Some Volt Dealers Quitting Because Of Service Tooling Cost

By Philippe Crowe

Some Chevrolet dealers are opting out of the Volt program because of service department tooling costs.

Of those choosing to opt out, many are doing so because they can’t justify spending close to $5,100 for new tools needed to service the extended-range electric vehicle.

News of the new tools needed this year for the Volt was announced to Chevrolet dealers last month.

A huge part of the tooling cost is due to a $4,735 battery depowering tool; GM now requires that service technicians remove and ship sections of the battery pack when an issue arises rather than send back the whole 435 pounds pack.

According to Automotive News’ reporter Mike Colias, Allyn Barnard, owner of Jim Barnard Chevrolet in Churchville, N.Y., near Rochester, is one of the dealer who chose to opt out. Having sold only five Volts since the launch two years ago, Barnard found the math just didn’t work in the dealership’s favor.

Barnard told Colias that he figures his sales and service revenue from those five sales have enabled him to break even on the nearly $5,000 spent nearly two years ago on Volt tools, training and charging stations, but “going forward, the profitability would be really hard for us to justify the expense of the repair tools.”

Another dealer who spoke to Automotive News’ Colias is John Holt, owner of John Holt Chevrolet-Cadillac in Chickasha, Okla., near Oklahoma City. His dealership also only sold five units of the Volt, but decided to buy the tools and remain a Volt certified dealer.

Holt told Colias he chose to stay in the program because he wants to sell the Voltec-based Cadillac ELR extended-range EV coming this summer, a vehicle sharing powertrain components with the Volt.

Holt was quoted by Colias as saying “I’ve heard that a lot of the nonmetro dealers have opted out. But with the new Cadillac coming, I figured I’d be foolish not to buy the damn $5,100 tool.”

This year, 2,614 Chevrolet stores were certified to sell the Volt. GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho said 70 percent of Volt sales are generated by the 300 highest-volume dealerships.

On Jan. 1, 2012, Chevrolet had a total of 3,079 dealerships, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Malcho would not reveal to Colias how many Chevrolet dealerships have quit the Volt program since dealers were informed of the extra cost, but she did say they account for less than 1 percent of the Volt’s sales.

AutoWeek