But today they have been taken over by Tesla.
When it launched in 2010, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid sedan had the potential to revolutionize the industry. GM was so confident about the Volt, it was hailed “the car of the future” in commercials. Owners could go fully electric without getting range anxiety since the Volt’s 50-mile electric range could cover most daily commutes in the US. Essentially, it was the first mass-market, long-range EV. It may technically have been a plug-in hybrid, but most owners only drove it using purely electric power.
It could cover long journeys too, as its gasoline engine powered an onboard generator to recharge the battery, providing a total hybrid range of over 400 miles. Unfortunately, the Volt hasn’t been the huge sales success GM was hoping since EV technology has evolved considerably since its launch.
Last month, GM announced the Volt is one of several sedans being axed as part of a significant restructure. As well as the Volt, the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Cruze, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, and Cadillac XTS will end production next year, while three plants are being shut down putting 6,200 jobs at risk. The Volt will cease production in March 2019, which didn't come as a surprise considering the decline of passenger car sales in the US. General Motors also plans to launch 20 new electric cars by 2023.
While the Volt had a short life, a report by Forbes reveals it was a huge success in certain US areas where GM vehicles were rarely seen. “Eight years ago, two upscale areas that I know well in Los Angeles were pretty much solid German and Japanese brand enclaves. Places GM brands had been ousted from years ago,” the report wrote. “But four years ago, this began to change. Slowly. Some of those car owners traded in their foreign nameplate for the Tesla Model S, some for - perish the thought - a Chevy."
Fast forward to 2018 and Tesla now dominates the EV market as the Model 3 has overtaken the Volt in these neighborhoods and replaced hybrids such as the Prius. “The neighborhood where I live, there has been a surge in Model 3 ownership, despite coming with a $45,000 - $65,000 price tag. I've really never seen anything like it - except for maybe the initial burst of consumer enthusiasm for the Prius.”
If GM is to succeed again in California, it needs another high-profile electric car and a charging infrastructure to compete with the Tesla Model 3 and the upcoming onslaught of German EVs from Audi and Mercedes.