09/15/2019

GM Bids Farewell to Its Breakthrough Electric Car

The plug-in electric vehicle won praise from auto critics who heralded the car as an engineering marvel when it was introduced in 2010. The acclaim eased some of the pain from GM’s bankruptcy at the time and showed that Detroit could still develop an enviable vehicle.

The Volt, though, was also a big money loser for GM. It cost a lot to build and wasn’t a big seller because of its high price and customer skepticism about American-made cars. With a number of electric vehicles in the pipeline using similar technology, the auto maker said last month that it would end production of the Volt by March and idle the Detroit factory where it is built as part of a broader restructuring.

. . . Even with the tax credit, the Volt struggled to appeal to a broader base of consumers beyond environmentalists and tech-savvy buyers. U.S. sales peaked in 2016 at a paltry 25,000 vehicles, about one-fifth the number of Toyota Prius hybrid cars sold that year. This year, GM is on pace to sell about 20,000 Volts, flat compared with last year.

The Volt was also a money loser for the Detroit car maker because it was expensive to make with a high-cost battery pack and the need for both an electric motor and gasoline engine. For a time, GM was losing $8,000 to $10,000 on every Volt it sold, according to people familiar with the matter.

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