Consumer Reports: GM's Volt 'doesn't really make a lot of sense'
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington - Consumer Reports offered a harsh initial review of the
Chevrolet Volt, questioning whether General Motors Co.'s flagship vehicle
makes economic "sense."The extended-range plug-in electric vehicle is on the
cover of the April issue - the influential magazine's annual survey of
vehicles - but the GM vehicle comes in for criticism.
"When you are looking at purely dollars and cents, it doesn't really make a
lot of sense. The Volt isn't particularly efficient as an electric vehicle
and it's not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel
economy," said David Champion, the senior director of Consumer Reports auto
testing center at a meeting with reporters here. "This is going to be a
tough sell to the average consumer."
The magazine said in its testing in Connecticut during a harsh winter, its
Volt is getting 25 to 27 miles on electric power alone.
GM spokesman Greg Martin noted that it's been an extremely harsh winter -
and as a Volt driver he said he's getting 29-33 miles on electric range. But
he noted that in more moderate recent weather, the range jumped to 40 miles
on electric range or higher.
Champion believes a hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, may make more sense
for some trips.
"If you drive about 70 miles, a Prius will actually get you more miles per
gallon than the Volt does," Champion said.
But GM has noted that most Americans can avoid using gasoline for most
regular commuting with the Volt, while its gasoline engine can allow the
freedom to travel farther, if needed.
The magazine has put about 2,500 miles on its Volt. It paid $48,700,
including a $5,000 markup by a Chevy dealer.
Champion noted the Volt is about twice as expensive as a Prius.
He was said the five hour time to recharge the Volt was "annoying" and was
also critical of the power of the Volt heating system.
"You have seat heaters, which keep your body warm, but your feet get cold
and your hands get cold," Champion said.
Consumer Reports will release a full road test of the Volt later this year
and will update it.
Champion praised the heater on the all-electric Nissan Leaf - which Consumer
Reports borrowed from the Japanese automaker -- but said it also got very
short ranges in very cold weather.
On one commute, his range in a Leaf was at 43 miles when he turned onto an
eight-mile stretch of highway, but it fell from 43 to 16 miles after eight
miles at 70 mph.
"If it keeps on going down at this rate, will I get to work," Champion said.
Champion said in an interview he thinks the Volt "will sell the quantity
that they want to sell to the people that really want it."
Despite his criticism of the Volt, Champion praised its acceleration and
acknowledged that under certain driving cycles, consumers could mostly avoid
using gasoline. The magazine noted the Volt is nicely equipped and has a
"taut yet supple ride."
But he said there are a lot of trade-offs.
"They are going to live with the compromises the vehicle delivers," Champion
said. "When you look at it from a purely logical point of view, it doesn't
make an awful lot of sense."
Before Consumer Reports decides whether to recommend the Volt, it needs data
from at least 100 subscribers who own one, and a year of reliability data.
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