Chevrolet Volt Sales Set 2016 High In November, While Toyota Prius Prime Makes Presence Felt

DEC 1 2016 BY JAY COLE 58

The Chevrolet Volt (foreground) found itself in the Bolt EV's shadow at the LA Auto Show this month (InsideEVs/Warren M)

The Chevrolet Volt (foreground) found itself in the Bolt EV’s shadow at the LA Auto Show this month (InsideEVs/Warren M)

With 2,531 Chevrolet Volts sold in November, the 53 mile extended range car from GM once again ran away with the best selling plug-in hybrid crown for the month.

The result was not only a 27.8% improvement from the 1,980 sold a year ago, but a new 2016 high for the model (previous best was 2,406 sold in July).

The impressive result also means that the Volt has now won the “best selling PHEV” title 43 times out in the past 4 years (48 months).  Truly a dominant showing.

Not since early 2015 has the Volt not been the best selling PHEV in the US (it was bested by the Ford Fusion Energi at the time)

Not since early 2015 has the Volt not been the best selling PHEV in the US (it was bested by the Ford Fusion Energi at the time)

The Ford Fusion Energi was actually the last PHEV to wrestle the monthly title away from the Chevy (in March of 2015), but that was due to an odd circumstantial “blip” on the radar more than anything else.

The only real threat ever to the Volt’s dominance in the past was the first generation of Prius plug-in (a plug-in hybrid that was vastly inferior to the Volt in most ways), that went out of production in the first half of 2015.

Looking back as an illustration of the rivalry, when the last gen Prius was still in volume production it outsold the Volt (9,300 – 8,615) for the first six months of 2014, and the 2,692 Toyota sold in May of 2014 is a level that GM has seen not since itself since August of 2013.

We mention this because of two reasons:

  1. the all new, 2017 Toyota Prius Prime arrived last month in the US in a big way, and,
  2. the original Toyota Prius PHV sucked*

And by sucked, we mean big time.  

Woof! The original 2012 Toyota Plug-In Prius

Woof! The original 2012 Toyota Plug-In Prius


The 2017 Prius Prime has more than double the range of the first model (or quadruple if you are a stickler for EPA figures) at 25 miles, and has a starting price of just $27,100 (+$850 DST).

The new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is better in every way to the 1st gen...or even the traditional hybrid (other than that token 5th seat thing)

The new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is better in every way to the 1st gen…or even the traditional hybrid (other than that token 5th seat thing)

And thanks to the Toyota’s new 8.8 kWh battery, the federal incentive moves from $2,500 in the original plug-in Prius to $4,500 in the Prime….giving the Prime an effective MSRP of $22,600 (+DST), or over $1,000 less than the base hybrid model Prius.

Basically, the new plug-in Prius doesn’t suck anymore.  

In fact, it is superior in almost every way (including price) to the standard Prius.

As an illustration of how strong a seller the new Toyota Prius Prime might be, despite only arriving mid-month in limited quantities, 781 were sold…the largest volume “debut month” for any plug-in vehicle.  Ever.

With those factors in mind, can the 2nd generation Volt that has struggled itself with regaining past sales glory, hold off the Toyota?  Perhaps adding to the Volt’s challenge is the arrival of the all-electric, 238 mile Bolt EV at dealerships beside it starting this month.

Will the arrives of the Chevrolet Bolt EV (seen here with Motor Trend CoTY hardware) help or hinder Chevrolet Volt sales going forward? (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

Will the arrives of the Chevrolet Bolt EV (seen here with Motor Trend CoTY hardware) help or hinder Chevrolet Volt sales going forward? (InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

Also of interest with GM and plug-ins this month:

The Cadillac ELR gives way to the CT6 PHV in 2017

The Cadillac ELR gives way to the CT6 PHV in 2017

*- The Cadillac ELR, which has been out of production ~10 months now, managed to sell 5 copies

*- Replacing the ELR this Spring, is the “imported from China” Cadillac CT6 Pluig-In Hybrid, with 30 miles of range and a pricetag starting at $76,090 (details)

*- The Chevrolet Bolt EV managed to pick up two “Car of the Year” awards from the LA Auto Show in November (CoTY from Motor Trend and Green” CoTY from the Green Car Journal), and also a “Top 10” Best Car nod from Car & Driver

