2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt has been in gestation so long, we've wondered if it ever would become a reality. Now the reality is here.

GM announced the price for the 2011 Volt at Plug-In 2010, a conference being held this week in San Jose.

The Volt's MSRP will be $41,000, which includes a $720 destination fee.  Early estimates had pegged the price at roughly $40,000, perhaps slightly less.

Lower lease price

GM also tossed a curve ball into the mix: The three-year lease price for the Volt will be $350 a month, with a $2,500 down payment. That's only a dollar higher than the lease for the 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car, despite the Volt's much higher purchase price.

In both cases, a $7,500 Federal electric-vehicle tax credit is factored into the lease calculation, going not to the Volt buyer but to the lessor.

How can GM offer such low leases? Joel Ewanick, GM's vice president of U.S. marketing, says the Volt's expected residual value will be very high, for two reasons.

First, demand will exceed production for at least two years, and the car's 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty on all electric components will reassure buyers nervous about how the new technology will last after a few years.

Nissan Leaf still cheaper

Still, the other electric car going on sale this year, the 2011 Nissan Leaf, is considerably cheaper than the Volt. Its starting MSRP is $32,780 for buyers who purchase the car.

Yesterday, before the 2011 Volt pricing was announced, Nissan's director of product planning Mark Perry told our Marty Padgett, "We're going to be $10K cheaper than anyone else out there." He was closer to the mark than many had hoped.

Though both cars plug in and are powered by electric motors, they're not entirely comparable. The Leaf offers up to 100 miles of range solely from its battery, whereas the Volt gives up to 40 miles of electric range plus a further 300 miles from a gasoline engine that powers its onboard generator.

GM is heavily stressing the Volt's lack of range anxiety, with Ewanick and other executives hitting the theme at least nine separate times by our count during a half-hour phone call.

Government incentives

Both the 2011 Volt and the 2011 Leaf qualify for the maximum $7,500 federal tax credit for buyers of electric cars with battery packs of 16 kilowatt-hours or more. For purchasers, that brings the effective cost of the Volt down to $33,500, and the Leaf to $25,280.

Depending on where you live, there may also be state and local incentives on top of the Federal credit. California offers a further $5,000 tax rebate for the Leaf, but it will not apply to the Volt. Tax credits are offered in Georgia ($5,000) and Oregon ($1,500) as well.

Other plug-in perks include single-driver access to California's high-occupancy vehicle lanes, but current legislation won't extend that to the Volt either.

Only four options

Chevrolet stresses that the 2011 Volt comes fully equipped, including eight airbags, standard Bluetooth, five years of Onstar "directions and connections" service, and other niceties that cost extra in most models.

Only four options are offered. One is a premium trim package that adds leather to the steering wheel and the seats, which are heated, along with different interior door graphics.

There's also a backup camera and park-assist package, plus premium polished wheels, and three extra-cost paint colors. A 2011 Chevy Volt with every option stickers at $44,600.

Want one? See your dealer

The first Volts will arrive at Chevrolet dealers in November, first in California, followed by the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, then Washington, D.C., followed by Michigan, and finally Texas.

Interested buyers can now register at GetMyVolt.com, where they will be directed to call, e-mail, or visit their nearest Volt-certified Chevrolet dealer to place an order with a Volt Specialist.

Chevy plans to keep customers who have placed orders apprised of their car's place in the production queue, since only 10,000 will be built during 2011, with a further 30,000 in 2012.

[General Motors]