Less than six months from now, the first 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicles will be sold by dealers in selected launch markets.
2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010
Today, General Motors showed a few more cards, releasing news in various presentations on additional early markets, production numbers, and answering questions from interested buyers in an afternoon video press conference.
It also offered details on a promotional "Freedom Trip" PR stunt that will take a Volt from Austin, Texas, to New York City in just four days.
New launch markets
As revealed yesterday, New York City will be added to the list of launch markets, said Volt product and marketing director Tony DiSalle. The surrounding region that includes New York state, New Jersey, and Connecticut will be added very shortly thereafter.
Texas will be added in early 2011 as well. The three previously announced launch markets are the entire state of California, Michigan, and the Washington, D.C. area.
GM will continue to add markets, starting halfway through 2011 for 2012 model-year cars. The Volt will be offered in all 50 states within 12 to 18 months after first sale, meaning by July 2012 at the lates.
Earlier today, a prototype Volt left Austin, Texas, for a four-day road trip that will end on Independence Day in New York City. Stops en route will include Little Rock, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.
The trip will be--of course--exactly 1,776 miles long. Its name, the "Freedom Trip," most likely alludes to one of GM's main marketing messages for the Volt: that it's an electric car you can use however you want, without any range anxiety.
DiSalle's language supported that theme, with frequent references to Volt buyers' ability to "travel very far from home" in the car. He also noted the Volt "can be your primary vehicle" (presumably unlike pure battery cars with 100-mile ranges, which most analysts assume will be bought as the second or third vehicle in a household).
Ad for 2011 Chevrolet Volt running on Facebook, July 1, 2010
The first Volt ads went live today in New York City and Austin, across television, print, and online venues, DiSalle said, though he declined to give specifics.
Production volumes and allocations
GM has been circumspect about Volt production volumes. Today, DiSalle said the company would build 10,000 Volts from the start of production "at the end of this year" through December 31, 2011.
During calendar 2012, he added, it will build 30,000 Volts. Left unaddressed was how many additional Ampera variations (to be sold variously as Opels, Vauxhalls, and Buicks in markets outside North America) would be added on top of that 2012 number.
Within a day or two, he said, GM will begin to inform dealers in the launch areas how many Volts they will be allocated from that volume of 10,000 Volts.
Chevrolet Volt product and marketing director Tony DiSalle
2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production prototype, January 2010
Not every dealer in a launch area will necessarily sell the Chevy Volt. The company has now informed dealers what it will take to qualify as a Volt outlet, including training for both sales and service staff.
Chevrolet will also require a Volt-certified dealer to have one 2011 Volt always present at the dealership, so that the car is always available for viewing and test drives. "There's no better marketing for the Volt than the Volt itself," said DiSalle.
Dealers often sell even their demonstration versions of popular new vehicles at a substantial profit, so this represents a more substantial commitment by each dealer than it may seem.
GM will also qualify dealers even outside the launch regions as Volt service locations, so that Volt buyers can get the car serviced during trips should that become necessary.
Needs assessments for buyers
Dealers will also have to install at least two 240-Volt home-charging stations on site, train their salespeople with "unique selling skills," including how to "conduct a needs assessment" of interested buyers.
This will ensure that Volt buyers truly understand how the vehicle works and are aware that they will need to plug it in, and how long it may take to recharge to run on battery power.
Buyers will not be "pre-qualified," insisted DiSalle. An apartment dweller with no access to charging can buy a Volt, but the company wants to ensure that the person is asked "a series of questions" that educates them on how "to get full value out of the car."
DiSalle did release more specific details on battery charging time. Using standard 120-Volt household current, he said, a fully depleted battery pack will take 10 hours to recharge completely.
That time falls to 4 hours using a Level 2 home recharging station, which provides 240-Volt power. He declined to offer estimates of times for partial recharges.
Interested buyers: the to-do list
First, DiSalle said, buyers should sign up for Volt updates on the Chevrolet website. Then, they should visit their Chevrolet dealer in person to get on that individual dealer's waiting list.
No centralized waiting list exists; all buyers work through their dealer. This contrasts with Nissan's approach for its 2011 Leaf electric car, which required all buyers to register on a single website and put down a $95 deposit.
The Nissan approach clearly produced results. The company has already sold its first-year production of 20,000 Leafs, with 11,000 sold in the U.S. and 9,000 more in Japan.
Colors, options, pricing
The Volt will be offered in six colors, said DiSalle. In fact, both the first red Volt and the first black Volt rolled off the Hamtramck production line just this week. "They look great," he noted.
Other colors include Viridian Joule, the user-submitted name that won a naming contest at January's Detroit Auto Show, and a grey tone that will be seen on the Freedom Trip car.