2011 Chevrolet Volt
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Extended range electric powertrain, federal and state incentives, still-high gasoline prices and hip interior and exterior design are all helping the Chevrolet Volt lead U.S. plug-in vehicle sales. Even though the overall numbers remain small, the Volt is clearly bypassing the Nissan Leaf and niche competitors. The stumbling block has always been the MSRP sticker price, which started out at about $41,000 when the Volt was launched in late 2010. So far, leasing has been the solution and that's getting even better for car shoppers.

When pricing was announced two years ago, eyebrows were raised over the Volt being priced about $9,000 more than the Nissan Leaf. General Motors forecasted strong residual values for the Volt and set up a lease program very close to the monthly payments for the Leaf. Since then numbers have gotten even more competitive, and TrueCar said the best lease deal arrived in July. A consumer can place $2,529 down and make $260-a-month lease payments for 36 months. The deal expires September 4. PluginCars is hearing anecdotal evidence about even better deals through individual Chevrolet dealerships.

There's also the question of resale values and finding deals on used Volts, once enough of them come off-lease within the next two years. The estimated trade-in value of a 2011 Volt, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association used car guide, is $29,325. That's 90 percent of its post-incentive $32,780 sticker price.

In California and New York, it's helping that the Volt qualifies for the HOV lane access for driver-only trips. It would also help to see gasoline prices go up over $4 a gallon – the Volt's competitive advantage being range anxiety reduction and freedom from gas station trips. As the Chevrolet Volt website says, "Electric When You Want It. Gas When You Need It."

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