Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Mar 23

Leaf number 75,000 sold in the US -Is Volt due to be ousted as America’s top-selling plug-in car?

 

Anyone who reads this site regularly knew this was coming …

Does it matter? Will we see a turnabout?

Since the Volt and Leaf were launched the very same month in December 2010 most media and other industry have followed the live experiment, for what it is worth. Here’s the latest update.

15006_Nissan_Leaf_165

 

This month Nissan is celebrating its 75,000th Leaf sold in the United States and – pending March sales results in a couple weeks – the car may also now be the top-seller both globally and nationally as it has been trending in that direction.

But a Nissan press release doesn’t talk about the unofficial race with the Chevy Volt which led Nissan by a mere two units sold at 74,592 Volts to 74,590 Leafs at the end of February since their December 2010 respective launches.

Rather, Nissan marked the milestone with an enthusiastic buyer in Portland Ore., Rishabh Mehandru, who purchased this second one after his first Leaf’s lease expired after two years.

SEE ALSO: What Do We Know About the 2017 Nissan Leaf?

 

“When the lease was up on my first Nissan Leaf, I knew that I didn’t want any other car. I had to have another Nissan Leaf,” said Mehandru. “I love how quickly I can get up to speed on the highway—even my three-year-old son notices how zippy it is—and I like that I don’t have to stop for gas.”

Mehandru was quoted as saying the zero-emissions aspect was also a main draw in his decision to go gas free.

“I’m a runner, and when I ran outside I found that I was inhaling a lot of exhaust from the gas-powered cars that passed me on the roads,” said Mehandru. “I instantly became aware of the amount of fuel I was burning, and that’s when I first decided that I wanted to get an electric car.”

New Number One?

 
Nissan has put out press releases at various U.S. and global milestones before, globally it has sold around 160,000 to the Volt/Ampera’s 90,000 in rough numbers, and it is closing in on the Volt’s home turf.

It is very likely the Leaf is the top selling plug-in car in the U.S. by cumulative volume since launch but that will be known soon enough.

2016 Volt due around this summer.

2016 Volt due around this summer.

Last month the Leaf beat the Volt with 1,198 to 693 sales, and in January it was 1,070 to 542. It is possible the Volt will outsell the Leaf but the recent trend has been Leaf selling two-to-one as the Volt endures lame duck status while the Leaf continues to sell relatively better.

Both cars are just as old, both have received updates, discounts, and both have vied neck and neck – trading places along the way with the Leaf suffering a whole year in 2012 while the Volt doubled its sales.

But the Leaf has been coming on strong the past 20 months, exceeding its old year-over-year sales and Nissan has hit a stride which it will have to ride out until the next generation Leaf arrives, possibly for 2017.

SEE ALSO: Is a 200-Mile EV the Next Automotive Benchmark?

 
Meanwhile the 2015 Volt is doing OK considering General Motors long ago stopped advertising it everywhere except California and its dealers have a hit-or-miss reputation for supporting the car. But a 2016 Volt waits in the wings so there may be a turnabout around this summer.

Announced on the first day of spring however, it was the Leaf’s day to shine, and Nissan – which advertises and promotes the Leaf more thoroughly, says momentum continues for what may be America’s and the world’s best-selling plug-in.

15006_Nissan_Leaf_141

“Rishabh’s enthusiasm for his Leaf is a perfect example of what we call the cul-de-sac effect,” said Brendan Jones, director, Nissan Electric Vehicle Sales and Infrastructure. “With more and more Nissan Leaf owners on the road, we see shoppers coming in already educated on Leaf’s benefits because they got to drive one that belongs to a friend or neighbor. It’s that kind of word-of-mouth that really drives Nissan Leaf sales.”

(Did you notice that one quote put out by Nissan had the name “Leaf” repeated four times? That’s not bad for search engine optimization.)

 

Mar 20

Plug-in Car News Roundup

 

Well, unless you want news about GM and the ignition switch recall, or one of the last media outlets on the planet just now reporting on the January Volt reveal, we’ll have to talk about other business on this slow Volt news day.

