The average new vehicle transaction price in the U.S. today is around $32,000.
Now it appears that the upcoming 2016 Chevrolet Volt may possibly have two model variants, one of them targeting a base price of $30,000.
That price could potentially equal--or undercut--every plug-in hybrid offered today by Ford, Honda, and Toyota, while still possibly offering greater all-electric range.
The report on the lower-priced 2016 Volt came out in April, via a story on Reuters billed as an exclusive, and has not been confirmed by Chevrolet.
But since GM is now starting to talk about the 2016 Volt it will unveil at January's Detroit Auto Show, it seemed a good time to revisit the possibility of a less-expensive Volt model.
Last August, the company cut the price of the then-new 2014 Chevy Volt to $34,995--a whopping $5,000 reduction.
At the time, Chevrolet marketers acknowledged that the goal was to bring the range-extended electric car onto the radar of price-sensitive shoppers who tune out anything that started at $40,000 or more.
2013 Chevrolet Volt - Driven, December 2012
Volt sales have essentially stayed flat for two years, at roughly 23,000 sold in 2013 and the current year trending about the same.
But all eyes now turn to what some are calling "Volt 2.0," which will continue to be built at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant but will be based on the new D2XX compact-car architecture that also underpins the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze (about to go on sale in China).
The Reuters report suggests that the lower-priced Volt will have a smaller lithium-ion battery pack, and likely a more basic trim level, with a price goal of a flat $30,000.
Today's Volt is rated at 38 miles of electric range, though the 2015 model got an incrementally larger battery pack that was not submitted for re-rating. Some have suggested that latest battery may now offer a genuine 40 miles of range--always the informal target for the car.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012
If the more expensive of the two new 2016 Volt models sticks with an electric range of about 40 miles, a new lower-priced 2016 Volt could offer a range of 25 to 30 miles and still beat every plug-in hybrid on the market today in electric range:
- 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: 11 miles (only 6 miles continuous) - base price incl. destination $30,815
- 2015 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid: 13 miles - base price incl. destination $40,570
- 2014 Ford C-Max Energi: 19 miles - base price $31,365 (plus destination)
- 2015 Ford Fusion Energi: 19 miles - base price $34,700 (plus destination)
The nearest competitor to a $30,000 Volt might be the rumored (but never confirmed) plug-in hybrid model of the Ford Focus compact hatchback.
Before Ford had to cut its mileage and electric range ratings for six different models, the putative Focus Energi was said to target 25 miles of range and a price under $30,000.
There are a few other plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric cars, but all are considerably pricier than the range of $30,000 to $35,000 a less-expensive new Volt might target.
The 2014 BMW i3 REx with the optional range-extending engine has a rated electric range of 72 miles, and a gasoline engine that boosts its total range to 150 miles.
It's also priced at about $45,000 and up, however, taking it out of contention with a $30,000 Volt. The 37-mile 2015 Cadillac ELR range-extended electric luxury coupe starts even higher, at $75,000,
2015 Ford C-Max Energi
And, for the record, the 2015 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid (16 miles of electric range) leaves the dealer with a six-figure price tag.
So the question becomes: What would Toyota and Ford do if a $30,000 Volt undercut their vehicles on price while offering greater all-electric range?
Such a car is strictly hypothetical at the moment, and GM declines to comment on future products.
But If the less-expensive Volt does appear, it may further broaden the array of electric ranges in plug-in cars that also have engines as backups.
We should know more within the next five months.