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A Volt outside GM’s headquarters in Detroit. Credit: Flickr / Landlessness.

Electric vehicle enthusiasts (and critics) are keeping a close eye on sales of GM’s Volt this year to get a sense of whether electric vehicles will really finally catch on. GM has said that it hopes to sell 30,000 Volts in 2012, which would mean selling, on average 2,500 a month. It’s far short of that pace for January having sold just 603.

The January figure markedly down from December, when GM delivered 1,520. But sales were actually up substantially from the same time last year, when GM sold 321 of the cars—however, at that time, the Volt was only available in a few states. 

GM didn’t meet its goal of selling 10,000 Volts during 2011, for a number of reasons. In fact, it’s still short of 10,000, with total deliveries of 8,600 vehicles since sales began at the end of 2010.

So, do slow sales in January mean GM won’t reach its goal?

There are a number of factors that could explain the slow January sales. Customers hoping to get the Federal tax credit for the car for the 2011 tax year may have rushed to buy in December. Also, at the beginning of January, GM announced a retrofit that will make the car safer. The cars on the lots in January (about 4,400 were there at the beginning of the month) were not retrofitted yet, and the parts needed to do the retrofits weren’t widely available. So anyone buying a car in January would have to take it back in a month or two to have the changes made. GM also announced in January that cars built later this year would have low enough emissions to qualify for driving in California’s HOV lanes, an attractive perk.

All in all, potential customers had a lot of reasons to wait until later this year to buy a Volt. It’s too early to call whether the company could sell 30,000 this year. It’s also too early to say how important sales of the Volt are, at least in terms of the overall prospects for electric vehicles. But I’d be interested to hear what readers think. How much is riding on the success of the Volt this year?

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Tagged: Energy, energy, electric vehicles, GM, Volt, ev, Chevrolet, sales

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