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 HybridCars.com 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.