Chevy Volt Plug-In Sales Surge In CA, Outsells 'Vette Too

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2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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It's quite the morning for electric-car news today, but we didn't want to let one from yesterday slip by either.

After a lumpy start to sales of the Chevrolet Volt, it appears that California dealers now can't keep the range-extended electric car in stock.

According to an analysis of registration data from January through March provided by R.L. Polk, the Detroit Free Press reports that California bought more Volts by far--837 of them--than in the second-highest state, which was Michigan at just 232.

California buyers are crucially important to the future success of Detroit's automakers, who sell far fewer vehicles there than Asian and European brands.

One in four Volts

Almost one in four Volts sold in the first quarter was registered in California, and the pace is likely to continue.

The Free Press quotes two different Chevrolet dealers saying they're basically sold out of Volts, and notes that California dealerships are resorting to buying Volts from other dealers.



They can't bring in Volts from dealers outside the state because to qualify for single-occupant travel in the High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes on California's notoriously congested freeways, the Volt must be fitted at the factory with additional emission control equipment.

All about HOV access

And in fact it's the HOV-lane access that is proving to be the success factor for Volts in the Golden State, as most electric-car advocates had long predicted.

Sales of three hybrid cars--the Toyota Prius, original Honda Insight, and Honda Civic Hybrid--soared in California several years ago when the state issued special yellow stickers giving 85,000 of those cars access to HOV lanes even with only a single occupant.

Those stickers expired last year, but they have effectively been replaced with green stickers for plug-in hybrids (like the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid) and range-extended electric cars (like the Chevrolet Volt).

White stickers, denoting zero-emission vehicles (battery electrics like the Nissan Leaf, or fuel-cell vehicles like the Honda FCX Clarity), have existed for many years now.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (left) and Corvette ZR1

2012 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (left) and Corvette ZR1

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Volt vs 'Vette?

In an interesting statistical side note, Fox News reports that the Chevy Volt is now outselling the brand's other low-production, high-performance halo car, the two-seat fiberglass Chevrolet Corvette.

Not only did the Volt outsell the 'Vette when May sales figures came in (1,680 to 1,219) but it's ahead for the first five months of the year (7,057 Volts vs. 5,547 'Vettes).

In an unscientific reader poll at the end of the story, however, Fox readers opted for the Corvette over the Volt 69 percent to 9 percent (the Silverado pickup truck, the third option, got 22 percent).

We must admit we wonder how many of those Fox News voters spend time stuck in the slow lanes on California freeways while plug-in Volts zip past them.


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Comments (7)
  1. The Vette comparison is an interesting one. Certainly no one considers the Vette a failure making it an interesting benchmark for the Volt.

  2. Agreed, John. For people like KB, who has stated here repeatedly that GM would have killed the Volt by now, I'd love to hear the response now. Of course, given the track record, since it's a story that doesn't state bad things about the Volt, I doubt we'll see anything here.

    John V., or anyone else, any update on how the Volt (Ampera) is selling in Europe now? Still presumably limited, but any numbers available yet? The same for the LEAF and the PiP, if it's for sale there now. Thanks!

  3. Will the Volt outsell the Vette the rest of the year?

    Does a Volt go faster than a Vette, when you factor in the HOV lane?

    A classmate of mine used to brag that he drove a "Vette". It worked for a while, until people figured out that he drove a really old Chevette.

  4. LOL

  5. The Fox News "readers" can't afford either one, so selecting the radio button is as close as they get to the Volt or the Vette for this reason. A nice used Silverado with a fishing boat is all the Chevy they need.

  6. Predictions: both Volt n Vette will more then double their 2012 US sales numbers in 2013. New Vette may beat gas mpg of Volt too.

    Volt will be a bit more EV efficient and have even more proven reliability being made 3 years on.
    Also the 40K CA green carpool stickers available will not even be even 10% utilized this year because of the current low production numbers of eligible cars(pip n volt primarily). 2013 will have many more in CA buying Volt.

    Vette last redesigned '05. New, lighter, more efficient redesigned Vette is due mid 2013 w/ possibly a turbo V6 instead of the current 6.0L V8. And that big V8 got 31 hwy mpg in CR testing 7 years ago.

  7. Erik, great info to a degree, but the Vette will not even come close to beating the Volt's mileage, highway or otherwise. CR testing is exactly that, CR testing. 31 in a test seven years ago means officially 21 highway today, or about half the Volt's 40. The Corvette is not closing the 21-vs.-40 gap any time soon no matter what engine/transmission choice is offered.

    Again, liked the comments, but the mileage of the Vette beating the Volt... Not exactly likely, I would say.

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