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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Toyota continues to enjoy success with its Prius family of models, as its plug-in hybrid sold 1,654 units in the month of April.
The sales figure trumps its main competitors, the Chevrolet Volt (1,462 sold) and the Nissan Leaf (370 sold) making it the most popular plug-in vehicle last month in America. It’s no huge surprise that the plug-in variant of the Prius is selling well compared to its counterparts, considering how well-known the Prius moniker has become over the years.
Last month the Japanese automaker also saw the highest sales total for its Prius models ever for the month of April, moving a combined figure of 25,168 units across all its model variants. In total, Toyota sold 30,126 hybrids while its luxury division Lexus moved a respectable 2,467. Compared to April 2011, Toyota’s hybrid sales saw a huge jump of 124.6 percent, but it’s worth noting that April 2011 was also after the disastrous tsunami that hindered vehicle production.
“Thanks to continued strong sales of Camry and Prius family, Toyota was America’s number one retail brand for the second straight month,” said Bob Carter, general manager of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “With consumer confidence improving, we expect to see sustained industry growth in the months ahead.”
Electric cars may have arrived, but the search for the perfect alternative fuel is still in progress. There are still a few major issues that keep battery powered vehicles from replacing the internal combustion engine.
Ford recently announced the EPA fuel efficiency rating for its electric Focus model. Since it doesn’t burn any gasoline, the number isn’t in miles per gallon (MPG), but was given as miles per gallon gasoline equivalent, or MPGe. A new term to the automotive lexicon, it’s worth exploring exactly what MPGe means and how an MPGe rating is determined, especially as the number of electric cars and plug-in electric hybrids on the roads continues to increase.
Colorado makes its way into the news every once in a while for having one of the friendliest hybrid and electric vehicle incentive programs of any state in the Union.
For those who qualify, the state subsidy and federal tex incentives can combine to make a Chevrolet Volt available for $18,145. That means the flagship Chevrolet extended-range EV is close to being on par with several compact cars. That’s fantastic for people who want to buy an EV, but an unintended side-effect of allowing for such heavy subsidy was saving leasing companies an awful lot of money.
What’s more, the people who actually saddle cost of ownership were being left out in the cold while the car’s owner collected. It didn’t take long for recently-elected state Representative Jonathan Singer to notice that and move to amend the rule.
Signed into law yesterday, Singer’s bill gives the right to those credits to the person leasing the vehicle and became effective immediately after Governor John Hickenlooper signed it.
The Volt set its best sales month yet, with 2,289 units sold in March 2012. That’s more than double what they sold in February 2012. Before March, the most Volts Chevy had sold in a single month was back in December 2011, when it sold 1,529 units.
In comparison, the Volts biggest competitor, the pure-electric Nissan Leaf sold just 579 models in March. That is an increase from their February numbers, but is a far cry from their best selling month back in June 2011 when they sold 1,708.
Hopefully if sales of the Volt keep climbing, perhaps Chevy could consider canceling that extra week off in the summer at their Volt plant.
Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, has decided to add five Chevrolet Volts to its Chicago fleet with up to 20 more EVs coming in 2012.
Zipcar members are able to reserve a Chevy Volt immediately starting at just $10 per hour. The first five Volts are available at Cityfront Place Apartments and in University Village at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Zipcar plans on deploying EVs throughout the city and is working with 350Green to install EV charging stations where the Zipcar EVs will be. Other partners in the program include Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Tishman Speyer, LAZ Parking and Cityfront Place Apartments. All of the above are helping to provide locations for the EVs along with charging stations.
Since most Zipcar members employ the use of their vehicles for less than 35 miles, the Volt is a perfect fit – or any EV for that matter – for the Zipcar program. Ideally most members would never have to pay for gas since the EVs will have charging stations conveniently located at several locations.
