It may be unfortunate for some that recent plans were sidelined for a Voltec-based Cadillac, but according to one General Motors plant manager, the Chevrolet Volt practically is one.

This was the view recently expressed by Bay City Powertrain Plant Manager Joe Mazzeo, who described the Volt as a “luxury” car.

“When you look at the Volt, there are a couple of things that really stand out,” he said to “Versus other electric cars, such as the Prius, its form, function and features are all in a higher class. When it was designed, it was modeled after the Audi A4 – we aimed to have a very nice mid-size vehicle. It absolutely is a luxury vehicle.”

Tax breaks and other potential incentives cut the sticker price, but GM's new commitment to EVs is positioned like a pretty fine car.

Mazzeo said customizable features including leather seats, various color options, and sophisticated instrument interface all imbue the panache of a vehicle that is a cut above.

The Volt’s quiet ride also contributes to a high-end feel – and it comes not only because of its electric powertrain, but also because GM made the effort to build the unibody especially rigid. The Volt has extra spot welds to reinforce the structure and prevent squeaks one might not otherwise hear on an internal combustion-powered vehicle.

Further, the Volt has excellent road manners, and hides its 3,700-pound plus bulk well.

“It might not be a true luxury vehicle, but it drives like one,” Mazzeo said. “People say it doesn’t seem to feel any different from a gas car.”

Mazzeo’s comments are coming from someone directly involved in building some of the components used in the internal combustion side of the Volt. Further, he is clearly a knowledgeable GM manager with comprehensive understanding of cars, and said he sees the Volt positioned as at least medium-to-high end.

We find this instructive as while the Volt was in development there was talk initially of its price being lower. There has been talk also of it being a sort of every persons' solution.

While no doubt it is, the fact that it came in at around $42,000 its first year means its price is easily double that of an entry level vehicle.

Was this unavoidable? Doubtful. It was GM’s brass that chose how to spec and position its latest foray into EVs, this time intended to be the first of a range.

In time, we hope to see the price drop lower than what was done for the 2012 announcement, or other spin-off Voltec models priced in the 20s and 30s – and expect we will, just as higher-end iterations may still come along like the for-now sidelined Cadillac SRX version.

Tesla says the Roadster was the first of a line of EVs which will include more affordable models. As a company, it started with this. Kind of like having dessert before dinner.

As it is, GM is not alone in positioning its new-generation electric car kind of up the ladder. An even more extreme example of this has been Tesla. It began with the over $100,000 Roadster as its first foray into EVs, and recently announced the more affordable Model S, and has said it will build more everyday cars in time as well.

A similar example could be the range-extended Fisker Karma, which as that company's inaugural model, is supposed to be around $97,000.

Various marketers and planners choose how best to put their best, uh, face forward in presenting their inaugural EV technology.

In contrast, the canceled $36,495 Think City EV had attempted to start at the other end of the spectrum – as humble, practical transportation, but the company could not get the price humble enough, among other issues.

Nissan has also priced the $32,780 LEAF as low as it said it could, and it has been said to be a veritable loss leader – although others still complain it is too pricey.

The pending Mitsubishi iMiEV may be one of the lower priced American market EVs yet, estimated for somewhere in the 20s.

The i MiEV is an electric vehicle based on the gasoline-driven 660cc “i” minicar. It is in the same vein as the G-Wiz, but almost certainly better engineered.

And perhaps one of the most low-end EVs anywhere in the western world was London's REVA G-Wiz city priced in the mid teens – that Indian company did have aspirations to go up the ladder by partnering with GM, but those plans were canceled.

In any event, it is a pretty simple concept we are observing: Where EV/EREV manufacturers decide to start can be anywhere – whether high-end, and then going lower. Or as low as possible, maybe with intentions to go higher. Or somewhere in the middle like Chevrolet did.

Where automakers decide to jump in on the demographic spectrum says something about their decision makers' strategic mentalities – what exactly, we are not entirely sure. It at least seems certain there can be diametrically opposite views on how to launch EVs, from tree-hugger-pleasing bare bones, to power-broker-pleasing Ferrari beater, to anywhere in between.

In London, $17,600 USD was cheap, but then so was the ride quality of the Indian-made car with range of about 50 miles. A Li-ion version could cost $25,000. In February it was announced the car was no longer being imported to the UK.

Given its present status, perhaps the Volt had to be a certain minimum, as it has become the standard bearer for the New GM.

The Volt is used as a backdrop for GM’s corporate events and marketing statements, and it is definitely not a $21,000 stripped model. In fact it has nothing to be bashful about in the company of mid-range Acuras, BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, Cadillacs or Lincolns. GM even tells the press that these are the marques being traded in for the Volt.

The face the the New GM is the Chevrolet Vot, as shown here in the recent shareholders meeting presided over by CEO Dan Akerson.

In all, positioning the Volt as an upper end car was probably not a bad move on GM’s part – it is not stratospherically priced, but quite appealing, something to be proud of, with options left open.

It may have come in higher priced than some had previously hoped, but it is yet a fair value all things considered.

Mazzeo said as much when he observed the Volt is still an upper-level Chevrolet packed with luxury features, but still not branded with an upper-echelon nameplate.

“Chevrolet is clearly not viewed as a luxury brand,” he said. “All of these features don’t come at a higher price – you just get more value.”

Source: MLive