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Sales of the Chevy Volt are about to spike in California as GM prepares to introduce a new version of the green machine that will gain access to the state’s car pool lanes.
The current Volt does not meet the requirements to qualify for a high-occupancy-vehicle lane sticker, despite having a zero-emissions range of 25 to 40 miles. Beyond that range its gasoline engine kicks in, which the state says pollutes too much to gain access to the lanes, which have historically made exceptions for green machines like the Toyota Prius or fully electric cars. The new lower-emissions Volt will feature modifications to the catalytic converter to help burn exhaust gases more thoroughly.
Much of the success of the Prius in California is believed to come from that fact that it used to qualify for HOV lane status. Chevy is no doubt hoping achieving similar access will boost Volt sales in the state, which currently accounts for roughly a quarter of the 7,671 Volts sold last year. In particular, this convenience feature is expected to attract a new second-wave of buyers.
We first reported on this development back in November, and according to GM spokesman Rob Peterson the new lower-emissions Volts should be in California dealers by March.
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.
After a half a decade of build-up, sales of the Chevrolet Volt are not going as planned. With a targeted goal of moving 10,000 units in its first full year on sale GM moved 7,671, leading to speculation that the American auto giant won’t be able to meet its lofty forecast for 60,000 sales in 2012.
Further casting doubt upon the success of the Volt is the fact that the rival Nissan Leaf (a fully electric vehicle), met its 10,000 unit sales target, despite the fact that (as GM’s Volt commercials accurately point out), the Volt is better suited to the needs of vastly more American consumers.
With a now-resolved crisis over the cars that could catch fire, GM is facing another roadblock, it’s dealers. According to a new report by Automotive News, Chevy dealers across the country are rejecting mass-allocations of Volts. In New York City GM offered 104 Volts to its 14 local dealers last month. Dealers only took 31.
Even dealers that have had no problem selling their Volt inventory in the past are now being cautions. Brett Hedrick, of Hedrick’s Chevrolet in Clovis, Calif., said he’s turned down offers by GM the past two months.
The news of low dealer orders has been confirmed by GM PR rep Rob Peterson, citing the misinformation surrounding the car’s recent safety concerns. Still, according to GM North America President Mark Reuss, supply, rather than demand, is the automaker’s biggest problem.
[Source: Automotive News]
After an extensive two-month investigation into the Chevrolet Volt’s fire related incidents, the U.S. safety regulators of the National Transportation Safety Administration have announced that the case is closed. The conclusion: the Volt’s plug-in hybrid battery pack does not pose a significant fire risk following a crash.
According to NHTSA’s statement, the organization “does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.” GM also added that NHTSA’s decision to close the case is, “consistent with the results of our internal testing and assessment.”
Even though there are no known real-world Volt crashes that resulted to a fire, NHTSA strongly believed an investigation was important and necessary in order to “ensure the safety of the driving public with emerging [electric vehicle] technology.”
Earlier this month, GM had already taken preemptive measures, enhancing structural reinforcements surrounding the Volt’s 435 lb. lithium-ion battery pack to reduce its risk of damage. Addressing the action, GM stated that the change simply “is intended to make a safe vehicle even safer.”
10. Fiat Returns to America
As another calendar year draws to a close it’s time to take a look back at the top 10 biggest stories of the year in the auto industry. It’s been a busy 12 months, starting all the way back in March when the Fiat 500 officially went on sale, marking the return of the brand to America. The last time an Italian car was sold here that didn’t cost six figures (or close to it) was 27 years ago. Since then, Fiat has introduced the 500C convertible model and most recently the Fiat 500 Abarth, aimed at enthusiasts.
The jury is still out on the Fiat brand’s success in North America, although the first year has failed to live up to expectations, with Fiat predicting sales of 50,000 units, while according to automotive data firm GoodCarBadCar only 17,444 have been sold in the first 11 months of the year (add 5,000 more if you include Canada). Some of this may be the result of Fiat’s marketing initiative with several ads featuring Jenifer Lopez, which the Fiat faithful rejected and many believe cost the brand boss Laura Souve her job. Getting the Fiat dealer network up and running also proved a challenge.
With more models coming, and Alfa Romeo set to return in 2013, Fiat is here to say. More importantly, perhaps, is the Fiat connection to Chrysler – a company it saved from bankruptcy and which it is now slowly rebuilding back into a profitable automaker.
