GM Significantly Discounting Chevrolet Volts

In light of weakened Chevrolet Volt sales that have seen Nissan Leaf sales push ahead this year, GM is offering various discounts on its “extended-range” EV. Combined with all potential government incentives and discounts, the net result may be the Volt is the recipient of the highest percentage of money off from any car in Chevrolet’s stable.

While media are reporting the story with spin in a variety of more or less negative ways, also true is GM is readying the replacement of 2013 model Volts with 2014s – these are due to be announced later this month, and their production at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant may begin not long after.

Official Chevrolet deals include a $4,000 rebate on a cash purchase, another is $3,000 and 0-percent APR for a four year loan, and another is a three-year lease for $269/month and $2,399 down payment. Leftover 2012 model year Volts in limited stock are eligible for $5,000.

Reports have come forth of some buyers netting 2013 Volts – with suggested price of around $40,000 – for as low as $26,000 and possibly less with all spiffs and incentives piled on. All U.S. buyers are potentially eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. Additionally, states may offer up to several thousand dollars, and dealers are free to discount further, if they wish.

The gas-electric Volt has been called a “halo’ car by GM and has been the number one car in owner satisfaction according to Consumer Reports. Nissan however has been coming on strong in the past several months with an all-electric alternative in its Leaf, and Nissan actually reduced suggested retail prices for 2013, which is a step further than GM’s temporary discount.

The irony of GM’s halo having to receive price cuts on top of sizable incentives has not been lost on observers. It’s also worth noting GM had said once upon a time – prior to its late-2010 launch – that it would target the Volt’s price comfortably below $30,000.

That the car is a Chevrolet and instead costs like a Buick or Cadillac – and has been said to get Cadillac or Buick levels of service and offer upscale qualities besides – has left the Volt in an ambiguous spot. Market reception never did take off to the degree that Toyota’s Prius has now come to enjoy, and critics have said it would have been closer to the home run – and the Prius fighter it was intended to be – if GM had started it at somewhere near $30,000 more or less to begin with.

As it is, the market and incentives have reduced the actual selling price closer to the sub-$30,000 ideal that was once considered.

Nissan’s Leaf however starts at just shy of $30,000 for the S trim level and it too is eligible for the $7,500 federal and state by state incentives, so it still costs less. Volt fans would argue it offers less, and while that is debatable, we’re not prepared to go into that point-counterpoint discussion here.

As for points of blame contributing to less-than-overwhelming mainstream plug-in car sales, among them are that fuel prices have descended somewhat or at least not climbed as steeply as some might have predicted, depending on region.

Buyer behavior has demonstrated that when gas prices do surge, so do sales of hybrids and other economical cars. It is reactive – not proactive – behavior, to be sure.

Adding to this, industry observers at this week’s EDTA Conference in Washington, D.C., note some consumers remain unaware of the ins and outs of plug-in cars, or are otherwise holding back, assuming they are aware of their existence at all.

Last month, GM sold 1,607 Volts, well shy of its peak of nearly 3,000 units in a single month and a string of months with over 2,000 units sold last year.

Volt second_image

Calendar year to date, the Volt at the end of March had achieved 20.72 percent of the plug-in car market share. This contrasts with 25.79 percent for the Tesla Model S, and 27.57 percent for Nissan’s Leaf

Compared to where sales were in total volume in May 2012, the Volt is up 1.4 percent compared to 7.3-percent for the auto industry as a whole.

Year-over-year figures are not available for the Model S, which began delivery in July 2012.

As of May, the Leaf is anything but wilting: Its sales for last month were up 191.4 percent compared to May 2012.