GM Blames Europe For Poor Ampera Sales, Calls Demand “A Disappointment”

2 years ago by Jay Cole 14

Britain's Ambassador in Berlin Gets Keys To A New Ampera From Vice-Chairman Of GM, Stephen Girsky Read more: British Ambassador chooses Ampera-feel for Christmas | Wheelsology.com - World of Wheels Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Britain’s Ambassador in Berlin Gets Keys To A New Ampera From Vice-Chairman Of GM, Stephen Girsky
Read more: British Ambassador chooses Ampera-feel for Christmas | Wheelsology.com – World of Wheels
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

General Motors Vice Chairman Steve Girsky is not happy about the way the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera has been received in Europe, and he is going to let everyone know it.

In a report filed by Automotive News Europe, the Vice Chair of GM told the publication, “All the governments in Europe said, ‘We want EVs, we want EVs. We show up with one, and where is  everybody?”

How Could This Print Shot Have Not Inspired Europeans?

How Could This Print Shot Have Not Inspired Europeans?

Originally, GM had estimated the first year of Ampera sales in Europe to be around 10,000 - 12,000 units (6,000 for Opel, 4,000 for Vauxhall, 2,000 for the Volt).  However, by the time 2012 was in the books, only around 5,500 were sold.

Mr. Girsky noted that the 2012 result, and ongoing demand, for the extended range plug-in were “a disappointment” for General Motors.

This come-clean moment by GM on the Ampera has been a long time coming.

Every month we dutifully report on the Chevrolet Volt sales in the US, and every month we note that the General has all but stopped production on the Ampera, and that the car should quite likely be pulled from the European market..that is, if GM was looking at the vehicle simply from a financial, return on investment, point of view, and not as a halo product.

How bad is the “disappointing” demand the GM executive is alluding to?  Consider the recent production level of the Ampera at GM’s Hamtramck, Michigan assembly facility:

  • February 2013- 0
  • January 2013 – 42
  • December – 6
  • November – 19
  • October – 2

That is 69 cars in 5 months.  One more time – sixty-nine cars; and these are not Ferraris we are talking about.

In truth, a poor result in Europe comes as no surprise internally to GM executives, as the company knew fairly early, perhaps even before the first car was shipped across the ocean, that it would be an uphill battle to market the car to Europe.   They merely did not know the scope of how badly it would be received.

It Is Becoming Increasingly Clear That The Volt Is Only Saleable In Its Current Form In North America

It Is Becoming Increasingly Clear That The Volt Is Only Saleable In Its Current Form In North America

The first indication the Chevrolet Volt would have difficulty in Europe was the fact the car was rebranded as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera in the first place.  The Chevrolet brand is not the powerhouse in Europe as it is in the US.  In fact, it is a detriment to being a top-selling car, so not only did the name need to change to distance itself from the Chevy Bow tie, the look did as well.  A light refresh, which many US customers ironically seem to prefer, was in order.

The second indication the Ampera was in trouble was when the car actually went on sale.   By early 2012, GM touted over 7,000 pre-orders for the Ampera, unfortunately, about 3 out of every 4 orders were for fleet and corporations, and over half of all sales were out of one country, the Netherlands.

They knew then that the public simply had no desire to own the car as it was being offered.  Today, there is perhaps 2,000 Amperas in hands of individual consumers since the car went on sale in February 2012.

The Road Ahead

Will the Ampera continue to be sold in Europe?  According to Mr. Girsky it will be, as GM “is willing to  absorb some losses on this because it’s new technology,” as GM works to get the price down on the Ampera in the second generation.

In the meantime, the GM executive wants European taxpayers to make up for the public’s disinterest in the car by having Euro-governments either buy more cars, or increase the incentive to buy one, “We’re hoping for some support from other places, whether its subsidies or  infrastructure help or something like that.”

What also might be helpful, is not selling the car at £35,255.00 ($53,500 USD) in the UK, and €42,900 ($56,000 USD) elsewhere in Europe, when there are other decent plug-in solutions (like the Renault Zoe) at half the price…or something like that.

Automotive News Europe

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14 responses to "GM Blames Europe For Poor Ampera Sales, Calls Demand “A Disappointment”"

  1. Anne van der Bom says:

    Probably most sales over the past 6 months were fulfilled from stock. And the production figures paint a picture that is too bleak.

    Ampera sales are quite steady around 200-250 per month in The Netherlands (very likely the most important European market).

