Chevy Volt Sales Rank In Upper 15 Percent of All US Alternative Energy Cars

The Chevrolet Volt has been called one of the most politicized cars in recent memory with some critics attempting to pan its modest monthly sales next to such sibling cars as the Chevy Cruze, or other mainstream vehicles.

Actually, for the past three months straight the Volt has been a verifiable best-seller ranking at least 9th out of over 60 alternative energy cars sold, placing it in the upper 15 percent of all automakers’ efforts in North America.

However it’s also true that the market share or “take rate” for all hybrids, “clean diesel” cars, plug-in electrified vehicles, and even natural gas which at present is a minority type we do not track on the Dashboard, is as of yet a small piece of the mainstream market pie.

So it’s only a qualified win for the Volt, but even if it’s being compared to a subset of the mainstream, this is arguably the most objective way to view the extended-range electric Chevy if one is to fairly evaluate its relative success.

That said, within the narrowest subset of them all – plug-in electric cars (July take rate: 0.26%) – the Volt’s sales were chart topping for the nascent category with numbers as follows: July, 1,849 sold; June, 1,760 sold; and May: 1,680 sold.

In April its 1,462 units sold were edged out by the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle which sold 1,654 units in an initial sales run by lined-up first adapters, but since May, the Volt has topped the plug-in vehicle charts by a wide margin. Respective numbers for the second-place Toyota plug-in were: July, 688 sold; June, 695 sold; May, 1,086 sold.

If one includes also the Fisker Karma, June-launched Tesla Model S, and March-launched Coda Sedan, which do not see their numbers reported but did not exceed the Volt’s number of units sold, the Volt was first out of 10 plug-in cars.

What’s more, it does not do badly against a more established field of hybrids and diesels.

If it were compared to diesel cars (not trucks) in May, June and July (0.83% July take rate), it sold more units than 11 other models with only the VW Jetta and Passat diesels selling more units.

And when compared to the biggest alternative category – hybrids (2.75% July take rate) – the Volt would rank seventh out of around 38 hybrids tracked in North America. Hybrids that have outsold it were the Prius Liftback, Prius c, Camry Hybrid, Prius v, Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

It also bears mentioning that last month out of the eight alternative energy cars that outsold the Volt (six hybrids and two diesels), the Volt had the highest percentage gain compared to June 2012 of all of them.

The Volt’s July increase was only a modest 5.1 percent, but it bucked a generally declining market and the only other cars in this leaders’ list that saw gains were the Sonata Hybrid at 0.2 percent, and Passat Diesel at 1.1 percent.

Fuel prices have been a major factor in how these alternative energy vehicles do month after month in what is still a reactive North American market entrenched in old habits. In this growing market, as the Volt enters its third model year, it has risen above 85 percent of the alternative energy field.

Some had hoped the Volt would take the world by storm. Early on there was talk of it selling for a price comfortably around or under $30,000 before incentives. Post-bankruptcy GM chose not to do that, pricing it about $40,000 and up before incentives, and no doubt that put a crimp in its initial success and effectively gave ammunition to critics besides.

The Volt’s technological approach to high mpg and low emissions is winning enthusiastic drivers, awards and acknowledgments, however. Being a radical departure from the mainstream, a lot of confusion yet remains as to how the Volt operates, and many people still do not know it even exists.

So, as they say, it is what it is. When weighed in the correct balance, it is not a runaway success as some had hoped, but it is not failing either, not by a long shot.

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  • Van

    I agree, the Volt outselling the Prius Plug-in certainly demonstrates success. It is too early though to break out the champagne, because Ford’s two entries, the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi are still months away.

    I thought and posted that the Prius PHV would blow the Volt’s doors off, but it seems my crystal ball was a tad foggy. So now I am saying the Fusion Energi will out sell the Volt assuming its price is less than $34,000.

    I base this on my belief it is better looking, bigger, and costs much less, but still has an adequate, i.e. 20 mile plus, EV range at speeds up to 60 MPH. Time will tell.

  • Opp Chg

    The Volt’s ~40 mile battery-electric range is the sweet spot and here’s why. Any less and the % of drivers who can get to work either one way (and especially round trip) drops off dramatically (aka the 80% of drivers do 40 miles or less per day research tat went into the Volt’s design spec). Any more range (Leaf, Tesla, Focus EV, etc) and you won’t be able to recover enough daily or even possibly evening charge on 120v, which is still what many folks will use for years to come at work and home. (People who need to drive over 80 miles round trip everyday should probably instead consider the a Prius/highest mpg hybrid that meets their needs)

    Point is, I believe until a company comes out with an equal or better equipped (5 passenger, better ER mileage, etc) EREV with a 40-50 mile battery range, the Volt will reign. 20 mile range will dissatisfy many of these consumers and 80 mile BEV range is of course great until you get stuck with no ER.