Following are some stories that may be food for thought …

Buffet-Backed BYD Plans To Lease E6 EVs To Uber For Testing

BYD_E6_Taxi-668
By Estlin Link

Did you know BYD cars are already EPA certified and legal for U.S. driving? Well they are and …

Chinese automaker BYD plans to lease 200 E6 EVs to Uber for road testing in Chicago.

According to Reuters, 25 of these E6 vehicles are already on the roads for Uber with plans to expand that amount during the year.

In conjunction with Green Wheels USA, Uber is attempting to make leasing a vehicle for aspiring rideshare hosts easier. Drivers have a choice of three leasing options: a standard lease, a lease to own, or a fee of $200 per week to drive the E6 during one’s shift.

If an Uber driver were to go the weekly payment route, vehicles must be driven back to the dealership after the days use for charging.

In an email to Autoblog from Uber spokeperson Laura Altmin, she’s quoted as saying that “GreenWheels and BYD have both been investing in and building out EV infrastructure in Chicago, and the partnership was a natural fit for this pilot.”

SEE ALSO: Tesla China Reportedly Laying Off 30 Percent Of Its Staff

Autoblog also reported that the first informational meeting regarding this leasing saw a multitude of interested individuals looking to get their hands on one of these E6s.

The Shenzhen-based company is one few Chinese car manufacturers attempting to break into the U.S. market right now – and, Berkshire Hathaway owns 10 percent of BYD which could alleviate some of the initial market entry challenges.

BYD’s hatchback comes equipped with an electric motor that puts out 101 horsepower and hits a top speed of 87 miles per hour. BYD states the E6 has a range of 186 miles operating in a city environment but the latest EPA certified range with the 2014 model only indicates a range of 127 miles.

Time will tell if estimates of a 59-mile increase in battery range are truth or merely optimism.

Autoblog

Do Virgin and Branson Have Plans Compete With Tesla?

Virgin_FormulaE_Team-668
By Estlin Link

Yesterday in Miami Richard Branson dropped the not so subtle hint that the Virgin Group may have plans to compete with Tesla in the electric car market.

Virgin is no neophyte when it comes to taking on new ventures. The British multinational conglomerate already has its mitts in industries like space, trains, planes, and mobile phones to name a few, so it would be no surprise if it were to join Tesla in making electric cars.

Branson was busy competing in the newly founded all-electric when he was posed the question by Bloomberg TV of where Virgin envisions all of this leading.

Branson was busy competing in the newly founded all electric Formula E race series when he was posed the question by Bloomberg TV of where Virgin envisions all of this leading. “We have teams of people working on electric cars” Branson said.

The whole idea of Formula E was conceptualized in 2012, with its first season officially starting last September in Beijing. The vehicles are powered solely by electricity and can reach 62 miles an hour in a staggering 3 seconds flat. Additionally these vehicles only emit noise decibal levels of about 80 dB, as opposed to old Formula Ones wail of 130 dB.

While Branson and his people may be toiling away on their version of the electric car, they’re not the only ones with plans to join the party. Apple has hopes to release a version of its own by around 2020, along with what seems like every company on this planet with a dollar and a dream.

Branson also went on to say that ” You never know -you may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business. We will see what happens.”

Judging by all of Virgins past successes this project comes to fruition it has the potential be something stellar, hopefully it lets us in on some specifics in the forthcoming months.

Bloomberg

Musk Says Autonomous Cars Could Lead To The End Of Personal Driving Privileges

Tesla_Model_S-668By me

Have you ever heard of the law of unintended consequences?

An example could be when something presented as ostensibly neat – like cars that drive themselves – turn out to have unforeseen results –such as your kids or grandkids one day being forbidden to drive for their own safety.

And, validating the worst future fear of car enthusiasts and others who’ve already said as much, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has come out saying said unintended consequences may indeed happen.

“In the distant future, I think people may outlaw driving cars because it’s too dangerous,” Musk said at a conference held by tech company Nvidia. “You can’t have a person driving a two-ton death machine.”

