Dr. Lyle Dennis, who founded the influential GM-Volt enthusiast website long before the Chevrolet Volt came to market, is trading in his 2011 Volt for a Ford C-Max Energi. Why? Seating – he needs space for five to transport his wife and three kids and the Volt only holds four people.
GM-Volt was able to accumulate a buyer list of 54,000 names that helped convince General Motors to hurry up and build the Volt. Dennis was eventually invited to sit on GM's Volt Consumer Advisory Board. He still enthusiastically supports the Volt and is proud to have owned the eighth unit off the production line in December 2010. "So far I have driven the car 14,000 miles with a lifetime 190 mpg. It has been a fun high tech and dependable car," he said.
GM is sticking with the advanced technology in the Volt, but the only announced plan for the Voltec technology right now is to make a more expensive Volt, basically, in the Cadillac ELR. GM-Volt reaches an audience that could be interested in such a vehicle – engineers, scientists, IT professionals and others wowed by its paradigm-shifting power system – but there's a case to be made that when GM decided not to build the five-passenger Volt MPV5 concept we saw back in 2010, it was a missed opportunity.
When he first saw the Volt, Dennis was disappointed to discover the large T-shaped battery pack in the back seat, taking away the rear middle seating space. His wife used to drive a three-row row SUV but opted to swap it out for a Nissan Leaf. Between the two plug-in vehicles, Dennis had nothing that could fit the whole family. Enter the competition.
Ford, finally offering something in the plug-in hybrid segment, has the fifth seat advantage in the C-Max Energy and that car starts off with a lower price that the car's direct competition: the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. For now, the Prius Plug-in is outselling the C-Max Energi, but add up all these practical benefits – seating for five, high fuel economy and more affordable monthly payments – and you can see how Ford could build a niche for the C-Max Energi within the budget sensitive, family focused car shopper audience. It worked on Dennis.