Chevy Volt demand high in Europe

GM sold more than 7,000 units of the European version of the extended range electric vehicle since it went on sale in February.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read

General Motors may have had to slow production of the Chevy Volt in the U.S. due to low demand, but it's flying out the door of dealerships in Europe.

The Opel Ampera, the European version of the extended range hybrid, went on sale in Europe in February, and has already received more than 7,000 orders, according to a Digital Trends article. That's almost as many plug-in hybrids the automaker sold in the U.S. all of last year.

Chevy sold 7,671 Volts in 2011 and 1,023 units last month in the U.S. In contrast, Toyota managed to move more than 1,200 Prius Cs when it opened the order books for the compact hybrid a few weeks ago. The difference in popularity is most likely due to price.

The Volt retails for $32,495 after a $7,500 federal tax rebate and travels up to 40 miles on electric power alone, and achieves an average of 37 mpg when propelled by the gasoline engine. The Prius C starts at $18,950, sans tax breaks, and gets an average of over 50 mpg.

The difference in up front price is clearly steep enough for drivers to opt for the hybrid over the extended range powertrain, especially since fuel prices swing greatly in the U.S. Car buyers also tend to see gasoline as more of a variable cost, unlike their car payments, and therefore often don't factor it into the carrying cost of the vehicle.

The average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. is $3.92 this week, which is up 30 cents from this time last year. But even though $4 per gallon gas will cut many summer road trips short, that's still a bargain compared to the nearly 6 euros that European drivers pay for each gallon (1.575 euros per liter) they buy.

In Europe, the Opel Ampera is offered at a spendy 41,950 euros. However, EU car buyers are more in the habit of buying fuel-efficient vehicles to combat the high price of gasoline. And with relatively short commutes, they may be able to operate the vehicle on electricity alone and rarely need to gas up their car, which will help offset the Ampera's high purchase price.

But with $5 gas prices seeming inevitable, you have to wonder: are Americans short sighted when it comes to buying cars?

Source: Digital Trends