The City of Chicago is installing hundreds of EV charging stations for public use throughout the year as part of its Chicago Climate Action Plan. Zipcar has always been a huge supporter of advanced vehicle technologies. It was the first car sharing company in the U.S. to add EVs to its fleet with the Toyota RAV4 EVs in Boston back in 2002 and was the first to offer hybrids in the Seattle market in 2003.
“We are looking forward to providing our Chicago Zipsters with increased opportunities to reduce their environmental impact and drive some of the most technologically-advanced vehicles on the road as we roll out this EV program over the coming months,” said Charles Stephens, general manager, Zipcar Chicago. “Freedom has always been a hallmark of the Zipcar experience, and now members can have the best of both worlds – the low carbon experience of an electric car with the back-up security of a gas engine – as we introduce the new Volts into our fleet this week.”
Who would have thought it? Given the flack the Chevy Volt has received at Republican hands over the last few months, former Republican president George H. W. Bush dealt the Volt attackers a serious blow, deciding to purchase one of GM’s extended range electric cars.
The Volt, which has become a symbol of all that’s wrong with the Obama administration according to a number of conservatives, might finally be getting a break. In addition to Bush Sr.’s purchase of a Volt (for his son Neil), there’s growing sentiment among the right that the car might not be that bad after all.
Fred Barnes, writing in the conservatively inclined Weekly Standard, showed sympathy for the Volt, saying it “is not an Obamamobile,” a view that’s been widely held by many Republicans. In perhaps an even more surprising turn, Fox News, the notorious Volt basher, is also apparently changing it’s tune. Lee Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Media and a conservative himself, said during a recent interview on the network that the “Volt is the quickest and most efficient way to bring American fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and nuclear energy to American automobiles. It is a terrific car, it is the iPhone of the automobiles. I’ve driven it and it’s very impressive.”
Volt sales remain sluggish despite GM introducing a zero percent incentive this month, so this change is probably welcome news, though Spieckerman did say that in order for it to truly be successful in the market, the price of the Volt needs to be reduced by about 20 percent, in order to give it a fighting chance against the likes of machines like the Chevy Cruze.
[Source: Yahoo Autos]
So the American automaker went back to the drawing board to come up with a new ad campaign for its Volt. Because no doubt, the ad created for the Super Bowl had less than stellar results. This time around, they (smartly) decided to stick to just human beings, showing somewhat candid interviews of “Happy Volt Owners.”
GM CEO Dan Akerson says these commercials will feature “the facts” and are “more interesting” now that they have “the happiest drivers on the planet” in the ads.
The ads are a little more effective than using interstellar aliens inquiring about the Volt technology. It’s real-world people trying to explain how the Volt offers real-world advantages. Will it do the job for Chevy? Perhaps the automaker should see what their European brethren are doing to sell the Ampera.
Watch two of the commercials below
But it appears that GM executives can let out a sigh of relief, as the European counterpart, the Opel Ampera, has broken the 7,000 order mark and is nearly sold out until year’s end in Europe. The Ampera was recently named European Car of the Year which was no huge surprise considering the Nissan Leaf took the honor in 2011.
“We are extremely pleased with the continuing demand for our Ampera,” said Enno Fuchs, Opel’s e-mobility launch director. “This news shows us that our sales target of 10,000 units for 2012 is well within reach.”
What’s interesting now is how quickly Opel will be able to fulfill those orders considering GM shut down production for five weeks. The automaker began delivering Amperas to customers in February and according to Opel, deliveries are “going according to plan.” Interestingly enough, many of the Europeans purchasing the Ampera are switching from luxury brands such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz stating that the Ampera’s “cutting-edge technology” is what’s enticing.
[Source: Plug In Cars]
After complaints from Volt owners that their 120-volt charging cords were overheating, GM first insisted that the issue was with the wiring of the charging outlet, and not the car. Since then, however, the automaker has agreed to replace the cords on 9,500 existing Volts, though it is not being called a recall.
