Why Did GM’s Ampera Fail In Europe? UK Based AutoCar Weighs In

SEP 17 2014 BY JAY COLE 58

Why Didn't The Vauxhall Ampera Take Off In Europe?  AutoCar Weighs In

Why Didn’t The Vauxhall Ampera Take Off In Europe? AutoCar Weighs In

Over the past several years, as the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera sales returns have come in, we have debated the viability of GM’s rebranded/reskinned Chevrolet Volt for Europe.

Americans Were Widely Jealous Of The Ampera's Lines...Not So Much For Europeans Apparently

Americans Were Widely Jealous Of The Ampera’s Lines When Launched…Not So Much For Europeans Apparently

Yearly estimated Opel Ampera sales in Europe:

  • 2011 – 268
  • 2012 – 5,300*
  • 2013 – 3,184
  • 2014 – 411 (July + partial data into August)

Then this past July, it was unofficially terminated via a series of tweets by General Motors Europe President Karl-Thomas Neumann, when he wrote:

“After the eventual run-out of the current generation Ampera, we’ll introduce a successor product in the electric vehicle segment.”

Now UK-based AutoCar gives us a first-person prospective on why the Vauxhall Ampera was not a success from their home base.

“As much as you can argue that the Ampera was clever and desirable (it was the 2012 European Car of the Year, after all), there is no arguing with the sales figures…The early adopters have adopted, the business buyers have bought in and demand has slowed to a sub-100-unit-per-month crawl.”

More CO2 Focused European Governments Put A Lower "Green" Value On The Ampera

More CO2 Focused European Governments Put A Lower “Green” Value On The Ampera

AutoCar feels that after those early adopting persons and businesses signed on there was little follow-through due to the pricing.

“It’s difficult to know why the Ampera died so quickly in Europe, although the price was clearly a big component. In the UK, the car currently costs from £27,600 ($44,900 USD).  With the government’s £5000 plug-in car grant (effectively, it means the Treasury is not charging VAT), the price drops to £22,600 ($35,800 USD) in base form.”

They likened the Ampera to a Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI SE, which would seem to not be that much of a stretch.  However the government and public’s opinion of the plug-in Vauxhall’s ‘green cred’ seemed to always be in question.

“…the green movement and EU governments decided to frame the hopelessly over-simplified environmental argument almost entirely in terms of CO2. 

With the CO2 argument in mind, the typical European Ampera driver probably realised that when the car’s battery charge ran out, they were then propelled by a relatively low-tech petrol engine. This may return 45mpg (37 mpg in US gal) on the motorway, but that was adrift of what a good modern turbodiesel could manage.”

So, the Ampera was too much money, didn’t have any green cred and wasn’t all that efficient in petrol mode.  Was that it?

Apparently not.

Vauxhall Ampera Dash Cluster Not Liked In The UK

Vauxhall Ampera Dash Cluster Not Liked In The UK

Europeans didn’t care for the “space-age” styling, high tail, small side windows and especially not the 4-seat status due to the battery running down the center of the car.   And the interior console?

“But many dislike the one-piece moulded centre console and touch-sensitive switchgear, which give no haptic feedback and often result in frustrated jabbing.”

The net result of the miscalculation by GM that they could sell the Chevrolet Volt in Europe not only meant poor sales, but poor residuals for those who did make the leap.  “While not terrible, it’s possible to buy a low-mileage, two-year-old example of the Volt or Ampera for as little as £16,000.”

After saying all that, AutoCar really seemed to love their experience with their UK-bought Chevrolet Volt (irony it wasn’t an Ampera?).

The reviewer Hilton Holloway himself says of the car: “I’ll be sorry to see it go. I ran a Volt on Autocar’s long-term fleet for a year and became a huge fan….while I’m very sorry that Europe won’t be seeing the new (2nd gen) model, I will also admit that I’m very much in the minority with this view. “


Categories: Chevrolet, Opel / Vauxhall

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58 Comments on "Why Did GM’s Ampera Fail In Europe? UK Based AutoCar Weighs In"

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I know why it was not a success in DK
Price of Opel Ampera 648.000 kr.
Price of Tesla model S 85kw 610.000 kr.

Yes, PHEVs do not get the same advantages as BEVs in some of the countries.

The Ampera isn’t that expensive in other countries.
Maybe there is a simpler reason that has no connection to the powertrain: It is a 4 seater sedan.
If I bought a car in that price range I would expect a 5 seater wagon type. In Europe sedans are not so popular.

It’s the same in most of the US.

The poor Volt is the most misunderstood car in history. It is in fact more technologically advanced than the i8….and for reasonable sum.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

No it’s not. i8 has thru-the-road AWD, CFRP, a weight-optimized turbo i3, etc.

