Each Chevy Volt Cost $40,000 to Build


The  accolades for its Chevy Volt, those accolades don’t come cheap. The Chevy Volt reportedly cost a whooping $40,000 each to build, not including development costs.

That price makes the $41,000 MSRP seem downright reasonable. GM makes just $1,000 on each Volt sold. That isn’t a lot, considering that GM can make upwards of $15,000 on the sale of an upscale Suburban such as the Cadillac Escalade or GMC Denali. On the same token, GM also lost around $1,000 on every Chevy Cavaleir they sold, and they sold a lot of those. GM will make about $1,000 on every Volt sold. At that rate, it will take GM a long, long time to recoup the $1 billion some-odd dollars they spent developing the Volt.

These revelations come from Steve Rattner, who in his book “Overhaul” walks us through the auto bailouts that dominated last year. While I am surprised that GM, one of the world’s largest automakers, couldn’t build the Volt for cheaper, I guess it kind of justifies the Volt’s high cost. What say you though, in light of these revelations, is it really still worth the $41,000?

Source: GM Volt

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • I work at a GM dealership in the parts department. I can look at all of the Volt’s parts (and any other vehicle being released in 2011). From it’s massive tee-shaped battery down to it’s tiny transmission attached to the generator. I can’t grab it’s parts-cost info though. I’m sure that massive battery pack is the majority of the expense. It’s huge. Considering hybrid batteries on the other GM vehicles (NiMH?) occupy the area of three normal lead acid batteries. Except in the height. It’s about half the height of a traditional vehicle battery. Just as heavy as a large truck’s lead-acid battery though.

    Guess the cost of that small little NiMH hybrid vehicle battery?

    -A typical lead battery: $40-70
    -NiMH Hybrid vehicle battery: ~$5500 for the customer (can’t give up GM cost sorry)
    -Volt’s battery: ??? I have no idea but it occupies more space than probably twenty lead batteries. Rough guess. Haven’t seen one yet.

    *All prices listed in CAD

  • It will be up for the market to determine if the 41G + (don’tforget all those dealer markups) is a “value”. My argument is that for about half the price You can buy a car that gets 50MPG (VW TDI, perhpas Ford FIesta if they ever put the european diesel engines in them). The cost benefit analysis as to payback on a car that gets efftively 60MPG vs one that gets 50MPG with a difference of 16000 to 17000 dollars results in it cheaper to buy the TDI.

  • ziv

    The 2011 Volt isn’t about saving money, it is about energy independence or cleaner air or driving the latest technology, take your pick. And Roy oddly enough forgot that the net price of the Volt is $33.5k not $41k+. I have driven a Volt with cloth seats and it is a very nice package, I doubt I would buy the upgraded leather version. And with a lease at just $350 a month the Volt costs as little to own as a cheaper, lower tech internal combustion engine sort of car.
    But the fundamental question is, do you drive less than 40 miles a day most days? If you answered yes, you will be using $30 worth of electricity and around $3 worth of gasoline a month instead of $150 worth of gas. It is that simple. Unless you drive more than 20,000 miles a year the Volt will save you a ton of money. If you drive more than that, buy a diesel VW. And if you can plug in your car at work, you can get incredibly high mileage even if you drive 20,000 miles or more a year.

    • THe 60MPG comes from the new tag. IT was 5cents per mile (it was combined fuel and electricity costs) for about 40 miles a day. I live 18 miles from work so I used it as a representative. Your cost includes a rebate from the government that may not be avaialable to all since there are a limited number. Also the point of haveing to get a government subsidy to make something even close to competitive is a moral and ethical issue with our 14 trillion dollar debt and climbing. I will agree to disagree. These cars are going to be very expensive to buy, will not ever payback the difference in operational cost over a car that cost half of its value and gets at least 2/3 the effective MPG. I am sorry that I can’t make it any clearer. In my lexicon buying a Car is about transportation not some unknown environmental benefit. If I wnat to maximize benefit to the environment I would get a motorcycle. One that gets 60MPG (the same as the Volt in the 40 mile range) would be the same cost to operate and guess what only about 8 to 10K

      • ziv

        And the tag is always correct? Grin.
        Most people drive around 12,000 miles a year, if you do, you will get really high mileage. Dr. Lyle is getting 145 mpg and he is on track to drive 23,000 miles a year.
        If you can afford the Volt, you will get the tax credit in its entirety if you buy before 2013. The first 200,000 cars get it. And I do agree that the government subsidizing cars is questionable. In this case BEV’s would take years longer to become mainstream so for this national defense issue I think credits make sense. The net price for the Volt is less than an admittedly larger Toyota Avalon, and the Volt handles better and the interior looks better, plus the lease is much less than a lease for an Avalon.
        In my book, a car isn’t about dollars and cents any longer, it is about enriching Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and I don’t like that at all. And the value of used Volts will probably be skyhigh due to the probable increase in gas prices. I will use around 2 or 3 gallons a month at most and I can put my clients in the Volt with me without worries that we will run out of electricity half-way through the day.
        The Volt may not be the car for you, but it is beginning to look like it WILL be for a lot of people that want to cut their gasoline use & impoverish the Saudis and Hugo, or reduce their carbon footprint, or want the coolest auto tech out there.

      • “Some unknown environmental benefit”? You mean an environmental benefit that you won’t be alive to inherit so it doesn’t matter what we do anyway? Short sighted views like these are the reason the USA is in the toilet now.

    • Mike

      The tax credit can only be claimed if you have $7500 in tax liability. Also there is NO CARRY FORWARD provision for the tax credit. You must use it entirely in the year you buy the Volt or lose it. Many misguided buyers will not get the credit. This is NOT A REFUNDABLE CREDIT.

  • no thanks

    Is the dollar amount based on GM making a handful a month? What happens when production scales to thousands per month?

    • the leases are cheap because when you lease the gov tax credit goes back to the company, making it look good on paper. w/o the tax credit, these things would sink

  • It’s expensive to methaphorically paint yourself into a corner. Right now, the only thing that gets us from point A to point B is oil. The optionality to put the cheapest fuel into our power grid (coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, wood, oil, etc.) and into our cars is going to be worth more than any short-sighted naysayer can even begin to imagine. Oil is a finite resource and cheap oil is a luxury of the past. Without the Volt, gasoline would be heading straight past $5/gal. Consider the relative economics of the Volt in that scenario and then hopefully you’ll have the answer.

    • Even with Diesel at 5.00 as gallon it would buy 3000 gallons of fuel at 50 MPG that is 150,000 miles before you made up the price difference. That is a lot of driving my friend

  • If they hadn’t taken his trading license I’d say he’s shorting the stock. In any case, careful with that quote. There are myriads of cost positions that go into that calculation, don’t know what report he was given, who wrote it, under what conditions and time, are these planned, actual, revised as of when, etc. If indeed true, its dead on arrival. The Japs will take the e-business and those Diesel TDIs are tough to beat.