The new cord features a more heat-resistant cord and plug that matches what other electric vehicles come with. Of course GM said that the new cord is not a recall or safety issue but rather it was to “offer a more consistent charging experience.” Sure thing. Current Volt owners will be notified through a letter for the cord swap.
Interestingly enough, a Volt owner received the new charger already from their dealership, with the dealer stating that it should have been part of the Volt’s recall back in January. Owners with the new chargers are reporting that it now utilizes a 14-gauge wire instead of the 16-gauge found in the original.
[Source: Yahoo! Autos]
It’s a Colorado thing, so you probably wouldn’t understand but four-wheel drives and Subarus seems to sell better than most cars in that state. Subaru aside, another car is trying to woo buyers with a lot of help by the State government: the Chevrolet Volt.
While other states are discouraging people from buying cars like the Nissan Leaf, Colorado is offering up to $6,000 in incentives which combined with the already-available $7,500 in federal tax incentives. That adds up to a maximum $13,500 lopped off the Volt’s price tag, making it a reasonably-riced car for folks living in the mountainous state.
“This rebate in Colorado provides an extra incentive for those that want to purchase or drive an energy-efficient and technologically advanced vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt,” said Volt Marketing Director Cristi Landy. “With the available state and federal tax credits, along with the fuel savings that many owners experience by charging daily, the Volt can fit the lifestyles and budgets of many people.”
It’s almost funny, but with a starting MSRP of $31,645 and the maximum discounts in place the Volt can come as cheaply as $18,145, before destination fees.
Still, that’s approaching sub-compact pricing for a mid-size sedan that gets better milage than the sub-compacts it’s suddenly price-competitive with. MItt Romney might not like the Volt, but with prices like this it seems likely that more folks in Colorado might warm to the extended range EV.
General Motors announced today that Volt production will stop for five weeks from March 19 through April 23 in order to curb rising inventories of the plug-in hybrid.
“We need to maintain the right inventory levels and continue to meet demand,” GM spokesman Chris Lee said.
1,300 workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant will be temporarily laid off as the plant shuts down. At the end of February, GM had a total of 6,300 Volts left in inventory, which could last them almost half a year based on current sales rates.
The Volt is an important vehicle to Chevrolet, but also the industry as a whole. As the flagship range-extended EV to land in the American market, it serves as a barometer for EV sales sustainability.
There’s no question other companies that are later to the party, like Ford with its all-electric Focus, will be watching closely. If the Volt continues to suffer, it might be a strong indicator of how other manufacturers approach the EV market.
On the up side, if the Volt continues to be a poor seller, folks may find the price dropping to a more palatable level than the current $39,145 MSRP, which could represent substantial savings when paired with federal tax credits.
[Source: Automotive News]
The Chevrolet Volt finally has some good news to share. The HOV decal that helped Toyota Prius sales get off the ground in California has now made its way onto the 2012 Chevrolet Volt with the Low Emissions Package.
“The Volts with the Low Emissions Package are certain to be a strong draw for California commuters looking to travel the state’s notoriously congested freeways in the carpool lane,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet Marketing.
Carpool lane decals allow drivers to into the far-most left lane alone, saving time and avoiding the hectic traffic that California is infamous for.
The Chevrolet Volt with Low Emissions Package will be standard in the state of California, and buyers will also receive a $1,500 state rebate in addition to the HOV lane benefits. The Volt will begin shipping from the Detroit-Hamtramck plant this week and will arrive at more than 140 dealerships in California before the end of the month.
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles will have 40,000 Clean Air Stickers available for registered vehicles that meet the state’s emissions standards. Studies show that commuters save an estimated 36 minutes per day with the carpool lane: about a third of their driving time.
The $1,500 state rebate is in addition to the federal tax credit of up to $7,500. California is the most popular state employing the use of carpool lanes, with over 1,400 miles of HOV lanes. Volts registered in the states of Georgia, Florida, and New York will also be allowed to travel with single occupancy in the carpool lanes.