Volt currently has a subpar off-the-shelf unoptimized iron lump of a range extender, mild steel construction based off of a non-EV-optimized shared platform, with cabin room impingement to go with it.

BMW i3 and i8 leapfrogged Volt, which is fair enough given that they’re newer and had Volt as a baseline. Now it’s up to GM to leapfrog again with a proper optimized range extender, an improved EV-optimized platform, 4+ years of end-user data to help with battery management and ergos, etc.

Perhaps my statement was somewhat of a stretch….but it sounded good at the time.

I still think you get a whole lot of tech for the buck.

in the US

You get a lot more w/the Volt at $35k vs. the i3 at $45k. The only thing, IMO, that’s better on the i3 is the bigger battery. I’d rather have the Volt’s range extender & gas tank.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

I’d rather have a 1l I3 aluminum Atkinson-cycle range extender in the Volt that develops 50-60kW and gets 50+mpg highway.

Volt is very good for its niche, here’s hoping 2.0 embiggens that niche significantly.

“Embiggins” LOL

Embiggens is a perfectly cromulent word.

Corpaciously said, and embollent!

50mpg will help w/bragging rights, but not much in the real world. Could help spur sales. 50-60HP should be enough. The i3’s 34HP scares me.

Guess which one is faster in pure EV mode? I would argue the Volt is more advanced per dollar since I can drive it in pure EV mode without compromise and for a much longer distance than the $140,000 i8. It also has more passenger and cargo volume while doing it.

If the i8 were truly advanced they could have put in a slightly larger battery and motor giving the i8 a more respectable pure EV performance. A 5 kwh battery with a 129 hp motor is not advanced. Sure it will help increase the i8’s GAS mileage but it really shouldn’t be compared at all to EVs in its tech level. It should be hailed as the most advanced PHEV. He’ll it’s not even an EREV.

According to the EPA sticker the i8 has 0 AER which arguably makes it a partial PHEV. Slightly unfair but there it is.

I don’t know enough about the i8 to comment, but the Volt’s powertrain is certainly more advanced than the powertrain in the i3 REx. The i3 can’t even reclaim heat from the REx operation for the cabin!

The Volt out performs the i8 in EV mode. I would call that more advanced. This is something owners can enjoy every day.

The Volt also outperforms the i3 Rex in range extend ended mode. Not something to enjoy every day, where the i3 outperforms the Volt, but when you need the range extender the Volt is much, much, more than the i3 Rex. The Volt range extender acts like a normal car with normal power and range, so is useable by anyone.


Not sure about those figures ? according to their site, Starting from £28,750, inclusive of the PiCG. That’s around 46K USD. You can buy a BMW a put 3 years worth of fuel in it for less !

That’s actually not so unusual. If you compare prices of a BMW 320i here in the US to a BMW 320i in GB, the US 320i is about $32,100 USD but the 320i is about £28,100 in GB, which translates to just under $46,000 USD. I’ve noticed that US auto prices tend to be lower than elsewhere, though I couldn’t say why.

20% VAT, mainly.
Knock off that and prices are usually pretty comparable.

So the only way you can escape VAT in the UK is to buy it for a business? It makes no difference where the car is manufactured?

Yep and nope.

It’s simple then:
David Martin Inc


Inland Revenue make you an offer you really CAN’T refuse!

And actually it is Customs and Excise, which is much, much worse.

That is how you spell ‛Ndrangheta in English.

it was Way to expensive for me, plain and simple

The Prius doesn’t sell that well in Europe, either.

They seem to be obsessed with diesels.

That may be changing as the damage to air quality from diesels becomes clearer.

It nearly shut down Paris for a couple of weeks in the summer.

I’ve always hated them.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Diesels are fuel-tax-advantaged and thus end up costing less per mile than petrol. I think the lack of 5 seats, price, and goofy/terrible dashboard controls did this vehicle in, as it should be amazingly cheap to run vis-a-vis fuel tax vs. electricity costs.

I find it hard to believe that in the land of tiny econoboxes, the Volt was done in by “not enough passenger room.”

The market in the UK splits in two.

Small, usually cheap but sometimes stylish instead city cars, and reasonably spacious motorway cruisers.

Even a Jazz (Fit?) sized car or a Golf is reasonably commodious in the back.

So yep, the accomodation in the back would have been a problem in that type and price of car in the UK.

It is not the drive system, as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is selling well, but that offers much more space and small SUV format.

Some people like living in the past. (I don’t)
I hate buttons and nobs they eventually fail. Give me smart phone like controls on a nicely sized screen like the Model S. I like the Volts Dash.


