Chevrolet is Making Converts to the Brand and its Halo

Chevrolet has just issued a press release saying a fair number of Prius owners are voting with their bank accounts in favor of its Volt.

Marketing data collected on the extended-range electric car shows the Prius is the most traded-in vehicle for those opting for the Volt. Following this are the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and various iterations of the BMW 3-Series.

Now that the Volt has been granted eligibility for solo access to the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in California, GM’s marketers are charging in hard finding case examples of happy new Volt converts.

“I owned a Prius for six years and loved it. I was one of the first to sign-up for the plug-in (version),” said Steve Glenn of Santa Monica, Calif. “While I was waiting for it to ship, I learned that the Volt would qualify for the HOV stickers, so I did a test drive. I fell in love then. It’s faster, better appointed and gets far better gas mileage than the Prius (or the plug-in). I’ve driven it over 1,000 miles and I’ve only used five gallons of gas.”

And probably even easier to find was a dealer willing to also tout its advantages.

“Volt is a game changer for us in northern California,” said Shaun Del Grande, president, Del Grande Dealer Group in San Jose. “On a daily basis new customers are coming into our dealership to check out the Volt because of its breakthrough technology and superior fuel economy. Our dealership is seeing new customers who are trading in Prius and Civic models, and we’re just getting started with electric vehicles.”

On the other hand, GM has caught heat from some Volt fans for being in other ways tepid in its marketing, not as truly aggressive as, say, Nissan, in pushing its new technology to more platforms.

Playing according to its own muse, GM is seemingly content to make the Volt a halo car and only reluctantly announced the more upscale Voltec-based Cadillac ELR would be produced in 2014 when the story was leaked, while it’s still solidifying its post-bankruptcy balance sheet and the Volt’s also recently wounded reputation.

On this last score, the Volt was top ranked in owner satisfaction by Consumer Reports and a recent survey showed Volt owners “expressed their passion for the vehicle” and 93 percent said they’d buy another one again.

This, Chevrolet says, as it is also naming Prius owners as the number one category of those trading in for the Volt.

And it says it while the long-established Toyota – and variants – continue to dominate in sales volume month after month, and the Volt is still only selling in limited numbers.

In counterpoint once more, the Volt also comes packed with a prestige value for GM that may be inestimable. Recently former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz was quoted as saying the new halo single-handedly rescued GM’s reputation from one of mediocre technology.

Perhaps that dovetails also with GM’s data saying how GM is experiencing a resurgence of new customers due to the Volt.

“Nearly seven in 10 Volt buyers are new to Chevrolet,” said Volt marketing manager Cristi Landy. “With new customers coming to the brand because of the Volt, our dealers have a great opportunity to establish lasting relationships and introduce them to our entire Chevrolet product line up.”

But since GM says the Volt is such a great car, others have said they’d like to see GM show it really means it and bring in some lower price point Voltec variants as well, maybe also a crossover vehicle while they’re at it.

No doubt GM has heard them. But for now it’s shoring up its position, continuing to deliver Volts and sibling Amperas to new markets, and boasting in its one Ace while otherwise holding its hand full of other cards close to its chest.

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  • dutchinchicago

    I wonder if I am the only person to trade in a Leaf for a Volt.

  • MS

    Volt is a hybrid, more expensive with plugin than the regular Prius. Have more power, and less room, some differences but essencialy different cars.

    Naturally the “first time” adopters of Volt are persons who like hybrids and most of them already had a experience with the Prius.

    If we make the same survey with the Leaf the response probably would be the same, most came from Prius.

    And if the survey is made to Prius new owners, from which car they came from?

    This is a step by step approach. However, let’s see if Volt increase the sales, as I would guess that being sold for more than one year it will only increase significatly sales after being a proved and tested that is a car with longevity, but that only after a few years of use.

  • Automotive Expert

    GM loses about $35K per car when someone buys a Chevy Volt, and its true cost under most ideal situation (assume GM makes >200,000 Chevy Volt per year) can never be below $40K, the economy is even worse for Nissan Leaf and other pure electric vehicles.
    No one at GM believes the viability of Chevy Volt, and it is a good PR tool, but not a good source of positive cash flow!

  • VoltSkeptic

    Huh? Loses #35k per car, where is that number from, FOX news? Don’t tell me you’re including R&D costs, ’cause that’s written off and isn’t included on anybody’s per car profit/loss statements.

    According to GM’s public statements and that of it’s former CEO “At least in the early years, each Volt would cost around $40,000 to manufacture (development costs not included)”. So that’s a lie? According to Nissan’s public statements “Thus, Nissan might not be making money on initial Leafs, but it’s very close and could start selling the cars for a profit soon”. Most believe it won’t be till the third year, but it is certainly not as bad as even 5% of $35k, not worse as you say.

    There is no need to exaggerate, you’re just discrediting your argument. EV’s are barely if at all profitable, but battery prices are coming down as battery production ramps up, so if they aren’t now, they’ll get into the black on a per car basis soon. The true problem is that only a small percentage of the public can afford EV’s without subsidies, so their prices need to come down an awful lot farther for sales to ramp up to levels comparable to Toyota’s hybrid line of vehicles.

  • Max Reid

    Prius plugin is picking up and C-Max plugin is also coming, sooner or later Chevy has to reduce the price of Volt and make it affordable to masses.

    Seems battery prices are already going down.

  • MarkWbrooks

    That would be Yes, but fear not, both are good cars …. btw did you notice that EV insurance costs10 to 15% less… which is cheaper to insure, the leaf or the volt?

  • bloggin

    The C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in is supposed to have a 22-26mile EV range, which wedges both cars between the 6-11 ev mile prius plug-in and the 35-40 ev mile Volt. Where pricing for the C-MAX Energi should be between $32K and $35K and Fusion Energi between $33K and $36K. With both the C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi offering better hybrid mpg than Volt, and more EV range than the prius plug-in. It looks like Ford may have found that sweet spot. Now all we need is the Focus 5-door hybrid with 50+ mpg, at $24K to take the crown as most efficient hybrid. Alan M has already stated that the Focus hybrid is easily doable, just putting a different top hat on top of the hybrid platform used by the C-MAX. The Focus Hybrid would be a nice compliment/bridge car to the $40K Focus Electric.

  • perfectapproach

    FYI, the batteries are expensive, but it’s a myth that it’s the most expensive component in hybrid cars. The electric drive motor is equally if not more expensive.

  • Bob Davis

    We traded in an ’05 Prius and cashed-out a deposit on a Prius Plug-in for our 2012 Volt.

    The Prius Plug-in is the car early Prius owners clamored for in 2003; once I got a closer look at both, the Volt struck me as being 7 years ahead of the Prius.

    Once incentives and subsidies are counted, the Volt costs more than a typical Prius but is cheaper than the plug-in. And that higher cost works out to me as (1) pre-paying most of my fuel costs for the next 8 years and (2) stepping up to a much nicer car. With my experience in the 2000 Prius (130K miles on original battery) and 2 others (160K, no problem) I have no worries the Volt may last that long, and expect to count years 8-12 as bonus savings.

    I’m well aware the auto industry has been selling fear of change for decades. It’s no surprise to me that people who haven’t owned a hybrid would shy away from the leading edge. It’ll be great for them when they do come around: they’ve got a pleasant surprise waiting for them.

  • ShockJock

    Not Really: The drive motor lasts 40 years without maintenance but batteries have to be replaced at about 5-7 years as their ability to hold a charge diminishes. If battery prices come down drastically in 5 years you may be right.