General leads plug-in brigade

The Holden Volt will be coming to New Zealand towards the end of the year. Photo / GM
The Holden Volt will be coming to New Zealand towards the end of the year. Photo / GM

Competition is heating up to supply the surging demand for electric cars.

There's a big fight going on by automotive companies over electric vehicles - and it seems that the General has the edge.

General Motors' Chevrolet Volt has the edge over the plug-in version of Toyota's Prius and Nissan's all-electric Leaf, and was the top-selling rechargeable car in the United States in May.

The Volt is sold in Britain as the Vauxhall Ampera and coming to New Zealand as the Holden Volt towards the end of the year. Pricing and firm release details are yet to be given.

Nissan's five-door Leaf is set to be here next month, at $69,700

Volt made notable US gains after Detroit-based GM briefly halted production of the car this year as sales cooled after news of battery-pack fires following crash tests.

Output resumed in April with structural reinforcements for safety, as well as modifications that qualified the Volt for rebates and carpool lane access in California, the top market for rechargeable autos.

Leaf sales have dropped in the past two months as the Japan-based company has changed how it sells the car, now available in 50 US states, said Al Castignetti, vice-president of Nissan's North American sales.

"I have huge dispersion issues," said Castignetti. "In places like California dealers have pretty good inventory, but I've got states that have no Leafs, and we've got to address that."

Sales of the Leaf, which goes an average of 117km a charge, will rise to a minimum of 1000 a month by July, he said.

The Volt, which goes at least 55km on lithium-ion battery power before a petrol engine engages to top up the battery charge, remains the best-selling rechargeable car this year. Sales in May tripled to 7057, compared with 3638 plug-in Priuses and 2613 Leafs.

The four-model Prius line from Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota, which includes the plug-in version, is the biggest seller among all electric-drive autos.

Sales rose 210 per cent to 21,477 in May and 73 per cent to 107,504 for the year.

- Bloomberg

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