or
      are retarded into somehow thinking GM should have given them a Tesla sports car for a sub compact price 😉