GM Relents, Lets Dealers Sell Their Volt Demonstrators, Today

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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Year-end sales figures are looming ever closer, and the critics of the GM bailout and all thing electric-drive are already drafting wrapup stories about how the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car has been a sales disaster.

So Chevy has taken off the gloves.

The company said it would allow all Volt-qualified Chevrolet dealer to sell their demonstrator units to retail buyers. ("Preferably before the end of the year," we imagine the Chevy marketing honchos mumbling under their breath.)

That means at least 2,300 more Volts could be put on sale in the next few months, which would help GM boost its Volt sales total of 5,003 (as of October 31) closer to the total of 10,000 that it says it will built by the end of the year.

Volt spokesman Rob Peterson told that the most cited reason "serious intenders" don't end up buying Volts is because they're simply not available. As of November 1, he said, there were only 1,800 Volts available for sale at 2,300 Volt dealers.

Adding the 2,300 Volt demonstrators to that total means that Volt sales could reach 9,000 or more by year-end. The company is also steadily delivering more Volts every week, so an all-out sales push could see November and December sales spike well beyond the 1,108 sold in October.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

Dealers are not required to sell the demonstators, of course.

But previously, Volt-qualified dealers had to agree to hold one demonstrator Volt at the dealership for six months, so it would be available for customers to look at and test-drive, even if the dealer had no other Volts in stock to sell.

Like many commentators, we're eager to see what November sales figures look like.

With three weeks left in November, those dealers willing to sacrifice their Volt dealer units could help propel sales to a new monthly record.

We'll keep you posted.


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Comments (33)
  1. Is GM running their production line in slow motion? Why is GM unable to produce more than a relative handful of these cars? At these production levels, GM has to be losing money on this car, especially if their assembly plant can only produce this model. Any other vehicle with sales this low would have been cancelled long before now. What gives?

  2. Ramon, you don't get it and never will... 10 seconds of research would have answered your usual inane questions, but the new Malibu will be made there as well. If you don't want to know why volumes are limited, it's clearly because you have made a conscious decision not to know by now.
    GM has made many vehicles with much lower volumes and AGAIN, it's on sale in 7 states, not 50. Can you at least tell the difference between the numbers 7 and 50...??? Did Nissan stop production of the LEAF last month when the Volt outsold it?
    Really, children shouldn't be allowed on this site...

  3. "robok2"; I think it is you who don't get it and never will. GM produced the lowest number of Volts than they did any of their ICE vehicles because they were afraid of getting stranded in the woods ... and look, here they are stranded in the woods.

    Automakers do not start producing vehicles they think will be unpopular or so ugly that no one will buy them. For 20 years Ford produced one of the ugliest cars on the market and it was a total flop and nearly put them out of business; that was until they came out with the 05 Mustang and the F150. GM's fear of the Volt being unpopular is unfounded because they do not want electric vehicles on the market.

  4. James, there are numerous GM and other OEM cars that sell/have sold fewer than 20k annually. Cadillac XLR, all Escalade, Tahoe, Yukon, Silverado, Sierra hybrids, etc... But please ignore the facts and the fact that supply is limiting production. How many Ford Focus EV will Ford make again, 20k? Much fewer than the Volt, right?
    But if the math of 7 not being equal to 50 is a little beyond you, you've got bigger problems. Yes, GM is spending billions to develop electric vehicles because it does not want them in the market. GM=Chinese, Swiss people are from Sweden, etc... The nonsense never stops with you...
    GM is thinking long term, but for you, there's just no thinking at all...

  5. The Volt became an overnight success and GM like of foresight was sure it would never do that. They were wrong and now the tax payers will have to pay the price for their ignorance...again. GM is showing the tax payer that it was a mistake not letting them go under when we bailed them out with that $150 billion dollar welfare cheque. If GM doesn't get their head together, they will go under again.

  6. I would say that such judgements are more than a little premature. Again, we are selling in 7 out of 50 states. Also, this is a new technology and may take years to build up sales volume. GM has also hedged their manufacturing costs by basic the Volt on the Cruze framework.

    You may well be right that this technology, at this price point, will not be a success. However, give an idea some breathing room and give GM some credit for introducing a revolutionary new technology to the automotive public.

  7. And, John, whose fault is it that the Volt is only sold in 7 out of 50 states? Have you ever known an American automaker conducting business like that one if you have?

