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Another Slow Month for Volt Sales

But the car is still selling, despite its high price tag and the political backlash against the electric vehicle.
March 1, 2012

According to sales figures released today, GM is still far short of the pace needed to sell its previously stated goal of 30,000 Chevrolet Volts this year. GM delivered 1,023 Volts in February, up from 603 sold in January, and just 281 a year ago; but this is still short of the 2,500 per month it needs to average in order to reach 30,000 by the end of the year. So far, last December was the best month for Volt sale—GM sold 1,529 then.

The results aren’t that surprising. The same factors that resulted in the dismal sales in January remained in play in February. But things could change next month, when Volts will incorporate changes to make the battery packs safer, and when drivers in California will be able to buy a version of the car that qualifies them for a state rebate of $1,500, as well as the ability to drive in carpool lanes without a passenger.

Yet GM also seems to be having trouble convincing drivers that the car is worth its price tag of just over $39,000. The car is often compared to the Cruze, which is about the same size as the Volt but costs roughly half as much. Many people test drive the Volt, but buy the Cruze. Often, the decision seems to be coming down to economics—the fuel savings won’t quickly pay back the extra cost. 

GM may have missed a chance to make the Volt a car people would want to pay more for–not just because it saves fuel–but because it’s fun to drive. 

In the early days of Volt development, Chevrolet’s Bob Lutz told the New York Times that the car would accelerate to 60 miles per hour in a speedy six seconds, taking advantage of the torque electric motors can provide. GM opted instead to engineer the car to hit 60 after an unremarkable 9 seconds–similar to the Cruze. And its normal driving mode damps the torque to make the car feel more like a non-electric one (the sport mode is more fun, but drivers might not experience that in a test drive). 

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