General Motors Tripled Sales Of Chevy Volt In 2012, Selling One Million Vehicles Over 30 MPG

General Motors had a record-breaking year for fuel-efficient autos in 2012.

The company became the first American auto manufacturer to sell more than one million vehicles with a 30-mpg fuel rating. And due to a surge in demand from Califorina, GM tripled sales of its electric model, the Chevy Volt.

Motor Trend reported on the year end sales figures:

Chevrolet posted the biggest sales gains of any GM brand last year, with total volume up 4.3 percent year-over-year. Several models made enormous leaps in sales volume: the Sonic compact, for instance, finished December up just 4.3 percent, but a strong year helped push the car to a 415-percent overall gain compared to its first year on sale. The Chevrolet Volt, too, saw sales leap 206 percent from just 7671 units in its difficult first year on the market to a respectable 23,461 cars in 2012. Despite a significant drop to just 1293 sales last month, the Colorado small pickup posted an 18.7 percent annual sales gain. And the Equinox crossover enjoyed a 7.5-percent boost to 19,551 December sales and ended the year up 13.1 percent.

The surge in demand for the Volt capped a tumultuous 2012 for electric vehicles. In 2011, manufacturers fell well short of their sales targets. And as criticisms mounted last year, it seemed like automakers had to spend more time defending electric vehicles than actually making them.

As one of the most prominent automakers getting into the electric vehicle market, GM took a lot of heat from conservative politicians, bloggers, and Fox News pundits about its Chevy Volt. The car was called “crappy” and labeled an “exploding Obamamobile” by commentators looking for an opportunity to attack President Obama’s investments in clean technologies.

Tired of the barrage of attacks, former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz — a Republican who once called climate change “a crock of shit” — lashed out at his fellow conservatives for spreading fear and cracking jokes about the car: “This is an unfortunate, knee-jerk reaction…Folks, it’s pure fiction. Please get it out of your heads,” Lutz said.

Although GM is still below its sales targets for the Volt, the company is promoting its latest sales figures as proof that more Americans want fuel efficient and electric cars.

The average price of gasoline in the U.S. last year was the highest ever recorded, boosting consumer interest in fuel-sipping automobiles. With more fuel-efficient models available from automakers, sales increased substantially — up 13 percent over 2011 sales.

“The U.S. light vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of LMC Automotive, an industry analysis firm, to the Associated Press.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration finalized new standards that will increase the average fuel efficiency of America’s cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Natural Resources Defense Council says those fuel standards could save consumers $68 billion in fuel costs each year after 2030, when the mileage targets have been met.

34 Responses to General Motors Tripled Sales Of Chevy Volt In 2012, Selling One Million Vehicles Over 30 MPG

  1. Sasparilla says:

    It’s always good to look at the historical perspective of how Hbyrids first sold as a gauge of how the plug-ins are doing.

    And the Plug-in vehicles (Volt, Plug-in-Prius, Leaf etc.), even though they are more expensive, are selling much better than the Prius and Honda Hybrid’s did during their first years of sales.

    The Volt, in particular, was started under President George Bush with heavy support from GOP mouthpieces of the time as well as support from that administration – how quickly that can change when the fossil fuel industry and its money tells the GOP (and their mouthpieces) what to say and do has been seen over these last years.

  2. Superman1 says:

    The most critical issue with respect to climate change is whether or not we have passed the point of no return. Instead of addressing that issue, we get articles like the one above, extolling the virtues of a slightly more efficient vehicle still operating from a fossil fuel source. Let’s get a debate among Guy McPherson, Kevin Anderson, and David Archer as to whether we can still avoid the catastrophe, and what is required to do this.

  3. AC Points says:

    I enjoy following the discussions on the Volt and Volt technology. It’s hardly “the next big thing” as some libs would like to believe, and its by not means an “abject failure” as some cons would like to believe. It has a much more restricted market than the Prius hybrid and will probably take significantly longer to recoup a significant amount of the R&D costs.

    Ultimately it needs to be cost competitive without the tax credits or it will remain a target largely a 2nd or 3rd vehicle in an upper middle class family.

  4. eric says:

    I agree we should be focusing on what every single person can do to limit the negative effects of climate change. I don’t think the average person understands how bad it probably going to be, and how changes today have big impacts in the future. Things we can all do: stop drinking bottled water(it’s a waste of energy), eat less meat specifically beef(it’s takes more energy to produce and much of the beef comes from africa where were burning rain forest to produce the beef.), buy a fuel efficient/hybrid/or electric car, and finally fly less(if it’s possible take the train it’s much much cleaner than flying.)

  5. Zimzone says:

    As I recall, Rush, (the big fat idiot), was leading the charge in badmouthing plug-ins, particularly the Volt.
    Too bad we can’t harness the methane escaping from that pile of protoplasm. He could power a 3rd world country for years.

