Chevrolet Volt Sales Languish In March While Waiting On The Future

APR 1 2015 BY JAY COLE 38

National Inventories...And Sales Of The Chevrolet Volt Expanded In March

National Inventories…And Sales Of The Chevrolet Volt Expanded In March

General Motors did a couple unique things during March.  Besides producing pre-production models of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt at its Hamtramck, Michigan facility, the General also increased national inventories of the current generation 2015 model.

The Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Joins GM's Electrified Family Later This Year

The Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Joins GM’s Electrified Family Later This Year

Unfortunately the latter development came a little late to push Volt sales any higher – selling just 639 copies, a 8% decrease from February when 693 plug-ins were sold, and off 58% from the 1,478 sold a year ago.

Overall for the year, 1,879 have now been moved, off 48% from 2014 when 3,606 were sold.

Getting back to the current inventory situation, with this year’s production set to wind down in less than 7 weeks, national stock of the 2015 Volt touched close to the 4,000 unit level at month’s end.

Clearly, GM has decided to keep the Volt stocked until the 2016s arrive; something we now feel is likely to start happening in August, despite no official start of production date yet announced by GM.

We anticipate a return to 4-digits (or close to it) starting in April, but nothing too significant historically until the next gen car hits the market.

Separately, the Cadillac ELR sold a respectable 92 units.

Also of interest this month from GM:

  • The Volt’s chief engineer, Andrew Farah sat down for a lengthy interview with Autoline Detroit to talk about the 2016 Volt (video link here)
  • The new Chevrolet Spark debuts this week in New York, but we learned exclusively that the current gen of the Spark EV will still continue to be produced at the same time, with no plans for it to migrate to the new platform with its petrol brother
  • The Cadillac CT6 debuts in New York on Thursday (April 2nd), this platform will also come with a plug-in option, returning up to 70 MPGe (details).  The plug-in version is expected to debut in Shanghai in about 4 weeks time.

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38 Comments on "Chevrolet Volt Sales Languish In March While Waiting On The Future"

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This is, as I keep pointing out, the challenge all car companies face with plug-in cars: Stepping from one generation to another. Electric cars are a disruptive technology, obviously, but every new generation upgrade, like the Volt 2015 to 2016 and Leaf to Leaf 2.0 is a mini-disruption that forces car companies to deal with some nasty issues.

Technological changes mean that deeply connected customers (like almost all plug-in car buyers today) will be highly likely to defer purchase/lease for the Next Big Thing. How many people do this when, say, a Civic or Camry or Impala is being refreshed?

The big challenge will come in a couple of years when the legendary 200-mile EVs arrive (he typed with crossed fingers).

Let the games begin…

The transition from being qualified for the $7,500 tax credit, to ramp down, to no longer being qualified is going to be the other disruptive force. The ramp-down rate is too fast, but there is nothing that can be done about it in the current political climate.

Dr. Miguelito Loveless

It seems to me that Nissan, et al, could minimize the “disruption” by offering incremental upgrades to previous gen owners who can’t afford brand new cars. Think of how computers can have upgrades to memory, drives and graphics which puts money back into manufacturer’s pockets.

Given the high customer satisfaction and high lease percentage for the Volt, I wonder what percentage of existing customers will transition to the new Volt?

It will be a landslide, because most of those owners are on leases or just came off leases.

The Osborne Effect has really been killing Volt sales. Why not wait for the new version with more electric range, a 5th seat, and better MPG in gas mode?

Dr. Miguelito Loveless


This will be an ongoing problem for BEV makers.

The fact that there is such a big difference in “generations” of EVs is an indication of the fact that the EV revolution is still stuck in the early adopter phase. It’s in that phase that consumers note significant improvements in each new “generation” of the product. I can’t imagine why GM is increasing inventory of its current generation Volt. Surely they understand that they’ll be about as welcome as three-day-old leftover fish when the new Volt arrives? And one wonders why dealerships would buy them at this point. If I were running a dealership, I wouldn’t buy any more of the current Volts, unless a customer specifically requested one. If I were in the market for a Volt, I’d certainly be looking forward to a supposedly “green” car which didn’t require premium gas! However, I’m rather disappointed that GM didn’t increase the all-electric range much. Makers of BEVs are talking about doubling the range on the next generation; why didn’t GM do the same with the Volt? A Volt with a ~70 mile range would do quite a bit to increase the fleet’s average EV miles from 71% to well over 90%. But I guess I’m too impatient about… Read more »

Lensman, why would you put that much range into an EREV? That is why you are toting the ICE genset. It feels weird to be saying this because I whinge and moan about the genset coming on even after I opportunity charge during my lunch hour but I think that there is a balancing act when you design an EREV and the hard part is deciding how much range is enough.

I guess the best answer would be to allow buyers a choice in AER options. But if 18.4 kWh gets you 50 miles of AER, it would take almost 6 more kWh to get us to 70 miles. Where would you find the room for the additional battery cells? I think you would have to redesign the Volt to have a skateboard design with the pack under the cabin of the car ala Tesla. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but it is expensive.

