Survey Says: Dealers Are Key To Chevy Volt’s Success

By · October 02, 2012

Chevy Volt on dealership lot

There is a love-hate thing going on between Chevrolet dealers and the Chevy Volt. Some love it because they can offer really great lease deals, and are enamored with the technology. But a smaller number really dislike it. GM needs to find a way to turn more of its dealers on to the Volt, because they will be very important to boosting sales.

I’m basing this on conversations with dealers, and also on the results of an online survey by AutoRetailNet, a newish publication aimed at dealers. (Full disclosure—I am the west coast editor of AutoRetailNet, which has both monthly and weekly editions.) I read all the responses to our survey. They didn’t always reflect what you might imagine. Dealers in California disliked the Volt. Dealers in Wisconsin loved it. Even though Texas was forecast by Pike Research in a recent study to be a future hotbed of PEV ownership, a dealer in Texas said in the survey, “We can’t sell them here. The fad has worn off.”

An overwhelming 83.8 percent thought the time is right for the Volt. But only 56.4 percent thought Volt sales would increase in 2013; and 43.6 percent did not think sales would increase.

The main reason they cited for no increase was the Volt’s high price—61.5 percent thought the pricing was wrong. The main reason for sales increasing was reflected in this answer: “The Volt has an amazing amount of technology built into it. People who own one are very happy and great ambassadors for the vehicle. As word continues to build the sales will come.”

Split Decision

They were, however, extremely split on whether or not GM was correctly marketing the Volt. Some 38.5 percent thought the marketing of the Volt was poor or very poor; 46.2 percent thought it good or very good; 15.4 percent had no opinion. They were split on whether giving consumers more information about the Volt would attract more customers. A dealer in Kansas thought GM should stress fuel savings, not “greenness.” A California dealer thought GM had talked up the Volt too much and it was hurting sales. “Make a great car and let it speak for itself,” he said.

Getting dealers on the Volt’s side is crucial. A recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled “Policy Priorities for Advancing the U.S. Electric Vehicle Market” recommended using dealers as marketers and advocates to boost electric vehicle sales. Dealers are politically powerful and can support local EV initiatives with their legislators, as well as spreading information through advertising, said the report. “Automakers will need to work closely with dealers so that sales behavior meets customers’ expectations from first purchase to ongoing maintenance and repair,” the Carnegie report said.

Seems like GM needs to take that advice to heart.


· Senator Blutarsky (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Volt has clearly been the target of some unjustified, and often ignorant attacks. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the economics of the Volt.

However, it is also clear that the Volt, at least in its first iteration, is a highly unprofitable enterprise. I have posted what seems to be the first detailed analysis of the Volt’s profitability, drawing on public data and where necessary making estimates.

Even while trying to err on the side of GM in making those estimates, I calculate a lifetime economic loss to GM shareholders of $600 million on the first generation of the Volt, including nearly $1 billion in tax credits. Excluding the subsidies, the cumulative loss triples to $1.8 billion:

· Mark Hill (not verified) · 5 years ago

I test drove a Volt this last weekend. I have been wanting a Volt since 2008 when I first heard they were going to make one. The ride was great! Especially when compared to the Prius my wife and I rented in Portland, Or in May. I liked the interior, while my wife complained about the lack of trunk space and limited leg room in the back seat. I was sold, she was not. But it all came down to price.We can't fork out 44K plus tax title and registration, when it is just a car (granted an extremely awesome car). I could put in a pool for that, or take 10 trips to Disney Land with the family, or buy a cheaper fuel efficient car and still end up cheaper within 10 year for gas. I know people say there is a 7500 tax credit, but that is still just a tax credit and only respresents real money to the govt, imho. Unless some rich philanthropist out there will sponsor my great desire for this car, the consensus at home is "not unless you win the lottery, dear."

· Voltowner (not verified) · 5 years ago

Mark, have you considered leasing it, they have lease deals for $299/month or less right now. I leased one in June and haven't used a drop of gas, so the more I drive, the less it costs me each month because of the gas I'm not using.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

This is a well written article. I totally agree. I had to wait 2 months and went through 4 different Chevy Dealers to get my Volt. My local Chevy dealer was terrible. The sales staff are complete idiots. They had NO idea on how the Volt works. And they had NO desire of selling it. The second local Chevy dealer (10 miles away) wanted to sell me a car but was completely clueless. The salesperson didn't even know the car can go farther after the EV range showed 1 mile left during my test drive. The third dealer (25 miles away) had an internet manager who was smart and knows enough about the Volt to sell the car. But they had NO inventory at all. They sold theirs quickly and couldn't get more. Then I went to another dealer (42 miles away) who didn't really had any Volt but had no clue how the Volt worked. But they actually traded their only Volt away to a color that I liked in trying to get my business. But they were going to charge me $1,500 over MSRP for it. I said No.