  6. Douglas says:

    The Volt also received top honors in a Consumer Reports readers poll. I think the question was “how likely would you be to buy the same car again.”

  7. Rattakin says:

    Is 30 mpg “fuel efficient” now? My ’95 Saturn 4-door sedan with extra horsies gets better mileage than that. Just seems like we should have the technological innovation to do better.

  8. john c. wilson says:

    Do the EPA efficiency ratings mean anything anymore? In personal experience for city driving the greatest determinant of mpg is simply vehicle weight. Cars get heavier every year. I am strictly in the used car market so I can’t play with Priuses or Fits. As far as I can tell the real mileage champs were Hondas from the 80s and early 90s. Sadly it is not practical to keep 30-year-old cars going. Real mileage for real cars has been static or going down for as long as I’ve been driving. I do my best to keep my driving below 6000 miles a year, most of it for work.

  9. Niall says:

    I’m not impressed. First, thirty MPG is utter crap by most European standards. Many cars this side of the pond can do double that. Obviously the US is lagging technologically.

    Second, better cars are not a solution if we want to decarbonise the global economy, especially when much of your electricity is coming from nonrenewable sources.

    Third, greater efficiency often just means higher demand. Classic Jevons paradox.

    What I look forward to reading about is ordinary people using more bicycles and using public transport powered by offshore wind.

    Yesterday would not be too soon.

    Fail. An E- rather than an F. This student requires remedial classes. (I don’t mean you personally, Stephen – I mean your country’s entire outlook on this problem.)

  10. Gene Blodgett says:

    Back in the middle 60’s I had a 1959 Morris Minor, had a 1 liter engine, got 35 around local, and 50 on highway, would start at 30 below and if the battery was too weak to turn the engine over I could use the crank. I would buy the same car today if it was possible, given the money to buy something not a junker.

  11. Keith Franklin says:

    Proud Volt owner and after having an electric car will never go back. Despite adding a third driver (17 yeard old Son) this year with getting the Volt in March we saved over $1600 on the Volt and it has required $0 for maintenance. Fun to drive, super smooth (drives better than the Lexus IS300 and BMW 530i that I have had), and super quiet. We now manage who drives what car. The person driving the furthest gets the Volt, next gets our Camry Hybrid and shortest gets the Mercedes.

  12. Paul Klinkman says:

    Once a few people try electric cars, they tell their friends. Here’s what I suspect they’re saying:

    1. People absolutely hate going to the gas station. First of all it’s a waste of their time and going out of their way to a gas station is stressful. Second, you smell a bit like a gasoline-soaked rag after holding a gas pump, and some women find this to be really offensive. Third, some people have a cholinesterase inhibitor reaction from smelling gasoline, a pretty violent medical reaction characterized by a few infants suddenly screaming out of their minds, dementia in adult sufferers for a few hours, and flu-like symptoms. If you have Gulf War Syndrome you get all this, but quite a few women get it too. Fourth, every gas station and every gasoline car is a potential petrol bomb waiting to engulf some live human being in gasoline flames, like in the Hitchcock movie, “The Birds”. No it doesn’t happen much, but people steer a mile away from all sorts of low-probability horrible death situations.

    Anyways, an electric car looks perfectly clean under the hood, unlike a gasoline engine. There’s no smell. You skip the gas station. Your car is so wonderfully quiet, with no motor noise. Also, your car maintenance costs and worries are way down.

    If you buy the right electricity, you are morally setting yourself apart from climate change. That feels right. If you don’t like BP you simply drive right past them every single time. The same goes for Exxon and Shell. Whatever the modern word for “cool” is, you’re it.

    You get the electric equivalent of 80 cents a gallon. The price of gas? What’s that?

  13. Paul Klinkman says:

    We had two old Hondas. One hit one too many potholes. There weren’t any Hondas that old in junkyards anymore so we couldn’t get parts and had to let it go.

    The other Honda will hit 220,000 miles tomorrow morning.

  14. pjkPA says:

    This side of the Pond has the Chevy Volt that I’m getting 100mpg in sub freezing weather in with performance no ICE can match.
    Yet on the other side of the pond you put a $40,000 tariff on the Chevy Volt to keep it out .. are you afraid of superior technology?

  15. Marie says:

    I love my Prius – it’s the car we use most often but when it’s time for my husband to trade in the minivan (now that kids are grown), he may get a Volt for his mostly in-town driving. It would be ideal.

  16. dave says:

    I just bought a Volt last week and LOVE IT! Sharp looking, plenty of pickup, lots of technology, fun to drive, I’ll save >$2K/year on gas (conservatively) and I’m doing the right thing for my community, Country, planet and future generations.

  17. Niall says:

    I don’t know where you are getting your figures from. Chevy UK gives an OTR price of just short of UK£30k, or about US$48k. The list price of the equivalent vehicle from Chevy US is just shy of US$40k, less, as far as I can see, a highly variable tax credit. The price variation without that tax credit seems to be down to 20% Value Added Tax.

