GM's Electric Volt Takes New York

Chevy called it the "Unplugged Tour of America" as the car company gave everyone from New Yorkers to Los Angelenos a chance to drive the new Volt electric car that will roll off an assembly line in Michigan any day now.

But with a price tag of $41,000 (minus a $7,500 federal tax credit if you qualify), it is pricey.

Amy Lovato of Westfield, N.J., admitted price is an issue, but quickly added "I'm also interested in doing what's right for the environment."

Price is not an issue for Jose DaCruz of Astoria, Queens. "I don't think it's that safe," he said.

Clearly, General Motors has a lot of marketing to do, although it is offering a $350 a month lease on the Volt as an alternative to that $41,000 price tag. (And the company insists the Volt is safe.)

Then again, as NBCNewYork took a Volt for a spin in Midtown as part of the "Unplugged Tour," one 20-ish looking man spied our car and said to a woman walking with him "That's the electric Chevy there."

That's good recognition for a car that hasn't even rolled off the production line -- at least not the version to be sold in the showroom.

We did find out that despite an official November 30th roll out date (moved back recently from November 11th), the retail version will apparently be produced before that.

GM's Rob Peterson left the clear impression that the ceremony planned for the end of the month is just a ceremony and the real cars for real people (as opposed to pre-production or Advisory Board models) will be rolling off the line any day now.

But if you are one of those currently looking to get off the petro-juice, you might have to wait.

GM has said it will produce just ten thousand Volts in calender year 2011, but the ramp up means more will be produced later in the year rather than earlier.

In fact, Peterson revealed that between now and the end of the year, only 200 or so Volts will be produced for retail sale as production starts slowly to ensure a quality product.

But he had good news about the price tag as engineers refine and simplify their efforts these past three and a half years.

"Over time the cost of these vehicles is gonna come down," Peterson stated flatly.

News that General Electric (parent company of NBC) will purchase tens of thousands of electric vehicles for its own employees didn't seem to phase Peterson.

"Corporate (sales) are important because it gives volume, it gives economies of scale," he said, adding, "but consumers are where the enthusiasm and the passion will play out and will actually fuel the movement from gas-powered vehicles to electric powered vehicles."

Oh by the way, while the Volt does come with a gas generator to make more electricity when the battery runs down (after about 40 miles depending on your driving style). GM's engineers figure the average oil change (for the generator) will come only once every two years, according to Peterson.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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