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Volt face: why Vauxhall and Opel are pulling the plug on Ampera EV

Published: 16 March 2015

► Vauxhall/Opel Ampera axed in Europe
► We look at the reasons behind 'Volt face'
► Was it too clever, too early?

GM’s range-extended electric car, the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera, is no stranger to the conflicting emotions of triumph and disaster. 

And the latest chapter in its chequered existence is typically polarised: while a facelifted Volt was being unveiled in the US in spring 2015, signalling GM’s commitment to a car often villified as a sales disaster, European executives were quietly pushing Vauxhall-Opel’s version onto the trapdoor to oblivion.

Click here for CAR magazine's Vauxhall Ampera vs BMW i3 twin test.

Why is the Vauxhall Ampera sliding off sale?

Despite winning the 2012 Car of the Year award in Europe, the Volt/Ampera simply hasn’t racked up enough sales this side of the pond. 

The UK has been the biggest market, with around 15,000 registrations over the past three years, attributed to the UK’s peculiar microeconomic factors: the car is London congestion charge-exempt and qualifies for a £5000 government subsidy. 

While this has lured in a loyal band of tech-savvy early-adopters, sources reckon the £28,750 price – after grant – is deterring many, especially when the Ampera’s official 235mpg turns out to be no better than a cheaper, conventional diesel outside the lab.

Everything must go: why the Ampera must be sold before September

Vauxhall still has some Amperas to sell, but there’s more of a backlog over the Channel, where most governments don’t incentivise the EV. The stock has to be cleared by 31 August 2015, when the Euro 6 emissions regulation comes in – which the Ampera doesn’t meet. Ironically, the new-generation, American Volt will be more efficient and have a larger electric range. 

GM will persist with the Volt Stateside, much to the annoyance of right-wing news outlets. They have castigated the subsidised plug-in as the poster child of ‘Government Motors’, emblematic of President Obama’s Detroit bailout and his imposition of tougher fuel economy targets. 

And the plan for Europe? ‘Electric vehicles remain part of our long-term strategy for reducing CO2 emissions, and we will announce our future plans when we’re ready,’ said a source. ‘In the meantime, we will focus on increasing the efficiency of conventional powertrains, creating cars that are efficient and affordable.’

Should GM pull the Ampera from UK sale? Let us know in the comments below.

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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