The highly anticipated electric-powered Chevrolet Volt will carry a $41,000 starting price before tax credits, $5,000 more than the top-selling sedan from General Motors' luxury Cadillac brand.
GM said Tuesday it has begun taking orders for the Volt and would also provide a leasing option for the vehicle as it launches in a handful of U.S. markets starting with California.
"Every day we've been asked a single question: How much will it cost?" said GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick on a conference call to announce the pricing.
GM executives, including former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, had previously indicated the Volt would be priced near $40,000.
For analysts and green car enthusiasts, the biggest question surrounding the Volt has been its price and profitability given the cost of the lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Korea's LG Chem and the engineering resources that GM devoted to the project.
GM launched the Volt development project four years ago, in part to shake an association with gas-guzzling trucks and to show it could compete with the likes of Toyota Motor on hybrid technology.
By setting the retail price at $41,000, GM opted to price the first-of-its-kind Volt in the category of luxury vehicles and higher-priced sports cars. The top-selling Cadillac CTS has a price starting at $35,165.
The Corvette Coupe, the most expensive vehicle in the mass-market Chevy brand, starts at just under $49,000. With leather seats and other options, including a rear-view camera, the Volt will cost $44,600.
U.S. taxpayers who buy a Volt will qualify for a federal tax credit of $7,500. Other states, such as California, are offering additional tax incentives.
After accounting for the federal tax credit, the net price of the Volt will be $33,500 for most initial buyers.
The automaker also will offer a three-year leasing option on the Volt, allowing customers to carry it for $350 per month after a $2,500 downpayment.
The Volt is designed to be recharged overnight for 40 miles of pure electric driving. The car will also have a small gasoline-powered engine expected to give the vehicle a total range of 340 miles.
That plug-in design sets the Volt off from the Leaf, an electric vehicle being introduced later this year by Nissan Motor that claims a pure electric driving range of 100 miles. The Leaf has a retail price starting at $32,780 in the United States.
GM said it would begin taking Volt orders through a new website as of Tuesday, www.getmyvolt.com.
About 600 Chevy dealers in seven states will be authorized to sell the initial and limited production run of Volts.
GM expects to produce 10,000 of the cars for the 2011 model year and about 30,000 for 2012.
Ewanick said GM marketing would portray the Volt "as a real car," attempting to draw a sharp distinction from pure electric vehicles and to address what the U.S. automaker sees as a kind of "range anxiety" for many consumers because of the difficulty in recharging on the road.
"People don't want to be stranded on the way home from work," Ewanick said, adding that the Volt's gas engine would justify its higher price for many consumers who want to drive on electric power.
Ewanick said it was uncertain how quickly GM could bring down the price of the Volt in future model years.
Pricing on electric vehicles is expected to drop as technological advances reduce battery costs.
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