While Tesla gets a lot of press attention, the best selling plug-in EV (electric vehicle) in the US market is not actually by Tesla at all. Rather, it is the Chevrolet Volt. Since first arriving in the market, the car, has achieved slow, but nonetheless steady increases in sales, with more than 60,000 of these vehicles now on the roads.
Now Chevrolet has decided that the time has come for a complete revamp of the design for this car. The company has begun teasing what it is calling the 2016 model of the Volt, which it plans to debut to the world at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 2015. While it is unknown what changes will be made to the car when it is finally unveiled, it is likely that improved seating capacity as well as battery life will be added to the car.
Despite the on paper success of the Volt however, the car represents more of a long-term bet for GM, as it emerges from near-bankruptcy after the Global Financial Crisis. While it has seen high sales comparative to EV competitors, the company nonetheless makes a loss with each Volt sold, due to the high cost of design and production. In order to remedy this, the new 2016 Volt will need to have more of a broad market appeal, realizing the kind of sales needed to enable economy-of-scale cost savings.
It is also possible that the release of more moderately priced Tesla vehicles, such as the Model S could make this difficult, but this is unlikely, if only for the simple reason that the Volt, in its current form, and Tesla’s EV, are very different. While Tesla has focused on battery-heavy, only-electric vehicles, the Volt uses an electric motor which is boosted by a conventional petrol fuel engine. Once the Volt has travelled 38 miles and exhausted its battery, it switches to operating more like a petrol-electric hybrid such as the Toyota Prius.
Clearly the electric-only option will appeal to some users, while others who need a more reliable way to travel long distances, would chose the configuration used by the Volt. In addition, the existence of more than one popular EV model on the market at the same time could be mutually beneficial, as the product becomes more visible and accepted by the common consumer. This greater aware could then translate to an environment of increased sales for both parties.
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