With seven month’s inventory of the 2015 Volt on hand, and the 2016 due to launch sometime during or soon after this summer, Chevrolet will stop production next month.
As followers of this segment have known, the Volt’s sales for the past several months have dwindled in light of the full revision pending, and it’s been decided there will be no need for excess inventory come June or July.
Rather, people are holding out for the new Volt which should begin production after a six-week shutdown and retooling of the plant.
The 2016 Volt is restyled, benefits from a more-efficient two-motor drive unit and new 1.5-liter engine replacing a 1.4 liter. Its all-electric range will now be a full 50 miles instead of 38, and fuel economy in gas-only operation is 41 mpg combined on regular gas instead of 37 with premium.
Its rear seating is 0.6 inches longer with headroom 0.2-inches shorter and most importantly, it has a rear middle seating section for smaller statured people to make do, or to place child safety seats.
Dr. Lyle Dennis, the founder of GM-Volt.com who sold his Volt and bought a Ford C-Max Energi because it had three seats in back for his growing family will reportedly buy a 2016 Volt.
Who else will buy the 2016 Volt is an open question, but if General Motors has anything to say about it, more people will and the car will be better supported than the dues-paying 2011-2015 model.
The original Volt – news reports may be quick to point out – sold less well than GM originally projected, but the company soon backed away from being gung ho about this one-of-a-kind car in 2011 arising as an unknown quantity from dark days of GM’s bankruptcy and restructuring.
After initially slower than hoped market reception, GM in later 2011 stopped projecting 2012 sales at 45,000 for U.S. and 15,000 for variants and Volts exported, and said it would “match supply with demand.” Then somewhere along the line, as HybridCars.com reported after the Detroit Auto Show 2014, GM conceded the Volt was a “niche” product that was “just like Corvette.”
And, given California is the head-first market for Volt, with 40-percent or more of all sales, this was the only place the automaker advertised the car. Meanwhile the Volt was developing fans – such as on GM-Volt.com, a site I took over after Dr. Dennis left in Feb. 2011 – who at times screamed to GM to support it better, market it more cleverly, create variants, and be less ambiguous in the message presented.
The Volt has a laundry list of accolades and awards, including twice being named Consumer Reports’ top car in owner satisfaction, a title more recently taken by the Tesla Model S.
For its part, GM says now it wants the second go-around for Volt to be more “mainstream” and not a “science project,” as phrased by GM’s Executive Chief Engineer for Electric Vehicles Pam Fletcher.
While Chevy dealers have been widely reported as hit or miss in their own embracing of the car, lead Volt marketer Steve Majoros said they will now get “significant marketing support” for the 2016 model. “We will be out publicly and big,” he said.
Social media and other channels will try and get the message across that has largely eluded so many consumers who’ve not noticed or dismissed the country’s highest-mileage plug-in hybrid with 38 miles rated all-electric range.
When the Volt and all-electric Nissan Leaf were launched December 2010, media and others saw a natural “race” between the two. They’ve traded places but Nissan has persisted while GM has presented mixed messages.
The Leaf has been trouncing the Volt for the past several months in monthly sales, and last month with three-to-one sales surpassed the Volt’s cumulative total since launch. Both have sold fewer than 80,000 in the U.S. but within context are relative success stories.
The Leaf is the global best selling plug-in car with over 150,000 delivered, and continues to sell relatively well here and abroad despite being just as old. Not only is it supported better, it also costs $5,000 less in the U.S., is understood more clearly as a pure battery car – and no known replacement is waiting in the wings.
Actually, CEO Carlos Ghosn said a 200-plus mile Leaf will be available as soon as 2017 and so, here we have insight into some of why GM has been so secretive. It has said it does not want to cannibalize existing products by pre-announcing superior “future product” but as new product approaches, it must nevertheless do so to create anticipation for its next move.
That’s the stage we’re at with Volt one and Volt two. Could it be Nissan’s turn next year or sooner?
Unknown that, but GM has 210 days’ supply, enough 2015 Volts to last until November at the present sales rate. So, it’s pulling the plug.
All you collectors or anyone who likes the old car better, here’s your notice to get to your Chevy dealer, as this chapter of history is about to close.