*- GM also confirmed what every already knew on the roll-out of the Bolt EV:  that much like with the 2nd generation Volt, the first all-electric offerings will head to California (and Oregon) first, with the nationwide release sometime thereafter

*- Product evaluation magazine Consumer Reports also sat down and had a ~24 minute chat about the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, comparing it to its peers

Categories: Cadillac, Chevrolet, Sales, Toyota

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58 Comments on "Chevrolet Volt Sales Set 2016 High In November, While Toyota Prius Prime Makes Presence Felt"

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“In fact, [Prius Prime] is superior in almost every way (including price) to the standard Prius.”

That is true, but the Volt is superior in almost every way to the Prime, with the exception of Price.

But since the Volt gets a $7500 tax credit instead of just $4500 for the Prime, the cost delta is only about $3500, with the Volt having more seating, far more performance/acceleration, more range, etc.

The Prime will likely sell well though due to the overall brand reputation of the Prius and Toyota. Which I guess isn’t a bad thing, more plugs are good. But more people really need to test drive a new Volt to realize the incredible difference!

With the Volt, Volt2, and Spark EV, how much is left for that tax credit for Chevrolet (or is it all of GM, so inclusive of that Cadillac PHEV)?

Bolt probably has 100,000+ tax credits, Tesla Model 3 will have zero.

Well by the end of the year, lifetime Volt sales will have topped a bit over 111,000. Spark EV sales should finish a little short of 7,500.

If the Volt and Bolt combined sales average 60,000 units for the next 2 years, then they will reach 200,000 early to mid 2018.

After that, the dollar amount for the credit drops over the course of a few months.

Based on my understanding of how the credit works and what Chevy’s production goals are, I would think the first 60,000-65,000 Bolts should qualify for at least a partial tax credit.

For at least a partial tax credit??

Until the 200,000 number, all vehicles sold by a manufacturer get the FULL tax credit available for that vehicle.

After the 200,000th sale, for the rest of that quarter, every vehicle still gets the FULL tax credit available.

Then each quarter thereafter ramps down, until about a year later where there is no longer a credit. However, as stated before by others, it is expected that when one vehicle manufacturer reaches this milestone, the credits will be sunset for all manufacturers, so as not to put laggards at an advantage over the front of the pack.

In short, I expect 60,000 or so Bolts will get the FULL credit (not partial) and after that, every manufacturer and vehicle will have its credits ramp down.

Time will tell! 🙂

Perhaps! Personally, I think about 45K Bolts will be there for the full rebate. But it depends on the production numbers of GMs other Plug Ins.

As I understand it, the ELR and CT6 Plug In will count towards GMs totals. So about 3,000 lifetime ELRs puts them over 120,000 by the end of the year.

If the Bolt does manage 60,000 at the full credit, then the volt would probably have to drop down below 20,000 a year. It would also require very low CT6 Plug-In numbers. I’m hoping neither of these things happen!

Or, perhaps an unusually high number of Bolt sales in the first half of 2018 as the cap approaches and is breached. Definitely possible if GM accelerates production during that time. 🙂

But as you say… time will tell! You could be right and I am overestimating Volt and CT6 sales.

That’s fair. Your comment about 60k at least receiving a partial credit made it sound like 60k Bolts would ONLY receive a partial credit, but now I understand what you were saying.

I’m still hopeful that the other plugins you note can have higher sales, and we can still see a full 60k Bolt EV’s with full tax credits, since the full incentive runs through the whole quarter where the 200k sale was logged.

Either way, it will be a great achievement to celebrate to have an automaker finally reach that milesone!

Clarkson is correct, that’s how the current law is written.

The part about it ending when the first car maker hits 200K isn’t in the current law though. It is per-car maker.

Now there certainly has been speculation that once a car maker or a few have sunsetted out of the program, that the program will likely be killed prematurely by lawmakers. But that isn’t in the current law, and given the makeup of the Congress and the next President, I would be surprised if it isn’t killed much more prematurely than that.

Correct, the 200k vehicles worth of “full incentive” tax credits are per manufacturer.

