General Motors Chimes In on Whether Or Not It Considers The Chevrolet Volt A Success

7 months ago by Eric Loveday 47

Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt

2014 Chevrolet Volt

2014 Chevrolet Volt

It’s not often that an exec from General Motors goes on the record these days speaking of the Chevrolet Volt.  It’s even less likely you’ll receive an official response from GM to the following question:

“Do you think the Volt has been successful based on the numbers?”

CNET posed that question to Dora Norwicki, Chevy Volt marketing manager at General Motors and, surprisingly, CNET got an answer:

Norwicki:

“58,000 Volts sold to date. That means we’ve outsold the LEAF, the Prius Plug-in, the Toyota Rav 4 EV, the Ford C-MAX Energi, the Fusion Energi, the Focus EV, and the Telsa S. So, I guess in context, it is a lot. In the alternative-fuel space it’s at the top, and we have been there for some time.”

“Expectations need to be set. This is new technology and it’s going to take time for people to understand that this vehicle could be for them. Certainly, California has embraced it and we’re quite appreciative of that. And good word-of-mouth; the customer enthusiasm for this car is huge. And it’s been on top of the pile in all of the Consumer Reports owner satisfaction ratings.”

“And we’re beginning to see consumers trading in their first Volts and getting a second one. And that’s how it starts.”

Norwicki seems to be implying that GM is “okay” with the Chevy Volt sales numbers so far, but that the automaker expects higher volumes in the near future.

Source: CNET

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47 responses to "General Motors Chimes In on Whether Or Not It Considers The Chevrolet Volt A Success"

  1. Mark H says:

    Of course all of the top six Volt, LEAF, Fusion & C-Max energi, Prius PiP, and Model S are a success. Most just see all of their numbers as small and they are until you consider the technical adoption curve and compare it to something meaningful like the hybrid adoption curve.

    First ask anyone if they consider the Prius HEV and other hybrids as success. Then point out that hybrids were selling 3000/month at the 30th month point compared to the 9000/month for EVs.
    http://insideevs.com/evs-the-first-million/

    1. kdawg says:

      Stop Mark, you are being too rational. How can paint a picture of a failure if you keep speaking in this manner. :)

  2. David Murray says:

    The sad part is that GM could be selling 3x as many if they wanted to.

    1. Jouni Valkonen says:

      Are you suggesting that Volt has weak profitability?

      1. Chris says:

        I think David is suggesting that there has been little to no marketing push for the car. GM seems to be relying strongly on word of mouth and/or only advertising in certain states like California. I have NEVER see a Volt ad on TV here in PA.

      2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

        No, that GM has weak marketing and management.

    2. Anton Wahlman says:

      The problem right now is that at the current Volt price, GM most likely isn’t making its standard margin on the car. So why would it want to sell too many of it? Right now, it’s keeping it at a fairly even level, while it awaits the cost-reduced Volt 2.0. Assuming it can be sold at a standard margin, it will likely promote it a lot more.

      1. Mint says:

        That makes sense, though I’m not convinced about the Volt being that costly to produce. By now the battery should be under $5000, and the motor/generator shouldn’t cost much either.

  3. GeorgeS says:

    I agree with David.

    While the car sells OK, it could have sold a lot better if GM put some effort into it.

    Volt sales are flat.

    Leaf sales show growth because Nissan makes an effort to sell the car. (and this comes from someone that owns a Volt)

    1. pjwood says:

      Curiousity, from personal experience, jives with what may be a J-curve. Unlike the hybrid curve, there is

      -more education involved
      -fewer applications, assuming no charger=no sense
      -Electric install

      Thre are immediate impediments that come to mind, slowing adoption. The counterbalance is cheap energy. But I think hybrids had an easier time integrating, and being a more compelling offering for a larger subset of drivers.

  4. Taser54 says:

    First Gen products have limited public mindshare. The Volt did an admirable job.

    Second Gen Products are where the sales get going.

  5. koz says:

    I thought “it starts” by people trading in their Prii, 3 series, IS250s, Accords, Acuras, etc. Oh wait, that’s who have been buying the Volt. Yes, a disproportionate HEV owners but also a disproportionate low end luxury car owners. The latter seems to be lost on GM in an overall conquest number. The Volt appeals to more than just the green leaning consumer but GM needs to market it to capitalize on this customer. They also need to figure out how to bring the dealer experience for the Volt up to par with what those consumers are used to with BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, etc or they need to offer a realistic Buick or Cadillac Voltec.

