Does $5K Tool Really Cause Chevy Dealers To Drop Volt Electric Car?

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GM engineer fits structural reinforcement to distribute crash energy away from Chevy Volt battery.

GM engineer fits structural reinforcement to distribute crash energy away from Chevy Volt battery.

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If you were a car dealer, would you decide not to sell a plug-in electric car because you had to buy a $5,000 tool to service it?

We didn't think so.

Late last year, trade journal Automotive News wrote a story saying that a few Chevrolet dealers have stopped selling the Chevy Volt range-extended electric cars because the company required them to buy a new battery-depowering tool.

This new device would allow service technicians to remove specific modules from the lithium-ion battery pack to send back to Chevrolet for repair or replacement, rather than shipping the entire 400-pound battery pack.

The article cited Jim Barnard Chevrolet in Churchville, New York, a small town of 2.000 residents in what might be called New York's large upstate snow belt.

The dealership sold five Volts in two years, putting it toward the bottom of the more than 2,600 dealers certified to sell the Volt (roughly one-fifth of all Chevy dealers are not Volt-certified).

But the article notes that 300 of those dealers generate more than two-thirds of all Volt sales--a number of them in California, we suspect.

The Golden State is expected to buy more plug-in electric cars by 2015 than the next five states combined, due in part to state incentives to encourage those sales as a way to reduce auto emissions statewide.

And largely temperate California is a long way from cold, often snowy upstate New York, where the range of plug-in electric cars falls in chilly winter weather.

Still, we'd suggest that any dealership which walks away from servicing plug-in cars from General Motors is taking a very, very shortsighted view of its own future.

In November, in a presentation that still hasn't gotten enough attention, GM product chief Mary Barra said the company would downplay conventional hybrid technology.

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

2014 Cadillac ELR revealed at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

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Instead, she told auto journalists at an advance drive of prototype Chevrolet Spark EV minicars, the company would ramp up its work on vehicles that use the Voltec range-extended electric powertrain.

Which means that it's not just the much-maligned Volt that Chevy dealer is abandoning, but a whole swath of future products as well.

Frankly, we couldn't put it better than John Holt, owner of the Chevrolet-Cadillac dealer in Chickasha, Oklahoma, that bears his name.

He too has sold five Volts over two years, but chose to buy the new tool, in part to permit him to service the upcoming 2014 Cadillac ELR electric luxury coupe.

With that car on the way (and more later, we would note), "I figured I'd be foolish not to buy the damn $5,100 tool," he told Automotive News.

Indeed.

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