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Chevrolet tries to spark Volt sales with up to $5,000 cash back

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Chevrolet has again jumped into the fight to make alternative fueled vehicles more competitive, offering cash-back incentives for buyers of its Volt plug-in of $5,000 for 2012 models and $4,000 for 2013 models.

It's the latest chapter in a bid by several automakers to make their electric vehicles and plug-ins more attractive

On June 1st, Chevy dropped the lease price for a Volt from $299 a month to $269 a month, according to Michelle Malcho, a Chevrolet communications manager. The other terms for the lease were not changed: for 36 months, with $2,399 due at signing.

Malcho said that the new cash-back incentives were "trying to get people down to the range of the $269 lease, who can’t or don’t want to lease and would prefer to buy."

General Motors has about 100 days of inventory of the Volt on hand.

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The cash-back incentives, combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit and the $1,500 California rebate take the $39,999 price of the Volt down to about $25,999 to $26,999, depending on the model year, similar to a gasoline-powered Honda Accord.

Malcho said that was part of the reasoning behind the rebates, because people considering the Volt are looking at a range of conventionally powered and alternative fuel cars, not just electric vehicles.

"The EV market and the market of conventional powered cars is very competitive," Malcho said. "This is our way to play in the market."

Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book, said that Chevrolet feels a little more pressure than usual regarding its Volt.

"A vehicle like the Volt is a highly scrutinized," Nerad said. "Sales and lease success or lack is highly reported. It's seen as a bellwether of GM whether it really is or not."

Nerad added, "That's another reason they would like to see pretty robust sales and leasing of Volts. They are willing to go the extra mile to see that happen."

General Motors Co. had already joined the electric-car price war with a lease deal on the Chevrolet Spark EV at $199 a month. That followed recent offerings of $199 leases on Nissan Motor Co.'s Leaf and the newly released Fiat 500e.

The Spark EV will be available at select dealers in California and Oregon starting in mid-June, according to Chevrolet.

Honda dropped the lease on its Fit EV from $389 to $259 a month, throwing in collision and vehicle theft coverage, maintenance, roadside assistance -- even a home charging station.

Ford is offering its Focus EV at $284 a month.

California's tough pollution laws are responsible for the EV price war.

The California Air Resources Board has mandated that zero-emissions vehicles must account for 15% of all new vehicle sales by 2025, up from less than 1% now.

That has automakers scrambling to get consumers into a set of green wheels, even though manufacturers are losing money on every car.

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