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.

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