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GM Halts Volt Production To Realign Supply to Demand
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As we documented earlier today, General Motors had been saying it would match Chevrolet Volt supply to demand, and in keeping with this assertion it is now it is saying it will shut down its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for five weeks from Mar. 19-April 23.
Dealers had around 6,300 units on hand nationally at the end of February, which averages to a 154 day supply at current sales rates.
Closure of the assembly line at GM’s only Volt production facility means 1,300 temporary layoffs, as the company trims back inventory levels.
“We have more than enough to meet our demand,” said GM spokesperson Michelle Malcho.
Last month, GM’s self-described “halo” vehicle sold just 1,023 units. This was up from January’s 603 units, down from December’s peak of 1,529 units – and perhaps most significantly – not at all close to being on track for 45,000 North American sales initially projected for calendar year 2012.
In January, following closure of a federal investigation into battery safety allegations, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson told a U.S. House subcommittee hearing into the same issues that the company did not engineer its extended-range electric car to be “a political punching bag.”
GM’s contention is that the Volt nonetheless has been politically attacked, and its executives have been saying the company is having to “relaunch” it following a firestorm of negative press, while at the same time being forthright about the Volt’s sales not being what it would like them to be.
The company has said it has a public relations policy of “transparency” that it began prior to the Volt’s launch. It said it initiated this approach to rebuild its post-bankruptcy credibility, and sure enough, it has shown itself willing to face the music when shortcomings are apparent.
That said, of late GM has become increasingly unwilling to go so far as to make its Volt a sacrificial lamb, and within limits, it has begun fighting back with – among other efforts – advertisements on Fox News network and elsewhere, and a blog that rebuts other critics of its plug-in vehicle.
To those of us who’ve watched the process unfold day by day over the past year, it has been an eventful time with not a little drama as every reportable foible involving the vehicular centerpiece for the “New GM” and its Volt was fresh fodder for the media and the rumor mill.
It’s been said before, but may bear repeating: the most serious allegations against the Volt that its battery might “blow up” or implicitly roast its occupants alive were grossly exaggerated. No Volt has caught fire on the road to date, although in 2010 over 200,000 fires involving conventional internal combustion vehicles were reported.
Some have said the Volt represents a threat to an entrenched paradigm. Opponents have said it is a losing proposition. Ultimately time will tell, but that a fight is still on is at least certain.
Those who’ve embraced the car are fiercely loyal, if that is any indicator. Recently Consumer Reports gave it the highest owner satisfaction rating among all U.S. passenger vehicles sold today, yet the $40,000 plus vehicle has also been called pricey for a compact Chevrolet, even if incentives are available to defray the expense.
On the other hand, GM data has shown its drivers visit the fuel pump maybe once a month, or less. We could go on and on with pros and cons about the Volt’s value proposition, but will end this short by saying, ultimately it is a qualified individual decision, and will leave it at that.