It would be cool to see an EREV with 70 miles of range, but I don’t think that it would be cost-effective to do so at this time.

I agree. At such long electric ranges it starts becoming silly to include the ICE which you have to lug around all the time, do oil changes for, get smog checks, etc. Just get a pure EV with a fast-charge port and rent a car for the occasional really long trips.

Ziv, Put that much range into an EREV? Simple. You need about 70 miles of EPA AER, to safely beat the 40 mile goal, in the cold. That way, you truly cover 80% of typical driver’s, who don’t go much more than 40/day. Case in point, the BMW i3 has been reported to deliver 46 miles, against a similar REx range (72?).

Point taken. I wouldn’t want to pay for and then carry around a pack that big, but if GM could make it an option for those of us who do, that would be cool. I just am not sure they could do it without completely changing the structure of the Volt given the T-Battery we are using now. It would have to be a skateboard platform if it is done within the next 3 or 4 years. Maybe by 2020 we will be able to fit 24 kWh packs in the current pack space. But I think by 2020 most electric cars will be built on an electric intent platform which has the battery below the passenger cabin.

On any given regular commuting day, you either tote around extra batteries you don’t use, or you tote around a gas engine and gas you may or many not use.

Either way you are toting around something unless you coast into your driveway with 0 EV range, and a bone-empty gas tank every day.

There really is no set in stone right or wrong answer that works for everybody’s personal driving habits 100% of the time. So it really just comes down to what each person can make work for them personally. Sort of like spouses.

There is still an optimization function from statistical data about driving patterns, battery costs, and engine costs, that can be used to target the “best” combination of battery range and EV driving, and I think GM is right on the mark with the Gen 2 Volt.

Yes, some people will want more range. And some people won’t need 50 miles. But statistically, they’re hitting the nail on the head for the majority.

And “mass market” consumers won’t really care if they burn a little gas in the winter for their 50 mile daily commute anyway; they’re still using 95% less gas than they were previously.

70 miles AER is too much battery (i.e. too much cost). It’s no different than asking why a Leaf doesn’t have as much range as a Model S: such a feature would push the car out of its target price market.

This year, I absolutely agree with you.

A decade or two from now, an AER of 70 miles will be considered as quaint as “640 kB is all the memory a computer needs”, or 56K dial-up modems….

Ah! If only just one of the many paths to a 10x battery improvement pans out. Worst part of being an EV fan. The waiting.

Lensman, Have enjoyed greatly over the years, your comments over at GM-Volt. I’ve been engaging there since 2008 and your contributions have been exceptional. Having said this, my #FirstGenVolt lease was over on March 11, 2015. I am now the proud owner of MY 2015 #AmazingChevVolt2. Me outside of a Quick Stop Tweeting heavily using the onboard MY 2015 Chevy Volt EREV OnStar 4GLTE! Link Goes To My Twitter Photo Album- The official line on the MY 2011 Chevy Volt EREV’s AER (All Electric Range) was 25 to 50 miles. This was never revised even as the Traction Battery saw capacity improvements in 2014 and 2015. At 17.2 kWh for my new 2015 I expect to see real time range improvements to 32 to 55+ AER. I have seen the MY 2016 Chevy Volt EREV (#NextGenVolt), sat and took pictures from the back seat(5th seat) and am thoroughly impressed and awed. Link Goes To My Twitter Photo Album- However, my timing was off as my lease expired so I jumped into a 2015 with NO REGRETS! As a Chevy Salesman, I do not anticipate any problems in the sell off of the remaining meager inventory. Just 4,000 remain?… Read more »

I wonder if other electric car companies will learn from these dismal results and delay their announcements of next generation electric vehicles until just before release. The drawdown in inventory would be a dead giveaway but as is noted, GM is actually building their Gen I inventory up. I wonder if that is because they have reduced the cost to produce each new Gen I Volt to the point that they will be able to sell them profitably at $25k and the new Gen II profitably at $30k.

Wishful thinking, of course. Kind of like my hopes that the Gen II would be a bit roomier in the back seat area.

But they are still building Gen I Volts, with just over 4800 in North America according to cars dot com. That is 6-7 months worth of supply if they shut down Volt production tomorrow and it is 5 months until August. I would bet that Gen I Volt production stops sometime late this month.

Tesla is already doing this, since there entire company runs on one model right now.

When the D was announced, you could order it that day and get it in a few months. It looks like they are also delaying the final specs/pricing/ordering of Model X until they are ready to kick off production.

They know there is something about the X that will dry up Model S demand for a bit after the announcement.

Wonder if GM is planning on something of a fire sale of MY 2015 Volts? Actually, the news and hoopla of the MY 2016 Gen II Volt might increase car buyers’ interest in the Volt and if they can get some really good deals on the leftovers, they just might go with the Gen I model. Problem would really be if the price comes in lower for the Gen II, then I don’t have any idea(short of heavily discounting them)how GM will move these cars.

I was thinking the same thing. I’m sure it will happen at some time, but as with any other model in any manufacturer, the best way to get rid of inventory is to have a sale.

