“Comparing Volt to Prius v is apples to oranges,” said GM’s Rob Peterson in an email to Bloomberg. Not saying he’s wrong, but the 2012 Toyota Prius v, the tall-roof station wagon variant of the Prius hatchback, did outsell the Volt’s whole year of sales in a little more than two months.
Going on sale at the end of October, the Prius v found 8399 takers versus the Volt’s yearlong total of 7671 sales. There are some reasons for that, though.
The Prius v is vastly larger and starts at $27,140, including $760 for destination and handling. It uses the standard Prius’ powertrain, which delivers 42 mpg in mixed driving. The Volt costs $39,995 and has a federal tax incentive rebate of $7500 to lower that to $32,495. It can run up to 50 miles without needing its gas engine.
The Prius had its nationwide rollout at once while the Volt has been targeting larger markets and slowly filling the regions in between. So naturally, it was going to take a while longer for the Volt to saturate.
If that molasses-like debut weren’t slow enough, the federal investigation into fires that sparked after a handful of the plug-in electric vehicles caught fire cooled demand further. The problem has since been rectified, but it did nothing to help GM’s Volt woes, especially since the Detroit automaker had expected to sell 10,000 units in its first full year.
The Prius and Volt aren’t the same vehicles, and they don’t use the same technology. The Prius was heavily subsidized by the Japanese government when its technology first appeared at the end of the 1990s. Most of its models still use cheaper, old-school lead acid batteries. General Motors, on the other hand, is still losing money on its expensive lithium-ion-based plug-in technology, and it will try to spread the costs to the upcoming (and likely more expensive) Cadillac ELR in the near future.
We’re not apologists for General Motors, nor are we fanboys of the Toyota Prius. But chalk one up for outstanding marketing and development on the part of the Prius and a lackluster rollout for the Volt. Exposing the fact that the Chevrolet Volt has been a sales disappointment and contrasting it with a brand new Prius model brings in some perspective. Digging below the surface to find out why is a little more honest.