The hits keep on coming for General Motors and its green halo car, the Chevy Volt. Months after an NHTSA investigation revealed nothing was wrong with the Volt battery, and after a year of lackluster sales, the latest bit of Volt news is decidedly unwelcome. Last week GM announced that for five weeks they would cease production of the Chevy Volt, laying off 1,300 workers at the Hamtramck Assembly Plant.
I’m not sure at what point GM lost control of the narrative surrounding the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt. Was it the ill-concived “230 MPG” hype? Or was it when GM entered a government-sanctioned bankruptcy? Has the NHTSA investigation hurt the Volt’s reputation? Whatever the case, it seems like every bit of news I come across regarding the Volt is overwhelmingly negative for what is in many ways a great car.
Regardless, the ring-wing conservatives who (wrongly) deride the Volt as the “Obama Mobile” and cheer for the demise of General Motors will welcome this bit of news. GM produced over 2,000 Volts in February, but sold only about half of them. It is the third production shutdown for the Volt, which has had its sales and production numbers downwardly revised several times. At the current rate of sales, GM will be lucky to break 12,000 Volts sold…which isn’t that terrible, except that GM had estimated sales 4-to-5 times higher than that. As a result, GM is hoping attractive lease offers and rising gas prices spur Volt sales.
As such, production is outpacing sales, even with General Electric’s pledge to purchase up to 12,000 Volts in the next few years. The U.S. Government has also purchased more than a few Volts, though thaat has not helped pad the pretty low sales numbers.
For comparison’s sake though, GM still moved about 100 more Volts than it did its performance halo car, the Chevy Corvette, in the month of February. Had GM merely tempered their expectations and not hyped up the Volt with ridiculous sales goals, GM could probably spin these numbers as something of a success. But they have obviously grossly overestimated the sales market for a $40,000 plug-in hybrid, and as a result 1,300 blue-collar workers are being laid off for 5 weeks.
Sure, some of the blame can fall on false information and politicization by right-wing pundits. And I’m still not ready to call the Volt a sales flop yet (it has only been on sale nationwide since November, right around when the battery “scandal” arose.) But it might be time for GM to rethink its Volt strategy…or maybe the whole Volt concept altogether.
What are your thoughts on the situation?
Source: The Detroit Free Press