Electric cars and plug-in hybrids have been around long enough to become an everyday part of carbuying — so much so that there's now something of a price war playing out among the high-efficiency humpbacks. The newest warrior: Chevrolet, which has added a $4,000 rebate to its poky-selling Chevy Volt to match price cuts from Nissan and Toyota. The cash-back offer from Chevy, which can be swapped for a $3,000 rebate combined with a zero-interest loan for four years, means the Volt carries a larger rebate than any other Chevy model; in some online listings, dealers have 2013 models with price tags of about $26,000, well off its $39,000 base before $7,500 in federal incentives. Those deals come after Volt sales fell 4 percent in May to 1,607, and have barely kept pace with 2012 results even as the rest of the new-car market rebounds.
But the Volt was by no means early to the price-cut party. Nissan began the drive earlier this year by slashing prices on the Nissan Leaf electric car, which along with being reworked for U.S. production had its prices lowered by as much as $6,000 to around $19,000 after government incentives, depending on trim level; sales have more than doubled from 2012. Toyota also jumped in to maintain sales of its Prius plug-in hybrid, shoveling thousands of dollars on the hood as well.
The spiffs also reflect a still-sluggish demand for plug-in hybrids; gas prices haven't surged quite as high as they have in years past, which tend to drive shoppers into dealers looking for the most efficient model. With a wider variety of regular hybrid models to choose from, there's also more competition even inside the same showroom. Unless the economy pushes more people to drive electric, it could be a long hot summer for the Volt and its ilk.