Will Chevy Volt Sales Hit 40,000 This Year (Ampera Included)?

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2011 Chevrolet Volt Production Line at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant

2011 Chevrolet Volt Production Line at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant

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After being flayed for not achieving its 2011 sales goal for the Chevy Volt, you might think General Motors would shy away from further volume predictions for its innovative range-extended electric car.

Not so.

CEO Dan Akerson said in late June that the company thought it would sell 35,000 to 40,000 Volts globally this year, including European sales of its Opel/Vauxhall Ampera variation.

His comments, in a speech to the Executives' Club of Chicago, were reported by Bloomberg in late June.

Akerson contrasted that projection to the original 2012 sales target of 60,000, made up of 45,000 Volts in the U.S. and 15,000 in the rest of the world.

U.S. sales of the Volt through July were 10,666, putting the car on track for total 2012 sales of perhaps 18,000 to 20,000. Sales have been especially strong in the crucial California market.

TheOpel and Vauxhall versions of the Volt are known as the Ampera; the differences are largely confined to front styling.

European orders were unexpectedly strong, reaching 7,000 even before the car went on sale.

Through July, GM has sold 2,861 Amperas--perhaps helped by the car's designation as the European Car of the Year--and that number is expected to increase substantially by December.

2012 Vauxhall Ampera

2012 Vauxhall Ampera

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GM also sold 18 Volts in China; the car just recently went on sale there, though sales of the plug-in electric car are expected to be modest in the price-sensitive Chinese market.

Akerson attributed some of the Volt's lower-than-expected sales to political controversy over the car, which was widely attacked for missing its 2011 sales goal of 10,000. That year, Chevy sold 7,671 Volts in the U.S.

During 2011, GM's technology halo car suffered through a lengthy and very public investigation of a fire in the lithium-ion battery pack of a Volt that had been wrecked in an NHTSA crash test three weeks earlier.

GM offered voluntary modifications to add protection to the battery pack (most Volt owners haven't taken up the offer), and the car was exonerated by the NHTSA, but not before a Congressional hearing on the incident at which Akerson was called to testify.

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

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Akerson said in March of this year that GM would stick with the Volt, despite the lower-than-predicted sales and a myriad of other challenges.

As one Automotive News reporter notes, Akerson's comment may launch a brand-new countdown to see whether Volt/Ampera sales meet the latest goal.

If not, will there be another firestorm of criticism?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (17)
  1. In a related question, assuming they sell 40,000 cars, is that a good number?

    On the one hand, it seems like you would need to sell at least 100,000/year of any vehicle to justify the tooling costs.

    On the other hand, this is a far larger number than the 2000 or so EV1s (or vehicles from other manufacturers) in the 90's suggesting a market does exist for EVs.

  2. 200k sales is a number that no automaker in the world could ignor. While 40k seems far of that number, Prius initial sales were way lower then Volt, and Prius transformed the industry forcing wide adoption of hybrids...

  3. One might surmise that in addition to Cadillac ELR and Volt 2.0 entering production in the first quarter of 2014, there might also be other body styles (minivans and SUVs in various sizes) entering production later in 2014, 2015 and beyond. If so, some of the Volt development cost would be amortized across a broader product family to last for decades.

  4. How many of the Volts were bought by the Obama comrades using tax payers money? It would my Fadel, Mao and Hugo proud!

  5. Considering that it took the Prius about 5 years to hit that yearly number, I'd say 40k is very reasonable for this type of car. Even if they don't hit their target, I don't think you will see the same firestorm of criticism as there was in 2011, especially from the right. Romney has essentially taken credit for the Obama bailout of GM, which shows how the election year has changed the political atmosphere.

  6. "On the one hand, it seems like you would need to sell at least 100,000/year of any vehicle to justify the tooling costs."

    Says who? There are a lot of successful lower volume cars out there. Only the most popular cars are being built over 100k a year. The Volt is not going to be a high volume car.

  7. These are generally the numbers that Bob Lutz talks about in his book "Car guys versus the bean counters."

    However, he really sees this as more of a Halo car where the impact on the brand image is more important than sales.

  8. That is only if they are "unique" platform and "unique" toolings needed. Ford avoided problem with as many shared parts as possible with its Focus EV. GM is doing some of that with shared parts bin from the Cruze. Ex: the steering wheels are shared among just about every Chevy sedan models.

    "Tooling" is another "overused" terms. Many of the sheet metals are "stamped". GM has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into "quick and programmable" press that can crank out different sheet metal parts within an hour (ever since the large 1998 UAW strikes). The molded plastic parts are the only thing that require volume for its "tooling". Volt's engine is shared with many of GM's cars.

    That is why an unique build like Tesla is expensive.

  9. Wait, are you suggesting that the unique body panels on Volt don't require a custom 2 piece die set? I have heard of hydroforming used on low volume cars, but they still require customer 1 piece die (the other side is formed by hydraulic pressure.

  10. 40,000 world wide would be an achievment. That would be ~4x than the 2011 numbers. I am guessing the numbers will be closer to 30,000 range.

    At the current price, 40k x $40k is $1.6Billion in revenue. That is a decent number for any manufacturer.

    The key is if GM can keep up the development of the "Volt family". A new redesign will be needed in 2-3 years and potentially other cars based on the same platform will be launched as well. GM needs to keep it going.

  11. Hasn't Caddillac already announced a coupe version of the Volt?

  12. Yes. But I am NOT sure how the car will sell and what the price point is.

    I really hope there is a tall wagon version of the Volt or a small crossover...

  13. "perhaps helped by the car's designation as the European Car of the Year-"

    No, more than half those (1477 to be precise) were sold in The Netherlands, where a very favourable tax incentive is given to company car drivers. Normally they should add a % of MSRP to their income. The Dutch IRS sees a comany car that is used prvately as salary. But the Ampera is free from this tax, saving the driver easily 1500 Euros annually compared to a Prius and >2000 compared to a standard (non-hybrid) car in the same class.

  14. How many $40k+ compact sedan does a typical manufacture sell?

    That should be GM's target. $40k is $10k more than the average selling price of the car in the US. With Volt's size and price, expecting it to sell like the Cruze is unrealistic.

    So, either the Volt has to become bigger or it has to drop in price in order to get significant sales improvement.

    Prius went through the same thing. Prius was getting larger, better and cheaper over time. Volume improved with it.

  15. 40K, 35k, even 30k sales in 2012 are good numbers for a plug-in. More important is what trends the numbers indicate - are they steady and showing growth or are they falling into mediocrity? By the numbers, GM can feel pretty good about the Volt's future, whereas Nissan is clearly in trouble with their LEAF - not only because of lousy sales numbers, but with growing discontent among their LEAF customers due to battery issues coupled with an unsatisfactory response from Nissan.

  16. Show me a freaking new technology, new model that sells like gangbusters in the first couple years! I'm tired of these stupid articles and comments crapping on these damn good vehicles(Volt n Leaf) when the manufacturers couldn't build many more, at this time, even if demand was high.

    That's a good thing as both the Volt n Leaf have been improved for 2013 MY and production capacity increased. Both have proven to be reliable. Govt, business, and folks in CA will be buying these both at a higher clip in 2013.

    Predictions: 100K 2013 Volt/Amperas sold worldwide and 50K Leafs

  17. Does anyone know how many volts worldwide GM is planning for 2013?

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