Volt’s `Car of Year” Award Could Spell Marketplace Success

December 18, 2010/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS FREEWHEELING BY KATE McLEOD

Awards and accolades for standout cars and trucks come out every year around this time. GM’s Chevy Volt was named Motor Trend magazine’s “Car of the Year.” Part of the appeal was the Volt’s innovative technology, geared to solve our oil dependency and pollution problems.
Motor Trends judges were impressed by the engineering, efficiency, safety and advancement in design of the Volt, but a “Car of the Year” vote is slightly premature, since the award was bestowed before it was on the road for public consumption. I think a car that is hailed as the most outstanding of the year should at least be on the road in some quantity.
The Chevy Volt, GM’s extended range vehicle started rolling off the assembly line on November 30th. It has not been tested in the marketplace, and it is expensive at close to $41,000. “The Volt is too expensive and too limited in availability (plus it does terribly in any value measurement) to be a viable Car of the Year, in my opinion,” says Karl Brauer, editor-at-large and North America Car and Truck of the Year juror.
That is not to say that the Volt isn’t a game changer. But people are going to have to buy them first. And when they do bring home the Volt, they will have fun deciphering the government’s new mileage equations for this gas-enabled electric vehicle.
At least with the Volt you won’t suffer from the “range anxiety” you might have in a pure electric where the risk is that the battery will run out of juice and leave you stranded. Recharging a battery takes hours once you do find a public outlet.
Nissan is hoping to put 25,000 Leaf electric vehicles on the road in 2011, but their production will be based solely on converting those who have “reserved” Leafs online into actual customers who outright purchase the Leaf. Nissan did a nationwide tour and interested parties signed up with a $99 down payment. They are on target with 20,000 reservations and the deliveries have already begun. With a $7,500 tax credit, that won’t go away with the other new car tax credits, the cost of the car is around $26,000.
Here’s an interesting fact: For the last two months trucks outsold cars. Trucks were 51.1 percent of total U.S. sales in October and 51.8 percent in November. Cars, however, have still outsold trucks this year: 5.4 million cars to 5.0 million trucks, but sales of hybrids are down.
Even with no certainty of what the cost of gasoline will be in six months or if the feds will apply new gas taxes to help lower the deficit, we still love our trucks. In my region, the northeast, I’ve seen the price of gas increase 10 percent over the last three weeks to over $3 a gallon. In addition, the government has approved increasing ethanol to 15 percent next year. That in itself is a price increase that you won’t see on the gas station marquees, but it will show in your pocketbook because you won’t go as far on a tank of gas.
Every year car buff publications pick a car and truck of the year. The decision to select the Volt converges with the administration’s desire to change what we drive. The car buyer doesn’t have to buy what the government tells our automakers to build, nor will they necessarily listen to automotive jurors who hail an unproven car. — Kate McLeod, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010