First we have the Volt, a plug-in hybrid. It is a very nice car with good range, both all-electric and overall. But it had its fair deal of troubles involving battery fires. While the fires started days after the battery leaks, it would seem that cast a shadow of doubt over potential drivers. Until the NHTSA make a clear-cut stand on the issue, that shadow will linger on.
Chevy Volt sales only reached 6,142 units by November, and General Motors had set the target for a round 10,000 units sold by the end of 2011. December is essentially over, and the total estimate number is close to 7,500 Volts sold. The end of the year also saw an increased interest in the Volt, but a survey done this month by CNW Marketing on a little over 3,800 US buyers indicated a decline in that interest due to the battery fire problem.
Next, we have the Fiat 500. It went on sale in March 2011 and was extensively worked on for its American debut. Compared to the Volt, which achieved reasonable coverage of its proposed sales figure, the Fiat 500 only sold 17,444 units out of 50,000 units target. The reasons for that performance are open to debate.
But the little hatchback got more bad news to cope with. The National Highway Traffic Administration Association gave the car a safety rating of just 3 out of 5 stars.
In response to disappointing sales, Fiat has brought in a new sales chief for the US in November, as well as having Jennifer Lopez as their advertising vehicle.
However, every coin has two sides. In Fiat’s case it should be noted that not every state is covered by dealers, and that many of them did not function at full capacity right from the start. And considering the reputation Fiat has in the US, that figure could be considered a first step in the direction of righting that reputation.
As far as the Volt is concerned, from day one the car was the target of a campaign meant to discredit the idea of hybrids. As with all new technologies, they frighten at first. When cars first appeared they also lost in front of horses. And concerning the battery fire issue, gasoline based cars burn up faster and more often than hybrids and electric cars.
The Volt’s battery caught fire days after the tests were performed, so risks were negligible. The other fire incidents in which a Chevy Volt was involved have been confirmed to have not originated from the Volt.
Times may be hard now, but the future, given enough time, belongs to cars like the Volt.