    What I think we are seeing with the lackluster PIP sales and even worse Leaf sales, is an understanding that the Volt can meet 75% or more elec-battery drive (or +95% of a total 5k miles so far in my case) and that benefit outweighs the initial lower price of a Prius and the “green” factor of the Leaf.

    Plus once you drive a Volt, you realize how much nicer/fun to drive it is than pretty much anything else out there in the “under $50k alt energy vehicle” price range.

  • cindy harford

    The big problem with Hybrids like the Ford and Toyota. Is they are hybrids.

    Basically you use gas. On my daily drives I hit past 60 MPH all the time so no matter how nice the Ford is. It will never be a full electric car like the volt.

    People keep comparing the Volt to hybrids. The problem the volt primary drive is pure electric so it has no competition really. It has a back up generator. So you have a pure electric motor to drive the wheals past 100 MPH.

    So while the volt might cost a little more the quality is much better. 273 lbs of torque like a BMW.

    So you buy a BMW performance and use no gas. Something the ford and Toyota can never offer.

  • Van

    Never met a Volt owner that did not claim he or she absolutely had to drive above 60 MPH. But I remember way back when the national speed limit was 55 MPH and none of us had to drive over 60. 🙂

    Volt/GM has published driving patterns that says many of us, over 60% drive less than 40 miles per day. Therefore the Fusion will satisfy all those that drive less than 20 plus those that can recharge during the day, say at work or at the golf course.

    It is too early to claim victory, me thinks. 🙂

  • c_harnett

    The Volt managed to eke out its 1849 sales with $7500 in federal tax rebates, significant other rebates from states and localities and very desireable HOV access in California. The Leaf, Mitsubishi I get the same. The Prius PHV gets only $2500.

    So, like Mark McGwire, the Volt gets an asterisk for an unfair advantage.

    Prius sales took off in 2004 when the wedge hatchback Prius was initially introduced. It got a lot of sales, not because of a massive rebate (it did get about $700) but because the car offered a lot of value. Prius sales continued to be quite good after the big tax credit expired (which did not take long at all). At one point, it outsold all but about 6 or 7 of all models of GM’s cars. I think it occsasionally outsold entire GM car lines (I’d have to go look it up – not today)

    The Volt is not at all that kind of success at this point.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    Volt is the FASTEST EV for under $45k. No other production cars can beat the Volt in performance without using a drop of gas… That alone make Volt unique….

  • ACAgal

    I drove the Phev-Prius and I was disappointed with the acceleration, so we went to the Chevy dealership down the street. It wasn’t a question of the Volt being better than the Prius, for California driving. It was more like “Wow, this car really is great.”

    If I need to get on a California freeway, the car has to have the instant acceleration. The Volt can punch it up, sustain speed and maneuver beautifully. I like the responsiveness of the brakes, steering and the acceleration , better than I liked the EV system, and I really like just plugging it in instead of going to the gas station…..two months and the only gas used has been during the monthly churn (0.07gal.). I keep thinking I will get beyond the EV range, but that hasn’t happened yet.

  • ACAgal

    Freeway speeds in some parts of Utah are 80 mph, between CA and NV there are areas where the limit is 70 mph. The 55mph lanes are for trucks RV and trailers. I make the drive to Las Vegas or Denver several times a year.
    Most of the time I’m In CA where the freeways maybe moving at 5mph, or something over the limits. It is safest to go with the flow, to be able to move on and off those highways safely

  • c_harnett

    If super-high speed and performance are all that important, why do you need or want an EV? You can get awesome performance, including roll-on performance that the Volt lacks, for a lot less money.

    Nor are you going to drive 80mph electrically and legally, unless you happen to live in one of the little towns where the speed limit it 80. If you don’t happen to live there, you’ll use up your EV range getting there.

    My Prius, by the way, can sustain 80 with no apparent difficulty.

    The Volt has something like 20 lbs/hp. I’ve owned cars with 30 and 40 lbs/hp. I didn’t have any trouble merging but maybe it’s knowing how to drive and how to merge that makes the difference between someone who *needs* instant torque and performance to merge and someone who doesn’t *need* it.

  • bill mcneal

    The volt has amazing highway peformance. Its like a BMW but you use no gas.

    The prius sadly to say is old and outdated.


  • John w.k.

    The volt being electric won’t have as much horsepower. It more than makesp for it with torque, though. It has signifacantly more presence than anyof the 4 banger cars I’ve driven and yet makes about 40 mpg when the charge is depleted. I liked the one I tested enough that I leased it. I’m a conservative, gun toting hick and I’ve got a Volt.