I wouldn’t consider myself as one who “likes living in the past”, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? The Volt’s center console looks and feels awful to me. That was a big turn off (but ultimately for me it was the tiny trunk). Progress is keeping what works and improving what doesn’t. In the case of the Volt’s console, they ditched what worked, and replaced it with something worse. To me, that seems like a step backwards.

Fortunately, it looks like the 2nd-gen Volt mules have the same center console (with real buttons) as the 2016 China Cruze.

Touchscreens and touch-sensitive buttons are cool and all, but real buttons are superior for operation-without-looking (which is crucial in a car). You can’t really do that in a Volt, because feeling around to find the correct button (before you press it) means you are actually pressing a bunch of buttons in the process.

One more reason I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Volt 2.0!

I agree and I think the dash of the Volt works.

It is easy to clean and a simple whip would clean up the entire center console without too many button cracks to worry about.

As far as “small buttons” go, NONE OF THE buttons are small. The entire area around the button are touchable. Only those people who doesn’t know it like to complain about it.

Also, just about all the touch button functions can be found on the steering wheel AND the touch screen…

The Irony here of course, is that with all those “Europeans worried about CO2 Cred”, there’s more of that HORRID coal (hehe) imported from the states, due to the geopolitical situation of anticipated methane starvation this upcoming winter, and also due to the high and rising anticipated price of methane this winter. The one part I’ll agree with European buyers are the dashboard “buttons” are a pain in the neck, but you get used to them. The ELR on the other hand, I find almost impossible to control. I would prefer both cars had a more traditional dashboard. It was enough to cause Caddilac a sale last week since I probably would have bought one were it not for that dashboard and lack of rear seat room. They are obviously pointing toward a younger demographic than me, but its more accurate to say, a different type of person than me. If I was much younger, I still wouldn’t like the ELR in practice. As the latest Yogi-ism states, “In Theory, theory and Practice are the Same. In practice, they’re different!”. That applies here. The Volt you can get used to, but the ELR, while I was initially a big supporter,… Read more »

So no ELR Bill. What is next?

HI Josh,
Well, you got your ELR review. THumbs down here. I along with many others here want to see exactly what the 2016 Volt will be like. “Truly better in every Way” will be a hard act to consumate.

You never told us what you drive and what you like.

I have been a LEAF driver for the last three years. Sadly that ended (with my lease) in June. My driving habits have changed (work from home, long drives to an airport without charging), so the LEAF range doesn’t make sense now. I live in Texas, so my selection is very limited.

I also have a baby on the way, so looking for something bigger than Volt. So Outlander PHEV would be my top choice. In reality, I am just waiting for a used Model S to get within range for me to justify.

Had they offered the “open top” Ampera shown in the third picture above it would have been a huge success! 😉

Only four seats?! How about no seats? 😉

That is the $35k version of the Model 3 😉

Volt failed in EU the same way it failed in the US (somewhat).

People don’t understand it. Other Eco cars (hybrids and diesel) are too cheap.

Volt performance is NOT sufficient enough to justify the price.

If Volt could do 0-60mph in sub 6 secs in its EV mode, it would have sold as hot cakes….

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Sad part is, if differently geared and with GM gimping removed, Volt could probably do low 7s pretty easily.

Toyesla RAV4EV has a nearly-identically rated electric motor, is heavier, and has a larger CdA. It clocks low 7s 0-60. Volt actually has a 2nd electric motor that can be spun while the primary is running, which it does during highway use, which acts as a ‘taller’ gear to allow the primary motor to spin more slowly. So, GM could put in a shorter final drive ratio for faster acceleration, and have the secondary motor kick in sooner.

The eRav4 has a much larger battery which can support the peak discharge rate repeatly. The Volt battery can’t if GM wants to make sure the battery stands up to 100K miles warranty…

Ahem, It stands as a 10 year, 150,000 mile warranty; California PZEV Chevy Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle’s from VIN’s starting early, 2012.



Thomas J. Thias



I second that GM probably gimped the Volt’s performance to protect the battery. However, it seems that the batteries have been holding up incredibly well (even better than GM’s engineers thought). So maybe part of the Volt 2.0’s “better in every way” will be more performance? One can only hope.

You’re asking for sportscar performance (while presumably maintaining top-tier econobox fuel economy) at ~$40k (~$30k after incentives).

Which existing car does this, or ever has?

Well the Camry Hybrid is 7.2-7.4, Accord hybrid 7.1

BMW 335d 5.8 (a little more expensive)

I would imagine Europe has several diesels with 40 mpg and less than 7 sec 0-60.

