“Más vale tarde que nunca!!”

Dialling in Opel Ampera in Wikipedia summons a redirect to the Chevrolet Volt. They must mean Bolt (as it was known in the US).

Opel Ampera-e, Oslo, Norway, 2021. All images: The author.

None of the cars in the Wikipedia Volt article are this specimen, an Ampera-E. A site called EV database informs us the Ampera-E could be ordered in Germany and Holland. It provides some information such as that when fully charged the car could very easily cover a range of 335 km. That is about the same as a drive from Cap Ferrat to Monza if you are very sparing with the acceleration and air conditioning.

The battery was rated for 58 kWh.

I turned to the website of a Danish drivers´ roadside assistance  association, FDM, for more information. They publish a magazine for motorists which had a preliminary review of the Ampera-e.

Opel Ampera-e: Efficiency 173 Wh/km

In their headline, the author considered the range and usefulness of the car to be as good as a petrol car and (in 2017) regretted that it would take so long for it to reach the Danish market. Over in the UK, veteran journalist John Simister at Autocar articulated similar levels of approval: “Opel’s second-generation Ampera is smaller than the first, and now purely electric. It’s also very capable with a remarkable range“.

Opel developed the Ampera-e as an electric car from the start rather than base it on an existing structure. The bonnet, doors and tailgate are made of aluminium too. They seemed to put some effort into this car. The ideal-conditions range for the car was 520 km; FDM reckoned that in more realistic circumstances it could cover 580 km; that´s about the distance from Cap Ferrat to somewhere around Lake Como. Not bad. A Citroën CX GTi would have run out of fuel before the Ampera had both cars started in the same place.

Opel Ampera-e: Sold first in Norway and California.

Opel sourced their cars from General Motors in Michigan, USA (for younger readers, General Motors was once a leading manufacturer of cars which once operated in Europe, selling cars under the Vauxhall and Opel brands but who have abandoned most markets in recent years). The Ampera-e was only sold in Norway, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

The battery pack, by LG, sits under the floor pan and takes up very little space. It weighs a collosal 430 kg though, a person’s weight short of a 1957 Fiat 500. Autocar  claimed the car was the most competent electric car selling for reasonable prices. One impressive claim was that the Corsa-sized car had more rear legroom than the contemporary Astra. That might say more about the Astra than the Ampera, though.

For those interested in practicalities, the boot held 380 litres when the rear seats were up; down the bay could hold 1274 litres.

Autocar´s Simister tested the car in Norway and among his observations were that the car accelerated as fast as a BMW i3 and that the quiet-running tyres by Michelin had noise-damping lining that also could withstan 6 mm perforations before losing pressure. From a controls point of view, your hands do as much as the feet. Regenerative braking can be engaged using a button around the steering column. I am not clear what the point of this is though – why not just brake using your foot? I’d have to drive the car to see what this meant in effect. But it brings me by digression to the way driving using cruise-control involves your brain more than feet controls and makes for less secure driving.

Autocar summarised their case as follows: “Assuming RHD and a UK presence do happen, you’ll find in the Ampera-e the most practical and most useful pure-electric car yet offered at a relatively low price. That it also looks good and is a remarkably pleasing drive makes it a potential winner in our view“.

If you want to buy an Ampera-e you’ll need around at least €25,000. That indicates the residual values are holding up.

Given the invisibility of the car and the few for sale at Mobile.de, I suspect the poor old Ampera-e had its sales career scuppered by the sale of Opel to Stellantis. I see a characteristically pretty Opel design (styled in Korea) with useful features at a nice price. It ought to have done much better.

2015 Chevrolet Bolt Concept car: source

Post-script [1]: “The Bolt was named the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the 2017 North American Car of the Year,[9] an Automobile magazine 2017 All Star, and was listed in Time magazine’s Best 25 Inventions of 2016″. And the battery pack is a potential fire hazard. “In August 2021, GM issued a statement advising owners to park in open areas, at least 50 feet (15 m) away from other vehicles, due to the possibility of the battery pack catching fire.”

Post-script [2]: The 2015 Chevrolet Bolt concept car is all-around impressive. Pleasing as the production car is, it’s nowhere near as good as the 2015 design. GM (a company who formerly sold cars globally including Europe) have an astonishing ability to harm themselves. The product development history indicates GM Korea started work in 2012 so perhaps the name of the 2015 concept car is all the two vehicles have in common. It’s another wasted bit of styling work, that’s all.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

24 thoughts on ““Más vale tarde que nunca!!””

  1. Actually the Chevy Volt (not Bolt) was also sold in Europe as Opel Ampera, although without the “-e”. So the redirect you mention isn’t wrong.

