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Efficiency is the new black for automakers and consumers alike. Even Porsche customers can get their gas guzzling Cayenne fix in a more efficient hybrid now or diesel soon, which is why it might come as a surprise that two new fuel-efficient guppies in the veritable ocean that is the U.S. car market seem to be floundering.
The Fiat 500 and Chevrolet Volt are both reaching the end of their first fiscal year with disappointing numbers compared to their manufacturer’s forecasts. That outcome could be a bit of a puzzler, given that the 500 starts at $15,500, offers two more seats and, what some would say, stylish alternative to the Smart FourTwo for about $3000 more.
The same fate befell the Volt, which takes a practical approach to the burgeoning plug-in market. Rather than relying totally on a battery charge. Chevy’s iteration on the new trend borrows power from a teensy 1.4-liter gasoline engine and achieves a sky-scraping 94 mpg average with a starting price of just over $39,000 before tax incentives. Those incentives bring the car closer to $30,000, though other government subsidies for things like home charging stations disappear this year.
It doesn’t take a particularly good periscope to see above the water and realize why both these cars were slow sellers, consumers are often risk averse and both cars proved to be sketchy choices by year’s end.
The Volt will fall short of GM’s projected 10,000 unit forecast by at least 25 percent thanks in part to an NHTSA investigation surrounding spontaneous combustion of the lithium ion battery after severe crashes. The car was supposed to be Chevrolet’s poster boy for the future, but instead the crucial first year will be marred by shaky consumer confidence and questions about safety.
The Fiat 500 might have escaped that fate, given its quirky styling and heavy re-engineering for the North American palate, but poor sales proved otherwise.
It also suffered from a sales-scaring three out of five star safety rating by the NHTSA this month. Even without that damning verdict, the hatchback wouldn’t have met the projected 50,000 sales figure— as of November Chrysler’s parent company had managed to squeak out a dismal 17,444 units, with little promise of breaking the 20,000 mark by December 31.
[Source: Edmunds Inside Line]