AutoNation's Jackson calls Chevy Volt 'absolute technical marvel'

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson is bullish on cars with advanced propulsion powertrains. “This is the real beginning of the sale of electric vehicles,” he told CNBC this morning.

AutoNation will begin selling the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid vehicle, on Dec. 10 at three of its stores. Jackson, who calls the Volt an “absolute technical marvel,” predicts that General Motors will sell 10,000 Volts next year and up to 30,000 in 2012.

“I think they’re going to sell everything they can make,” he said on CNBC.

But Jackson acknowledges that vehicles like the Volt aren’t going to be money makers for a while -- and they don’t yet make economic sense for consumers. He estimated a vehicle like the Volt costs $15,000 to $20,000 more than a comparable car with a conventional power train and may provide $1,000 in annual fuel savings.

“That’s 20 years to get your money back,” Jackson said. “Now most consumers aren’t going to do that. But you throw in the investment tax credit and a few other things and the emotional component -- there are people who are obsessed and fascinated with the idea of being able to move a vehicle without buying petroleum from Venezuela and Mr. Chavez, and they’re going to go out and buy this vehicle.”