    I see the Ampera-e on the streets from time to time – it was also sold in Switzerland. I even had an opportunity for a short test drive once. It appeared to be a somewhat generic, but not unpleasant EV. I liked the MPV-like appearance without any SUV influences.

  2. I have to disagree with Richard. I don’t find the production Volts/Bolts/Amperas at all pleasing to look at, though as EVs they seem pretty competent. The gold car shown is another matter – it’s very impressive as Richard says. Yet again, we have to ask what ‘concepts’ are meant to do. Obviously the 2016 Bolt’s styling had been signed off when the 2015 concept was revealed. So, apart from showing up the fussiness of the production version, what was the concept intended to do, except to prove that GM Korea could style a pretty good looking car if they were given the chance? And if I can’t buy it, why should I care?

  3. The problem of the Ampera was not so much the new owner PSA – the problem was that Opel made a big loss with every Ampera-e that was sold – about 10000€ per car.

    So Carlos Tavares did not want to sell this car, not under such circumstances.

    The Ampera-e was very pricey and no reasonable value for the money. The Ampera with its cheap plastic interior did not attract customers with a price tag like the BMW i3.
    Leasing was very expensive too, prohibitive prices to reduce the losses (and the sales numbers) .

    So the Ampera-e was a stillborn child from the first day on. The last Amperas were immatriculated in 2020 to reduce the average of fuel consumption of PSA and save some money…

  4. I think I’ve read that there is no support from GM for this model in the USA, if one from the last year of production developed a problem within warranty, GM would buy it back rather than fix it.
    Hope I’m not getting my wires crossed here…

  5. Good morning Richard. Given that the original Opel / Vauxhall Ampera hybrid was a flop in Europe, it seems like a poor decision to reuse the same name for the later EV. In any event, that’s my excuse for being wholly unaware of it until today. The concept is cleaner than the production car, its appearance predating all the fussy C/D pillar ornamentation that has since become a tediously overused styling trope.

    Your piece got me thinking about how few new Opel vehicles I have seen since returning to Ireland last November. I have yet to see the latest Astra on the road here. Opel used to be a serious mass-market player in the Irish market: in 2007, it came in fourth after the then big three, Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford, selling 16,273 vehicles, an 8.72% market share. but in 2022 came in at 14th place, selling just 2,857 vehicles, a 2.71% market share. It was beaten even by Dacia, in 13th place with 3,389 sales.

    1. I suspect that the reasons for the original Ampera’s failure were complex. For its time it was an extremely well-considered solution, but people never went to Opel/Vauxhall for cutting edge stuff and the technology was difficult for people to grasp. So I’m not sure enough people noticed it for it to matter either way if they recycled a reasonably good name. Also, previous failure with an earlier vehicle of the same name never did the Capri any harm!

    2. Opel had reliability problems from the mid 90s that drove customers away. These days Hyundai/Kia are stealing everyones’ customers.

    3. Two things might explain Opel´s altered market position. One is the dealer network and the support it gets from the mothership. The second is the product mix. All Opel has to do to lose sales is miss out on two top-selling market sectors; they can still have a range of others nice cars but that won´t compensate for missing out with a vehicle like a Qashqai or Tucson. I see the Corolla is a popular car in Ireland (and it´s exactly as good/boring as several other similar cars from VW and Ford). Lacking an Astra to sell would immediately mean missing out 2000 units.

    1. There was one Astra sold! When I went to Opel Ireland to see the range, I noticed that the Corsa and Astra are incredibly similar. It might be possible that we are seeing Astras but not noticing them. Previous versions of the Corsa and Astra were never at all tricky to distinguish. Something has gone wrong at Opel that they have two remarkably similar designs in different sectors. Vertical affinity worked because you could distinguish each of the Sacco Mercedes. Stellantis have overdone the visual consistency, I think.

    2. These Kerry numbers are quite interesting. The number ob Astras sold is exactly the same as Golf(s) or Citroën C4(s). This kind of car definitely seems to be out of fashion. The better selling ones are mostly crossovers or smaller cars (or Skoda Superbs – why?). I think the absolute numbers are far too small here to have any significance.

      On the other hand, Opel also has problems with its crossovers. One example sold of the Crossland as well as the Grandland (which would be Opel’s actually existing Qashqai equivalent).

  6. I have seen a moderate number of current model Corsas, but very few current Astras. That’s very few as in, “I can count them on the fingers of one hand”. This despite the fact that there’s an Opel dealership within a kilometer of my home. The same group also have an Hyundai dealership (within 500m of my front door!) and Hyundais of all varieties seem unavoidable in this neck of the woods. The direct competitor for the Astra, the i30, seems rather more avoidable than the rest of the range, though. Presumably, as Richard observes, the market has just moved away from this type of car.