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]
In the 1960′s there was the muscle-car wars, and in the 1980′s it was all about who can sell the most minivans. Now its time for the green-car wars, to see who can sell the most plug-in hybrid or fully electric cars.
The two biggest rivals at the moment are the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. While the Leaf is a fully electric vehicle, the Volt in a plug-in hybrid, so when the battery dies, you can still keep moving, provided you have some gasoline in its tank.
These two vehicles have been going head to head all year, and in America, it is the Leaf that is winning by quite a margin. Nissan has moved 8,720 Leafs thus far, while Chevy had moved just 6,142 Volts in the U.S.
North of the border, there is a different story developing. The Volt is actually outselling the Leaf. Chevy has moved 243 Volts thus far, while only 111 Leafs have found homes in Canada.
Part of the reason the Leaf is having a harder time selling in Canada is because there are only 27 Leaf Certified Dealers in the country, and even they will only sell a car to someone who lives within 42-miles from one of those dealers. The Volt on the other hand is sold through all Chevrolet dealers.
Chevrolet has been dealing with a lot of negative publicity regarding the Volt in recent weeks due to its battery issue, which could result in a fire. This little sales victory in Canada might give the bow-tie boys something to cheer about.
[Source: Auto North]
To celebrate its first birthday, Nissan employed the assistance of electrical sockets to sing the Leaf its birthday song. Dubbed “Singing Sockets”, the video/commercial wishes the first and only mass-produced electric car a very happy birthday.
Nissan will also be taking to Facebook and Twitter (follow #LEAFBday) to celebrate with their owners, looking for videos, photos and memories from the Leaf’s first year of existence.
Check out Nissan’s Singing Sockets video after the break.
The Chevrolet Volt was a big part of the restructuring deal General Motors had with the Obama Administration, when it applied for bail-out money.
Now that the vehicle is here, it is not without its problems. Sales of this plug-in hybrid have not been great, and these days, everyone is talking about the recent crash-related fires.
In the last few months, some Volt’s have caught fire and many believe it was linked to its battery system.
Now GM is working on a solution to prevent any future fire issues with the battery. The proposed solutions include laminating the circuitry in the battery, reinforcing the case around the battery pack, and better protecting the coolant system from leaks in a severe accident.
The cost of fixing the issue will cost GM roughly $1,000 per Volt, or about $9-million. This solution, if it works, will still be a lot cheaper than it would be to redevelop a new battery from scratch.
Many believe that the government knew about the risks involved with the Volt, but hid the information to give this car a chance to sell. Negative publicity is never a good thing for a new product, especially one it’s banking its future on. A U.S. Housing committee will meet in January to investigate this matter in more detail.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) said on Monday that it does not plan to change its five-star rating for the Volt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has no plans to change its five-star rating for the Volt. Consumers look at results from both these parties to determine which vehicles are safe.
Meanwhile, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson said that the company would buy back any Volt from a concerned customer, or provide any loaner vehicle to its customer while the Volt is being fixed. Will this gesture work? Time will tell. But since the Volt wasn’t flying out of the showroom’s in the first place, the current negative publicity could really damage its future sales.
[Source: Automotive News]
The buy back statement originally came from GM CEO Dan Akerson, but GM’s PR department stepped in by backpedaling on that offer. Nonetheless, after receiving a couple dozen inquiries on the buy back program, GM says that they’ll ultimately buy back the Volts from any unhappy customers. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to urge current owners to take advantage of their loaner program.
The investigation into the fire is still ongoing, but neither GM nor NHTSA have reports of fires from actual customers. We’re still happy to see that GM’s actions will continue to be guided by their customers’ satisfaction.
[Source: Detroit News]
Following on from the announcement that GM is looking at redesigning the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery system in the wake of several highly publicized fires resulting from test crashes, comes further news that both the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration delayed disclosure of their original findings by months.
Apparently, way back in June, General Motors heard about a Volt fire that happened three weeks after said vehicle was crash tested, yet it wasn’t until November that the company, or NHTSA disclosed there was a potential problem, urging both dealers and customers to drain the battery pack immediately following an accident.
As a result the public relations nightmare surrounding Chevy’s halo vehicle appears to be deepening, though a good deal of the blame in this case also rests with NHTSA.
