Editor’s note: When it rains it pours – Volt news that is. Following is a (partial) weekend roundup – three Volt stories briefed into one and we’ll have more on Monday.
Yesterday Chevrolet reported another record Volt sales month for November amounting to 1,139 delivered in North America. This narrowly improves on last month’s 1,108 Volts sold. The end of month total was recorded as 6,142 Volts sold.
In other news, Consumer Reports said yesterday that the Volt is number one in owner satisfaction – topping even the vaunted Porsche 911 costing twice as much.
And in yet more news, as the Chevrolet Volt approaches its first full year of production and accomplishes nationwide roll-out, U.S. Rep Mike Kelly (R, Pa.) has said he’d like to end the federal tax credit available to electric automobiles.
Last month we reported the number of Volts sold jumped 50 percent from September to October, and it appeared going into November that the monthly numbers had a fair chance of cresting progressively higher – but they didn’t.
Yesterday, GM Spokesman Rob Peterson said he does not know whether the company will reach its goal of 10,000 North American deliveries by the end of the calendar year, but to do so will require 3,858 sales this month.
This is less than likely, and Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of sales operations has already conceded to CNNMoney that GM will miss the target.
“We’re not at all disappointed,” Johnson said, “We’ll hit it early next year.”
Peterson noted the Volt is all-new technology, 10,000 is an “aggressive target” for GM to reach for, and also said the Volt will reach 10,000, and keep climbing,
It probably did not help much that the Volt has been aggressively questioned in the media this month, although Peterson said he did not know for certain whether this was a measurable detriment to sales.
It’s at least clear that issues surrounding the Volt have been in the media’s eye more than GM would like.
GM’s offer of an alternate gasoline-powered loaner car until an ongoing NHTSA investigation into batteries is resolved was its attempt to “get out in front” of the issues, Peterson said.
Oh, and by the way, yesterday USA Today reported GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said this loaner plan includes the contingency that GM would go so far as to buy back a Volt if an owner’s complaint called for it.
GM Spokesperson Michele Bunker said this is not “new news” and it was part of Monday’s announcement, but if that is true, we and everyone else missed it until yesterday.
Reasons for Volt owners being happy enough to top the charts – 93 percent said they would buy it again – include the fact that early adapters are EV enthusiasts to begin with, plus GM has done a great job overall with its customer outreach, particularly via its Volt Advisors.
GM has provided kid glove service to its early adapters giving them a Cadillac-quality ride and treatment, even if there is only a humble bow tie on the Volt’s front grille.
The results tallied by Consumers Reports came prior to the NHTSA investigation, but Volt owners have continued to say they are not all that worried about it.
Without specifying a number, Peterson said he knows of only “a handful” (reportedly 33) of Volt owners so worried about the NHTSA evaluation as to request a loaner.
Tax credit threatened?
Whether the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania can gain support for his saber rattling remains to be seen, but disgruntled Chevy dealer U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly keeps on trying.
The Detroit News recently reported Kelly said the Volt “has become the poster child of President Obama’s failed green agenda.”
“Like many green initiatives promoted by this administration and bankrolled by the American taxpayer, the electric car is better in theory than in practice; has limited consumer demand; is heavily subsidized; and has fallen short of reaching its targeted goals,” he wrote. “Despite the fact that the federal government has no business subsidizing a product that a manufacturer could just as easily promote through rebates and other buyer incentives, the tax subsidies are largely going to the affluent few who can actually afford to buy an electric car, which costs anywhere between $40,000 (Chevy Volt) to $97,000 (Fisker’s Karma).”
Kelly observed that the average annual income of Volt buyers is $175,000, and a large percentage are in Southern California.
“GM has made some of the finest automobiles known to man. They are master marketers, and every product researched, designed, and developed was done through rigorous market research and analysis,” Kelly said. “However, when the model changes, when a manufacturer puts politics ahead of market demand, when the return on investment is measured in terms of political gain rather than financial gain, the results vary drastically.”
Kelly shared his thoughts on the Volt at the end of October.
We called Kelly’s Washington, D.C. office yesterday and spoke to his Press Secretary Julia Thornton. She replied later via email with answers to our questions whether he had specific legislation proposed, or how he intended to accomplish a reversal of the tax credit.
“Rep. Kelly is keeping his legislative options open,” Thornton wrote. “Rep. Kelly’s primary focus is to reduce government spending, decrease our nation’s $15 trillion debt, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used as wisely and cost-effectively as possible. As Rep. Kelly always says, you can only spend a dollar once.”
The Volt – which got underway during the Bush administration – threatens the established order by offering a viable, well-engineered electric car with no range anxiety. Drivers who stay in EV mode can go many months and several thousands of miles without stopping for gasoline.
At the same time, its gasoline backup means longer trips as far as desired are nothing to worry about, as the Volt can also be filled up at any gas station and offers close to 40 mpg.
GM did deliberately roll the car out slowly, starting with just seven states in the beginning, and various interests have seemingly made it a mission to tear the vehicle down pointing at first to slow sales as some form of evidence it was a flop out of the gate.
Frankly, some critics have been like a pack of dogs nipping at the Volt’s heels, looking for anything to accuse it of. Several near-scandals have been alleged this year, and the knee-jerk reaction in the media has been to cover the story. Some have been fair, some have not.
What’s important to remember is the Volt and GM have been vindicated in all defamation attempts thus far, and owners and would-be buyers have been reported as saying they can see past the smokescreens.
Meanwhile, the sheer number of awards and accolades the Volt has earned – including the most recent tip-of-the-hat from Consumer Reports which initially thought to criticize the car – has been astonishing.
Our best guess is whatever does not kill the Volt will make it stronger. We predict it will come out looking better in the long run, and the first months will be looked back on as exciting times.
While they have been alarming times to some as they happened, we think the first year will be remembered as one of trials the Volt weathered and overcame.
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