It took just about 10 minutes to end eight years of loyalty to a brand.
Last week, the lease expired on my wife's third and final Chevrolet Volt. She drove it to the dealership, with me following behind in my Mini Cooper S. We parked, walked inside, sat down with a saleswoman and waited during a quick five-minute inspection of the car. Then she signed a piece of paper and we were gone.
It is highly unlikely we will step into a Chevrolet showroom again in the foreseeable future. There is nothing there that either of us want. Oh, I'd happily have a new Corvette, but that will have to wait a few years until I am retired and we are back in my home state of Florida.
My wife explained to the saleswoman that she would have moved from the Volt to an Equinox had General Motors followed through with its initial plans and offered the Volt's range extender gasoline-electric drivetrain in the compact crossover.
But GM is out of the hybrid business and is going full electric. I think that's a mistake. The Volt offered the best of both worlds and it was, in our experience, a superbly engineered and built car. Of the three Volts my wife leased, none ever had any mechanical, electrical or technical glitches in more than 65,000 miles. The only trips to the dealership were for very infrequent oil changes. We counted just about six oil changes since 2013.
Because my wife works close to home, her commutes were solely on electricity. I doubt she filled the fuel tank more than four or five times a year. On warm spring and summer days, a full charge of the car's battery pack yielded around 70 or so miles of driving. It's less in the winter, but still in the 50s per charge. We've saved thousands of dollars on gasoline since 2013. The Volt did everything GM said it would do and it did it well.
Hybrids, however, don't fit GM's Zero-Zero-Zero strategy — zero crashes, zero congestion and zero emissions. CEO Mary Barra told an investor conference last year that consumers are not interested in hybrid vehicles — U.S. Volt sales have dwindled from the their peak of 24,739 in 2016. However, other automakers are ramping up their hybrid crossover offerings. And some are having great success. In June, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid outsold the regular gasoline model for the first time in any month in the U.S., by a slim margin.
For many consumers, the walk will be a long one from a gasoline-powered vehicle to one that runs on electricity only, and many drivers are going to need a bridge to get there.
An Equinox hybrid would have solved many problems for those thinking of an electric vehicle but who are not really sure about the technology. First, it would have given GM a hybrid powertrain in a vehicle that consumers really want to buy, as the Equinox has been one of GM's top-selling vehicles for years. Second, because of the Volt powertrain's long driving range on electricity, it would have shown drivers the many advantages of an electric powertrain — the instant torque, the soothing smoothness, the greatly reduced maintenance. It would have gotten them used to plugging in a vehicle and of driving past gas stations.
We haven't replaced the Volt with anything just yet. Right now, my wife is considering a new Ford Escape plug-in hybrid or possibly a Nissan Leaf.
For both of us, it was painful walking away from a brand that kept its promises. And right now our driveway doesn't feel quite right without the Volt in it.