2013 Chevrolet Volt
The recent $5,000 price cut for the 2014 Chevrolet Volt has dropped the range-extended electric car into a significant price bracket.
That group is the "$35,000 and under" club--occupied by every plug-in car on sale right now except for the Tesla Model S and the Toyota RAV4 EV.
It makes us wonder: Is $35,000 a kind of threshold price for volume electric cars?
Do customers see any vehicle above this point as inherently less attainable--making a price tag of $35,000 or less (before incentives) the limit to what most customers will pay?
That the Chevy Volt, recently dropped to $34,995, has had its best-ever month can be no coincidence. A price drop will always help sales along, but with over 3,300 vehicles sold in August the Volt beat its October 2012 best by almost a quarter.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, GM's North American president Mark Reuss explained that pricing much more in-line with that of the Nissan Leaf and even Toyota Prius was a big priority for Chevy, hence the large reduction.
For the next generation Volt, GM is looking at cutting $10,000 from the cost of the car.
Such a significant rise has to grab the attention of other carmakers, and adds weight to the theory that price is the number one factor influencing electric car sales, more so than range concerns or unfamiliarity.
Honda has already experienced the benefits of a lower price when it slashed the lease price for its Fit EV; Toyota is hoping for similar results with its recent RAV4 EV lease reduction, even if the sticker price remains above the $35,000 barrier.
GM Vice President Chris Perry is more explicit about the $35,000 mark.
"There are consumer habits at some of the shopping websites," he told Wards Auto, "Their cutoff has always been $35,000 and below, and we were always above that."
Others charge more
Some buck this trend, of course. Tesla Motors' Model S electric car sells in a more exclusive market segment and can therefore command a higher price--though it'll be interesting to see whether the firm's future smaller sedan breaks under this barrier.
GM itself will sell the upcoming Cadillac ELR for more than $35,000, though again its luxury billing will allow it to target more wealthy customers.
BMW's upcoming i3 electric city car will cost more too: $42,275 before incentives, and that's before you add on the cost of the optional range-extending engine.
Even more plug-in cars will join the market above this point, but for volume models like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, a sub-$35,000 price could be the tipping point for truly healthy sales. Rivals set to introduce similar cars over the next few years--such as Volkswagen with its e-Golf--would do well to take notice.
Of course, even lower prices will sell even more cars, and we look forward to further reductions over the next few years--but for a new, volume electric vehicle, customers clearly have their limits.
We'd like to hear from readers: What's your own personal threshold price for electric car ownership? Did the recent Chevrolet Volt price cut entice you into buying one?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.