Now an automobile has been called fun, fast, potentially dangerous, but in a certain context, Musk has just called it a “death machine.” Or rather, it may be viewed that way more starkly in the distant future.

Is that ironic? Many people have embraced the novel idea of cars that drive themselves as liberating, but could these machines ultimately mean the erosion of freedoms now enjoyed –– the right to drive and control your own car?

Musk later said on Twitter he obviously does not want people to be outlawed from driving their own cars.

“To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be,” he said. “Hopefully, that is obvious.”

Tesla meanwhile forges ahead with Autopilot alongside other major automakers and third-party suppliers also at work on technologies that can partially or fully take over.

In favor of autonomous and semi-autonomous technologies is these at the most noble potential end of the benefit spectrum could be a huge relief for the aged and infirm.

As a mere convenience and safety measure, autonomous cars could also include allowing for less attentiveness at the wheel and mitigate today’s “epidemic” of distracted driving.

And at the least noble, but not unthought-of end of the scale, questions have been pondered as to whether it would be legal for a future autonomous car to transport an intoxicated driver without so much as a whisper of being busted for DUI.

To be sure, humans have tended to create machines to set them free, but as futurists and conspiracy theorists might remind you, you may want to be careful what you wish for.

These thoughts have been variously uttered before, and often they’ve been met with dismissive counter arguments. But now Elon Musk said so too, so does that lend credibility to the fear that something may turn out to be not be all it was presented to be at first?

Already today we have airplanes that fly themselves so military pilots whose training can toll into the millions may be spared.

And research shows human error is a main cause of many automobile crashes. So, what if they develop vehicles that never get sleepy, never stray from being vigilant, don’t text at the wheel, and begin to do much better than humans?

If one day the safety record of autonomous cars proves so superior to human operators, it’s been speculated that powers that be – such as the insurance lobby and government – may make a case to begin eroding or eliminating driving privileges.

That is one possibility, or maybe there’s nothing to worry about?

Fox

 

Mar 19

10 new plug-in cars for Mercedes-Benz by 2017

 

Mercedes says it has plug-in technology it can readily adapt to many of its models. Does anyone here know of another automaker that since 2010 has had a special extended-range electric technology that was also so adaptable? And, does that automaker say it must keep a cloak of secrecy on its “future product” while making no announcements of mainstream-priced variants of a superb car it’s had since 2010?

If secrecy due to fear of tipping one’s hand or “cannibalizing” an existing product line is such good policy, how is it that Mercedes-Benz now up and announces 10 PEVs by 2017? One of the hallmarks of “the Germans” – M-B being arguably the preeminent – is their glossy profitable reputations are dependent on being seen as technological leaders. And now, in their wisdom, they’ve discovered plug-ins as a marvelous way around regs better suited to culling out ICEmobiles.

So M-B has unabashedly stated its intent. Now if only another automaker whose game it is to lose, with the best plug-in extended-range tech out there would do something as brash. …

Mercedes-Concept-V-ision-e

By Sarah Shelton

Over the next two years Mercedes-Benz will launch 10 new plug-in vehicles, releasing one every four months.

The plan is part of the company’s hybrid initiative, which includes a hybrid setup that can easily transfer to different vehicle classes. This gives Mercedes the ability to use the technology on its entire fleet, from the base-grade C-Class sedans to the larger SUVs.

Since 2012, Mercedes has introduced nine electrified models to the market. Only one was a plug-in hybrid; the others were powered by an electric drive, gasoline hybrid or diesel hybrid. But that ratio is about to change.

“In the years to come, the main emphasis as regards alternative drives will be on plug-in hybrids,” said Mercedes.

The one-vehicle-per-quarter is only an estimated timetable for the rollout, and all new PHEV models will be labeled with an “e” instead of “plug-in hybrid.”

Mercedes-Benz at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show - Volker Mornhinweg , Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, presenting the Concept V-ision e, a V-Class with plug-In hybrid technology.

Mercedes-Benz at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show – Volker Mornhinweg , Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, presenting the Concept V-ision e, a V-Class with plug-In hybrid technology.

In a recent statement, Mercedes officials talked about why plug-ins will be the company’s main hybrid focus.