But then again, how could they have a sale if nobody ever knows about it? (ie. they don’t advertise the Volt at all).

I was also thinking along the same lines. Maybe the cost per vehicle on the old gen Volt is really low now that all the tooling is paid off.

Maybe GM announces 2016 pricing ($30k base seems to be the best guess) and people go looking for them, but find they can get a loaded 2015 now for $32k and bite.

Impressive how steady ELR sales are, given the circumstances. I wonder how many are Volt owners?

The CT6 PHEV would make a great pilot for a two battery option. If GM wants the mantle, as PHEV-maker, it would really throw the gauntlet to find space for 20-30kwh, in addition to the one supplying only 20-30 miles of range.

The CT6 is to come in at 3,800lbs. Shocker. Porsche is barely exceeding 1 mile, for every 1 kwh, in its Cayenne PHEV. Think of what 20-30kwh could do for this Caddy!


The CT6 would also be a great platform to test the drivetrain for a future PHEV SUV.

If they could hit 30 mile AER on a CT6 and SUV and have a 50 mile AER on the Volt, they would have a solid PHEV lineup. Ford would really have pressure to do Energi 2.0.

My Volt lease is up in April of next year, but part of me wants to wait around to see what the ELR 2.0 looks like. I’m also distantly considering used first-gen ELRs.

It’s such a pretty car.

As to the questions on why GM keeps producing so many Chevy Volts when sales is just dismal, that can be explained due to reasons such as, but not limited to – Contratual obligations with suppliers (batteries, body parts, etc.); – Agreement with Union (on # of shifts and production lines); and – Possible anticipated delay in the future model. Those overproduced vehicles will usually end up as government fleets, and to a lesser degree, private. Fire sales will usually be the smallest part, since you have to remember, dealership is NOT part of GM business. Very minimal profit can a dealer / sales get from fire sales compare to, the sale of a Tahoe. Also, though many “hope” that sales will jump extraordinary when the new model arrives, one can check historical data that the jump usually happens under several conditions: 1. The models are very hot selling models, e.g. Altima, Civic, Accord, Camry, Corolla; 2. The nameplate has been for several generations; and 3. SIGNIFICANT difference between the 2 generations. Though not always, it’s rare to have the current owner of a model to “buy” a new model in just 3-4 years, mostly due to financial reason. This… Read more »

Clarification: trade in most like occurs between 2 or more model generations, rather than between 2 immediate generations, except for lessees.

That can explain why GM has stated that it won’t be advertising the Volt’s 2nd generation like it used to, compare to 2011/12. It doesn’t anticipate much sales beyond the few CAFE markets. I am actually surprised that some here are hoping for the huge uptake in sales (when GM itself doesn’t).

“except for lessees”, that is the key.

>>50% of all plug-in sales are leases (excluding Tesla). These vehicles will bring repeat buys at a much higher rate than the rest of the industry

And that’s where I explained the problem with the Volt’s lease – the total number of sales is small, and have been declining for about 3 years now. Those 2013 and 2014 leased Volts (not MY) are the ones coming toward the end, and 1/2 of that number is not that big. Also, the maturity of the lease is on a per month basis, so one can actually anticipate the maximum conversion rate there easily.

Many of the LEAF leases will also convert to new Volts. 2016 Volt has the advantage of being the first real 2nd Gen plug-in.

The Volt is also timed well, as a new 3 year lease will bridge people into the “200 mile BEV Era” of 2018 – 2019.

Not to rain on your parade…well, kinda am 😉

In case you missed this:

Can you uptodate your Volt gen. I, with anew generation 2 battery?….after all same configuration on T.

Highly unlikely, almost a virtual certainty on not possible. 2016 Volt is not just a new battery, it is a complete new drivetrain (hardware and software).

There is a chance you could get a 2015 Volt battery to replace a 2011 Volt battery and get and extra 12% AER 35 mile vs 40 mile. GM doesn’t advertise this though.

First of all, I am not a LEAF basher. I am/was a LEAF driver. It was a better fit for my needs circa 2010/11. Now in 2015, the Volt is a better fit for my needs. Everyone has a different situation.

As far as LEAF switchers (or adding a second Plug-In), we will have to wait until this fall to find out. LEAF wins most of the BEV only fans, but i3 BEV, B-Class, e-Golf and Soul EV all put pressure on it in that category.

I think Nissan hurt themselves by not having a Gen 2 ready before Gen 2 of the Volt. Until now, there has be a fairly significant price gap between LEAF and Volt (~$5k). I think that gap will close this year.

LEAF still has a more useful passenger compartment. A VoltUV would have really pressured the LEAF sales.

Completely disruptive would be 100,000 mile range. Buy the car all charged up and run it for years. Cars cannot have too much range.

No one has gotten to 100,000 miles, but the Ford Nucleon was spec’ed as getting around 5,000 miles per fuelling. It did have the downside of hauling a nuclear reactor around 24/7, but other than that the idea looked sound. 😉

Can replace the Volt 1 battery with a Volt 2 ???…similar T shape…