Chevy limits next-gen Volt’s availability until 2016

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

The new 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will be available only in select states such as California and Oregon this fall and not across the nation as previously planned, Chevrolet confirmed Monday.

The Volt, built locally at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, won’t be available to buy in Michigan and across most of the United States until early next spring — and as a 2017 model. Previously, Chevrolet had said the 2016 next-generation Volt would be available in dealerships this fall.

“Chevrolet has a shortened model year for the 2016 Chevy Volt that will have a limited distribution network,” brand spokesman Michael Albano said in a statement. “The 2016 Volt will be sold in our strongest EREV (extended-range electric vehicle) markets. The 2017 Chevrolet Volt will begin production early this spring and will be available throughout the country.”

Chevrolet said it is adding some new customer convenience features — think advanced radio or cruise control — for the 2017 model year. Albano would not say specifically what the new features will be for the 2017 model, but said they won’t affect the Volt’s electric range or performance.

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific, said Detroit-Hamtramck also is launching the highly anticipated Cadillac CT6 flagship sedan and may want to launch the Volt into markets where it will sell the best. “They’re going to direct the first vehicles to places where there is more of a demand for the vehicles,” he said.

Sullivan said Chevy may be considering adding a more powerful onboard charging system for the 2017 model year, which would help the Volt charge faster.

Last month, Chevy announced the 2016 Volt would get an estimated 53 miles of electric range, up nearly 40 percent from the first generation Volt. The 53 miles is higher than GM’s original estimate of 50 miles and the 38-mile range the current generation gets.

Several Volt and electric vehicle enthusiast websites and blogs such as Inside EVs and gm-volt.com over the weekend posted photos of Chevy dealer ordering information. A screen shot from the ordering guide says the 2016 Volt will be available in just 11 states: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. An earlier ordering guide indicated production nationally would begin in November.

In the past, Chevy has shipped vehicles first to certain markets before a national roll-out, such as with the subcompact Trax and the Spark.

About 40 percent of Volt sales are in California.

The 2016 Volt debuted in January at the North American International Auto Show. It will go on sale starting at $33,395, about $1,200 cheaper than the 2015 model.

Analysts also said the automaker may be working to clear inventory of the 2015 model. AutoTrader.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs said the average incentive on the Volt last month was $15,414 and supply had fallen to 46 days from more than 200 days in March. The electric vehicle segment has had record incentive levels as sales have fallen amid low gas prices, Krebs said.

Volt sales of 8,315 vehicles through August this year have fallen significantly, down 36.7 percent compared to the same months in 2014.

mburden@detroitnews.com