Joan Claybrook, a former adminstrator at NHTSA believes part of the reason for the delay was the “fragility of Volt sales.” Yet she also believes that “NHTSA could have put out a consumer alert, not to tell them [customers] for six months makes no sense to me.”
GM designed a complex cooling system for the Volt’s lithium ion battery pack to help regulate its temperature (lithium-ion units are known for overheating), yet until July it hadn’t finalized a standard proceedure to power down the battery system, the Volt had already been on sale in the US for six months at that juncture.
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which crash tested a Volt back in February reported no incidents of fire as resulting from the accident, yet when a second crash test was performed in August, General Motors sent a technician to power down the battery.
An interesting point on the subject been raised by Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center of Auto Safety in Washington D.C. He said that he is “surprised that NHTSA didn’t drain the battery after crash testing as it is standard procedure to empty the fuel tank on conventional gasoline powered vehicles.” He also says that the NHTSA incident underlines the need for “greater transparency when conducting crash tests,” as well as setting proper industry standards when it comes to new technologies.
A spokesman for GM said the company felt it didn’t need to initially disclose the issue because the original fire was an isolated occurrence and happened some time after the vehicle was crashed. “It’s kind of odd in many respects,” said Rob Peterson. “The question became: What was making this happen and what do we have to do?”
Nonetheless in wake of the findings; GM is now working with both NHTSA and the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop standards for all electric vehicles when it comes to crash testing. It’s also continuing with its program of providing concerned Volt owners with free loaner vehicles; so far 33 of roughly 5,000 customers have signed up.
[Source: Automotive News]
Correction Notice: The original article claimed that 5,000 customers has signed up for loaner cars. That information was incorrect. In fact, 33 of roughly 5,000 owners have requested loaner vehicles from General Motors.
General Motors is clearly taking the initiative in doing damage control with their Chevrolet Volt, first offering free loaners to Volt owners during the NHTSA investigation, and now offering to buy back Volts from any concerned owner. GM reassured that the cars are safe, but will have no reservations in purchasing back the vehicles.
They also reiterated that once the investigation is over, they will recall all of the 6,000-plus Volts on the road in order to repair them once the cause of the fires are determined.
Unfortunately all the negative media surrounding the fire risk doesn’t really emphasize that they occurred in extreme testing situations – situations that could probably cause traditional gasoline-powered vehicles to burst into flames. Nissan‘s Leaf has not had any post-crash fire incidents due to its battery being air-cooled rather than liquid-cooled.
GM did announce that 16 current Volt owners inquired about the loaner car program but only two have taken advantage of it.
[Source: Associated Press]
GM set a lofty goal of selling 10,000 Chevrolet Volts in 2011 and has finally admitted that they won’t be able to hit their target sales mark this year and probably won’t be achieved until sometime in early 2012.
Through the first 11 months of the year, Chevrolet has successfully moved 6,142 Volts while their main competitor, Nissan‘s Leaf, has sold 8,720 vehicles.
But nothing is stopping GM from being optimistic for its Volt from now and beyond. By expanding sales to more states, GM enjoyed its best Volt-sales month in November, moving 1,139 units. They’re hoping by year’s end the plug-in hybrid will be available in all 50 states. For 2012 however, GM looks to be even more ambitious, telling CNBC last month that they hope to move number 45,000 Volt by next year.
Here’s to hoping this goes away quickly, eh GM?
[Source: Left Lane News]
Some good news for Chevrolet‘s Volt has hit the news today, with Consumer Reports saying that the electric car has the single highest rate of owner satisfaction of any car this year.
CR did also mention that the survey was conducted prior to the media’s reports of the battery-pack fires, but it appears that the majority of Volt owners aren’t bothered by those reports and stand by their eco-friendly investments.
According to the survey, an overwhelming 93-percent of Volt owners say they would purchase the vehicle again. The next two cars on the lists were Porsche’s 911 and Dodge’s Hemi V8-powered Challenger. To us though, these survey results should have an asterisk beside them. Most consumers investing into a vehicle, especially an electric one, will always reassure themselves that they made the right decision. Making the leap to get a first-generation Volt automatically makes you a rabid fan of the vehicle, and even if yours was on fire and melting down in your driveway, you’d still love it.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
Despite the NHTSA stating that Chevy Volt owners do not have a reason for concern, just yet, General Motors is providing loaner cars to any worried drivers during the investigation. GM will begin to contact every Volt owner in order to clarify their concerns and each owner should receive a letter within the next few days.
