Chevrolet has axed the Volt from its line-up amid a clampdown on saloons, but why wasn't it the pioneer it should have been?
Mark Tisshaw
28 November 2018

‘The future starts here’ read the headline of the Autocar magazine news story when Chevrolet first revealed the Volt almost a decade ago.

The range-extender hybrid was a pioneer, and seen as the future of the car – yet now it’s been axed from the General Motors line-up as part of sweeping cuts designed to future-proof the company and ensure its long-term survival, and relevance.

There’s an irony in the Volt, which remains on show at the LA motor show today, being part of the GM cuts, the official line of which is that saloons simply don’t sell anymore, particularly small ones. And being a small, compact saloon, the Volt has not been spared the axe, no matter how relevant its drivetrain might be to the future of the motor car.

For the Volt, in its ethos and what it stands for, remains absolutely relevant. Now in its second generation, it is clever and efficient, and exactly the kind of car GM should be making.

Our Verdict

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt is an extended-range vehicle with an electric motor and a 1.4-litre petrol engine, and it makes the electric car viable for the masses

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The buzz around the Volt was huge. In the build-up to its launch in 2010 after its reveal a year or so earlier, there was a constant drip-feed of information on it, and an excitement surrounding its arrival.

It was the car to not only save General Motors at a time when it was being bailed out by the US government, but also to save Detroit. It was proof the city’s Big Three could still lead the world in new technology and relevant products. It should have been a Toyota Prius or Tesla moment for GM.

Yet clearly GM got the execution wrong with the Volt. While efficient, the drivetrain, and the range-extender concept, now feels like a bit of a halfway house in carrying so much ‘old’ technology. So while the ethos is great, the execution is what’s lacking; the drivetrain lacked refinement when the battery power ran out (and it quickly did), leaving an engine whirring away noisily.

Plug-in hybrids do it better in not needing the engine to allow the batteries to work, and full, big-range electric cars better yet still – which is why GM is keeping its own big-range electric car in the Chevrolet Bolt.

GM wasn’t global enough in its thinking on the Volt. While sold in Europe as a Volt, and also as a rebadged Vauxhall/Opel Ampera, it was the US where it was aimed. But the US wasn’t really ready for such a car as it didn’t yet want one, with gas prices still cheap and the Volt too small for most buyers at the start of the boom away from saloons of any size to SUVs. The Volt wasn’t different enough, in the way a Tesla was.

The badge on the bonnet didn’t have the cachet to carry it around the world, too, even if GM had gone on the offensive with the Volt elsewhere.

The surprise in the decision on the Volt is less that it has been taken, but more that it has been taken now. The new, second-generation model is only a couple of years old, and has not been a sales success.

GM could have switched the Volt from being a range-extender to a more conventional plug—in hybrid, or better yet a full electric car of its own for the second-generation when it saw that the market simply wasn’t going the way of range-extenders.

But now the Volt will be consigned to history, something that’s likely to be viewed as a footnote in the development of the electrified car, rather than the pioneer we all thought it would be.

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12

28 November 2018

And yet GM in all their usual ham fisted ineptitude don't sell the Bolt over here where a small SUV with it's powertrain USP would give it a real edge.

28 November 2018

The Prius is (predominantly) not a plug in but is a huge success. GM really got this wrong. The market was there for them.

29 November 2018
Cheltenhamshire wrote:

And yet GM in all their usual ham fisted ineptitude don't sell the Bolt over here where a small SUV with it's powertrain USP would give it a real edge.

I think it was more to do with the fact they couldn't make a right-hand drive version, would you buy a left hand car for the UK?

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

29 November 2018
xxxx wrote:

Cheltenhamshire wrote:

And yet GM in all their usual ham fisted ineptitude don't sell the Bolt over here where a small SUV with it's powertrain USP would give it a real edge.

I think it was more to do with the fact they couldn't make a right-hand drive version, would you buy a left hand car for the UK?

They didn't even bother to take that into consideration when designing it.  Yet tiny Tesla did.  And it is easier with an EV.  GM is one of the worst managed companies in the world, they are like BL, utterly inept.

I believe they are pulling the Bolt from Europe as well.  They are clueless.

28 November 2018

I had an Ampera on a 48-hour test a few years back and was very impressed. I would still consider a used one ... if the rear seat could seat 3.

If the Yanks had to pay our fuel prices I'm sure the Volt would have done much better. And yet if the Prius could succeed over there, why couldn't the Volt?

28 November 2018

Even with the federal and state tax credits - it was simply too expensive ($35K) to compete with Prius ($25K) ...but a well designed and quality car that it definitely was...

The best engineered car will not win if it is not well marketed...

29 November 2018
Chevrolet did not get the car wrong, they got the marketing wrong. In fact, I have never seen a commercial for a Volt.
As for the engine being noisy? I rarely hear it, and love that it normally never starts until the battery is empty.
It is without a doubt the best car I have ever had, and very practical with the hatchback.

29 November 2018

I liked the TV commercial that we had here in New Zealand - a futuristic theme with a Gary Newman sound track 'Cars'.  Not a bad looking machine but probably too expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

29 November 2018
GM doesn't have any presence in Europe anymore. PSA owns former GM Opel/GM Vauxhall. The PSA group have their own electrically powered designs on their way.

29 November 2018
concinnity wrote:

GM doesn't have any presence in Europe anymore. PSA owns former GM Opel/GM Vauxhall. The PSA group have their own electrically powered designs on their way.

Is the Bolt still a US Chevrolet car made in the USA?

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

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