Finally, after about 2 months, I went another Chevy dealer (54 miles away) who had a lot of Volts (also sell about 35-50 Volts per month) and the entire sales staff (from manager to the sales person) are very well informed about the Volt and know how to "sell" it and how to compare it with other hybrid, EV and conventional cars. They knew the key points, advantages and disadvantages. No wonder they sold a lot of Volt. So, I end up getting my Volt from them with exact the option and color that I wanted. I paid $500 below MSRP for it.

But it took me 2 months of efforts to get the car. Most people would have given up on it long ago... Most people wouldn't drive 54 miles out their way (passing 4 other Chevy dealers on way) to get that car.

If I was marketing manager for GM, I would have started a new "internet Sales" with all the new and upcoming "high tech" cars and allow people to buy the car directly from GM and pick them up at a "preferred" dealer who has the training and staff to help the customer... Setting up "demo" stores in large Metro area like Tesla doesn't hurt either...

· Like_Budda (not verified) · 5 years ago

Hmmm everyone's an armchair CEO
I wonder if the author and the people at AutoRetailNet realize that not all Chevrolet dealers are Volt dealers? Participation in sales/service of the Volt was NOT mandatory and only a fraction of Chevy dealers are also Volt dealers. SO was this "survey" going out to ALL GM dealers? All Chevrolet dealers? or just Volt dealers? The fact that the don't bother to differentiate leads to to believe this survey is very likely meaningless and the analysis being attempted in this article seriously flawed. (Why would you ask a non-Volt dealer accurately express what they feel about GMs Volt marketing, they've already expressed their disinterest and don't know a thing about the product!)

In order to determine IF a particular Chevy dealer is also a Volt dealer one can utilize this handy online tool:

· Like_Budda (not verified) · 5 years ago

Hmmmm more armchair CEOs working off potentially seriously flawed data.
I wonder if the author and AutoRetailNet realize that not all Chevrolet dealers are Volt dealers? FYI dealer participation in the Volt program was NOT mandatory. Some dealers can both sell and service the Volt and others still can only service it. So was this "survey" given to ALL GM dealers? all Chevrolet dealers? just Volt dealers? or...

So without this clarification the assessements being made of such data here might be deemed next to useless as many of these anti-Volt statements could easily be from dealers that do not sell or support the Volt. What would they know amout how it works or how its been marketed from Detroit. They can't know, and may have already expressed their disinterest for whatever reasons (finacial or political?) so what is this servey really telling anyone?? For information to determine WHICH Chevy dealers are Volt dealers you can use this online tool from the Chevrolet website:

· Like_Budda (not verified) · 5 years ago

@Senator Blutarsky Your so-called "financial analysis" is so seriously flawed, I wouldnt know where to begin to help you to correct it (and not like you would accept or understand the factual data anyways) Do yourself a favor, toss your erroneous data into the burn barrel and don't quit your day job at the carwash...

· Former caddy owner (not verified) · 5 years ago

Blutarsky, you're at it again. Even the flawed Reuters report on the loss of $49k per Volt is much more accurate than yours. Reuters states that the actual cost of building each Volt is $26k. The idiots over there added R & D costs and then calculated the "loss" figure for the first 21k Volts sold.

About 8,000 more Volts have been sold since then. What is the loss now? Even Reuters admits the "loss" will come down as sales go up. Paragraph 23 states "this number will, of course, come down as more Volts are sold". OF COURSE!!!

Auto analysts put the R & D costs at $1.2 billion. Given the current rate of Volt sales, not allowing for a better rate, the Volt will become profitable in 3 hears. The Prius took 5 years to become profitable.

I read your report. So much smoke and so many mirrors. If your goal was to confuse people, you did a great job. If your goal was accuracy, you get an F.

· Former caddy owner (not verified) · 5 years ago

I am not surprised that some dealerships don't like the Volt. Quite a few owners are Republicans.

I was lucky to buy my Volt at Courtesy Chevrolet of San Jose, CA. They have hosted 3 Volt owner workshops and we just had a meeting to start the first Volt Owners Of America Club. There were about 40 Volts there. They have sold many more than that. The dealership is footing the entire bill. They claim to be the number 1 Volt dealer in America. I wouldn't doubt it.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Are you sure you meant Courtesy and not Capital Chevrolet? I only ask because I went by Courtesy Chverolet and they only had 5-6 Volts on the lot and they were all sold. On the other had Capitol Chevrolet had many more, and they had about 100 on order.

· Former caddy owner (not verified) · 5 years ago

No, I mean Courtesy.  I tried to buy a Volt from Capitol, but they added $5k to the price of the car.  Went to Courtesy that day and bought my Volt, sans the $5k charge.

There has been another workshop since this and we are having another on Dec. 16.

First Volt Owners Club Of America

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