    If there is a $40k tariff, that would mean they are flogging the thing for nothing ($40k tariff, plus $8k VAT). This seems unlikely.

    I won’t argue about your mileage, which is very good compared to any ICE, as you rightly point out, but will reiterate two words: Jevons paradox.

  18. dave says:

    Right on boys, but remember that thought leaders on the climate crisis note that even more important than living responsibly yourself is to get involved politically (run for office or campaign for candidates that ‘get it’, educate local politicians, work on initiatives, etc,). This is how we can make the biggest impact and affect positive change.

  19. Don shaw says:

    My 2011 volt is simply the best car we have ever had. 14,000 miles, used about 20 gallons.

  20. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Not to mention the wind energy…

  21. john c. wilson says:

    Morris Minors are very available. Most are around $10,000 fully rebuilt. With now universal electronic ignition replacing the distributor and some simple induction improvements you should get even better mileage. However, caveat emptor. These are over 50 years old. The rebuilders come in every flavor.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Unlike other species, Homo rightwingensis ‘devolves’ rather than evolves, regresses rather than progresses, and descends rather than ascends. If we had world enough and the time left, we’d eventually see them climbing back up the trees, and begin to annoy the monkeys.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Jevon’s ‘Paradox’ (raised to a ‘Law’ by the Right)is, in my ‘umble opinion, a pile of excrement, revivified by that Rightwing rag,the Economist, as a novel denialist trope. It may have had some cogency two hundred years ago, but has been made redundant by the march of technology and by brute necessity.

  24. Superman1 says:

    “thought leaders on the climate crisis”

    Self-styled thought leaders! What are the politicians going to do, if the electorate will not support the drastic energy use reductions required to ward off climate change? I see no way the required sacrifices can be implemented on a voluntary democratic basis.

  25. Superman1 says:

    On the other hand: recent studies have suggested that GM is losing anywhere from 30-50K per Volt. For example, in September 2012, Reuters published an opinion/editorial article where it claimed that General Motors, nearly two years after the introduction of the car, was losing US$49,000 on each Volt it built. The article concludes that the Volt is “over-engineered and over-priced” and that its technological complexity has put off many prospective buyers, due to fears the car may be unreliable. So, it’s cost competitive as long as the government provides substantial rebates and GM subsidizes it. Additionally, what about EMF exposures? In the last decade, an Australian testing firm showed the rear seat of the Prius had EMFs of almost thirty milligauss. That’s about ten times the recommended long-term exposure. I don’t know whether it was corrected, or if other electric vehicles have similar problems, but that’s one reason I didn’t touch a Prius.

  26. Keith Franklin says:

    It is awesome to rarely have to go to a smelly, dirty, time wasting gas station. Our Volt is filled up about every 2 months and since it has become our primary vehicle the mileage on the other cars has dropped dramatically as well saving trips to the gas station.

  27. lbsterner says:

    An opinion piece is not a “recent study.” It is someone’s opinion.

  28. Raj says:

    Going on a year with my Volt…Used about 25 gallons total so far that was just because of 2 long trips..Otherwise, I had not pumped gas in it for about 8 months. Like Paul mentioned, driving by gas stations and thumbing my nose at the prices/Exxon is liberating. Hate oil companies and now I am no longer subservient to them.
    Volt is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Something about an electric car and the quietness/calmness you experience while driving as opposed to a high revving gas engine.
    Also, installed enough solar panels on the house so that indirectly I generate enough power from solar to offset the usage of my house + Volt in a year.

  29. dhrivnak says:

    That number is not really correct. They took the total development cost and divided by the first 18 months worth of sales. But the Volt is still selling and each month those fixed development costs are spread over a larger and larger base. If you look at the marginal cost to produce a Volt they make money on each one.

  30. dhrivnak says:

    Detroit will only build what we buy. If “WE” buy the most fuel efficient vehicles they will make them. If “WE” buy big SUV’s they will be most happy to make them.

    The best way to get Detroit to make more electric/fuel efficient cars is for us to buy them.

  31. Harry Middlemas says:

    I am lucky enough to get to drive a volt for my job and love it! We have not had one problem in over a year and and the little screen says lifetime we are getting 250+ mpg! Fun to drive and love to take potential customers for a drive. Work at a solar company and car is charged from the panels at the office. Very Clean!


  32. Zech says:

    Jevon’s Paradox is a load of nonsense deniers use to justify inaction. Studies all show that the effect is non existent or too small to matter.

  33. John Hollenberg says:

    I have 14,000 miles on my Nissan Leaf after 18 months, only take the old Camry out for a few long trips a year. Along with paying a little extra for renewable power, this is at least a start on cutting out fossil fuels.

  34. AC Points says:

    Sadly according to the CBO purchase of high mileage vehicles from conventional car manufacturers has no net effect on fossil fuel consumption because it enables them to sell more low mileage vehicles and still meet their CAFE mileage targets.