Skeptical About The Chevy Volt? In CA, GM May Loan You One

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2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

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There's a saying that the best way to convince someone he wants an electric car is to let him drive one.

In light of lower-than-projected Chevrolet Volt sales and continued media misinformation about the car's capabilities, GM is taking that lesson to heart.

In Southern California, members of the GM communications team are running an informal program to loan out Volt plug-in cars for a few days or a week. They call it "Cars to People."

As GM rep Shad Balch explained it, "The Chevy Volt is unlike any car on the road, so trying to explain how it works is a challenge."

"On any given day, we encounter literally dozens of folks who either have an interest in--or a misunderstanding of--the Volt," Balch said.

"You should see the reactions we get when we respond by handing them the keys."

Those encounters come in many different ways, he said, from event sponsorships and speaking engagements to Volt owner meetups and consumer ride-and-drive events.

The communications team also gets "significant numbers" of referrals from current Volt owners, Balch said. "Our owners are our biggest advocates."

And it works, he claims. "The best way for people to fully understand how the Volt works--and, more importantly, how it can fit into their lifestyle--is actually to live with it for a few days."

Over several months, the communications team has loaned Volt range-extended electric cars to almost 300 people, Balch said. Loan periods range from three to seven days.

The "Cars to People" program is currently planned to last through the end of this year, so several hundred more drivers could get their own seat time--free--in a brand-new Volt. Borrowers must be 21, have a valid driver's license, and meet a few other legal qualifications.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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The loan program is part of a larger effort to launch the revised 2012 Volt in California, now that the newest models qualify for access to that state's HOV lanes and a $1,500 purchase rebate from the state.

One example of a successful convert is Steve Glenn, founder of a company that sells factory-built LEED platinum-certified prefabricated homes in Santa Monica, California.

A six-year Toyota Prius owner, he had actually put down a deposit on the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid because it would qualify for the HOV-lane green sticker.

That sticker also qualifies any car for free parking in the city of Santa Monica, a huge benefit for Glenn, who walks to work and may leave his car parked for several days at a time.

When Glenn met Balch at a luncheon event at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, he mentioned his deposit--and Balch told him Chevy was planning to launch a qualifying Volt early in 2012.

Then Balch loaned Glenn an earlier 2012 Volt for a full week in December. "I totally loved it," Glenn said. "I love the elegance of a full-time electric car with a gasoline backup."

He took delivery of his Volt last week, one of at least a dozen drivers who've told Balch after their loans that they intend to buy a Volt--and asked for a dealer referral.

Once drivers get behind the wheel, "the Volt sells itself," Balch concludes. "Given the chance, it converts skeptics, educates the misinformed, and--in the end--sells cars."

Do you think more drivers would be inclined to purchase a Volt if they spent time behind the wheel?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (17)
  1. Maybe a few, but it is the price that will turn the greatest majority of people away. I test drove one here in West Virginia, and it was a little bit smaller inside, and outside, than my Mustang, and my Mustang can seat two people sitting and one person lying, but what turned me away was the $49,995.00 price tag. The dealers are more greedy here than they are anywhere else.

  2. I seriously doubt there is much price gouging going on these days with the excess Volt supply, so if you ask another dealer, I'm sure you will be able to get a Volt at sticker. With tax incentives, that puts it in the low $30k range, which is close to the average price for a new car.

  3. Dealers can't gouge for cars that don't sell. Gouging only occurs for cars in great demand. They can't give away Volts these days, $4 gas notwithstanding.

  4. Yeah, Kent, we should believe you, why again? You've written, what, 100-200 derogatory things about the Volt and have never driven one, but you still think you know better than people who actually take the time to become informed?

    As someone who waited almost seven months last year to even test drive a car and my number to come up to buy, you're full of it. Still very limited availability in Michigan and almost no leases, but again, what would I know, I've visited nine dealers compared to your zero?

    I also have to wonder why your constant attacks on the Volt persist. I mean, you predicted repeatedly last year that the LEAF would outsell the Volt by multiples, but you seem strangely silent on the LEAF's struggles...

  5. According to a Voelcker Tweet, looks like this will be a great month for Volt sales due to HOV qualified version.

  6. The effective price of a Volt is $24,045, when including the tax credits and savings v. an average car. The average MSRP of cars today is about 25% higher than that number (~$30,000).

    Bottom line: If you include the fuel savings, the car is significantly below average in cost over 5 years.

  7. There are more comments in this thread
  8. John,

    Thanks for the article. GM has a real challenge IMO in trying to message the Volt in 30 second spots. They would be much better off funding a massive test drive program.

    At my daughter's high school, a Dodge dealer is bringing cars for test drives. For every person that takes a test drive at the school, the dealer is donating $25 to the athletic program.

    A simple idea that will no doubt be effective. In our "we already bought cookies and frozen cookie dough and coupon books" fund raising overloaded neighborhood, we figure its just time (not money) is worth it to help our school.

    I am confident that the dealer will find 10-20 good prospects that will make the effort worthwhile (plus the tax deduction will not hurt them either).

  9. I bought mine in early Jan following a prolonged test drive. The Volt has been a pleasure to drive and I have averaged 149mpg. Overall a fantastic car

  10. Smart thinking. Those who drive, like, to say the least. I would have laughed at the Volt as I'd laughed at 95% of American cars the last 15-20 years. If I hadn't driven it myself or ridden in a friend's occasionally.

  11. Close to 99% of the people who trash the Volt have never driven one.

  12. I drove a Volt yesterday for several laps at the Dallas Auto Show and am knocked out by the technology and driving experience. The rep was an engineer as am I and the drive system, battery management are amazing.

    It drives taut and secure. Whatever weight penalty the batteries and motors impose is handled very well. Acceleration in on par with similar gas cars.

    Downsides: Cost for a small sedan. Gas engine is noisier than it should be.

    With current tech, an E-car must agree with the mission. My daily driving is well within the E-only profile of the Volt. No gas needed but I like the ability to go full-road. Someone with a no road trips but

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