    /ELR is clearly not realistic at $75K.

  6. ggpa says:

    I think another major blunder GM made in Volt marketing is to hide that it is the best hybrid car ever.

    Rather than building on the reputation of hybrids, which would have allowed then to sell in large numbers, they pretended it is a new concept which made buyers risk averse.

    Even their own dealers were affected by this, and several of them bad mouthed the car.

    1. Calling the Volt a Hybrid would be underselling the car.

      The quietness and instant torque of the electric motor that drives the wheels and the lack of a yestertech, gear driven transmission are big selling points.

      1. kdawg says:

        If they wanted to use the buzzword “hybrid”, they should have said “Better than any hybrid”. I would have even done side by side comparisons, because that is what shoppers are going to do anyway.

      2. Open-Mind says:

        Most people don’t know how the Volt works. I describe mine like this…


        It runs on electricity for 30 to 40 miles, then it’s a hybrid until you recharge it. Electric fuel is great because it’s domestic, silent, and about 5x cheaper than gasoline.

        People get the above. The phase “extended range electric vehicle” just causes confusion. Toyota has spent billions drumming the word “hybrid” into our lexicon, so IMHO it’s stupid of GM to not leverage that.

    2. David Murray says:

      I can definitely see why GM does not refer to the Volt as a hybrid. While it is technically true, it doesn’t do the car justice at all or help people understand why it is different or better than a car like the Prius.

    3. ggpa says:

      Volt fans …

      Doing justice to the Volt is a noble idea, but it does not make money.

      Again: GM can exploit that it is the best ever PHEV and sell many, or act superior/smug and sell a few.

      Since GM thinks Volt is ever so special, they put a Cadillac badge on it and sell it for the same price as a Tesla. What could possibly go wrong with that?

      1. kdawg says:

        Another option would be to say something along the lines of “Electric first… (powerful)Hybrid later”. This way you get the hybrid people on board, but you also make anti-hybrid people happy by advertising all of the benefits of full electric drive (up to 100mph). For some people, the word “hybrid” is a buzzkill and is synonymous with “slow/boring/not-fun”.

  7. I drive a Volt and am happy with my Dealer. However, I know that other dealers do not put the effort in understanding the car.

    For some buyers of Impala, Malibu or Cruze, the Volt may be a better fit in terms of total cost of ownership. But dealers themselves do not do the math to show customers.

    Perhaps Dealers have a fear that recurring maintenance revenue will go away when virtually maintenance free Volts are sold v. conventional ICE cars?

    1. kdawg says:

      I see this mentioned a lot, dealers worried about service revenue, but I don’t know how true this is. If the car is in an accident, it will still need to be repaired by a Volt dealer most likely. The Volt still needs tire service/alignment/and all those types of things. Any issue in the warranty period will be nice warranty work for the dealer. And any Voltec issue will still have to be handled by a dealer.

      I think the real problem is dealers are just lazy; and rather than try to educate a customer on this brand new technology, they’d rather go for the easy sell. Customers in/out = cha-ching.

    2. David Murray says:

      I’m not sure I believe this. Oil changes, for example, are usually performed at a break-even point or even a loss for a dealership. They do it to get you in regularly for that “free inspection” where they can find other things wrong with your car that they can fix.

      1. Foo says:

        Or nothing wrong with your car… that they can still “fix”.

  8. Ocean Railroader says:

    I think it’s a partial win but there is a risk of it turning into a stale mate. The reason why I think it could slide into a stale mate is if sales don’t go up over last years sales considering it’s been on the market for four years. Such as if they sell 1400 one month last year and the same month they still sell 1400 that is a bad sign. If say they sell 1400 one month but sell 2100 in the same month in another year that is a good sign. If this car was a true win then they would be selling 1400 one year 2200 another year and 3000 the near after that. As for this said the Chevy Volt should have had a few months were they sold 3000 cars in one month in a row.

  9. evnow says:

    The problem with Volt is that the sales numbers have stagnated in a very rapidly growing market.