  2. GM Rebel says:

    Way to expensive in an European market that is financially struggling right now. Still pretty expensive in the US market as well. Once they get the price down closer to $30k their sales will jump…at least in the US market.

  3. Max says:

    The way GM people “sell” in Europe – no wander. Go to corp fleets and it will get you 10 times the current number. It’s 2 deals with large companies (fleets).

    They refuse business – > that’s result. Should blame themselves.

    We in Moscow are begging (with 300 units commitment for Year1) to sell it….blah blah blah is the response.

    Volt is a great car. They had no competition for 1.5 years. Now an Outlander PHEV is coming to Europe. MMC is much eager for business and hence much more flexible (being Japanese!!!!). Watch them taking it in 2013.

    Still love the Volt.

    1. James says:

      Wow! That’s very interesting information Max.

      I wonder why such a chilly reception to Eastern Europe? I would
      think the long distances to travel would be ideal for Volt.

  4. bloggin says:

    It’s a nice car and good concept. But need to get the price down to below $40k USD, and offer a wagon version which is more practical in Europe.

  5. Priusmaniac says:

    The car has two problems.
    1) It’s full dual motorization makes it to expensive. It should be an EV with just a base electric stand alone generator of 15 KW, just not to be stranded. Perhaps this can only be possible for future models but the exess in price that the present formula implies make the car to expensive. It should be possible to propose both systems though.
    2) The lack of full size back seat is a non starter in Europe. The battery pack should be reshaped to allow 3 passengers in the back. They could remove the battery part that is in the way and replace the standard cells by more efficient ones to make up for the lost capacity.

  6. Anne van der Bom says:

    Oh, and another thing. the price (excluding taxes) is more than $50,000. The Volt starts at $31,645. So you charge your Europwean customers nearly $20,000 more, and then complain that it doesn’t sell. How stupid can you be?

    1. GSP says:

      The Volt starts at $39,995 plus $695 destination charge, plus State sales tax (7% in my state). The US IRS offers a $7500 tax credit. In Europe, VAT is higher than our sales taxes, and included in the € 42,900 list price.

      Total cost of ownership, with European fuel prices, is less than an equivalent Diesel car. It is a shame more Europeans don’t take advantage of that.

      GSP

  7. Anne van der Bom says:

    @Max,

    I see you talking about the Outlander PHEV. I was at the Mitsubishi dealer a week ago. Told me Mitsubishi has 6,000 pre-orders for it in The Netherlands.

    Cumulative sales of Ampera and Volt until Feb 2013 are 3,400. So you can sell a PHEV, but it has to be a compelling car. At that price, the Ampera is not very attractive.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    If the Russians want it then sell it in Russia. Rename it the Putinberg.

  9. Foo says:

    Perhaps the Ampera isn’t selling because few Europeans have garages.

  10. shawn marshall says:

    price sells. Zoe is kicking A$$.
    Wonder if we’ll lose our garages when we become completely socialized. Might be families of illegal aliens living in them.

  11. Parker says:

    I’m sorry but 15 mins of market research “in Europe” before the launch of the Ampera / Volt would have told them

    a) In Europe we have a HUGE choice of premium 2,3,4,5 door manual or automatics cars that will do between 45 – 60mpg for £30-£35k.

    b) No Private buyer has spent £30-£35 on a GM Vauxhall or Opel product for at least 10 years – most private buyers buy their Vauxhalls / Opel’s “nearly new” (under a year) and pay £15-£19k for them

    c) Chevrolet is seen as a Sub Vauxhall / Opel brand ……one step up from Dacia – not a brand to sink £30k into …….ever

    d) Cadillac has zero sales in Europe BUT it does have brand awareness… why not use it.

    e) Just hop out of an Ampera into a 3 series or Jaguar XF – Europeans would have paid £5k more for multilink rear suspension a decent interior (ELR?) and a Cadillac badge.

    I nearly signed on the dotted for an Ampera but the rolling refinement over 40 mph was awful and the interior was worse than a £12k Polo. The power train is world beating …. its a shame what’s wrapped round it isn’t.

  12. Neil Thomas says:

    Every Vauxhall Dealer I have visited in the Znorth West have not been able to provide me with a test drive because batteries are always flat. Unfortunately at £28K with 6,500 miles for an ex demo is also way too expensive. I offered my Prius in part exchange and the dealer should have jumped at the chance as Prius drivers should be obvious marketing targets. Unless the Ampera is seen on the road, interest in the car will wane.