KBB Says Chevrolet Volt Worth $17,000 After 36 Months, Chevrolet Unconcerned

Bad news for early adopters of the Chevrolet Volt: a new report suggests the car may be worth just $17,000 after 36 months. Car pricing authority Kelley Blue Book reports the Volt’s low residual value reflects just 42 percent of its sticker price after three years of ownership.

The Chevrolet Volt costs $41,000 (including destination) if purchased outright. Chevrolet also has a 36-month lease plan for the Volt, with payments of $350 per month and $2500 down.

However, the news might not be as bad as the report claims. Buyers of the Volt are eligible for a federal tax credit of $7500 for buying an alternative-fuel car, making the Volt’s effective purchase price just $33,500 (the tax credit is factored into the lease price.) With this starting price in mind, KBB says the Volt would retain a more impressive 51 percent of its value over three years.

By way of comparison, KBB predicts the 2011 Toyota Prius will retain only 46 percent of its value after 36 months, and the 2011 Ford Focus just 37.5 percent.

Chevrolet Volt spokesman Rob Peterson told us that nearly every Volt buyer will take advantage of the tax credit. With an effective cost of $33,500, he said the Volt’s 51-percent residual value is satisfactory — especially as it’s higher than that of the Toyota Prius.

“Being compared favorably to a vehicle that’s been out for 12 years, that’s a good starting point,” Peterson said.

The federal government will allow the first 200,000 buyers of the Volt to take advantage of the tax credit. Peterson said about 2500 Chevrolet Volts will be in customer driveways by the end of this month, and that Chevrolet is on track to build and sell 10,000 copies of the Volt this year. That means there are several years’ worth of tax credits still up for grabs.

The one remaining wildcard for vehicles like the Volt is the future of battery technology. According to Charlie Vogelheim of Intellichoice, some automakers see hybrid vehicles as a stop-gap until electric vehicles are ready for mainstream use. “Hybrids are a bridge technology, but it’s a long bridge,” he said. If there is a dramatic leap in battery technology over the next two or three years, that could further depress the Volt’s residual value.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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