Production Ends March 2019; No Replacement In Sight
It was America’s first plug-in hybrd when introduced in 2010. General Motors predicted it would one day reach 100,000 units in annual sales. Yes, the Chevrolet Volt was a ground-breaking automobile back then, but times have changed. Buyers are flocking to crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks while electric vehicles—mainly Teslas and Chevy’s Bolt—are beginning to grab some market share.
The Volt never achieved annual sales above 25,000 (it looks like it will end up 2018 at somewhere north of 17,000) and passenger sedans now only account for 30 percent of all consumer vehicles sold in the U.S. With numbers like that, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that GM would end the Volt’s production on March 1, 2019. We are sad to see it go.
The irony is that 2017 has actually been a pretty good year for the Volt. As of the end of October, it was actually outselling the full-electric Bolt. Maybe it was a function of its shared platform—with the high-volume, low-profit Chevrolet Cruze—that may have doomed it.
The Volt demise was announced on Monday, when GM revealed that it would end production at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Michigan. Production at two other vehicle plants in North America will also end in 2019: Oshawa Assembly in Canada, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio (where the Cruze is produced). Two additional GM facilities—one near Baltimore and another in Michigan—that build transmissions and components for electrified cars, will also be shuttered.
More Models Deleted
That doesn’t mean the facilities will be abandoned, they will just be mothballed until other vehicles take the place of the dicontinued vehicles. In addition to the Volt, the company said that it will axe the Chevrolet Cruze and Impala and Buick LaCrosse during 2019. The Cadillac XTS and CT6 sedans may also be dropped next year.
“This industry is changing very rapidly,” General Motors CEO Mary Barra told reporters Monday. “We want to make sure we’re well positioned … These are things we’re doing to strengthen the core business.”
Barra also said that the production shutdowns would result in doubling the company’s investment in electric vehicles and self-driving technology. Last year the company announced it plans to launch 20 new EVS by 2023, many going to China.
The decision to close the production facilities and shift focus from smaller automobiles to trucks and SUVs closely follow a plan ushered by Ford earlier this year to drop most of its passenger car portfolio. GM confirmed that its U.S. customer preference has shifted in the same direction.
The backdrop for the announced plant closures is looming negotiations with union workers at GM plants. Although GM has posted profits in prior years since the last negotiations with the UAW in 2016, CEO Barra has publicly said that the automaker would need to adapt to a slowdown in auto sales from record highs in 2016 and 2017.
The restructuring announced Monday is coming at a high cost for GM employees. The company confirmed that they will be laying off almost 15,000 employees.
The Volt’s Unique Position
The Volt has the longest electric range of any plug-in hybrid electric car sold in the U.S., EPA rated at 53 miles all-electric. The company also sold versions of the Volt in China, as the Buick Velite, Europe as the Vauxhall and Opel Ampera and Australia as the Holden Volt.
Could the Volt have had a different fate if GM had marketed differently? During its nearly eight years of production it seemed as if the automaker put the car in a closet and closed the door.
As said earlier, pulling the plug on the Volt saddens us. The Volt was a game-changer, and GM can always say that it was a pioneer of the industry. Plus, the Volt was a stepping stone to the electric Chevrolet Bolt and whatever else GM wants to build with a plug. The Volt primed the pump for the future of electrification at GM. If that proves to be the extent of the vehicle’s usefulness, so be it.
Ed Note: I leased a 2018 Volt this year and will be reporting on my experience with it; we’re not saying goodbye yet—it’s a three-year lease. So, love it! One of the best car’s I’ve ever owned. – Michael Coates
Related Stories You Might Enjoy—Our History with the Volt
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Jackson Brown, Early Chevy Volt Owner Loves His Car