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Chevy vs. Tesla: The battle over electric car technology

Kevin Chupka
Executive Producer/Writer

Say goodbye to the Chevy Volt. For now. The much ballyhooed (by Chevy) hybrid has been in production since December of 2011, and despite popularity among owners, never really caught on with consumers. GM (GM) announced today it will halt production of the 2015 model and work to clear out inventory.

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2010 file photo, the Chevy Volt appears on display at the Washington Auto Show, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In July, GM expects to bring production back online for the 2016 model that should hit dealership showrooms and lots in September. The newer model is expected to be faster and go further on a single charge. It is also expected to have a larger interior that will accommodate a total of five passengers as opposed to the four that can ride in current models.

But GM has some work to do to get consumers to pay attention to any new Volt it releases.

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“The failure is five or six years after this car’s come out you didn’t know exactly what it was,” Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman notes. “GM, as it has done many times, over-hyped [the Volt] from the beginning, made it sound as if it was going to transform the automotive industry. It did nothing of the sort. It’s a niche vehicle at best."

Not helping matters, as Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Task points out was a lower total at the gas pump. “Five years after they rolled it out, gasoline prices have tumbled,” he says. “Gasoline prices go down we’re like ‘I want the SUV, I want the big truck.’”

GM vs. Tesla
A new and improved Volt for the 2016 model year is sure to stoke the debate over electric car supremacy. Tesla (TSLA) continues to grab headlines but as Task notes, “This is a whole different price point...it’s not the same buyer.”

All-wheel-drive versions of the Tesla Model S car are lined up for test drives in Hawthorne, California October 9, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

That may be true for now, but Tesla is at work on the Model 3, a lower cost version of the Model S sedan. In fact, Elon Musk has fired a shot directly at Chevy promising the Model 3 will carry a price tag lower than Chevy’s all-electric concept, the confusingly named Chevy Bolt.

Tesla “has to sell cars for more like $35,000, it has to sell lots of them,” Newman argues. Even if the Model 3 comes in at or near that price, it won’t be until model year 2017. By then Chevy will have the new Volt and the aforementioned Bolt in its stable

Still, if you just can’t wait to get your hands on an electric car - or at least a plug-in hybrid - there could be some deals afoot for the Volts that are left after this production pause.

Chevy has “something like 200 days of supply, the next generation is coming at the end of this year. They’re gonna have to get rid of them somehow,” Newman says.

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