    To sell a lot more Volt needs to add the 5th seat and voltec needs a SUV form factor.

    1. kdawg says:

      I really think they need to get the price to start with the number “2″, and this is before tax credits.

      A $30k+ car is just not on the radar for a lot of people, no matter how much gas $ it saves them. They aren’t going to do the math.

    2. David says:

      Exactly.
      As has been mentioned elsewhere, GM needs to improve on various areas:
      - More headroom, ie taller, more SUV like, like C-Max or at least in that direction.
      - Better gas mileage.
      - Less critical to some is higher electric range.
      - 5 passenger seating.

      Rumors suggest they’re addressing gas mileage and 5 passenger seating. Maybe electric range. But I haven’t seen any rumor suggesting a taller vehicle.

      1. Brian says:

        Personally I hope they don’t make the car taller. It will make it less aerodynamic, giving worse electric range and gas mileage. The car fits me well, if only it had a larger seat. The 5th seat seems to weigh on peoples minds too, although I see that as less of an issue.

        I do hope that they make multiple Voltec vehicles including both a compact (like today’s Volt) at a cross-over (like the Cmax, hopefully with a useable trunk ;) )

  10. ggpa says:

    “voltec needs a SUV form factor”

    +10!

  11. scott franco says:

    Hybrids and BEVs do not compete in the same space. The volt is not taking sales from Tesla or Nissan leaf. It is taking sales from other hybrids.

    1. kdawg says:

      Tesla? no, Nissan Leaf?.. I bet there is some cross-shopping.

    2. David says:

      I certainly cross shopped. I narrows my top choices to the Volt and LEAF. Similar stories from many EV owners I’ve met. Tesla is also cross shopped more often than the price difference would dictate.

  12. “It’s not often that an exec from General Motors goes on the record these days speaking of the Chevrolet Volt.” So why now … the need to speak out?

    Re: “Do you think the Volt has been successful based on the numbers?”

    “58,000 Volts sold to date. That means we’ve outsold ___” … “In the alternative-fuel space it’s at the top, and we have been there for some time”. Since 2010 the Volt has been the highest U.S. total sales volume leader, something that will change in 2014.

    Nissan has sold ~50,000 Leaf’s in the U.S. market and has been out-selling the Volt by an average of ~500 per month since Oct 2013. Both the Model S and Prius PHV have U.S. sales totals within ~100 of the Volt for the first four months of 2014. On the global market both Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius Plug-in and a few others now out-sell the Volt on a monthly basis.

    The more interesting question that should have been asked is:
    «Will the Volt continue to be successful based on numbers?”

    While the Volt is tops in “Consumer Reports owner satisfaction ratings”, why are sales not as strong as they once were? Not mentioned was the Chevy Spark EV success … perhaps a bit early to comment. In 2010 there were two competing electric vehicles on the market, in 2018 the number of EVs now exceeds 18.

    For GM, the growing question is what will they release for their second act? Being a first mover in the market is great, but second generation products are volume and brand builders. GM needs to start articulating its plans and delivering to maintain market share long term.

    1. BTW: May 2014 marks a major change in HOV access and California incentives for PHEVs and EREVs. Any EVs qualifying for green HOV stickers and incentives will need to be placed on a waiting list to a smaller pool of funds after Aug. All-electric ZEVs will continue to have unlimited access to white HOV stickers until 2019.

      California accounts for 30%-40% of all U.S. EV sales.

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        And Georgia Accounts for the other 30%-40% of the LEAF sales?

        Geez…

        If it wasn’t for GA state income incentives, do you think LEAF even has a chance of beating Volt in sales?

  13. Brian says:

    The Volt has only outsold the Leaf if you ignore the world outside of the US. Within the US, it has been doing better, but that lead is shrinking. This trend seems odd to me. The US is so spread out that I would have expected the Leaf sales to plateau and Volt sales to take off, not the other way around.

    I really hope GM has something big up their sleeves for Gen II (other than vague talk).

    1. David says:

      LEAF has readily outsold the Volt worldwide.
      LEAF has outsold the Volt in the US every month since fall 2013.

      Nissan seems serious about the LEAF. Promoting it. Actively rolling out CHAdeMO quick chargers. Giving them away in many cases. Ever since the move to Tennessee and the 2013 redesign sales have been much better.

