Tuesday, February 19, 2019 was a sad day at General Motors’ assembly plant Detroit-Hamtramck. A little ceremony was held as the last of the Volts rolled off the assembly line. And with the last one finished, Chevy’s lineup would never be the same. After owning a Volt, neither would my taste in cars.
The last model year for the Chevrolet Volt is a beloved plug-in hybrid to many, but to me, a stellar example of everything a car could be. With a relatively short run and only two generations, the Volt is one of those cars that never even got a chance.
When General Motors announced the Volt at the height of the Great Recession in 2010, it was somewhat of an idealistic sign of the times. With few actually buying cars, and those who were buying looking for something as economical as possible, the Volt seemed to be the perfect solution. It was badged as the car of the future, offering a 30-some mile pure electric range and the tried-and-trusted backup internal combustion engine to boot.
The Volt’s problem might have just been that it was too ahead of its time. In 2011, the Volt’s first year, it did get some recognition, nabbing Car and Driver’s prestigious Car of The Year award. President Obama promised to get one after he left office. The Volt, it seemed, would be here to stay.
But the Volt was always a little misunderstood. Chevy had trouble explaining exactly what the Volt could do in 30-second commercials, and it became a car that was more or less just a curiosity of early adopters. Sales didn’t exactly hit the mark for the first few years. In more recent years, it’s struggled to compete with the prestigious Model 3 and many other PHEVs on the market, along with sliding sedan sales. For those of us who know this car’s full potential, it’s been hard to watch.
When I bought my 2015 Volt in early 2018, it was pretty much on instinct. I needed a new car, was working at a Chevrolet dealership, and coming from my 2003 Mustang convertible, craving something with any sort of technology and practical space. The Volt seemed like a solid choice, and after a quick lap around the block, I knew I had to have it.
In the years since, the Volt has proved to be a champ. I credit its structural integrity for holding up so well to an Acura smashing into the front at about 50 miles per hour on a snowy Kentucky highway. It took the damage like I suspect few other cars could, and has managed to be repaired perfectly.
It handled wet, muddy roads in the backcountry of North Carolina where only Jeeps and Subarus dared venture, thanks to a wrong turn, a lack of road signs and some snow from the day before. It also managed a cross-country road trip to Seattle with practically my whole life crammed into the back. Since I made it out to the west coast, its 40-some mile electric range has saved me thousands on expensive gas and has given me my new-found love for electric vehicles.
It’s fair to say that in my short, two-ish year run, this car has not only served me well. It’s surpassed my expectations. It’s managed to do things that few of the other cars I’ve owned could do, and has proven itself to be the perfect car for me.
It wasn’t only the fact that I love this car so much that makes me sad to see it go. It’s also that the Volt really stood for something, and not many cars over past few years can say that. The Volt introduced many, myself included, to a future where we aren’t dependent on fossil fuels. And it did so without sacrificing the flexibility to go farther than the EV charging network could allow eight years ago. It also proved that a plug-in powertrain doesn’t necessarily mean luxury. Above all, the Volt stood for progress, for doing something new and breaking tradition.
The Volt is, in some ways, a mini case study of the past few years in the auto industry: born out of the recession and killed by the SUV craze of good economic times, its a symbol of just how much tastes and preferences change, and how challenging it is for automakers to keep up. Both created and killed by demand, the Volt will always be a relic, if not a symbol, of the 2010s.
For me and many others who have grown so attached to this car, it was sad to see it go. Considering the fact that there’s no imminent replacement for it either, many of us are left to wonder what will come next.
But, until us Volt drivers can find another plug-in we’re willing to take a chance on, there won’t be many new cars we have our eyes on. If it’s true that only the good die young, then the Chevrolet Volt was quite simply one of the best.