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GM, Daimler amp up U.S. electric car price war

(Reuters) – General Motors Co (GM.N) and Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) on Tuesday amped up the electric-car price war, announcing significant price cuts aimed at boosting demand in a still-sluggish segment of the U.S. auto market.

GM slashed $5,000 from the price of its 2014 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, while Daimler announced a steeply discounted monthly lease price of $139 on its 2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive.

Plug-in vehicles such as the gasoline-electric Volt and the pure-electric Fortwo ED have encountered stiff resistance from U.S. consumers, in part because of their higher prices and lack of a nationwide battery charging network.

U.S. sales of plug-in electric and gasoline-electric vehicles through July totaled only 48,889, according to research firm Autodata. That represents just 0.5 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales of 9.1 million in the first seven months of this year.

The $5,000 cut for the 2014 Volt will lower the price to $34,995, including delivery fees but before federal tax credits.

Smart is offering U.S. dealers a $2,000 wholesale rebate on the 2013 Fortwo ED, effectively lowering the retail price to $23,750. Customers also can opt to lease the tiny battery-powered two-seater for $139 a month for 36 months, with $1,995 down, a 30 percent discount from the previous monthly lease rate of $199.

Smart has delivered only 173 Fortwo EDs to U.S. customers this year. The brand began offering an upgraded electric motor and battery pack in May and will start selling 2014 models in October. A redesigned Fortwo ED is expected for the 2015 model year.

Even before the latest price cut, the Volt has been one of the best-selling plug-in vehicles, with 11,643 U.S. sales through July.
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