    I wonder is the proliferation of multi-brand dealerships a cause or a symptom of the decline of long popular brands?

    Also, totally off topic, but related to that Hyundai dealer, I must admit I am awaiting the arrival of the Ioniq 6 on their forecourt with some anticipation. I’m not in the market for one, but I’m curious to see what their attempt at a saloon-shaped EV is like in the metal…

  7. Perhaps Opel should consider a sub-brand – if Seat can do it, and Citroen can do it ? Even Volvo ! It surely will not be too long before Dacia have a sub-brand….

    1. I am put in mind an anecdote from a high-up in GM Europe ‘s product planning, or marketing department. Some time in the early years of this century, a very senior executive from Detroit convened a meeting to consider ideas to increase the Opel and Vauxhall’s market share. His big idea was a downmarket ‘value brand*’ – “Just like VW are doing with Škoda”.

      The European contingent were left struggling to find a tactful way to tell him that Škoda’s brand reputation and consumer approval was already higher than Opel’s across most of Europe.

      And as for a Dacia sub-brand – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it happened. I predicted their “Škoda-fication” some time ago, and it’s come to pass far sooner than expected.

      *I never questioned how this fitted in with the Korean Chevrolets being marketed in Europe at the time – another idea dredged from GM’s bottomless well of wrongness and stupidity.

  8. Rüsselsheim plant still struggles with quality problems of the Astra production. Each Astra produced requests an unusually long period of manual rework. The site is full of Astras waiting for reworking activities.

    Rüsselsheim is not able to accelerate the output of the plant. If you order now an Astra estate, the delivery will be in summer 2024….

    Mr. Tavares is not amused about it, there were some long visits by himself of the production in the last months…

    And Stellantis still has problems in delivering the cars from their plants to the dealer. Tavares has changed the logistic partner and even wants to recruit some workers as drivers of the car transporters.

    The Grandland production at Eisenach has problems with missing parts, especially for the high spec Grandlands.

    1. When I was last in Eisenach, in the summer of 2018, I read a news item in the Thüringer Allgemeine about how the management at the Opel factory had – by their own initiative – secured a supply of Ecotec engines from South Korea in order to maintain Adam production.

      It’s probably fanciful to imagine that it was down to the Schwarzmarkt side of the DDR spirit, but it does seem like a plucky and resourceful little factory, and I hope it survives in some form – not necessarily under Stellantis ownership.

    2. Some reasons for the problems of the Astra production:
      – Opel is now classified as an upmarket brand in the world of Stellantis and therefore, Tavares demands from Rüsselsheim a higher quality level than yesterday – the DS4 is the other premium product of the plant.

      – Maybe the reduction of the staff of the R&D center in Rüsselsheim means that some of the better guys with experience are no longer there.

      – in Rüsselsheim there is a long tradition of labor unions with big influence, which does not always help them.

  9. The Ampera-e was effectively replaced by the Corsa-e, Fiat 500e, and recently introduced an Astra Electric. Are these space efficient and performant compared with the ICE versions? Are they good values for the money? Are they profitable for Stellantis?

  10. I think it’s a lovely piece of design and a missed opportunity. It’s interesting to get more info via this site, as I always wondered why what appears to me to be a nice car had such a low profile.

  11. I’ve seen the odd Ampera-e. I always liked its efficiency as an EV, certainly given its age; but as was mentioned here, it was never marketed very enthusiastically. The MPV shape was out of fashion quite thoroughly by the time it was introduced, which won’t have helped things. There’s a whiff of GM’s earlier EV experiments here, in that they always seem to aim them squarely at their own foot.

    I very occasionally see an Astra, but I see quite a few Corsas. The C-segment seems pretty much dead now: even the Golf or the 308 are much rarer than their predecessors. For me, the Corsa design works and the Astra design doesn’t. That’s an easy way to keep them apart.

  12. I attempted to purchase the US version of this, the Bolt EV, earlier this year. The list price is $32k(about 30k euro), but is available with tax credits that bring the effective price to about $23k. So, excellent value made yet sweeter with two years of free charging at public fast charge stations. While not a great drive, it is dynamically competitive with other compacts like the Civic or Corolla. However, the wait times after ordering are enormous; I put in my order in the first week of January and was told that it could take anywhere from three to six months to take delivery. With a potential deadline for tax credit eligibility looming and despairing of ever getting my car, I chucked it all and got a VW id.4 three days ago.

    Btw, the steering wheel mounted braking control is to increase the level of regenerative braking. The Bolt is capable of one-pedal driving; you toggle that switch to activate regen when you’re in standard drive mode.

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