      In Nissan’s case, they really need to produce a higher range option. Rumor has it they will.

      1. Brian says:

        Yeah. And rumor has it GM is going to start selling a 200 mile BEV. And a 100 mile EREV.

        I rarely if ever see an add for the Leaf or the Volt. I’ve taken to the game of “spot the Leaf” in Nissan commercials when they pan through their lineup. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not.

        1. Nate says:

          I think it depends on the market and where they direct their inventory for. My hunch is they target markets. I see/hear strong advertising for the LEAF it in my area.

    2. BraveLilToaster says:

      My guess is that this guy isn’t even privvy to the monthly numbers, or he just doesn’t care. He’s just looking at last year’s sales and saying “Yeah, we’re beating the competitors!”

      But then, I’m a lot unsure as to how a guy like that can work in a job like that for very long, because that means he’s not paying attention while other people are eating his lunch.

  14. Bill says:

    Taken by itself, the Volt gives owners in its price range market the choice and flexibility of having both an EV and a hybrid. What may be slowing its growth is that potential buyers know it comes from the corporation now known for its confidence shattering reliability problems and ten-year delay on initiating a safety recall. Furthermore, its promotion compared to its competition is practically non-existant and dealer sales support and service is not uniformly strong or cognizant of the Volt’s essential merits.

  15. i8 says:

    Tesla S? lol

    and it hasnt even been out the same amount of time so that comparison is invalid

  16. Mic says:

    GM is not marketing the car at all. I believe they were forced because of the bailout to make the car.GM is actually attacking EV’s in some of the ads that are supposed to be selling the Volt letting go of the oil teat is hard but in the near future there will be no doubt it is necessary the opec and middle east nations have been lying for ten years about how much oil they have and the supply is dwindling now our oil companies want to destroy our water table fracking in our back yards the war was blood for oil now its water for oil either way we suffer and a few billionaires get richer and scheme how not to pay their fair share.http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/08/chevy-volt-olympics-ad-attacks-100-electric-vehicles-rather-gasmobiles/

    1. Natemeins says:

      I’m sorry to disagree, but the Volt was in fact being designed long before the bailouts. It took several years for the battery technology to catch up before Chevy had a viable, marketable product. Unfortunately, that happened during the financial meltdown. However I agree, I think Chevy dropped the ball in marketing the car. It makes sense, though, some of the explanations why from the above comments.
      If someone were to ask me if the car is a success, I’d say yes, under certain circumstances. Based on the fact it’s a first generation of new technology, in a relatively new market segment, coming from a brand with serious PR issues, I’d say yes. Does it sell like a Malibu, Cruze, or Impala? No. But then look at the tech behind these vehicles, and especially how long two of those names have been in the market. Four years is a long time for any vehicle without an upgrade, but I think it’s just getting started. I can’t wait to see 2.0!

  17. miles says:

    The volt Is NOT successful in Australia. Ripp off.

    1. Martin T says:

      So are most cars – anything luxury or different (hell even regular) ARE RIP OFF prices in AUSTRALIA.

      The Volt is expensive yes, but compared to the equivalent dinosaur luxo brands

      The Volt is CHEAP & GREAT DEAL for what you get!

      The problem is fellow Aussies are too “tight” and the people with the money want a “badge” and NOT a GM one to show off in the company car park.

      Sorry fellow Aussies you are dam shallow period.

      Technology savvy consumers Australians? you like to think we are – but we are NOT when it comes to vehicles – especially EV’s / EREV’s or hybrids, lets face it – were are really a pathetic bunch compared to Smarter European countries.

      Lets face it we will continue to pay more until the laws change to cut out the middle men and free up private imports.

      I hope this not far off, as Australia will have a great opportunity to level the vehicle playing field after sadly our last 2 car manufactures close in 2017.

      We have been the lucky country, smart in invention, but dumb in retail and adoption of newer greener future assured technologies!

  18. Assaf says:

    So…. let me get this straight.

    A senior marketing manager for the world’s largest automaker, and by far the biggest in the US, is bragging about one of their top-notch products making some headway mostly thanks to word of mouth?

    I can’t see what’s wrong in this picture ;)