There’s a bit of irony in GM’s strong stance that the Volt is safe to drive, yet they’re willing to offer loaners to customers that are overly concerned. But clearly GM is in full damage control mode right now, having delivered 5,329 Volts – every one of them that has the potential to catch on fire after a major accident. We are curious as to what vehicle GM is lending to Volt owners for a comparable savings in fuel efficiency.
[Source: Left Lane News]
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released an official statement in regards to the post-crash fire risk of the Chevrolet Volt. As a result of a fire that occurred at the NHTSA’s facilities, they will be opening a formal safety defect investigation in order to determine the fire risk of Volts after a major accident.
It’s worth noting that the Volt isn’t entirely the target of the investigation, but rather the potential of a fire in any electric vehicle following a crash. After the initial fire caused from a side-impact test, NHTSA conducted a trio of tests on the Volt’s battery pack, each involving damaging the battery and rotating the vehicle to simulate an accident and rollover. In the second test, the battery pack caught fire a week later, while the third test the pack began to smoke and spark almost immediately.
NHTSA did also announce that they are not aware of any roadway crashes that have resulted in battery-related fires in the Chevy Volt or any electric vehicle for that matter. They also wanted to assure that Chevy Volt owners whose vehicles have been in a serious crash do not have a reason for concern.
In the meantime though, the agency is working with all vehicle manufacturers to ensure there are safety protocols in place for post-crash incidents involving electric vehicles. These protocols include an attempt to discharge a propulsion battery, not storing the vehicle after a major accident in a garage or near other vehicles, and emergency responders to check if a vehicle is electric-powered after an accident.
GALLERY: Chevrolet Volt
As Chevrolet continues to expand its lineup into Europe, both the Malibu and Volt received top ratings in the European New Car Assessment crash tests. Both sedans got five stars in all categories and also made the Volt the first U.S.-branded electric car that’s rated with Euro NCAP’s top assessment.
“The Chevy Volt will be sold in Europe as an Opel Ampera and the Malibu’s appearance is its first in the European market.
The results confirm that both vehicles meet today’s highest safety standards. The Volt’s safety performance and propulsion concept highlight the reliability and practicality that is inherent to this outstanding design,” said Wayne Brannon, president and managing director of Chevrolet Europe.
10. 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE: 43/39 MPG
The Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient cars have been named for 2012 by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA (those guys that come up with the official ratings for cars) has compiled the list, which is dominated by Japanese automakers. Those remaining two are domestic vehicles, although with one being a commercial van, it almost should count. On the list are electric and hybrid vehicles only, with no diesels or pure gasoline engines.
In 10th spot is the first of three Toyota models and the first of four if you count the larger Toyota company and Lexus. The Toyota Camry Hybrid LE is officially rated at 43 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. With a combined rating of 41-mpg, it’s the only true mid-size sedan to achieve an average of 40-mpg or better. And these numbers don’t come at the expense of performance either, with 200-hp on tap. Of note, XLE models, which have more content and are heavier, are rated at 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.
In the case of a fire in the garage of a North Carolina home where a Chevrolet Volt was being charged at the time, the Volt has been proven – not guilty.
When news first came out regarding this incident, many believed the culprit behind this fire could be the Volt, but Iredell County chief deputy fire marshal Garland Cloer says; “the source of ignition seems to be from outside the area of the vehicles.”
This fire attracted investigators from many companies to come forward to access the cause of the blaze. These included representatives from Nissan, Chevrolet, Siemens, Duke Energy and the homeowners insurance company.
The reason there were so many investigators is because at the time of the fire, the garage housed a Nissan Armada, the Chevrolet Volt, a Siemens 240-volt recharging station, and many miscellaneous items such as a electric cars for kids, not to mention gasoline and other hazardous materials.
The fire marshal said that fire usually follows a “V” path as it spreads, and according to their findings, the fire originated from another source, not the cars. Cloer said that when a fire originates from the car, things like its seats, carpets and rubber hoses are not left intact, but they were in this case, another indication the Volt was not guilty.
