If there is one thing that bothers me is the notion of guilty until proven innocent. Go and visit other countries and this is the way of life there. Not so in the U.S., unless you work for NHTSA. Recent headlines have said that the Volt is basically a tinderbox on wheels…when you have a side impact with a light pole or tree. Statistically unproven and contrary to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety findings that the Volt is a safe vehicle for the masses.
Two new, completely different high efficiency cars entered the American car market earlier this year – the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – and AutoPacific set out to find out how different the owners of those cars were from owners of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. We also are looking at how satisfied buyers are with the cars and what they would like changed.
Think of these four cars as being purpose-built for their technology. They did not simply adapt their new powertrain technology to an existing vehicle such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Chevrolet Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle. The Nissan Leaf is a pure Battery Electric Vehicle. And the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are pure Hybrids.
Based on AutoPacific’s annual New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey which has a total of almost 73,000 new car and light truck owner responses to a comprehensive questionnaire about the car buying and ownership experience, the comparison finds some interesting and insightful results.
Leaf and Volt Owners are Dramatically Different from Prius and Insight Owners: Volt owners paid $43,000 for their new car. Leaf owners paid $34,500. Prius and Insight owners paid $25,000 and $21,000 respectively. Given the price points, Volt and Leaf owners are the most affluent with incomes of $150,000. Prius owners have an income of $100,000 and Insight owners have an income of $80,000.
Leaf and Volt owners are much more likely to be male and much more into the technology of their new car. They are very similar to early buyers of hybrids who were enamored with the new innovative technology of their vehicle. The Leaf and Insight owners are the youngest of the group at 53 and 54 years of age respectively. Owners of the much more expensive Volt are 58 as are owners of the Prius.
Leaf owners have the highest level of education. About 90% have a college education. About 70% of Volt, Insight and Prius owners have a college education. Leaf owners are much more likely to be retired (almost 50%). Only 17% of Insight owners are retired. About a third of Leaf owners are in a technical profession as are 20% of Volt owners.
Leaf owners are most likely (24%) to have owned a hybrid before. Prius owners are almost as likely to have owned a hybrid (23%) as Leaf owners. Volt (8%) and Insight (8%) owners are newcomers to the world of alternative fuel vehicles. Volt owners are most likely to have previously driven a compact car (18%) or mid-size car (14%), Insight owners were most likely to have previously driven a compact car (23%) or a mid-size car (23%).
Satisfaction – Volt Wins: About 86% of Volt owners are very satisfied with their vehicles compared with 80% of Leaf owners, 70% of Prius owners and 54% of Insight owners. Among these four cars, Volt owners are most satisfied by a substantial margin. Leaf and Prius owners are about equally satisfied. Insight owners are the least satisfied among the four cars. Out of 48 satisfaction categories in the research, Volt owners are the most satisfied in 38 of the categories… an overwhelming win.
Not at all unlike the GM E-Flex platform in concept, shown first under the Chevrolet Volt and in Frankfurt under the Opel Flextreme, the Volvo Recharge at the 2007 Frankfurt show used a lithium-ion battery pack to power individual electric wheel motors. (Follow this link to see Volvo’s press conference.) The internal combustion engine on board is used for backup and battery recharging only, and has no part in moving the vehicle. The Recharge was designed for plug-in application, with Volvo estimating about three hours for a full charge. Volvo estimated the electric-only range to be about 62 miles, leading the company to note that Recharge would be best suited for those with daily round-trip commutes below that distance. While GM has shown its E-Flex platform with concept-car bodies above, Volvo put their new C30 on top of the Recharge platform.
The Conceptual Answer?
A tangible concept can help communicate in a way words never could. General Motors’ introduction of its Chevrolet Volt Concept Vehicle at the 2007 North American Auto Show put hardware in the forefront where GM only trotted out talking heads at the LA Auto Show. In Los Angeles, GM simply stood behind a podium and rattled off statistics and their plans for a greener future. But in Detroit they communicated with a concept that probably created the most positive ‘green’ PR buzz they’ve had in awhile.
In fact, the Volt may be a green idea that would get the most jaded of AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers “green”.
Is the Chevrolet Volt the Most Important Concept at NAIAS?
The Chevrolet Volt, seemed to zap the audience into believing GM will rule the global market with a cure-all plug-in vehicle. In terms of powertrain technology the Volt may have been the most important vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show.
The illusive answer to the problem of petroleum-based transportation has been challenging both consumers and automotive manufacturers for years and yet no long-term definitive answer has been delivered. Sure, some auto manufacturers have toyed with plug in electric vehicles but they have either been viewed as science experiments for the environmentally friendly few or self-proclaimed socially conscious. The Chevrolet Volt may be the conceptual (read: theoretical) answer allowing the consumer to choose the most energy efficient solution within their geographic region.