5 of 5
BACKNEXT
Electric cars
Dream: Plug-in cars will leapfrog General Motors and Chrysler ahead of Asian competitors.
Reality: Electric cars are pricey and unprofitable.

General Motors has heavily marketed its Chevrolet Volt plug-in car for years now. Actual market introduction is slated for next year.

The futuristic vehicle relies on advanced lithium-ion batteries. It will allow drivers to go up to 40 miles on electricity alone before a gasoline engine cranks up to generate electricity for further travel. The expected sticker price is close to $40,000, but federal tax credits could reduce the cost to the low-$30,000 range.

Chrysler, meanwhile, says it's working on a similar, but lower-cost, alternative. Chrysler's as-yet-unnamed products are supposed to share much of their underlying engineering with regular, gasoline-powered cars.

In reality, neither of these plans will yield big profits or particularly high sales numbers in either case. For the short term, these are marketing and public relations plays.

Impact: Profits from these programs will come in the distant future. GM has said it plans to continually roll out cost-saving improvements as soon as the Volt goes on sale to make it and related cars profitable as quickly as possible. For the time being, these programs are important for their public relations and marketing benefits.

NEXT

Last updated February 17 2009: 6:58 PM ET
Find Your Next Car
More Galleries
The 13 most WTF gadgets From the weird to the gross, these 13 gadgets will make you wonder why they even exist. More
Best-loved cars in America These cars and trucks topped J.D. Power's APEAL survey, which measures how much owners like their new vehicles. More
America's most powerful cars A new 'horsepower war' has erupted among U.S. automakers and these are the most potent weapons in their arsenals. More

Special Offer
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.