“Plug-in hybrids are a key technology on the road to the local emission-free future of the automobile,” said Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

“Plug-in hybrids offer our customers the best of both worlds; in the city they can drive in all-electric mode, while on long journeys they benefit from the combustion engine’s range.

“In addition, hybridization makes the combustion engine more efficient and brings with it a special type of dynamic performance – making driving an absolute pleasure.”

Mercedes said its next step will be to apply hybrid technology to its SUVs, with plans for an upcoming plug-in version of the GLE.

One of the future models may also be the Concept V-ision e (pictured above). The mid-size van, which Mercedes previewed in Geneva last week, uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 90 kW electric motor. Total output is 333 horsepower, and top speed is 128 mph.

To power the electric motor, Concept V-ision e draws from a 13.5 kilowatt-hour battery. This gives the van an emission-free range of 31.1 miles at up to 50 mph says the manufacturer.

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Reveals Details On 2016 C350 Plug-in Hybrid

If Mercedes successfully launches all 10 PHEV models, and doesn’t retire any current hybrid models, the carmaker will have almost 20 electrified vehicles in its fleet. Current hybrid and electric vehicles (and their release date) include:

2012: smart fortwo electric drive

2012: E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID

2013: SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive

2013: S 400 HYBRID

2013: S 300 BlueTEC HYBRID

2014: C 300 BlueTEC HYBRID

2014: B-Class Electric Drive

2014: S 500 PLUG-IN HYBRID

2015: C 350 e

 

Mar 18

California increases to 45 percent US PEV market share; volume would rank above China

 

Is there any wonder GM does advertise the Volt in California?

What does this say about the rest of the country?

chevrolet-volt-in-california-hov-lane

More than just America’s most ardent plug-in electrified vehicle adopters by a wide margin, last year Californians bought enough PEVs to rank their state second among all nations of the world.

That’s right, if California were its own country, its purchases of 29,935 plug-in hybrids, 29,536 battery electric cars (59,471 total) in 2014 would place it second to number-one United States’ 118,682, ahead of second-place China’s 53,082, and third-place Japan’s 30,390.

SEE ALSO: Top 6 Plug-In Vehicle Adopting Countries – 2014

On a percentage of market share basis, or “take rate,” California would rank third among the top half-dozen plug-in adopting countries in the world.

Or, sliced another way, if California’s sales were subtracted from the U.S. total and it really were “its own country,” the state of California would have led the world in PEV sales with 59,471 sales in 2014 versus an imaginary U.S.-minus California’s 59,211 taking second place.

Leaf_kite

This information is based upon actual new car registrations through the fourth quarter of 2014 and comes via IHS Automotive as reported February by the California New Car Dealers Association.

What’s more, the data shows a distinction that might further speak well for California, but perhaps not as much for the rest of the U.S. That is, as automakers report more truck, SUV and CUV sales nationwide for big-vehicle-loving Americans, Californians continue to increase the percentage by which the state leads the rest of the United States.

SEE ALSO: Americans Buy Their 250,000th Plug-In Car

This at least is the what the numbers and two analysts interviewed suggest is happening in the picture of America’s overall market which last year bought 16.4 million passenger vehicles.

Specifically, America’s total of 118,682 PEVs purchased during 2014 were significantly boosted carried by California’s 59,471 purchases – 50.1 percent of the U.S. total – and the gap appears to be widening.

Since reports in August 2014 of California contributing 40 percent of the volume of all PEVs bought in the U.S. since 2010, the state increased to 45.1 percent by year’s end with 129,470 total units out of 286,842 PEVs sold in America since 2010.

As a state, California’s PEV market share is 3.2 percent. Compare that to the total U.S. market share of just 0.76 percent PEVs.

BMW_i3_8317_668-300x183

Coming back to an international comparison, on a percentage basis, California’s 3.2 percent market share for PEVs would also rank it third overall behind the Netherlands’ 3.87 percent.

This 3.2 percent also means it buys more plug-in hybrids percentage wise than Americans buy non plug-in hybrids.

