Why Chevrolet Needs To Sell the Spark EV Across the U.S.

By · October 08, 2013

Chevy Spark

Chevrolet's Spark EV is sold only in California and Oregon.

General Motors confirmed last week that it has no plans to sell its all-electric Spark EV beyond select places in California and Oregon, reinforcing the widely held belief that the 2014 Spark EV is a compliance car that GM really didn’t want to make.

But could GM be overlooking a sleeper hit in the electric Spark? As evidenced by the growth of sales of the Nissan LEAF in previously underestimated markets, such as Georgia and South Caroline, there is demand for an EV that is affordable and quick, and has a unique design. When the gasoline version of the Chevy Spark hit the U.S. last year, it took off with young buyers, eager for a funky small car with big-car technology.

Last year, Chevrolet sold 6,313 gasoline Sparks between January and September. This year, its year-to-date sales have been 348.7 percent higher, totaling 28,324 cars. By comparison, Chevrolet sold 16,760 Volts during the same period.

Of course, the popularity of the gasoline Spark doesn’t necessarily mean its electric sibling will be a hit. But competitively priced lease and purchase deals, combined with the Spark EV’s performance edge on its gasoline sibling, could put it on the consideration list for eco-conscious buyers—if only it were made available in more markets.

Complimentary to Volt, and Future EVs

While the Chevrolet Volt is proving popular all across the U.S., not everyone needs or wants a range-extended EV. Combining the best parts of the Volt with a larger battery pack, powerful electric motor and the ability to quick charge in less than 30 minutes to 80 percent full, the Spark EV is a sold choice for those who want to benefit from Chevrolet’s experience with electric cars but don’t want or need the complications of a gasoline engine.

Moreover, since dealerships all over the U.S. are now selling and servicing Chevrolet Volts, the amount of training needed to prepare to sell the Chevrolet Spark is far less than establishing training from scratch. The high voltage service training needed for the Spark EV would logically be similar to training needed by dealerships to sell and service the Volt.

As Nissan has illustrated, sales success for an EV in a particular market depends on the commitment of individual dealerships. Just like Nissan dealers, some Chevrolet dealers will be enthusiastic about selling the Spark EV, while others will be distrustful or ambivalent.

By giving national dealerships the ability to opt-in to selling the Spark EV, in much the same way that they opt in to selling performance or other niche marques like the Corvette brand, Chevrolet could leverage pro-EV dealerships. This would help build its electric vehicle brand outside of key markets in California and Oregon. Other dealerships could simply opt-out. This approach could eliminate the potential for poorly-trained disinterested dealers damaging the Spark EV’s reputation—but give dealers who know they have EV buyers the option to sell more cars.

If GM is honestly planning to bring a 200-mile, affordable EV to the market in the next five years, as CEO Dan Akerson claims, expanding its Spark EV dealer network would pave the way. GM could ensure that car buyers associate the brand with a company dedicated to the future of vehicle electrification, rather than having that reputation sullied by minimal regional sales of another compliance electric car.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

I think GM is waiting to fill the ZEV quota first before it worries about more sales across the country.

Also, it doesn't want to risk Volt sales with tax incentives quota until Gen II.

· · 4 years ago

Yeah, the problem is that they are selling it at a loss in a couple ZEV states to get ZEV credits. Why would they want to lose more money by expanding sales to states where they don't get ZEV credits.

This is kind of a back-fire aspect of the ZEV program . . . it gets EVs to the market . . . but only in the ZEV states.

· · 4 years ago

EVs will become mainstream when you can buy a 10year, 500lb, 50kw battery for less than $5,000.

· · 4 years ago

"While the Chevrolet Volt is proving popular"

No it's not. As you state earlier, the Volt sold 16,000 units last year. According to GM, that makes it roughly just popular enough to bother to sell it at all. Nevermind the rumours that it's taking a loss on every car. The primary reason they're selling it nationwide is probably purely as a condition of getting their bailout loan.

If, on the other hand, they were selling 160,000 units a year and they were making $8,000 on each one, then you could 1) claim that it was proving popular, and 2) make the case that they'd be delighted to sell more of the same. But at the same time, you wouldn't have to make the case, because GM would *actually* be delighted to make and sell more of the same.

Sorry, but as much as I'd like to believe that EVs are selling like hotcakes and that they're already taking over the automotive world, that just ain't so. If we're really, really lucky, that might almost be true in about 10 years, and even then most people will still want to stick to gas.

· · 4 years ago

@TheBraveLittleToaster
"As you state earlier, the Volt sold 16,000 units last year."
The above interpretation of yours is incorrect. He meant cumulative US sales from Jan. 2012 to Sep. 2012
The 2012 total US sales figure is 23,461

· · 4 years ago

@The BraveLittle Toaster

Please do some research before you quote people.

"As you state earlier, the Volt sold 16,000 units last year"

He didn't state that. He stated that for the "same period". Volt actually sold more than 24,000 units for year of 2012.

"The primary reason they're selling it nationwide is probably purely as a condition of getting their bailout loan. "

IF you have learned to do some reading, you would know that it had NOTHING to do with bailout condition. Actually they didn't want GM to sell Volt since it lost money. GM wanted to for the future of the company.

