Auto enthusiasts that have followed the Chevy Volt’s progress from concept to near production were undoubtedly excited to see General Motors’ announcement yesterday about both the Chevy Volt’s price as well as the fact that the company is now taking pre-orders. For the last two years the Volt’s pricing has been a mystery but now that mystery is solved. The starting MSRP for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be $41,000 prior to any federal or state tax credits and incentives.

Although a $40k+ vehicle may be out of the price range of many consumers, the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 will bring the base vehicle price down to a more reasonable $33,500. For those who would prefer to lease a Chevy Volt, GM also announced a 36-month lease program with monthly payments as low as $350.

Yesterday’s Chevy Volt price announcement was delivered by Joel Ewanick, GM’s vice president of U.S. marketing, at the Plug-In 2010 Conference. While it was exciting to finally hear the actual MSRP of the much-awaited Volt, GM’s good news continued. The company has now opened up the Chevy Volt pre-order process.

The Chevy Volt’s initial launch will be limited to the following states: California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Deliveries are expected to start later this year but interested consumers in these states can begin the process now by visiting the Get My Volt website to find a participating dealer in their area.

The Chevy Volt will be going head to head against the Nissan Leaf. While the two vehicles have distinct differences, the Leaf being an all-electric vehicle and the Volt having an extended driving range thanks to a gasoline engine, these vehicles will be the first mass-produced electric cars to hit the streets of America. Although neither vehicle is yet available, the competition has already begun.

Earlier this month, GM announced that it would offer an extended 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on the Chevy Volt battery. Not to be outdone, Nissan recently announced that it would offer a similar warranty on the Nissan Leaf battery. Nissan first announced pricing for the Leaf in March and while the MSRP is several thousand less than the GM Volt, $32,780 before the tax-credit, the company has a lease option for $349 per month. There is no way the Volt could take an almost $10,000 price cut but GM nearly matched Nissan’s competitively priced lease option.

Like the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf will be rolled out in stages with the Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington to be the first five states to receive the Leaf. Electric car enthusiasts will definitely be watching sales of both the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf in California to see which vehicle comes out on top.