It is popular speculation that the credit will sunset for all once a single manufacturer hits that number, but that is not how the law is written strictly speaking.

As for Trump, I am going to go with a “middle of the road” opinion here, and suspect that the credit won’t end “early” per se, but having one manufacturer hit 200k sales will be a great reason to end it for all manufacturers, as many have already suspected will happen.

As GM would say, we’ll have to “stay tuned” 🙂

Some here are forgetting that not everyone will qualify for that Federal tax credit (which depends on total Federal tax due at the end of the year), and many who may qualify will not ask for it.

So for every ten GM vehicles sold, only six or seven will get the credit.

Unless I am mistaken, the tax credit is only available on the first 200,000 units manufactured by an automaker.

And only to the first owner of the vehicle.

So whether or not the buyer actually claims the tax credit doesn’t matter. Once 200,000 have been manufactured by an automaker, the ramp down begins the next quarter.

Prime’s other advantages:
– Standard forward emergency braking and full-speed adaptive cruise.
– Available power seat
– More efficient operation in each mode (value depends on driving pattern and how much you’re into energy efficency as opposed to gasoline v electric)
– Heat pump (useful for efficiency in colder climates)

I think the points you note are more “in the noise” than real talking points. There’s similar disadvantages of the Prime (advantages of the Volt) that could also be referenced:
– Full performance battery-only operation not possible at all speeds and accelerations in the Prime, unlike Volt.
– Engine needed to heat the cabin at temperatures that are warmer than the Volt.
– Wireless Cellphone charging not avaiable
– 4 seats in Prime, 5 seats in Volt

To me the main stand-outs are performance/acceleration and range, and they both go to the Volt.

Yes, Prime is slightly more efficient in terms of energy usage, but many prefer to reduce gasoline usage instead, and with Prime you will nearly always burn more gasoline than with Volt, except on very long trips which don’t happen often.

The big disadvantage of the Prius Prime is their Dealer network. My local dealer plans to stock None.


He suggests I go out of state for a test drive.

Unfortunately, that’s often a disadvantage with the Volt too. Lack of dealer participation and lack of dealer knowledge are both discouraging from an otherwise amazing vehicle.

I wouldn’t say the Volt is superior in every way to the prime. The prime wins if you drive less than 25 miles per day, or you drive more than 100 miles. For the sweet spot though (those who drive between 30 and 100 miles per day with charging at work) the Volt wins.

Toyota was very smart in bookending the market around the Volt rather than competing head-on. That will get them abiut 40℅ of the market

Actually the Volt wins out to 150 miles possibly 200+ miles if you can charge at work. It takes a lot of driving to make up the gas mileage difference of the cars.

If I drive less than 25 miles a day, I don’t even need a car. So I am beating the Prime!

I’ve never been a fan of Prii, but I’m still happy that Toyota is improving their game.

Whatever it takes to get people hooked on electric propulsion. My 2013 Volt was my gateway drug, now I want something more potent. A M≡ will probably be my next vehicle.

Thats what I love the Volt for, I test drove a friends 2013 Volt and that is what made me buy a Volkswagen eGolf in 2015 and a Tesla Model X in 2016 🙂

There is no doubt that the Volt is the far superior vehicle of the two. I would never trade our Volt for a Prime.

But the Prime is an actual good effort from Toyota… finally!

It will sell quite well and hopefully will give Chevy and Ford some real competition for their plug-in hybrids.

I don’t think the Bolt will hurt Volt sales at all. I think it will only help Volt sales, especially in these early months when the Bolt is difficult to find.

this should be the federal credit rush. you don’t know if trump will keep them in place.

It’s up to Congress to keep the tax rebate in place, or not. Despite what Trump seems to believe, he will only be President… not Emperor.

Add at least 3000 sales as of the end of November in Canada, and the Volt has already beaten its 2013 record for North American sales (24025).

Yup. 24245 sales between Canada and USA already.

I suspect “as usual” GM will not make any real effort to move Volts. They still don’t include it in “ANY” of the brands TV ads in any meaningful way *I have seen it pictured briefly, but if I you’re not familier with the Volt you would not likely recognize it.