GALLERY: 2012 Chevrolet Volt Low Emissions
A Chevrolet Volt owner made Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich look pretty silly by posting a video response to the senator’s comment today that you can’t have a gun rack in a Chevrolet Volt.
It turns out that a little bit of PVC pipe, some string string and American ingenuity make darn good rifle toting material in the back of a Volt, or really any sedan. Before getting to deeply into what goes on in the citizen rebulttle, let’s go over what Gingrich said to stir this stuff up.
“You know the Volt is an interesting experimental car. The average family that buys it earns $170,000 a year. This is Obama’s idea of populism and in this new budget he wants to increase the amount given to every Volt buyer to $10,000.” Gingrich said. “Which is an amount which a lot of people would by a decent second-hand car, but it wouldn’t be an ‘Obama’ car.”
“But here’s my point folks: You can’t put a gun rack in a Volt,” he said to much laughter and applause.
Well, it looks like there’s going to be a lot more laughter, though probably not on the Gingrich campaign trail. Perhaps politicians in general should avoid using absolutes, of only to avoid looking silly after saying words like “can’t” or “never.”
Maybe the world should be thanking Gingrich. His rant spurred someone to build a new Volt accessory that Chevrolet certainly wouldn’t hav e thought to market.
You can watch videos of both Gingrich and the gun rack after the jump.
Things might get a lot sweeter in 2013 for folks considering a “new technology car,” as they’re being called at the White House.
President Obama’s 2012 fiscal year budget apparently includes a provision for increasing the federal tax credit from $7,500 to a more substantial $10,000. The subsidy hasn’t been passed yet, but if it goes through, people purchasing natural gas cars, EVs and extended-range hybrids will have more of an incentive to seal the deal.
The increased amount could serve to replace subsidy dollars that disappeared this year which went toward accessory items like home charging stations, meaning a few folks who bought those cars this year might feel a little bamboozled by federal policy.
That sting might be all the more pungent when people realize, as The Truth About Cars points out, that the new incentive is actually a refund available upon purchase instead of the more-complicated tax credit of the past.
Past issues aside, the President appears to have his sights set squarely on the future with a goal to have one million “advanced technology” vehicles on the road by 2015.
Questions about vehicle safety during incidents like the one we saw recently with the Chevrolet Volt battery fires certainly won’t help accomplish that target, but money talks and people are often quick to forget when there’s cash on the table for them. We’ll have to wait and see if the new subsidy makes the cut.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
Despite the hype and sometimes controversy surrounding the Chevrolet Volt, one aspect that’s been decidedly overlooked, is the fact that from the outset it was designed to incorporate future upgrades.
During a three-day teardown by Munro & Associates at their Troy, Michigan based headquarters, representatives from the news agency Reuters were invited to witness the process and discovered some interesting facts about the Volt, specifically relating to its battery pack.
Examining the circuit boards, Munro’s CEO, Sandy Munro, remarked “this is, without doubt, the most advanced board I’ve seen General Motors put on and it’s got room to grow.”
John Scott-Thomas, an engineer with UMB TechInsights, also present during the teardown, said, in reference to a board containing 32-bit Freescale Semiconductor chips from the Volt’s battery inverter, ”there are places here where you can see that it looks as though you should be able to put an integrated circuit and there’s nothing there.”
Such commentary clearly indicates that down the road, GM plans to add additional circuits, with the goal of improving both range and performance, in fact, that was exactly what company engineer Doug Parks told Reuters during a recent interview.
However, Parks also said that despite the Volt employing double the number of Freescale chips found in a conventional internal combustion engined vehicle, GM deliberately played it safe when designing the car, with the view that future batteries would be considerably more efficient.
Although the Volt has come under recent criticism, following a NHTSA probe that showed coolant leaking from the battery pack could cause fires, GM is introducing a strengthened structure around the battery pack to prevent it from happening in the future.
