GM Volt's price induces some sticker shock
The long-anticipated Chevrolet Volt, General Motors' electric car, will cost $41,000, the company announced Tuesday, leaving consumers to decide whether its environmental appeal is worth a price far above that of similarly sized conventional autos.
Electric-car technology has been around for years, but the high cost to make the vehicles has prevented automakers from producing them for the mass market. The price announcements for the Volt and its electric rival, the Nissan Leaf, have been highly anticipated as a result. Nissan, the only other major manufacturer expected to bring such a vehicle to market this year, said the Leaf will cost $32,780.
GM and Nissan are relying on a $7,500 federal tax credit for buyers of electric vehicles to offset some of the added cost, and they're hoping that the allure of their novel power source will make up the rest.
"The Volt is a game-changing product," said Tony Posawatz, GM's vehicle line director for the Volt, which is expected to hit showrooms in November 2011.
Although the prices are high, enthusiasts say that electric cars can reach a large, untapped market for vehicles with little or no tailpipe emissions.
The Volt can travel 40 miles on its battery charge and an additional 340 miles on a gasoline-powered generator. The all-electric Leaf has a range of 100 miles.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama pledged to put 1 million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015.
But some analysts said they doubt that electric cars can reach a broad audience in the near term. Hybrid cars took about eight years to reach the million-unit sales mark in the United States, according to Energy Department figures.
"I'm not sure the Volt is going to be a volume vehicle," said George Magliano, director of automotive industry forecasting for North America at IHS Global Insight. "The technology still isn't there to make them cheap. At the end of the day, the consumer pays a hefty premium to make a statement."
To move the industry along and bolster U.S. manufacturing, the Obama administration has put its weight, and billions of dollars, behind an effort to develop electric cars and batteries in the United States.
In developing the Volt, GM is seeking to fulfill its promise to Congress during the government bailout to move beyond gas-guzzlers. The company had been planning the Volt long before it neared bankruptcy last year, however, as an attempt to leapfrog Toyota in the quest for fuel-efficient vehicles.