Saturday, December 10, 2011

Volt is drivers' favorite, topping even Porsche

Volt is drivers' favorite, topping even Porsche

A Chevrolet Volt electric is shown at GM's Flint, Mich., plant. The car is wildly popular among owners.

The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car is the most popular among owners, topping a perennial favorite that costs twice as much, the Porsche 911, and a recent addition, the Dodge Challenger, according to an annual survey published Thursday by Consumer Reports.

The magazine was careful to specify that only the Challenger equipped with the “That thang got a Hemi innit?” V8 engine was named to the list, and not the girly-man fuel-sipping V6 version.

But I digress.  The Volt is the overall winner of the owner satisfaction survey, with the announcement coming at a time when the Volt is in the news for a less-good reason: fires in crash-tested vehicles days or weeks after the crash.  Ninety-three percent of owners surveyed said they would buy the Volt again, compared with 91 percent of 911 and Challenger buyers.

The Volt has a starting list price of $41,000, compared with $82,100 for the Porsche and about $30,000 for the Challenger.

Porsche via AP

The 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera is due out in February. The current edition of the car, which came in second in Consumer Reports' annual owner satisfaction survey, sells for $82,000 and up.

Chevy also grabbed the last spot on the list with the Aveo minicar, which would only retain 37 percent of its owners.  The Aveo has since been replaced by the Sonic (see review here), ensuring, at least, that the Aveo will not be last again next year. (See the full list here. Subscription required.)

Volt drivers are happy with their cars for a couple reasons.  Firstly, they are electric vehicle zealots, and they would be happy with an EZ-Go golf cart as long as it was fully charged.  EV zealotry even tops sports car zealotry, as seen by the Volt’s defeat of the 911, which is popular among sports car zealots despite its high price, useless back seat and thirst for fuel.

“These models reflect a larger trend we’ve seen in recent years: sporty cars and fuel-efficient cars with alternative drivetrains tend to generate more enthusiasm and loyalty than most other types of vehicles,” said Rik Paul, Consumer Reports automotive editor.

The second reason for Volt owners’ satisfaction is the dedicated manservant Volt adviser issued by Chevrolet who talks with owners daily about the Volt’s awesomeness.   “From the very beginning we’ve tried to provide an extraordinary customer experience to go with the technology,” said GM spokesman Greg Martin.

The combination of engaged owners and continuous discussion between GM and Volt owners has stemmed any rush to the exits even since the reports of post-crash-test fires.  For the record, these fires took place days or weeks after extreme crash testing in which the Volt successfully protected occupants and earned the highest possible safety scores.

Following the tests, the cars’ batteries were left fully charged, and because the car were also rolled over and because the battery coolant system was damaged in the tests, coolant leaked onto the charged batteries and eventually sparked fires.

The lesson here is to get out of a crashed car within a few days, and be sure to turn off the lights when exiting.  A gasoline car might not be as obliging in providing an opportunity to climb out before combusting.

Despite recent safety concerns about the Chevy Volt's battery, the popularity of electric cars is picking up traction, with CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

In the real world, “five or six” Volts have been totaled in severe crashes, with no fires resulting, Martin said.

To mollify any potential concerns while GM undertakes its investigation into how best to prevent post-crash fires, the company is offering a free loaner car to Volt owners who prefer to park their electric car for now. GM CEO Daniel Akerson even has offered to buy back the Volts of anyone who is concerned about the fire hazard, according to The Associated Press.

The number of drivers asking for a loaner car is “a handful,” according to Martin.  Hmm, that’s suspiciously similar to the number who have already crashed their cars.  Is anyone checking to see if the people asking for loaners have already totaled their Volt?

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