Let’s examine one option, specifically the Chevy Volt. Steve Bliss test drives one of these electric cars, but he also finds out an important lesson that all auto sales representatives should understand.
We are huddled in a parking lot, just outside of a small-town restaurant. This area is steeply graded, and a number of us are wearing hill descent traction devices that help keep our cars moving forward and make us look like Walter White, Jr.
While that description may not be very creative, it is the first thing that came to mind when I saw that this particular car gave all eight of its performance options points in the field of battery management. The Volt’s traction options are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, but I only discovered all of this because one of the Volt’s so-called performance features reminded me that my car isn’t doing very much at the moment.
General Motors calls this new feature “Active Thermal Management”. Think of Active Thermal Management like a layer of anti-frost for your jalousie windows when your car is turned off. Yes, this is just silly, and yes, the automotive industry is desperately looking for anything that the driver in extreme situations might want, but this was different.
Knowing that my Volt battery was heated to 150 degrees below zero, this jalousie-like layer over my windows that seemed useless for 90% of the time suddenly seemed like it might come in handy. Living 45 minutes from anything, especially a hospital means that at least once per year, you have to decide whether you really want to get your car unstuck, un-layer-of-frosted, and down the hill, because it is the only hospital within miles of you.
Whereas active battery management (a $1,250 option), and power-operated cloth/leatherette seats, (another $1,600 option) may appeal to a buyer who is big on gadgets and home businesses with their products, it is important that you have a good understanding of how cars can become game-changers. I mean you, as you are the sales associate in the auto dealership.
According to the dealers’ organizations, as many as 30% of new vehicles purchased and leased are traded in when the three-year warranties expire. I’m guessing this is basically the same percentage that is true of used vehicles and cars that are leased. If that is the case, then the Volt has a future.
But, is the Volt really an alternative fuel vehicle that regular car buyers would be interested in? I have driven this car in a variety of circumstances, and I have loved it 100 percent of the time.
My original article was written in March when Volt was in its fourth year on the market. With this knowledge in mind, my five-mile commute to work quickly becomes eight or more miles. When I get home, I charge the car. I mostly do my job driving the car, and then I get home to find that, hey, the charger in the car wasn’t working.
The good news is that when auto dealers’ are not around, Volts are just plain work. I have squeezed the last 30 miles of range out of the 38 initially given. But, that’s when I get creative and try to figure out if the rest of that journey can be done on a gas-operated vehicle.
In March, GM announced the soon-to-come special 2.0, which will boast 33 miles of electricity, a 76-mile gas backup generator, an overall range of 379 miles, and a starting price that’s just under $35,000. As excited as I was when I first drove this car, this is my first thought, and perhaps it should be your first thought also.
At some point, before I take the 2.0 to work, I will be searching for a vehicle that has a gasoline engine that meets my needs. It is a funny-enough mental exercise to argue just how long that might really take.
This sparks a question. Why is it that when governments (municipal, state, federal, or any other), financial institutions, or green companies talk about the “new” eco-friendly cars, they never get asked about miles per gallon?
If you are the owner of such a dealer, my advice to you is that you begin to ask the question, “What miles per gallon do these cars get?” At the young age of 26, most buyers of cars today understand the miles per gallon concept because they had it in required school science classes. They may not be big fans of this concept just yet, but most have seen it in action.
If we use solar power, then the miles per gallon of this new, “eco-friendly car” becomes irrelevant. Suddenly, such questions would sound something like, “Do we have a solar system that can charge this car?” As odd as that might sound, or even if it isn’t odd given your own experience, it is only a matter of time before something like that question would pop into the head of a car buyer. If you have to ask, then that means at least some questions have to be asked.