It’s also likely, that given the amount of time and money invested in the Volt so far, it probably won’t be surprising if many of the features incorporated into the car’s battery pack show up in other GM electric and Hybrid vehicles, since not only will it make the technology more profitable, but having the ability to upgrade battery systems will also go a long way to addressing consumer concerns about EV/Hybrid longevity and practicality.
[Source: Auto News]
You would think with all the damage control Chevrolet has to do after their share of bad press on the Volt that they would be able to come up with a better, more creative ad for this year’s Super Bowl.
Nonetheless, Chevy will be presenting your run-of-the-mill commercial featuring aliens from another planet, or galaxy far, far away that are interested in the technology behind the Chevy Volt. Unfortunately it doesn’t really say too much about what makes the Volt a great, but more importantly safe, vehicle – other than the fact that “it’s electric, and when I need to go farther it runs on gas.”
We have to admit that Chevy is going to have to really step up their game if they hope to change the general public’s perception of their Volt. Aliens just won’t cut it these days.
Check out the odd commercial after the break.
GM has a long road ahead of them to rebuild consumer confidence in the Chevrolet Volt after months of negative press surrounding the fire risk of their extended-range electric vehicle.
The advertising campaign will focus on just how safe the Volt is and will include full-page ads in 19 different US newspapers including The New York Times, along with television ads. The launch of the ad campaign coincides with GM CEO Alan Akerson testifying to Congress that a recent Volt fire that took place after a NHTSA crash test would never occur in real-world situations.
NHTSA said late last week after its two-month investigation that the Volt does not pose any more of a fire risk than any other conventional vehicle. Unfortunately, damage clearly has been done as GM North America President Mark Reuss admitted that Volt sales took a huge hit in January. GM will be restarting production on the Volt in February at its Detroit Hamtramck assembly plant and expects to build it with “very reasonable” volume. Their immediate focus however, is to rebuild the reputation surrounding the Chevy Volt as quickly as possible.
Check out GM’s first ad “Morning in Hamtramck” after the break.
Driving a Chevrolet Volt could get even more guilt-free in the future as the company plays with ways to coax consumers into charging with renewable energy.
GM is partnering with energy company PJM Interconnection to send data via their OnStar cloud service, called the Advanced Telematics Operating Management System (ATOMS), to Volts that need to charge. The technology would notify drivers of renewable energy as it became available relative to their location.
There is also a smartphone app in the works to alert Volt owners of available energy when they aren’t in their car, though the overall project is still in the testing phase.
Those tests are being conducted on Google’s 17-vehicle “Gfleet” based out of their Mountain View, California headquarters. While renewable energy isn’t going to fuel your car any differently than a charge originating in a coal plant, it could help drive demand for more renewable sources.
By harnessing the hordes of anti-pollution diehards, comparatively tiny as they may be, GM might make a dent in promoting green energy beyond what selling their volt already can.
“This demonstration shows that in the near future customers will have a real signal of demand for renewable energy,” said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development. “As customers configure their Volts to favor renewable energy for their charging cycle, this real demand signal will influence utilities to tap into renewable sources.”
There’s also a silver lining to the plan: peak wind power hours, according to PJM, fall between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., meaning those taking advantage of a renewable charge-source would be taxing the system during off-peak hours.
GM’s continued push toward promoting the Volt is a strong demonstration of their commitment to the car, despite the controversy that hounded it last year after a few cars spontaneously combusted days after crash testing. Extended range hybrids like the Volt offer a practical solution to ultra-high milage transportation without the range anxiety we felt while road testing the Nissan Leaf.
GALLERY: 2012 Chevrolet Volt
Everything is big news in a small town, especially the chance at being featured in a Super Bowl commercial. For one small town, that possibility may become a reality if General Motors decides to run an ad they shot featuring Hamtramck, Michigan.
The little town of about 20,000 people is all a twitter over their chance at the spotlight. Chevrolet chose the town (where the Volt is assembled) to film a spot promoting the Volt, though they haven’t actually decided to air the ad during one of the most watched events on TV.