I’m sure the Prime will be advertised at least to some degree and it’s likely the Volt will fade into obscurity

Now most people whom want to buy a plugin hybrid, they go to internet for information before taking any decision.
And everywhere people have a good opinion of the Volt 2.

I don’t understand the policy of GM for the Volt 2. It’s really a good PHEV, GM has an asset in their hands and they willing to give it to Toyota. They don’t really care about american jobs ?

If GM don’t promote PHEV, foreign automakers will do. They have to move to EV everywhere in the world, and USA won’t be an exception.

780 Primes whaaat..

I knew the Prime had sold a bunch.. I went to a few weeks ago and saw the inventory of a few hundred. And I looked yesterday and inventory was zero. So they’ve basically sold every one they’ve managed to bring to the USA so far. I would imagine next month will be the same. I suspect the car will be supply limited for a while.

The Prius lemmings will lap it up.

Be happy that the lemmings will be plugging in more and filling up less.


I could care less if people buy one PHEV over another PHEV that may or may not be “better”. All I care is that they buy one, no matter what brand. All these cars in this story are better than mass market buyers just buying another ICE.

I do care. It’s American workers that need to keep working at Hamtramck and if GM keeps on it’s present track – the Prime will roll off of Toyota lots without many Priusphiles even test driving a Volt. It’s a fact that Volt outperforms Prius in nearly every way – and Prime in every way since Prius’ more voluminous back seat area and slightly larger cargo area are nullified in Prime with it’s 2 small back seats. GM’s gen 3 Volt could be as easy as modify the current D2XX Cruze 2 platform to fit the Volt’s T-pack. Volt’s cramped back seat will limit sales and GM knew this long before they introduced Volt v.2. Volt was mentioned as a Prius-fighter early in 2010, but the hype got drowned out by Volt’s $44,000 sticker price. Now, the v.2 Volt and Prime can duke it out head-to-head. Too bad they didn’t give Volt a nice Cruze 2 sized back seat to adequately do battle. Add in Toyota advertising and showroom lemmings and you can see how Volt has an uphill battle -GM’s SECRET PRIUS FIGHTER. For 5 years I have been literally begging GM to do VOLT vs. PRIUS advertising. Just… Read more »

Would they be plugging in? If I have Prime that will use gas on almost all of my trips, I wouldn’t bother plugging in much of the time. On top of that, some will use EV charging spot for parking convenience and block EV from charging.

That is why I carry a BIG ASS ORANGE PEN so I can at least write something on their window they will have to stop and clean off before they can drive again. Donated by my Sheriff buddy.

According to a local Toyota dealer the entire Midwest was issued an initial allotment of 300 Primes. The Minneapolis dealers are taking orders for delivery in 3 months.
I test drove a Volt and being 6’3″ there isn’t enough front headroom. The Prius has 2 more inches in both front and back.

Brent, did you lower the drivers seat all the way down? Because I am 6’4″ and I can wear my Nationals cap without it coming close to the headliner of my Volt. Now the BACK seats are lame but the front seats are really roomy.

Ziv — I’m going to guess you are around 200 lbs or less, and an inseam of 36+ inches? I say that because all tall people aren’t built identically. Slender folks with longer legs who are tall tend to fit into cars better than husky folks with short legs and a tall torso…

I have a buddy your exact same height, and didn’t fit in the Volt at all. YMMV.

I wish I was just 200 pounds! LOL! I am sitting around 235 pounds and my 34″ inseam slacks really ought to have a half inch taken out since they look a bit long. I was a basketball player, not a football player so my body is longer than it is wide.
The Volt front seat adjusts a lot more than many people understand. Maybe because they are manually adjusted and most of us haven’t had a front drivers seat that wasn’t powered for years.

Very interesting. You are a dead-on mirror of my buddy in body shape. What year of Volt do you have? Now I’m wondering if there might have been a change in the Volt seats since the 2011 we test drove? Very odd.

Nix, check out my comment to Clarkson. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I like to lean the seat back an inch or two. Perhaps that gives me another inch between me and the headliner?

I drive a 2013, but I think all the gen I Volts have the same seating dimensions, though I don’t know that for a fact.

