PHOTO CAPTION: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV: more were sold in April 2015 than the Volt.

Do Spark EV Sales Point to Public Attitude Change?

In April 2015, more Chevrolet Spark EV electric cars were sold or leased than the first generation Volt, GM's current 'halo' car.

Published: 13-May-2015

Slowing sales of the five year-old Chevrolet Volt, the world's first production electric hybri, caused General Motors to prematurely halt production at its Hamtramck assembly plant in Detroit, so that current inventory can be cleared out and the plant readied for production of the redesigned and re-engineered 2016 model, pictured below. In April, the company sold just 905 units. Over the course of its production life, GM sold more than 76,000 of its post-bankruptcy 'halo' car. The company had planned back in the 2010 time frame that by now it would be selling 60,000-100,000 units a year of the extended range EV. Its initial $41,000USD price tag and temporary status as a political football during the 2012 U.S. Presidential election cycle, likely slowed the pace of sales. A battery fire also tarnished the 'halo' a bit. The car also garnered a long list of media accolades and engineering awards.

While Volt sales stalled from highs of over 2,000 a month at its peak, surprisingly, the little Spark EV, an all-electric version of the Spark sub-compact car, have suddenly started to take off, selling more 920 units in April, despite being available only in California and Oregon. GM will add Maryland to the list later this year. Only 1,146 were sold in all of 2014.

Why now? Certainly part of the reason is the car's comparatively low price. GM dropped the MSRP by $1,500 last month. Combine that price cut with federal tax credits and those offered by California ($2,500), and the eventual out-of-cost cost can drop for some buyers to as low as $14,995, making it the lowest cost electric car available in the U.S.A., putting it in the same price range as the gasoline version. Previously, Mitsubishi's i-MiEV was the most affordable EV in the nation.

The other reason may be - we can hope - that buyers are starting to realize that all-electric cars can, in fact, meet their daily transportation needs. With an EPA-rated range of 82 miles per charge, the Spark EV easily delivers as a daily commuter for most people. [Also see: Goodbye, Range Anxiety? Electric Vehicles May Be More Useful Than Previously Thought.]

One wonders what sales of the Spark EV might have been had it been available in all 50 US states and not just California and Oregon. April's sales also may bode well for the debut of the Chevrolet Bolt, GMs newest all-electric car, which it unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It has subsequently announced that the car will go into production and go on sale sometime in the 2017-2018 time frame. With a hoped for range of 200 miles, it could easily become GM's next 'halo' car, as well as offer serious competition for the Tesla Model 3 due out about the same time.

We won't know until early June, when May sales figures come out, whether April Spark EV sales were an outlier or signaled a trend that an affordable EV can be a game changer, and that the public's perception of the utility of an all-electric car may, in fact, be shifting from one tainted by range anxiety to one driven by economic pragmatism.

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