General Motors decided not to sell the Ampera-e, its first full EV, in the UK because the automaker was burned by the sales failure of the Ampera plug-in hybrid.
"It's a more cautious approach," a spokesman for GM’s Opel brand told me. "If you don’t want to lose too much money, we prefer not to make right-hand-drive yet. The decision was partly financial."
The Ampera, a sister model to the Chevrolet Volt, was engineered by GM for right-hand drive from the outset, which meant it could be sold in the UK by Vauxhall, Opel's sister brand.
Ampera sales across Europe started out poor and became worse as falling fuel prices killed the appeal of expensive alternative-fuel vehicles. At its height it was selling less than 5,300 a year across Europe.
The UK is a big market for EVs in Europe thanks to government incentives in place since 2011. But sales still aren’t huge. Through August, EV sales were 6,634, up 9.2 percent year-on-year, according to UK industry association SMMT.
Automakers are getting far more traction with plug-in hybrids, with models such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, VW Golf GTE, Volvo XC90 T8, VW Passat GTE and Mercedes C350E.
Pure EV models only sell well in Europe if the automaker is willing to increase discounts, as with the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe.
Opel is touting a breakthrough with the Ampera-e, a sibling of the Chevrolet Bolt, by saying its 400-km (249-mile) range will eliminate range anxiety for customers.
Opel wouldn't comment on its sales aspirations or price for the Ampera-e, which will go on sale in mainland Europe next year. However, the spokesman said that Opel was "working on making sure that we don’t lose money."
Vauxhall says it will evaluate the Ampera-e with the possibility of right-hand-drive models being produced in a future generation. That deprives GM's UK division of an interesting model not just to sell but also shout about as it tries to lift its low brand status. GM's decision might make good financial sense, but Vauxhall won’t be applauding its parent's caution.