“We create a lot of different spots. The final decision will come in a few weeks,” said Patrick Morrissey, a GM spokesperson to The Detroit News.
If the ad runs, it means some exciting exposure for the town named after the first American commander in charge of Fort Shelby, the fortification of Detroit. In fact, Hamtramck is almost surrounded by Detroit, despite being an independent city.
From what interviewed residents can guess, GM is hunting for something to generate the same chest-thumping pride and patriotism Chrysler’s wildly popular “imported from Detroit” ad ignited last year. If you’ve forgotten, it featured Eminem driving a Chrysler 300 to the Lose Yourself track originally from the movie 8 Mile.
Even if the Hamtramck residents don’t make the Superbowl cut, GM says it plans to run it elsewhere. Apparently, the film crew spent enough time filming to “make a documentary” according to some residents. The real question now, is who will be featured in the final product? The final call about which ads will air might not come until right before game time. One thing is certain, Hamtramck is going to have Super Bowl fever this February.
[Source: Detroit News]
In a very ironic story, battery maker A123 Systems Inc. has admitted to a potential safety issue in batteries it supplies to Fisker Automotive. What’s the irony in that? Well, General Motors, which is currently dealing with a fire safety issue of their own with their Chevy Volt, will be turning to A123 Systems’ batteries for their upcoming plug-in electric Spark rather than continuing to use their current Volt supplier, South Korea’s LG Chem.
A123 is reporting that the batteries supplied to Fisker had misaligned hose clamps, part of the internal cooling system, that can cause coolant to leak. The coolant leak could lead to a potential electrical short circuit. A123 also did express that only about 50 vehicles are impacted by this and fixes are already underway.
Though not as bad as a potential fire hazard, GM’s Volt issue is also being centralized around a coolant leak that causes the fires after the battery has been severely damaged.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
Men in the U.S. went big, brawny and sporty in 2011 – that is, when it came to the kind of vehicles they bought this past year.
According to J.D. Power’s Power Information Network (PIN) real-time transaction data, men leaned towards sports cars and pickup trucks in the first 11 months of 2011. In fact, out of the top 10 new-model vehicles that men bought or leased, six of them were large pickup trucks or vans. Topping the list of model pickups and vans were the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado. The data shows that these vehicles were purchased for commercial uses, not necessarily for dropping kids off at soccer practice.
Also in the top 10 models were three cool sports cars – BMW M3 , the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette. The M3 had highest number of male car buyers in the sports category, with most of these buyers falling into the 16- to 35-year-old demographic. The Porsche 911 was the second top pick, followed closely by the Corvette.
Also making the 2011 list is the GMC Sierra, the Audi A8/S8, the Ford Econoline and the Chevrolet Express. One of the new entries on the list this year is the Chevrolet Volt, although it didn’t crack the top 10.
[Source: J.D. Power and Associates]
Making its way on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick for 2012 is the all-new Buick Verano. This raises General Motors IIHS Top Safety Pick award count to 14 in 2012 – not too shabby.
Equipped with 10 standard air bags, the Verano came out with a good score in the IIHS tests for front and side crash tests, roof strength test, and rear impact test. The Verano also features standard electronic stability control, which the IIHS requires for Top Safety Pick designation.
“GM set a goal that every new product would be designed to meet or exceed the third-party metrics that IIHS and others use to communicate crash worthiness to consumers,” said Gay Kent, GM executive director of Vehicle Safety. “We are now seeing the results from that commitment.”
Of the GM vehicles that made it to IIHS’s 2012 Top Safety Pick award list, 13 models had previously qualified for the 2011 award. These vehicles were carried over to 2012 because its structure is substantially the same as the IIHS tested for 2011. Carrying over for 2012 awards are the Buick LaCrosse, Regal and Enclave; the Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, Volt, Equinox, Malibu and Traverse; the Cadillac CTS (sedan) and SRX, and GMC Terrain and Acadia.