Volt Sales Decline



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Sunday February 11, 2018 Volt Sales Decline Since the introduction of the Chevy Bolt in December 2016 Volt sales seem to have been in decline.  Most people, including myself, have often attributed this the Chevy Bolt taking sales from the Volt.  While I am still convinced that this is a major reason for the decline I think that the availability of higher range Plug-in Hybrids is also a factor. 


In Particular, the popularity of the Prius Prime has almost certainly taken customers away from the Volt.  In January the Prius Prime was the second best selling plug-in car with only the Tesla Model 3 selling more cars.  Sales of the Prime were more than double sales of the Volt.


Price may be a factor in this with the base Volt starting at around $33,220 and the Prius Prime starting at $27,100.  Some of this price difference goes away for those that can take the Federal tax credit which is $7,500 for the Volt but only $4,500 for the Prius Prime.  The Volt goes a lot further on a charge with an EPA estimated 53 miles of range, while the Prius Prime offers just 25 miles of range.  25 miles of range is still adequate for many people so the lower cost, combined with better fuel  economy when not in EV mode, will be big selling points.


The first generation of plug-in hybrids offered pretty short range From the Prius Plug-in at 11 miles to the C-Max Energi with 20 miles of range.  These cars were not able to handle most people's daily commute without running the gas engine, while the first generation Volt, with 38 miles of battery only range, could.  Now there is a new generation of plug-in cars coming onto the market and while The Volt is still king in terms of plug-in hybrid range these new offerings are beginning to give people alternatives.


Note, The BMW i3 REx has a lot more range than the Volt but this is a true Extended Range Electric car not a plug-in hybrid so while it does provide competition for the Volt it currently sits in a category all on its own and attracts a different buyer, one who primarily wants a BEV but worries they may need additional range from time to time.


Over the last few months a new set of plug-in hybrids have appeared on the market that, like the Prius Prime, will probably erode the Volts customer base.


The Kia Optima PHEV has been around for a while now and offers an electric range of 29 miles.  This car should be selling a lot better than it is, but Kia have kept inventories low and in many areas it has to be special ordered, so it has not really provided much competition for the Volt.  The same can be said for the Sonata PHEV from Kia's parent company Hyundai which offers a slightly lower 27 miles of all electric range and is also has dealer inventory heavily constrained.


In January 2017 Chrysler finally released a plug-in hybrid minivan when the Pacifica Hybrid went on sales.  This plug-in minivan is a little pricy with the base model starting at $39,995 but it does provide an EPA estimated all electric range of 33 miles and right now it is the only plug-in minivan on the market.  It offers minivan flexibility with enough range for typical school runs and taking the kids to soccer practice. 


In November Honda moved into the Plug-in Hybrid market for the first time when it began sales of the Clarity PHEV.  Unlike the Clarity BEV and FCEV this Plug-in is being sold, not just leased, and is going to marketed nationwide.  The Clarity plug-in, with a base price of $34,290 offers a range of 47 miles on a charge.  The Clarity PHEV is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit so while it is slightly more expensive than the Chevy Volt and gets slightly less all electric range it is going to be a strong competitor to the Volt.


In December the much awaited Hyundai Outlander PHEV finally went on sale in the US.  This car has been the best selling plug-in hybrid in Europe for quite some time and if Hyundai can keep dealer inventory well stocked I expect it to be a big seller here too.  It is a bit lacking in range at and EPA estimated 22 miles but at a base price of $35,500 this SUV should do well.  I suspect that it will appeal to people who want a plug-in but also want to be driving an SUV.


January, 2018 saw the arrival in dealerships of the Kia Niro PHEV giving yet another option for low cost SUVs with decent all electric range.  The Kia Niro PHEV has an EPA estimated all electric range of 26 miles and starts at a base price of just $28,840 before tax credits.  This is going to compete primarily with the Outlander PHEV but also has the possibility of pulling customers away from the Volt.

One other plug-in hybrid also arrived in dealerships in January, the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV.  This car offers an EP estimated alll electric range of 29 miles and a base price of just $25,950 before tax incentives.  Since this car may be eligible for the full tax credit it will make for a very cheap way to get into a PHEV and should provide quite a bit of competition for the Volt.


When the Volt first came out back in 2010 there was no real competition.  Offerings from the other manufacturers began to arrive but none came close to offering enough range to meet the average daily commute of 15 miles each way unless they could charge both at home and at work.  There are now 2 other car offerings, the Pacifica Hybrid and the Honda Clarity PHEV that can handle a 30 mile daily commute and 3 more that can come pretty close.  All the plug-in hybrids listed above can handle a daily commute of 11 miles or less each way without the need for a charge at work.  This means a greater selection of plug-in cars for the average commuter and this is going to impact Volt sales to some extent. 


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