Volt Production Halted; What’s Next?

March 5th, 2012

Volt production line

GM is temporarily laying off some 1,300 workers as it suspends production of the Volt at its Detroit Hamtramck plant. There are simply too many Volts in dealer inventory waiting to be sold: five months versus the normal two-month supply of cars.

The car had a good jump in sales last month, however, as GM sold 1,023 Volts—420 more than in January. Of course these numbers are peanuts compared to the stupid predictions GM and the USDOE have claimed over time. But it was good news for the Volt!

Edward Niedermeyer is ventilating (and also making some good points) about “The Twilight of the Volt” in the above-referenced article. Indeed, the history of this car is not only a testament to GM’s grand failure in marketing it but to the Obama administration’s continual promotion of the Volt, which made it a symbol of partisan politics. Niedermeyer is right about this.

After the phony fire scare, the company attempted to fight fire with ads, which campaign by itself isn’t going to light any fire under potential buyers. The campaign was aimed at creating an image of patriotic green: “It’s the car America had to build.”

Volt celebration, Bob LutzCome on, guys. The only way the Volt can survive is by a big price cut, or an incentive program, and a strong appeal to explain and promote its technological sophistication to those buyers who get it. And this will take some time.

One man explained why he bought a Prius Plug-in rather than a Volt or Leaf. Part of his reasoning was that “the regular hybrid Prius has been around for 13 years, and has a proven track record for quality and reliability.” He also thought the Volt “looks too much like an ordinary car,” which it does.

As well as it has done with the Cruze, GM has made every mistake in the book with the Volt. The car’s history of course begins pre-bailout, but it has been confounded with bailout politics and really bad management decisions.

Maybe Akerson & Co. can learn finally how to sell a niche-market car and commit to the time this will take. We hope so.

Will the Volt make it, or will GM simply cut its losses? Let us have your thinking.

—jgoods

P.S. We learn that the old monster Packard plant in Detroit is finally going to be demolished. The plant had been idle since 1958, after playing a major role in auto history and World War II production. Its decay has been a sad comment on our times and the history of Detroit. Look at these pictures.

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Chevrolet Volt
Used Toyota Prius
Used Nissan Leaf
Used Chevrolet Cruze

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  1. | #1

    I hope they don’t kill the Volt, I do agree though that a price cut is what is needed. Make the price under 20k with the fed rebate and I bet sales will jump!

  2. panayoti
    | #2

    @
    Your wish for a sub $20K vehicle is fine, but please don’t ask us to pay for the government rebate. We’ve had enough of those with the banks, the car companies and the housing fixes.

  3. Randy
    | #3

    It’s the government rebate that kites the price on vehicles like the Volt and Nissan Leaf. The manufacturers simply add the rebate on top of what they estimate the highest price that consumers are willing to pay. It’s the kind of stupid marketing move that clueless brand managers are famous for. If the government offered a $200 rebate on Apple Ipads, what do you think the price would be? It sure wouldn’t be $500. The utter failure of this segment of the industry (with statistically ZERO sales penetration) shows how screwed up the government policy of rebates is.
    Now look at Toyota, a company that decided it was going to be the leader in hybrid technology many years ago. They developed a very sound system that works and can be produced at reasonable cost, and then was willing to sell the cars at a loss to establish their leadership in the market. They now OWN the hybrid market with vehicles that don’t have a $20,000 price premium like the Leaf and Volt, are drivable, reliable, and have very long warranties that give the consumer confidence whether buying a new or used Toyota hybrid. On the other hand, companies like GM have long practiced an engineering and marketing philosophy towards hybrids that borders on a sick scam, offering expensive hybrid packages that offer no real fuel savings or super expensive disasters like the Volt.

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