I think the point is that people would be more willing to pay a premium over the Leaf or Prius if they ramped up the performance. 0-60 in 6 secs would be a pretty good enticement

There are tons of $30k cars that go 0-60 in 6 secs.

Where to begin?

1) 7.2sec 0-60 is not even close to sub-6-second; sub-6-second is sports segment performance
2) 335d is not a USDM model; 328d is closest available substitute and is 7.0sec 0-60
3) 328d MSRP is $38.9k, Accord Hybrid MSRP is $35.1k, Camry Hybrid is $26.3k, no tax rebates (and again, all of these are 7-seconds 0-60)
4) I’m sure Europe does have some high MPG diesels, and maybe a few of them are even sub-6sec. But they damned sure aren’t under $30k.
5) As in 4), there are indeed several sub-6sec cars under $30k. But they don’t get anywhere near 40MPG.

Cheap, fast, high MPG: pick two.

I do think the price was the main problem. In Belgium it was launched at a jaw dropping €46k (almost $60k)
The styling and all those other things didn’t help, but if you can’t look past the ridiculous price, the rest doesn’t matter.

When the 2014 MY Chevy Silverado was about to debut, Global Automotive Writers labored to digest the failure of the 2013 Chevy/GMC 1500 platform. They labored to rationalise why GM would kill a sucessful platform. No, they did not. What we are witnessing is the evloution of the General Motors Voltec Platform. The CyberSpace Eco Chamber went slamming when a cub reporter from AutoNews/Global published an article a few months back slamming the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera and quoting unnamed sources stating its demise. Like the left behind 2013 MY Chevy 1500 Silverado, as the 2014 MY rolled the technology advanced in what is called a successive platform or generation. Opel CEO and GM Europe President finally took to Twitter to rebuff these rumors. Part of his Twitter post appears in Jay Coles’ lead above. Here are the three Tweets that Karl-Thomas Neumann published, squashing the rumors of no Gen 2 EREV. “We see #eMobility as important part of the mobility of tomorrow and we will continue to drive down costs & deliver affordability. 1/3″ Our next electric vehicle will be part of our massive product offensive – with 27 new vehicles in the 2014-2018 time frame. 2/3 After the eventual run-out… Read more »

Surprised most businesses who need a green passenger car didn’t take this up.

The majority of uk people buy economy boxes of the small size that Australian or Americans would cringe at ever driving…

I am sure: it’s just a matter of price. Italy, I have one of one year, bought it used for 25K EUR. I am really amazed. When I show to people they say it’s great. There are two main reasons about this fail: as I told you price (new it’s near 40K EUR) and NO MARKETING at all. People jus do not know anything about. No matter of console, 4 seats and bla bla bla…just price and Marketing, that’s all!!!

Opel is a dying brand, especially in Germany. Cars are only bought by backwards oriented rural crowd. GM thought it would help Opel to pull Chevy out of Europe. Now they aren’t selling neither Chevy nor Opel. The Volt was never promoted, instead they tried to sell the Ampera for an insane price and with an awful campaign. German joke: what rhymes in Opel? Popel! Look Popel up on “Leo Dictionairy” 🙂

Hi All, In my opinion, in Europe, a lot has to do with statement. The Ampera-Volt is an outstanding vehicle and would deserves to have a single name worldwide separated from Chevy or Opel: “Volt, the new brand of GM! Few german brands drivers would swap a VW-MB-BMW-Audi against a chevy or an Opel only because social status. I did. 2nd point is the plug type 1 on vehicle side. It should be a type 2 to ease the connectivity with european frame.

Heck, ever try cleaning the “buttoned” console with a Q tip. No thanks – the center console was one of the best approaches to date – just like Ipods and Ipads. After a few weeks, your fully adapted to the technique. It’s these sit down for a half day reviewers that hate it.

I own a chevy volt, and as far as I am concerned, it is a fantastic car.
Great mileage, good looks, fit and finish is great, nice leather, not a drag strip car, but that isn’t necessary.
My wife and I have no problems with 4 seats or 5 seats, trunk space is very adequate , if more room is needed, lay the seats down!
First volt, a 2013, we drove 20,000 trouble free miles, this is a 2014 with 14,000 miles also trouble free.
Great cars , and am looking forward to the 2016. I might trade for the right price.
Sure is nice driving by the greedy gas company stations.
I also own an ELR, which I absolutely love. Best car I have ever owned . Beautiful styling, great mileage, get constant thumbs up from other people ,
On thing bad about these two autos, never have I seen any advertising from chevy, or Cadillac on them.
If more people understood them, they would sell many more.