General Motors has announced that it will cease production on the Chevy Volt for five weeks, beginning in mid-March and lasting until late-April. “We’re taking a temporary shutdown,” said GM spokesman Chris Lee to the Associated Press. “We’re doing it to maintain our proper inventory levels as we align production with demand.” This is the third time since December that Chevy has temporarily stopped production on the Volt. The production halt will result in the temporary layoff of 1,300 workers at GM’s Hamtramck, Michigan assembly plant.
GM has blamed slow sales of late on the controversy surrounding the Volt’s potential to catch fire several weeks after a serious accident if its battery isn’t drained―which has long been a central part of GM’s recommended post-accident safety procedures. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its investigation into the issue last month, choosing not to order a recall the car.
The incident seems to have taken its toll on January Volt sales―which dipped by several hundred at the height of the controversy―but it has become increasing clear that sluggish sales are a problem that predate any battery fire concerns. In its first year on the market, the Volt recorded less than 80 percent of Chevy’s 10,000-unit sales projection, and the company has since abandoned it’s 45,000-unit 2012 goal. For some time, GM blamed slow sales on its inability to meet consumer demand for the car, but the carmaker now says it has roughly 3,600 Volts in inventory.
The Volt’s chief detractor in Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa, released a statement Friday afternoon claiming the imminent demise of the electric vehicle movement. “Even as gas prices continue to climb, President Obama’s attempt to manipulate the free market and force consumers into purchasing electric vehicles like the GM Volt has failed despite the use of taxpayer dollars to prop up production,” said Issa.
The good news for Chevy is that Volt deliveries were up more than 60 percent for February, rising to 1,023 and signaling that battery fire concerns may be at an end.