As fuel prices along with decline of the market-dominating but now-aging Prius’ sales dropped last year, the non-plug-in hybrid U.S. take rate declined from 3.19 percent in 2013 to 2.75 percent – less than California’s 3.2 percent of plug-in cars.

And while on the topic of regular hybrids, Californians like these too, and more than doubles the national market share. The state dipped from a peak of 6.8 percent in 2013 to 6.3 percent in 2014.

Unequivocal Leader

Any way you slice it, the state is all about alternative energy transportation and has been a leader in environmental advocacy for at least the last couple of decades, well before the current crop of plug-in cars came along.

Model_S_showroom

Actually, General Motors’ EV1 electric car was first developed in the late 90s for this market and California is unique in that its Air Resources Board established 1967 has since become a de facto rule-making body demanding automakers meet strict emissions requirements.

Automotive analyst Alan Baum suggests that just as the Left Coast state has been known to be a forerunner in other cultural trends, so it may also be in the realm of transportation in years to come.

SEE ALSO: HOV Access Is Key For California Plug-in Car Purchases

Baum notes also that as cheap(er) gas is pulling truck-loving Americans away from hybrids back to pickups and SUVs, California is bucking this trend to a higher degree.

Around a dozen other states do mirror California rules, but the Golden State has a few plug-in vehicles marketed exclusively in the state. These have pejoratively been called “compliance cars,” but that does not hurt Californians who have more plug-in cars from which to choose.

2014-Chevrolet-SparkEV-051-medium

But aside from compliance cars like the Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Kia Soul EV selling just in California and maybe another state or two as the case may be, the real heavy lifting has been by the major PEVs by Tesla, Chevrolet and Nissan.

Namely, the Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are the relative volume leaders month after month. Nationally they sell far higher volumes but percentage wise it is still California that gobbles up more of these vehicles.

How things will go this year is an open question. Nationally, Nissan set sales records 18 straight months through to early this year, but its sales did flatten out in historically slow January and February.

SEE ALSO: California Wants More People Driving Electric Vehicles

Looking just at Tesla’s home turf and arguable bastion, it also did better in 2013 with 8,347 registrations in 2013 versus 6,110 in 2014 – a 26.8 percent decline. On a national level and international level, Tesla continues to increase sales.

The Volt also is well down on a national level, and well-documented is the car is advertised only in California. By summer this year, the Volt’s second generation will be launched, and shoppers waiting for that could see the Volt’s numbers increase again.

Unknown is how fuel prices may go but up for debate is how much they matter for some buyers who are “gas averse” as GM marketers describe Volt buyers and those who go for cars that can run without gas part-time or full time as the case may be.

2016 Volt.

2016 Volt.

That plug-in vehicles are taking off is clear. That the balance is overwhelmingly in California is also. And, it appears to be tipping further as time goes on.

As for the entire country, Baum suggests 2015 may be a peak year with total 16.7-16.8 million passenger vehicles predicted.

Numerous variables could see the total decline in 2016 to an estimated 16.3 million, but proportionally, it appears California is pulling strong, and while other states will follow in its shadow, there appears to be no end to its dominance of plug-in acceptance in sight.

 

Mar 17

Electrified vehicle news

 

Here on a slow Volt news day, I’ve compiled a few stories of interest, hopefully …

 

BMW Plans For Third Member Of i-Series Post 2020

2014_BMW_i3_Lot-668-668x408
By Estlin Link

Last week a top BMW executive said the German automaker is beginning to conceptualize its next i-series model and projects its release some time after 2020.

According to an Automotive News Europe interview with the R&D chief Klaus Froehlich, the gestational process is just getting started.

“We are still in the strategic research phase where we brainstorm,” he said. “Teams that start with a white sheet of paper. They talk with customers, hold workshops, then present their ideas and we decide.”

Thus BMW is starting from scratch, and a one might expect of the i-series, this will not just be one of rebranding an already existing model.

The company also plans to use its i-series research as a sort of technology funnel. So the advancements seen within the i3, i8, and eventually the third member of this group will trickle down to the rest of its consumer vehicles. For example the i8′s plug in power-train will be seen in a multitude of 3 series, 4 series and the X5.

