See midway down for a brief update inserted under Volt news.
As the dust settles from the batterygate debacle that GM hopes to relegate to forgotten history, U.S. Volt sales jumped to 1,023 last month, and in Europe, they cannot get enough a good thing in the form of an imported from U.S. Ampera.
Volt sales in this year’s 29 days of February leaped above weak January numbers of 603 Volts that GM executives have said were low because of bad press, not to mention January is normally a slow month anyway.
This month, the E-REV outsold the Nissan Leaf – side note: why do we compare the Volt to this car? Because they are both two different approaches to electrification? What ever the case, since we’ve done it since they both launched, we’ll keep the tradition going and mention the Leaf sold only 478 units, a decline from 676 sold in January, and 954 in December. Nissan has nonetheless said it hopes this year to double the 9,700 Leafs sold in 2011.
And speaking of goals, GM has abandoned its long-standing 2012 North American sales target of 45,000 units, and as it had begun hinting a while back, will match “supply to demand.”
As the line above says, we knew GM would curtail supply, but more specifically, today GM said it is halting production of the Chevrolet Volt for five weeks from Mar. 19-April 23 as it works to sell down its existing inventory.
“We have more than enough to meet our demand,” said GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho.
As part of the shut-down, GM will temporarily lay off 1,300 workers at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
While we expect critics – including those who for some reason lurk around GM-Volt, and who are being watched for the attitude they project – may pounce on the above statement, GM has said it is still working on rebuilding its damaged image.
It bears repeating because it is true: The Volt’s reputation was damaged following fictional reports of Volt batteries “exploding” and other extravagant tales. I’m still asked by people about the alleged big fire risk. The misinformation was willfully spread, it didn’t happen in a day, and its reversal won’t either.
But over in Europe, news is a bit brighter for the Volt’s cousin. They are only doling out perhaps one-quarter the U.S. number of E-Revs, and if GM will extend its policy of matching supply with demand, it should probably think about increasing the Euro allocation.
There had been reports not many weeks ago that General Motors was holding back European deliveries of the Opel Ampera until issues in North America surrounding its sister vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, were resolved.
The company says it is approaching 6,000 European orders, is well on the way toward its (conservative first-year) sales goals, and is taking sales away from premium brands.
“Our first deliveries are running smoothly and I’m pleased to confirm that our sales target of 10,000 units for 2012 is on track,” said Enno Fuchs, Opel’s e-mobility launch director. “We’re very happy that our European customers can now drive our revolutionary Ampera.”
Opel is apparently also happy that sales of the Ampera represent a “premium brand conquest” as clients transfer loyalties to the American-produced, environmentally friendly vehicle.
“The majority of Ampera retail customers previously owned top premium brand cars and are making the switch to the Ampera and Opel because they want to be the first to use such cutting-edge technology,” Opel said.
A similar phenomenon occurred last year among high per-capita earning first adopters of the Volt in the U.S., but in Europe, Opel notes the majority of Ampera clients have been fleet or business customers.
Last August, Opel chief Nick Reilly said he was already hoping to be allowed to import more than only 10,000 units in 2012, and that around 75 percent of Ampera pre-order customers were fleet buyers. This latter assertion Opel reiterated this month, mentioning some of its top fleet accounts.
“These include big names such as Lease Plan, ALD and Europcar,” Opel said. “A number of big global brands have placed orders and further showcase their environmental commitment by having Amperas in their fleet.”
For now the vehicles are being imported from GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, although if success continues, GM is looking to produce Opel and similar Vauxhall-badged Amperas and Chevy Volts closer to their point of consumption.
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