    I give GM a lot of credit. They are, or use to be, the most advanced automaker in the world and made some of the most popular vehicles you have ever seen...yes, I know you've seen them and so have I. I think GM's problem is with their conservative CEO. Get rid of that jerk and GM could, in time, return to being the best and most advanced automaker in the world...again. GM desperately needs an all electric vehicle that can whip the Tesla Model S like a red-headed orphan step-kid.

  8. @James: Name me a plug-in vehicle (from domestic or overseas brand) that has NOT been rolled out in phases, please. There isn't one. Every *single* electric vehicle being sold in the States is sold in a limited locations, often starting with CA and the west coast and the Northeast. Volt, Leaf, Mitsubishi, Focus Electric, Fisker ... all of 'em.

    And, several American automakers did precisely the same thing in the late Nineties with electric cars (EV1, S10, Ford's entry which I forget) to meet the California ZEV mandates. It's hardly the shocking new development you apparently view it as.

  9. With limited resources, a phased rollout plan makes a lot of sense. True it is not common state by state car sales. However, it is commonly done for country by country rollout for similar reasons.

    High tech companies do the same. They roll out country by country both to limit risk and deal with resource limitations.

  10. Hamtramck makes about 5000 Volts per month. Starting early 2012 the Malibu will be made there as well. The new Impala is either already being made there or will be along with the Malibu. Lots of automakers have cars that only sell 5000 per month, not every model is at 20000 per month.

    Auto companies must plan production volume years in advance, especially important if it has a number of unique parts like electric power steering, electric power brakes, large battery array etc. GM wasn't sure how well the Volt would sell, they didn't make a commitment like Nissan did to plan for 450k LEAFs per year. They figured on about 40k per year, and now have upgraded that to 60k per year. BTW, Ford has planned for only 20k Focus EVs per year.

  11. Well said, Roy. I would also add that the rate-limiting factor in production of Volts, Leafs, and other electric cars is the supply of lithium-ion cells, electric motors, and power electronics. None of these are "off-the-shelf" items, and a lithium cell plant to supply 60K Volts a year costs roughly $200 million to build--so cell suppliers require contracts to spend that money, meaning automakers plan years in advance and then must live with their volume projections. That's why Ford has sold 20K-25K Escape Hybrids a year, and a like number of Fusion Hybrids. They're limited by (a) losses per vehicle; and (b) parts supplies.

  12. RE "off the shelf"
    I have worked in high volume production and absolutely nothing is off the shelf including screws. If you want 10 millions screws of a certain size, they will need to be made for you and at that point it does matter whether they are standard length or not. They are made specifically for you.

  13. Good point Roy,
    And even though Nissan may have plans to sell 450k per year, last month their US total was 849 sold. Funny thing Raymond, Nissan has no plans to cancel the Leaf either.

  14. What was the plan here anyway? The Volt was only selling in 7 states, yet ALL Chevy dealerships had to have a demonstrator Volt. Why have demonstrators in states that are not allowed to sell Volts? I come, see the car, then I can't buy it. Why not give the cars to dealerships in states that are allowed to sell them.

    OK, so now that the dealerships are allowed to sell the demonstrator, does that mean that Volts are available in all 50 states? And, if a dealership in say, Massachusetts, sells his demonstrator, can he order a second demonstrator, sell it, the get a third demonstrator sell it... In that way does Massachusetts become a state where Volts are available for sale?

    Seems like a launch plan falling apart.

  15. As we reported more than a year ago, the rollout of the Volt to all 50 states will be completed by the end of 2011:
    And as we've also reported, electric cars like the Volt draw customers into the showrooms who may not otherwise have come, some of whom end up buying conventional cars:

    The demonstrators that will be sold will be replaced with other demonstrators once the pipeline is filled, according to GM. (1 of 2)

  16. (2 of 2) I'd tend to view this as a short-term measure to respond to the barrage of "Volt is a failure" criticism from some (uninformed) points on the political spectrum:

  17. OK, thanks for the correction.

    According to MyChevroletVolt, Volts should now be available nationwide as it is now November 2011.

    So I guess if there is already a nationwide rollout, selling demonstrators is no big deal. Hopefully they can refill the demonstrators quickly at this point.

    So I guess I can still argue that there has only been a 50 state rollout for 0 months so sales are still limited by inventory.

  18. @John B/John V., I just called five Chevy dealers in Michigan, where the Volt has been released, including the salesguy who I ordered mine through originally. Not one of them has one. One dealer sold the demo car within an hour since the guy had been waiting for months. Two dealers said they've got long waiting lists, etc...
    The web site you linked to John B. looks like it hasn't been updated lately, so who really knows. Even if it's officialy nationwide, it doesn't seem to really be the case quite yet, so let's see over the next few months.
    Sales are limited, I'd say, but not for much longer, perhaps? Time to visit a dealer again, I guess.
    In the end, it's not a race, it all helps the technology and long-term consumer acceptance.