As far as battery improvements for BMW, there is steady progress; Froehlich says that there’s a “minimum 20 percent battery density improvement every three years.”

SEE ALSO: Is a 200-Mile EV the Next Automotive Benchmark?
These developments will boost the limits and performance of the i3 and i8 as newer model years are released. But it is not speculated that owners of earlier models will be able to upgrade their batteries due to their unification with the chassis.

Nor was it reported how BMW would cope with 200-mile range purpose-built EVs priced in the mid 30s by 2017 expected to come as the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt, and potentially Ford if a rumor reported by Automobile magazine holds at all correct.

i3.Bolt_
The i3 starts just around $43,000 and the EPA rates it at 81 miles range. A 20 percent increase could put it at just around 97 miles.

The similarly styled Chevy Bolt meanwhile will have double that and be priced perhaps $5,000-$6,000 less.

Automotive News

Goodyear: Charging Your EV Through Its Tires

Goodyear has presented a concept tire at the 85th Geneva International Motor Show that is aimed at helping electric vehicles charge their batteries.

Goodyear Concept_BH03Known at the BHO3, this concept tire offers the possibility of charging the batteries of electric cars by transforming the heat generated by the rolling tire into electrical energy.

Goodyear explained the BHO3 generates electricity through the action of materials in the tire that capture and transform the energy created by heat when it flexes as it rolls during normal driving conditions.

SEE ALSO: Momentum Dynamics’ Wireless Charging Could Relegate Plugs To History
As demand for electric cars grows, this technology has the potential to significantly contribute to the solution of future mobility challenges,” said Joe Zekoski, Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technical officer. “This visionary tire technology could eliminate the vehicle-range anxiety motorists may have with electric cars. It is more important than ever for us to stay firmly rooted in our market-back innovation process, which calls on us to focus on, and anticipate, the rapidly evolving needs of our customers.”

Though essentially an engineer’s dream for now this type of tire sure would benefit EVs, PHEVs and hybrids.

Tesla Model S ‘About To End Range Anxiety,’ Tweets Musk

Model_S
By me

The longest-range rear-wheel-drive Model S is already rated 265 miles from its 85-kwh battery but Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said he will “end range anxiety” if that was a concern.

To be sure 208-265 mile Model S ratings are less than many gas cars, much farther than other EVs in the sub-100 mile club, but even Teslas require knowing where the juice is and Musk has used Twitter once again to create a new wave of news about Tesla.

What the over-the-air software update will precisely do, Musk is not saying. He did say a 9 a.m. Pacific time press conference Thursday will let everyone know.

Musk_Tweet

Could it be there is more reserve capacity in the existing battery? Could it be a more economical operating mode?

The software update is to the individual Model S cars. It will not require driving to a service visit and this feature is a rather unique capability of the Model S that’s helped further endear the car to owners for its ability to improve with age.

Tesla has also shown battery swapping capability and high-speed Supercharger stations but Musk says this will now “end range anxiety.”

What could it be?

 

Mar 16

Pennsylvania Chevrolet dealer compared to nearby Tesla store

 

An opinion piece posted on Forbes last night focuses on two dealer experiences in Southeastern Pennsylvania – one a brand-new Tesla store, the other a nearby Chevy dealer with a single Volt on the lot and apparently not a lot of motivation for the EREV.

IndependenceHall
 
The piece, written by Brooke Crothers, seems to play on the known complaints about Chevy dealers and GM’s marketing support, or lack thereof for the outgoing Volt. To be sure, we’ve heard miscellaneous issues about how unmotivated some dealers may be while others are more motivated.

Nor is a single visit to a single dealership a scientific experiment when over 2,000 dealers across the country sell Volts, but Crothers used the article as a platform to say something about how the factory run Tesla experience was versus the independent Chevy dealer.

The Tesla dealer and service center is in Devon, Pa on Lancaster Ave. I know where this store is, it’s near to me, used to be a Toyota dealer, there’s other car dealers – including Nissan, Volvo, Mercedes – along this strip, and it’s actually strikingly close to the King of Prussia Tesla store in the mall several miles away.

