The new Chevy Volt: Overpriced and oversold

Pricing for the Chevy Volt, that eagerly awaited savior of Government Motors, has been set at last: $41,000!

That's $8,000 more than the Nissan Leaf will sell for, and the Leaf is a pure electric. The Volt is a hybrid, running only 40 miles on a charge, the rest on a gasoline generator. In one of the most deceptive lines in the WaPo article, the writer informs us that "Although the prices are high, enthusiasts say that electric cars can reach a large, untapped market for vehicles with little or no tailpipe emissions." Oh the clever journalists, parsing their words so carefully: yes, zero tailpipe emissions if you always plug it in and drive no farther than 40 miles and if you don't count the smokestack emissions from the oh-so-evil coal-fired electric generation plants.

And notice that the writer is not silly enough to say there is "a large, untapped market" for such vehicles; no, that would be the enthusiasts speaking. Of course. And enthusiasts will say anything to bolster their, well, enthusiasm.

When the Prius was selling 50,000 units a year Toyota lost money on every one because the economies of scale were not great enough. The Volt will not hit the streets for another 16 months, and GM plans on making only 10,000 the first year. So this is the vehicle that GM has bet the farm on? More like buying the farm. There is a market for vehicles that make a holier-than-thou statement, but it is not untapped as there are a number of products already in the arena and more on the way, and it cannot be large when the price point is $41,000. Maybe Government Motors is counting on selling the Volt to the government. Now there's a "large, untapped market."

Henry Percy is the nom de guerre for a technical writer living in Arizona. He may be reached at