Any launch of new technology is always expensive at first. Just look at the original cost of LCD flat screens, computers, smart phones and the like. In the automotive world, Tesla recognized this better than anyone. It introduced the six-figure Roadster first, with the intentions to follow up with the less expensive Model S.
General Motors tried something a little different when introducing its Voltec range-extended electric vehicle setup. Instead of giving the technology to Cadillac, they started out with Chevrolet, the mass-market brand. Now Cadillac is the one that is coming after, with a launch of the ELR slated two weeks from now at the North American International Auto Show.
The Cadillac ELR will add volume and profitability – we think it should have come first, but the past is the past. Servicing an electric or hybrid vehicle is different than servicing a car with an internal combustion engine – additional and equipment and training is needed. Beginning this year, GM has rolled out some new requirements that are needed to keep selling and servicing Volts. It includes $5,100 in new tools, the majority of which goes to a battery de-powering unit. Some dealers have balked at the added costs, opting not to sell the Volt any longer.
Not surprisingly, these are dealers that haven’t sold many. Primarily, that includes dealers in small towns and rural areas. GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho says the dealers who pulled out accounted for just one percent of the Volt’s sales. Automotive News interviewed Allyn Barnard of Jim Barnard Chevrolet, one of the dealers who opted out. “Going forward, the profitability would be really hard for us to justify the expense of the repair tools,” Barnard says. He has sold only five Volts since they went on sale, which is just enough to recover costs for previous tools, training and charging stations. As of this year, 2,614 out of a total of 3,079 dealers were certified to sell the Volt.