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Chevy Volt's Place in the GM Product Mix

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

The last few years, the Detroit hype machine (and the media that feeds off it) has been pretty darn excited at times about the 2011 Chevy Volt, the car that’s supposed to make the plug-in hybrid the next must-have household appliance.

But at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, Chevy seemed to send the Volt to a corner (both figuratively and literally – it occupied the far corner of GM’s big chunk of floor space at the show) to think about all the noise it’s been making.

Instead, Chevy Marketing VP Jim Campbell chose to take it back to basics for the brand’s big unveil in the Big Apple, focusing on the new Chevrolet Cruze RS and Cruze Eco, the Volt’s conventional twins, which Campbell claims will “bring a mid-size presence to the compact car class.”

This struck us as odd since the Volt, which is nearly identical to the Cruze on the exterior, has never been described as a car that will bring a hybrid or electric, let alone a mid-size presence, to the compact car class. So we were left to wonder: Where does this apparent new shift to the more economical, conservative Cruze leave the Volt in Chevy’s new lineup?

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Volt Targeted at “Eco-Enthusiasts”

Jim Campbell quickly provided the answer, after giving a nod to the upcoming Chevrolet Spark minicar due out in Europe in 2012, he added: “… and we’re still planning to reach out to eco-enthusiasts with the Chevrolet Volt.”

Eco-enthusiasts? Sounds to us like the car previously referred to as a transformational “billion dollar baby” just got relegated to the fringes of our automotive future.

Looking for a little re-assurance that the Volt – developed in large part with our tax dollars, after all – wasn’t about to go the way of the EV1, we asked Chevrolet’s Chuck Russell where the Cruze Eco, rated at 40 MPG, and the Volt fit into the Chevy lineup.

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“The Cruze Eco is aimed at the heart of the compact market,” he explained. “But the Volt is still a transformational vehicle, it’s just going to be a long-term transformation.”

We asked Russell if that meant it might take a few generations of the Volt for the revolution to take hold, and he didn’t exactly say yes, but he didn’t exactly say no, either. But he did make it clear that Chevrolet remains committed to the Volt and the transformational power it is still believed to hold.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a nice simple car without any confusing plugs or new-fangled drivetrains, Russell’s got one he’d love to sell you in the near future that looks pretty similar.

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