More Than 6,000 Take Volt For A Spin; New EV Rollout Near

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General Motors Corp. says some 6,348 customers climbed in to the new Chevrolet Volt and took it for a spin during the recently concluded 12-city Volt Unplugged Tour.

In shopping mall parking lots, on corporate campuses and on city streets, praise for the driving experience was nearly unanimous.

“I love the smoothness of the ride,” said Seth Long, among the first to drive the Volt during the tour’s first stop in Seattle. “I love the fact that I’m not spending money on gas. I can fit my wife and kids in it very easily and take it on a road trip.”

The Volt Unplugged tour covered 4,124 miles and visited more than a dozen cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, where the Volt goes on sale next month, and several markets it will reach in the next 12 to 18 months. A common refrain from test drive participants in non-launch cities was a lament that they have to wait for the Volt to go on sale.

Chevy will sell about 10,000 Volts through the end of 2011 with 45,000 planned for 2012.

“It is very well sorted out,” said Norman Howell, a professional test pilot who traveled 70 miles from Lake Stevens to Tacoma, Wash., to drive the Volt. “At its stage in progress, it is very, very mature in all aspects of vehicle dynamics and driver interface, and I’m very impressed.”

Volt Unplugged consisted of more than 70 drive events in conjunction with electric vehicle proponents and associations, utilities, corporations, universities, and local conferences, as well as with tour partners and Best Buy and Marriott, where overnight recharging was more readily available in some locations than others.

Asked where to plug in the car at a Marriot Courtyard in the Lake Union area of Seattle, an assistant manager looked puzzled before responding: “I’ve worked here for five years and I’ve never had that question before.”

Consumers in each market had an opportunity to experience the Volt and meet some of the people behind the vehicle’s development — engineers, designers and others.

Drivers throughout the tour shared their Volt drive impressions on the Driver Scrapbook found on ChevroletVoltAge.com.

“The car is amazing. It’s very quiet, which is fantastic,” said Lindsey Flood of New York City. “It works so well and is so high-tech inside. I loved the keyless entry and how the engineer inside the car with me was able to tell me so much about how the fuel works and the plug-in feature. I’m excited for it to come out.”

Said Steven Greer, who drove the Volt in San Antonio: “You guys have a home run on your hands. The feeling that is indescribable is the instantaneous torque. It has seamless acceleration. It’s incredible. I don’t think people appreciate how fast you guys did this and how well you’ve done it.”

On a fully charged battery and tank of gas, the Volt has a driving range of hundreds of miles. Because the Volt uses gasoline to create its own electricity in extended-range mode driving, long trips are possible. The Volt is powered only from electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery for 25 to 50 miles, after which a gasoline engine-generator seamlessly engages to extend the driving range.

“The driver testimonials illustrate the diverse offerings of the Volt with comments on its unique extended-range capability, its styling, and its performance,” said John Hughes, Chevrolet Volt marketing manager. “We were excited to see the enthusiastic response to the Volt we received from everyone who drove it.”

GM on Tuesday will hold a press event at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, where the Volt is built, to provide an overview of the Volt’s development, host special guests and make several news announcements.

The Volt’s suggested retail price is $41,000 — $33,500 after a full federal tax credit that not all buyers will qualify for.

GM expects to offer leases as low as $350 a month on the Volt to those with excellent credit. At that price, the lease is for three years at 12,000 miles a year.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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