Chevrolet Dealer: Want a Volt? That'll be an Extra $20KBy Bill Visnic July 31, 2010
General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt may be able to travel 40 miles on its battery charge, but early adopters might be in for a bigger jolt when they try to avail themselves of the highly attractive lease GM touted when releasing the Volt's $41,000 base price this week - it appears at least one of the 600 Chevrolet dealers due to take part in the initial rollout in December isn't planning on letting any Volts pass through his doors until buyers pony up a rather substantial extra "charge."
Forgetting the electricity-related wordplay, it's what people in the auto business know better as a "gouge." A giant one.
A couple of Edmunds.com researchers thought GM's announced $350 per month (with $2,500 down) lease payment sounded "too good to pass up." One emailed a California dealer to lease a Volt. You know, sign on the dotted line right now.
The reply they got was, ah, shocking.
Here's the unaltered text (actual names redacted) of the dealer's reply:
Thank you for your online request, as you know the Volt is going to be a very limited production vehicle for the first 2-3 years. Demand is going to far exceed supply for this vehicle, initially our asking price for the Volt is going to be MSRP plus $20,000, we are expecting only receive 9 Volts all of next year.
I will keep you in my customer base for when the Volt comes out and I will contact you with any information as I receive it. We are taking orders right now for the Volt, if you would like more information, please let me know and I will be more than happy to help you. Thank you.
***** *****, Internet Specialist
This exchange may have taken place before the dealer got the word GM announced it is jacking up Volt production by 50 percent - to 45,000 units - for 2011, but it's doubtful that will much reduce this dealer's ambitions for a $20,000 markup on a $41,000 car.
In June, a GM spokesperson told Volt-watching website GM-Volt.com, "We also aren't expecting our dealers to overcharge anyone for this vehicle, either, and will monitor the situation closely when we launch. Also added was, "we'll be paying close attention when the vehicle launches and do our best to strongly discourage this kind of behavior, as we always do with any GM-branded vehicle."
Unlike typical gouging for high-demand vehicles, the Volt situation transcends mere dollars and cents and moves into the political realm. Will GM sit on dealers scheming big-time price-gouging on the Volt - a car that features a $7,500 federal tax subsidy funded by the same taxpayers who already bailed out GM?
And what would President Obama think - he drove a Volt last Friday and defended GM's controversial $43-billion bailout - about dealers demanding an incredible markup for a car that's supposed to help the U.S. auto industry move into a new era and become self-sustaining again?
The market has proven time and again that customers who pay big markups for in-demand models end up the sucker, so caveat emptor. But dealers clipping the very people who helped keep them in business is a new and ugly twist on an age-old auto-industry phenomenon.
Photos by GM
1. President Obama with GM Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager Teri Quigley. "So, Teri, can you afford one of these, cuz I can't."
2. President Obama high-fives at the Detroit plant that builds the Volt, but will the jubilation last when it's known dealers may command a huge markup for the already expensive, federally subsidized car?