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Electric car price war? Chevy chimes in with Volt incentives

Chevrolet ups the price incentive on the Volt as all-electric rivals get price drops.

Chevrolet Volt.
Chevrolet Volt.
General Motors

Chevrolet is offering a sizable price incentive in the face of price slashing in the electric car market.

The 2013 Volt now comes with a $4,000 cash-back incentive and the 2012 model ups that to $5,000, according to Michelle Malcho, a Chevrolet spokeswoman.

That's the largest Volt cash incentive that Chevy has offered to date, Malcho said.

Alternatively, a Volt can now be leased for $269 a month for 36 months with a $2,399 down payment.

The Volt is a plug-in hybrid (GM refers to it as an extended-range electric vehicle or E-REV) with a range of about 40 miles on electric power and another 300 to 400 miles on the range-extender gas engine.

The base price is $39,995 but -- in addition to the new Chevy incentives -- the Volt comes with other cash-back incentives and tax credits to effectively bring the price far below what's on the sticker. That includes a federal tax credit of $7,500 (if you buy the vehicle) and a $1,500 cash incentive in California.

Why now? In addition to getting ready for the upcoming 2014 Volt, "there's increased price competition in the market, whether it's electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles or plug-in vehicles," Malcho said.

Indeed, all-electric rivals are turning up the heat. Nissan is getting very aggressive on pricing for the Leaf, an all-electric with a range of about 75 miles. Since Nissan moved Leaf production to the U.S., the price has dropped to $29,650 -- a $6,400 price reduction over the 2012 model.

And it's showing up in sales. In May, Nissan sold 2,138 Leafs, up 319 percent over last year -- beating the Volt in May.

The Volt's May sales fell 4.3 percent, to 1,607, brining the total for first five months of this year to 7,157 compared to the Leaf's to-date total this year of 7,614.

And Honda is getting into the price-slashing act. That company recently announced a low lease rate for its Fit EV, an all-electric car offered in California. The Fit EV is being offered for $259 a month for a three-year lease with no down payment, unlimited miles, and included insurance coverage.

Honda is throwing in a Leviton home charging station for the car too.