If GM didn't want to sell more, then why does it bother to lower the 2014 price by $5K to better compete with other plugin EV?

Also, Volt is the best selling plugin car in the US. That is a fact.

Please get yourself informed, you started to sound like one of those Fox News "sheeps"....

· · 4 years ago

Your last paragraph is the clincher. If they are worried about Tesla - and I believe they are - they need to get serious about building EV's. They can start with an ~80-90 mile EV - the Spark EV, and they can improve on the aerodynamic drag and as batteries get better, either the range can go up and/or the cost of the car can come down.

Develop a direct heating defroster and put heated seats for all people in the car - these will greatly improve the range in the winter. Add thermal insulation and improve the thermal stability in warm and cold seasons.

Slim down the seats so that there is more room inside the car - well designed seats can be more comfortable, as well. Team up with Tesla and get side view video mirrors over the legal hurdle, and every car can reduce the Cd and the frontal area.

Be the first to sell a 125 mile $30,000 five seat car. Sell a midsize pickup EV with 100+ mile range, and a 6-7 seat "tall station wagon". Then sell a 160 mile $25,000 car - and so on!

· · 4 years ago

Nikki,

I totally agree, have been commenting about it in my blog posts - and am glad to see a post in some EV site dedicated to this call.

Maybe someone in GM is listening? There is no nationwide offering in the urban-subcompact EV segment, which is arguably the most natural segment for early EV market penetration. As you say, the constituency for a Spark EV is quite distinct from the Volt, they won't be competing with themselves.

These things will sell fast! The cost-of-ownership on a lease is lower than the ICE Spark (that's one reason why people are turning to the Leaf now, cost-of-ownership).

If you doubt the existence of a demand, see how nicely the 2-seater Smart ED is ramping up. It's sold in only 6 states so far, slated to expand early next year. Compared with the Spark, the Smart is a veritable golf-cart and its highway range is ridiculous. But Americans are still buying it.

· · 4 years ago

The Spark EV is an interesting car, and it's all the more interesting that it is only on sale in 2 states, obvioulsy as a compliance car. Physically, the car matches up well to the Mitsubishi I-MiEV; at the very least it is as large and roomy as the I. It has what appears to be 30 more miles of range, along with much better handling. The sale price is less than the lowest model "I" also(if there are any still left to buy in the US). As one who drives an "I" every day, I can assure you that its size is perfectly acceptable for me and most others. It does what it says it can do. But the Spark EV does all of that and much more for less. Yes, there are issues with the SAE combo charger(whenever it is actually brought into the model, seems to be getting pushed back). The "I" that I drive has neither a QC option nor a 6.6 battery recharger, and it still works. But if the Spark EV can get that QC charge option working, and widespread, it truly becomes a very practical car for the money. In fact, I'd consider purchasing one as opposed to leasing if the QC issues could be squared away. But, since I live in PA, we'll probably never see a Spark EV. Too bad, GM. You have a very respectable product that would sell in volume, if you chose to make it available in non compliance states.
Lou

· · 4 years ago

GM is like the Titanic, and they already steered it into an iceberg once.

If GM was really serious about EREVs, they would have already moved the Voltec power train into a crossover vehicle that could carry 5 and luggage to match, and be working on putting it into pickups and vans where it could make a vast difference.

If GM was really serious about EVs, they would have put the power train into the better looking and more popular Sonic, and be ramping up to sell it nationwide. The Spark EV is a compliance car, pure and simple.

Lutz was the man who pushed for the Volt, and Lutz doesn’t work for GM anymore. Funny though, Lutz is the one trying to put EREV drive trains into pickups and vans, not GM.

Hey GM.... see that iceberg in the distance? There's still time to steer away from it. What 'cha gonna do?

· · 4 years ago

@Rick Danger,

By your logic, if Nissan was serious about EVs, it would have a 200 miles $35K EV by now...

Who said that GM is NOT working on another EREV? ELR is coming out with more power and better interior than the Volt.

Volt was launched in 2010/2011. SparkEV is being launched in 2013 and ELR in 2014.
By 2016, the Gen II Volt will be out....

I call that a decent progress.

· · 4 years ago

So, to review - when GM swore up and down months ago that the Spark EV was NOT a compliance car, they were basically lying through their teeth.

Just want to be clear on that.

· · 4 years ago

@vike1108,

GM doesn't think so b/c the SparkEV is also planned for S. Korea and Fleet sales for Canada. Other "compliance" cars like eRav4/eFit/500e don't do similar things.

I think we can call it "mild Compliance Cars". We can include Ford Focus Electric in that group.

At least it is one of the decent compliance cars that got a sporty side and just about blow the door of its ICE version.

· · 4 years ago

The Focus Electric is sold at Ford dealers across the United States. If you want one, you can buy it - Ford has made clear they have had no problem meeting demand. If GM has its way, it will never sell a Spark EV to individual buyers in the U.S. outside of two states. There is no "group" in which these both belong - those marketing plans are not similar in any meaningful way.

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