Currently reading: Opinion: GM got the Chevrolet Volt wrong
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?

‘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.

Chevy volt 1

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.

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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.


Read our review

Car review

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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Vauxhall ampera 2 2

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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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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WallMeerkat 29 November 2018

Always liked the Ampera, it

Always liked the Ampera, it had an interesting drivetrain, and was ahead of it's time given the current anti-diesel and pro-hybrid thinking. Also thought it was better looking than the similarly-sized Astra.

Only the boot was compromised due to battery packs or I might've taken the plunge. (This was a huge consideration when our child was expected, and has proven right, have managed to fill the cavernous boot in an Octavia plenty of times just with overnight baby gear)

WallMeerkat 29 November 2018

^ and to follow on from the

^ and to follow on from the GM angle, they are axing saloons as Americans are buying SUVs. A bit like the UK market.

Except SUVs, for fuel efficiency purposes, are treated as trucks, and not subject to the same CAFE fuel efficiency regulations that a non-SUV car range is, so they can axe everything apart from the smaller Bolt EV, and for some reason the Malibu (fleet use?), and still meet targets. They no longer need a second EV, especially a saloon one.

concinnity 29 November 2018

There is no GM in Europe including Britain

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.
xxxx 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?

nagromnewo 29 November 2018

It's not the car!

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.
Tuatara 29 November 2018

NZ advertisement

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.