Replying to myself now… LOL!
If the car that didn’t fit was a 2011, they were the first and some said the best for seating comfort. Maybe they had more padding in the front seats?

What Ziv said… The Volt’s seats can be adjusted vertically up and down, but the functionality is often forgotten given they’re manual adjustments.

Adjusting the seat down (once you find the right lever) and back, will likely give you more than enough room.

It’s the passenger in the back of you that would suffer, but similar situation in a Prime too. 😉

Clarkson, could it be in part because different drivers have the seat at different angles? I.e., if you recline the seat a bit, you get more headroom? Because I do recline my seat an inch or two, which probably gives me another inch of headroom. That is just a guess, though, I have never measured the difference. I push the seat all the way back and then recline it a bit, and I have a ton of headroom, though.

Toyota has actually made a car uglier than the Leaf. I didn’t think it could be done

I actually like the way the Prime looks, very aggressive. If only the range equaled or exceeded my car I would have considered it. Toyota reliability would be nice to have.

At least they got rid of the “Vampire Teeth” tail lights on the standard Prius!

The new Prius looks better on the road then in photos. That’s an interesting fact.

More like a subjective opinion.

Well that’s only if you don’t consider the Mirai lol!! But yes.., I agree this thing is Fugly. I’d never buy one “based on it’s looks alone”

Im curious if the chrysler pacifica will be taking the leader board once volume ramps up.

I hope the Pacifica does well. Its concept has the potential to eliminate much more gasoline use and related emissions per vehicle sold than a Prius or even a Volt.

The larger the vehicle, the more gas saved with a plug, assuming enough battery-electric range to meet most of a person’s daily driving needs.

The dealers will do their best to kill Bolt sales just as they have done to the Volt. It is crazy to think that they would promote a vehicle that will put them out of business. We love our Volt 1.0 and our Tesla Model S and will never be talked into buying ICE again. But we are the exceptions I’m afraid.

Drive down to your local supermarket parking lot or mall. There you’ll see miles and miles of tall station wagons. This is what Americans in suburbia are convinced they want and need. In that this is the current environment we live in – Things will really heat up once Model Y surfaces. That will take YEEEEEARS. Gigafactory has to be built, Supercharger network is going to have to increase four-fold to deal with all the M3s rolling around in 2019. I often wonder if Elon is secretly designing Model Y just as Model 3’s production line is going in, and testing begins. I’m sure it’s not – but it’s worth pondering. If at all possible, that would be a wallop to the ICE industry. Tall station wagons, it’s what we buy these days. Model Y could have 3 rows! Imagine a 3 row, 230 mile CUV for $40,000. It would fly off the shelves! If you haven’t noticed, in this cheap gas era – “small” CUVs havd grown and are now the size midsized SUVs were 5 years ago. Most still don’t have a third row, however. Model Y can pull a hat trick following M3’s lead. That is –… Read more »

* Did I mention how MASSIVE “midsized” CUVs are these days!

Heck – I saw a 2017 Honda Pilot and a Toyota Highlander recently… SHEEEZ, they are YUUUGE ( Sorry for the Trumpism! ). But they are really big!

Big pickup trucks are SO BIG today that you need ladders and clever steps to get up into them, even if you’re 6’2″! The “midsize” Colorado/Canyon truck from GM is exactly the size a Ford F-150 was in 1998!

This is what happens in America when gas is cheap and companies appeal to our, “bigger is better” mentality.

One more point: Everybody from Audi to Honda are now making SUVs in sizes and half sizes that appeal to literally every human being on the planet. There are SO MANY freakin’ crossovers out there – EVEN MINI MAKES ONE OR TWO!!!! And it keeps going and going and going and….

Are we THAT infatuated with TALL, FAT STATION WAGONS?!!!

Note to Tesla:


Sedans are passé. I love ’em, you may love ’em, but “DA PEOPLES LOVE THEIR CUVs”! My suggestion is to build the small affordable CUV first – then follow with a matching sedan on the platform – not vice versa.

Prius: Air Cooled battery: We all know how that turned out with Nissan Leaf.

In early 2017 I will try once again to find a Volt dealer within 100 miles or so, who will respond to my email (not with generic advs. for other cars) and has a Volt in stock for a test drive.