It was amazing to be among so many plug-in vehicle fans, engineers and stakeholders last week at the Plug-In 2010 conference when General Motors announced that the Chevy Volt would come with a $41,000 MSRP ($33,500 after federal tax incentives). One benefit was being able to ask GM for more information about the price, another was getting reactions from those fans, engineers and stakeholders about that price. Since literally no one wanted to (or could) go on record, we'll wrap their thoughts into a generalized paragraph or two.
Universally, the first reaction was that $41,000 is too high, but maybe that's a reaction from the bar for plug-in vehicle pricing being set too low by the Nissan Leaf. With the Volt's pricing structure set the way it is – $41,000 to buy, $350 a month to lease – GM is really pushing people to choose the lease option. Of course, this then begs the question of what does GM do in three years when the leases are up? Does it take all the cars back? Sure, some will be worth analyzing to see how the battery packs held up, but not thousands upon thousands of units. Will GM want to take the used Volts back and upgrade them or maybe sell the packs for use as stationary storage somewhere? Nobody knew the answers, but these were the questions they were wondering aloud.
We also heard one person describe the sell/lease price as an example of GM really trying to have it both ways. The people pushing to make the car cheaper got their way with the lease price – it's the same as the Leaf! – while the people who don't want the car to lose too much money got their way with the MSRP. In the end, this all felt like a very "GM" thing to do to a lot of industry observers and participants. Feel free to chime in and tell us if you agree.