I could guess the Chevy dealer is one a few miles west on Lancaster Pike in Paoli, and the “Main Line” region – which this is the western edge of – contains Pennsylvania’s highest per capita earners closer to the city of Philadelphia. Where the stores are is a relatively upper to upscale area. Tesla has only two dealers in the state, and they’re both within 8 miles of each other showing how focused Tesla is on this region.

As for the article, the verdict on the Chevy dealer: If this is an indicator of how GM’s independent franchised dealers work, the Gen 2 Volt may be in trouble.

Are many Chevy dealers becoming primarily truck dealers? That’s my question. The impression I got at this Chevy dealer was that it was fundamentally a Silverado and truck dealer, with some sedans and Corvettes (as a showroom conversation piece) to sell on the side. And I’ve seen this at other Chevy dealers – many shadowed by a phalanx of pickups — despite having respectable sedans like the new Malibu. And, of course, the Volt.

There was one Volt on the lot. I repeat, one. Off in the corner and almost impossible to find. And, needless to say, none in the showroom. That sends a really bad message, in my opinion. One of the best cars General MotorsGM -0.99%has ever made and it’s almost invisible.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I drive a Chevy Volt. And it’s the best car I’ve ever had, hands down.)

 

A Chevy salesman at the un-named dealer said GM will renew its marketing efforts for the Volt later this year.

gas-less1
 

But I wonder. And my father (who is planning to buy a Volt) was disappointed. His question to the salesman was, are you really interested in selling the car? And if you’re not (based on the empirical evidence) then I’m worried about buying one.

I explained that the dealer experience for Volts in southeastern Pennsylvania was different than the experience in Los Angeles (where I got my Volt). My local Los Angeles dealer has lots of Volts on the lot and is one of the biggest Volt dealers (in terms of sales volume) in the U.S. But the problem with that argument is that my local Chevy dealer seems to be the exception. My guess is that there are many more Chevy dealers like the one we visited near Devon, Pa. and relatively few like my local dealer in Los Angeles.

 
In contrast, the Tesla store was great. A service technician was just as good to talk to as would have been a regular sales person.

In a word, clean. The best way to describe a Tesla dealer/service center is that the service center is as pristine as the showroom. In fact, you could almost mistake the service area for a showroom it’s so clean and uncluttered.

With that in mind, instead of talking to a salesperson, I buttonholed a guy in service. He sounded more like an engineer than a service guy. He described maintenance like he was fine tuning a corporate server, not a car.

And it’s no mystery why the service center is so pristine. Like most electric cars, a Model S is really a computer on wheels and lacks many of the dirty, wear-prone components that plague gasoline cars.

The net result of this one-off snapshot may be just to conspicuously shame GM, or if that’s too harsh, at least to raise awareness, if that is phrased politely enough.

2016 Chevrolet Volt
 

Let’s hope GM changes its marketing ways. If dealers are going to continue to make Corvettes (the past) the marquee feature in showrooms while relegating the Volt (the future – or at least a car that hints at a different future) to the backlot, things won’t turn out well for GM vis-à-vis its arch-nemesis Toyota. … Message to GM dealers: At least pretend to compete with Tesla. My impression of the Chevy dealer I visited was that it had no interest in competing with (or little cognizance of) the Tesla dealer down the street, despite having a stellar alternative to the Tesla that is, by the way, about $35,000 to $40,000 dollars cheaper (or more) than the all-electric.

 
For what it was worth, that was the story – which you can read here.

What do you think? Is this a typical experience? Does GM deserve this kind of spotlight? The writer does say his local dealer is better.

But GM needs good service everywhere is the message, and, “My guess is that there are many more Chevy dealers like the one we visited near Devon, Pa. and relatively few like my local dealer in Los Angeles,” said Crothers.

“The Silverado is a great pickup and the Corvette is a world-class sports car but neither of those vehicles speak to the future of the automobile,” writes Crothers. “And certainly don’t speak to the millions of Americans (like my father) interested in cars like the Volt.”