  19. Thanks for the update. Good to know that there is a supply problem rather than a lack of interested buyers. Of course, GM should really fix the supply problem.

  20. I don't see this as any reaction to supply or demand. A dealership undermined GM's marketing strategy by "mistakenly" selling a demo Volt, leaving GM in the position of either taking punitive steps (diverting allocations) or allowing everybody to sell demo Volts. The latter was the lesser of two evils - nothing more.

  21. Hi Jason,
    Can you show a source for this report please?

  22. well, name one that has the least of more than 2 evils

  23. The recent interview with a Chevy dealer on Fox News who happens to also be a Republican Congressman from Central Pennsylvania showed me in an instant why Volts are not selling faster. His Neanderthal views and stone-age mentality made me wonder why we bailed out this bunch of ungrateful idiots in the first place. Here GM finally comes out with a fantastic machine that truly moves the industry forward, and you have this guy on TV talking about what a waste it is. They should have put the Volt in Cadillac (or even BMW) dealers, so at least the people selling them would have some sense as the quality of the car they are selling and the intelligence of their customers.

  24. "Intelligent" "Car salesmen" really. I have never had that experience.

  25. Yes, William, the "stone-age mentality" of a Republican Congressman and Chevy dealer means we should hve let GM go belly up, costing how many their jobs, since the capital markets would not have rescued GM with a typical Chapter 11 at the time. The suppler base would have been decimated and Ford would likely not have been able to manufacture, either.
    But yes, Cadillac dealers are assumed to be somehow instantly more enlightened... Yes, because... well, uh... Whether GM sold it as a Chevy or a Cadillac, it's still GM and idiots will still hate just because it's GM. If GM found a cure for cancer idiots would criticize it for population growth.
    I've never even owned an American car since about 1990, but let's attack GM when it's doing well.

  26. Comment disabled by moderators.

  27. I'm not attacking GM. They are finally (for the first time since I was a teenager) doing something right. I'm ready to give up my BMW 5-series (which is a fantastic car) to buy a Volt. I'm attacking the numbskulls they still employ to sell their cars -- especially the Volt. Listen to the Fox News interview with one of their dealers. Would you buy any car from this idiot?

  28. I understand, William, but my point is that what makes you think Cadillac dealers would do any better?
    I'm with you, have never owned a GM car at all, even in HS and college. Idiots will be idiots, of course. On the other hand, you alluded to the rescue being a mistake, didn't you? You did call GM/Chevy idiots, didn't you? How exactly is that not an attack? And, again, how is this Chevy dealer unique when the main lobbying body of dealers in N. America are still fighting CAFE to this day? Do you have data showing that Cadillac dealers are more informed than Chevy or Ford dealers?
    I've always hated GM, but still seems like a major stretch to me. Yes, he's an idiot, but is he somehow unique?
    My Volt sales guy was clueless, but he tried.

  29. Comment disabled by moderators.

  30. You really don't seem to understand what I am saying. Of course I don't think the bailout was a mistake. But you would think a Chevy dealer would at least be a bit grateful instead of biting the hand that fed him. LIsten to this guy: t Comparing a Volt to a Cruze make you want to throw up. Would Car and Driver compare a Volt to a Cruze? Of course not, they compared it to a BWM 3 series and cars in that class. Believe me, as a great car owner and as an engineer, I know what a great car is. Only a nincompoop would compare a Volt to a Cruze. That little bit of extra you that makes it a great car costs a lot of money.

  31. No idea why my posts are "double-posting," sorry, everyone. If you have an idea on how to get this to stop, let me know and I'll make sure it doesn't happen again.
    And William, by "idiots will be idiots," to be clear, I meant the dealer, of course and hope that was clear. When it comes to EVs and hybrids, they still far outnumber advocates like those reading here.

  32. GM's Chevy Volt is not an electric car or vehicle, it is a hybrid. Much in the same way Chocolate Chip ice cream is not Chocolate ice cream, nor Vanilla ice cream. A gasoline car is not called a diesel. You call it what it is. GM has the media call its hybrid an electric vehicle so it can get accolades, carbon and other credits, etc. Its just another GM untruth spread across the newswires. Call it what it is, and the public can then begin the process of understanding what different types of vehicles there are with much less confusion.

  33. I woujld love to get a chevy volt as a trial car.

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