Total damage to the house is appraised at $800,000.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
General Motors has probably put more effort in the Chevrolet Volt project than in any other car they have produced in recent times, and they are adamant about turning it into a success.
The goal is simple, to sell 10,000 Volts this year alone. Till the end of October, GM has sold just 5,003 Volts, so they have a big task ahead of them to reach their goals in just two-months time.
One way GM will get closer to this goal is by allowing its dealers to finally sell their Volt demo vehicles. At launch, GM had mandated that all its Volt dealers would have at least one Volt on hand as a demo, to educate customers on this new product. Now the dealers are allowed to sell everything they got, including the demos. This opens up about 2300 – Volts across the nation.
According to GM spokesman Tom Henderson, 72% of customers who would like to buy a Volt were turned off by the lack of availability. Perhaps these extra demo units will put more people into the driving seat of this innovative new car.
[Source: Automotive News]
If you’re one of those people who likes to be the first to try a cool new tech product, chances are you were the Chevy Volt’s target market. This may come as a surprise to many who would think this electric car’s marketing strategy would be centered on “greenies.”
According to Volt’s marketing team, the strategy was to target techies first, before going after the rest of the market. And now that the early adopters are onboard, the company is set on educating the masses about the joys and benefits of electric vehicles.
“Our task now really is education, specifically when it comes to helping people understand the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in electric vehicle,” said Cristi Landy, Volt’s product marketing director.
In addition the television commercials, Chevrolet has also created a line of consumer-targeted videos. You can check them out on chevroletvoltage.com, and if you’re a Volt owner, there’s a chat feature where you can share your experiences.
To create buzz about the Volt during its introduction, early adopters of the Volt received a welcome kit that came with a pocket-sized video camera. These early Volt owners were asked to shoot videos of their Volt experiences and upload them onto the site.
[Source: Advertising Age]
While the Toyota Prius has long been the automotive ambassador of the green movement, Pike Research conducted a Cost of Driving test to find out whether the all new 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in can trump the Chevrolet Volt. According to its findings, by first establishing the price for every gallon of gas at $3.50 and every kilowatt-hour for 11 cents for the test, the Volt earned a more economic and cost effective result than a Prius Plug-in for trips under 70 miles.
For the first 15 miles of the graph, the lines are not visible because both vehicles will be capable running full electric. By 30 miles, the Volt’s cost for every mile gets significantly more expensive until it eventually crosses over Prius’ costs at 70 miles of driving.
Of course, if pricing parameters on gas and electricity were to change, then a different result would surface. All in all, customers should consider their driving routines day to day. When trips taken are no longer than 70 miles, as is often the case in urban regions where electric vehicles are popular, then a Volt proves to be more appealing.
GALLERY: Toyota Prius Plug-in & Chevrolet Volt
[Source: Autoblog Green]
If you’re eagerly awaiting a more family friendly Volt, or a more luxurious and sporty one, you’ll have to be patient. According to Nick Reilly, the head of GM Europe, the automaker isn’t planning to release any Volt spin-offs until 2015.
The reason for the date is that that’s when the current Volt’s life-cycle is up and GM is currently focused entirely on making the Volt a success. GM doesn’t want to split its attention on other models, and with the high price of the Volt’s high-tech components, future generations of the technology should be more affordable.
Two models currently being considered for production are the Volt MPV5 Concept, based on the Chevy Orlando platform, as well as the Cadillac ELR Concept.
GALLERY: Chevrolet Volt MPV5 Concept
GALLERY: Cadillac ELR Concept
[Source: AutoNews via CNET]
If you are a driver, you are well aware of the rising gas prices, and this trend is not looking to reverse anytime soon. This is effecting the way people buy new cars, and according to Pike Research, more than 5-million electric and hybrid vehicles will be sold globally by 2017.
Also according to this report, the largest manufacturer of these vehicles will be the United States, followed by Japan, while the largest consumer of such vehicles will likely be China.
Currently conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight (among many others) are on sale, but as far as plug-in electric vehicles go, you have to pick between the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster. Soon, the market will see cars such as the Fisker Karma, Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i go on sale later this year.
So will the world be taken over by electric cars now? If petrol prices don’t change, people’s buying habits will change very quickly to save their pocket books, while also helping save the planet.
[Source: Auto Observer]