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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.”
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.
The Chevrolet Volt has had its fair share of teething problems. Soon after its birth, there were reports of some vehicles spontaneously combusting.
This obviously had an effect on the cars reputation, and sales fell. To save money and rid themselves of backed up inventory, General Motors decided to halt production of the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for five-weeks.
However, the Volt’s fortune quickly changed. March was its best sales month ever, as GM sold 2,289 examples of the plug-in range extended EV.
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.”
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]
The Chevy Volt is having some rough days. It’s production has been stopped thanks to slow sales, and there is still a ton of misinformation about what type of vehicle it is.
In response to the doom and gloom, Chevrolet has published a video to explain how the Volt EPA numbers work, and what they mean. The MPGe number is relatively new to the world of window stickers, so it needs some extra explanation from car companies to get the consumers the right information.
We’re glad that Chevy is taking the information to the buyers, but this video does preach a bit too much about the Volt’s fuel savings. Other all electric vehicles get 10/10 on the Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Rating scale, while the Volt still burns fossil fuels.
Check out the full video below to understand the Fuel Economy of the Chevy Volt.
Given that the Nissan Leaf was named European Car of the Year at the 81st annual Geneva Motor Show in 2011 and the buzz surrounding electric vehicles shows no signs of abating, it probably wasn’t surprising that in 2012, the Chevy Volt and Opel/Vauxhall Ampera (it’s European market derivative), garnered the annual ECOTY award this time around..
The accolade comes as GM continues to aggressively push the Chevrolet nameplate into Europe, while Opel, the company’s established brand in the region, continues to struggle against volume competitors like Volkswagen and Ford, largely due to higher labor costs and limited access to markets outside heavily saturated Europe.
Although the Ampera is little more than a badge engineered version of the Volt, raising Opel’s profile should at least help the brand in the short term. As to the future of GM’s extended range electric car overall, in the US, sales have so far failed to meet expectations, not helped by negative publicity involving battery fire and leakage investigations last year.
Considering that both the Volt and Ampera are virtually identical and both are also targeted at European buyers, albeit through different dealer networks, it will be interesting to see how GM’s extended range electric car fares on the continent and if sales under one nameplate end up cannibalizing the other.
Last year, we spoke with some key GM executives in Detroit who said that the plan is to move both cars in different directions in terms of styling and features, so it’s clear there’s at least some kind of plan in place for the future of this car and also EV technology under each brand.
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]
After what’s been viewed as something of a perfect storm; tremendous hype, followed by lengthy gestation and then a spate of highly publicized safety issues, it would appear the Chevrolet Volt’s chances for long-term success might be hazy at best.
So far, sales have failed to meet GM’s originally projected estimates: In 2011 the company had planned to deliver some 10,000 units, though by the time the dust settled just 7,700 units had found owners. That said, new numbers for February have emerged that show a sales gain of almost double the number of Volt deliveries compared with January 2012 (1,023 versus 603).
Despite outselling the Nissan LEAF last month, GM still recognizes there’s still a lot of work to do in order to restore the Volt’s reputation. “It’s a tough road, but we’ve got to do it,” GM North American President Mark Reuss said.
Last month, to help regain Volt sales momentum, the company announced the availability of a California LEV emissions package that finally qualifies the car for single occupant status in the state’s HOV lanes. Chevy also modified the battery packaging to reduce the risk of coolant leakage and potential fires.
Nonetheless, GM is being cautious about Volt sales moving forward, abandoning its previous estimates of 45,000 units for 2012. Instead it said it will build enough examples to “supply to demand.”
[Source: Detroit News]
President Barack Obama has been in the media lately defending the bail out loans given to GM and Chrysler, and his latest promise to eventually buy and drive a Chevy Volt, seems politically on track with his all-American image.
“[The] Secret Service wouldn’t let me drive it. But I liked sitting in it. It was nice. I’ll bet it drives real good. And five years from now when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself,” Obama said.
It seems the President feels as good about his decision to uphold the bailout as he does with his chance against the Republicans this year, regardless of who is nominated.
Whether this comment was purely born of his political agenda, or a real attraction to the car, we can’t be sure. The only way to tell will be watching after incumbent’s term ends, either in a year or five, to see if a Volt graces his garage.
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
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.