Chevy Volt Sales Seen as Electric Car Disappointment

Courtesy General Motors

Despite low sales, General Motors stands by its optimistic sales predictions for the plug-in hybrid car featured prominently in "Revenge of the Electric Car."

The Chevy Volt could be a flop, at least according to the auto site Jalopnik, which reported new sales figures released by General Motors on Monday.

The Volt, the American-made plug-in hybrid that General Motors had high hopes for going into 2011 has sold only 3,895 units as of the end of last month. In the month of September alone, the company sold just 723 Volts. By comparison, 5,246 Chevrolet Suburbans and 2,171 Chevy Colorado Pickups were sold in the same span of time.

These sales figures fall far short of GM's planned sales target of 10,000 units for 2011.

The efforts to bring electric cars, including the Volt, back to market are chronicled extensitvely in director Chris Paine's new documentary Revenge of the Electric Car. The films opens in Los Angeles and New York on Oct. 21.

In August, THR reported that a quarter of all Volts sold had been in Southern California.

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The Volt's main competition, the all-electric Nissan Leaf is currently selling twice as well, with 6,187 Leafs sold in the United States from December to the end of August.

Still, GM doesn't appear publicly worried, with spokesman Rob Peterson telling the Chicago Tribune, "I don't see any problem with reaching our goal."

He says that GM's Volt production has only been ramping up and that the time for real sales begins now.

The car has been available in seven test markets, including New York, California and Michigan. But the company is now shipping Volts to 2,600 dealers in all 50 states.

THR's review of the Volt called it "not cute." But went on to say, "It has a powerful, authoritative feel, which apparently is a hit: 90 percent of its sales have been to 'conquests,' GM's term for defectors from other brands."

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Volts will also start to go on sale in Europe and Asia.

The company claims the slowdown is sales is related to the company's need to gear-up for its global push. They're so confident, they've revised their 2011 sales figures to an expected 16,000 Volts worldwide (which also includes a Europe-only model called the Opel Ampera.)

Hopes for the Volt’s sales were high after both the Bush and Obama Administrations used billions in federal dollars to help bailout and restructure the ailing automaker. The development of the Volt during that time was seen as a promise of what the company could achieve given a second chance. In April of 2010, Obama declared the GM bailout a success.

Auto industry analyst Phil Gott tells the Tribune that the Volt's slow sales is no indication that demand for the car is low. But he also says that the worldwide demand for the car may not have been that great to begin with.

"What's the demand for a $35,000 compact car with a Chevrolet badge on it?" he says. "It's not all that great."

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