GM Plans To Boost Chevy Volt Production 20 Percent In 2013

After a difficult first year in 2011, during which Chevrolet sold a mere 7,671 Volts, sales of the vehicle shot up to a respectable 23,461 car sales for 2012 — driven largely by consumer demand reacting to high gas prices. According to the Washington Post (hat tip to Treehugger) that surge looks likely to continue: General Motors will be upping 2013’s production to 36,000 units.

Able to run on electrical or gasoline power, the Volt — along with other hybrids, electric vehicles, and fuel-efficient cars — has helped boost job growth in the automotive sector in the face of a sluggish economy. This happened despite a storm of right-wing contempt for fuel-efficient automobile technology over the last few years, which focused largely on the Volt as a symbol of President Obama’s (largely successful) attempts to give the American automotive industry a chance to retool itself and get back on its feet.

Since then, overall hybrid sales increased 50 percent in 2012 from the previous model year, sales of plug-in electric vehicles tripled, and GM itself captured 7 percent of the hybrid market — up 2 percent from the year before. And now the company is looking to bulk up its Volt production by 20 percent:

General Motors Co. is planning to build as many as 36,000 Chevrolet Volts and other plug-in hybrids for worldwide delivery this year, 20 percent more than in 2012, two people familiar with the effort said.

GM is planning to build 1,500 to 3,000 of the fuel- efficient vehicles a month, said the people, who didn’t want to be identified because the target isn’t public. GM sold about 30,000 Volt and similar Opel Ampera cars globally in 2012, said Jim Cain, a company spokesman, who declined to give a target for this year.

Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has struggled to compete against more successful alternative-power vehicles such as Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius. The CEO originally touted the Volt’s gasoline-and-electric system as the technology of the future and forecast global Volt sales of 60,000 in 2012, before settling for half that amount.

The 36,000 target is “probably a doable number,” Jim Hall, principal of consultancy 2953 Analytics, said. “It will have a full calendar year in Europe” and GM will probably sell more this year now that the Volt is eligible for the car-pool lane in California, he said.

Admittedly, these numbers remain behind GM’s previous hoped-for targets. It still lags Toyota, which boosted its hybrid sales 70 percent in 2012 over the previous model year, dominating the market with 892,519 sales of its various Prius hybrid models worldwide. The Prius starts at $24,200 — and a subcompact Prius model sells for $19,080 — which undercuts GM’s $39,145 four-seat Volt.

So good news for electric and hybrid cars as a whole, and thus for fuel efficiency and the environment. But less so for the Volt itself.

Still, the Chevy Volt has several factors going in its favor. It was selected as 2011’s North American Car of the Year — with 92 percent of those surveyed telling Consumer Reports they would buy open again. Meanwhile, fuel standards are set to require 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, technological moves on the horizon promise to make the car’s lithium ion battery technology lighter and more efficient, and there’s every reason to think high gas prices are here to stay.

14 Responses to GM Plans To Boost Chevy Volt Production 20 Percent In 2013

  1. Sasparilla says:

    It’s always good to look at the sales of plug-in vehicles in the light of relatively recent history when hybrids were introduced from Toyota and Honda.

    Compared to hybrid sales for the first years, Plug-in sales have been much higher and look to continue that way – which is especially gratifying considering the higher prices they have at this point.

    Jeff, as an FYI, the “difficult” first year wasn’t actually the that difficult – GM announced before production started, they only planned on making 8000 – 10,000 Volts during its first full year as they worked the bugs out of things and made sure there were no show stoppers in the vehicle. 7600 was very close to their target.

  2. stewart hardison says:

    Get well, Joe! You’re one of the true climate heroes and we need you to stick around for a good long while and keep fighting the good fight.

  3. Ozonator says:

    Looks like GM can make even more sales to the Dreamliner assembly line.

  4. Test drove one the other day. Very cool.

  5. BBHY says:

    I keep seeing more and more fellow electric drivers on the road. Just five years ago there were no highway capable electric vehicles being produced and now there are over 70,000 drivers who plug in.

    Charging infrastructure is being rolled out which will make it easier to achieve further sales increases. For a while it looked like the price of gasoline would drop below $3 which is great for economic recovery but bad for electrics. That didn’t last and now it’s back up around $4 and likely to head even higher. For the sake of the economy I hope it doesn’t go too high too fast, but when it does hit $5 sales of electrics will take off like a rocket.

    Driving electric does more than simply save the environment. I have been driving since the 70’s and for over 30 years I had been buying gasoline every few days. There is a huge psychological shift after you have driven electric for a few months and suddenly it hits you that you no longer have to buy the stuff. The chains that bind us to the oil companies are broken. Oil prices, oil spills, pollution, CO2 emissions are no longer shrugged off as “Oh well, we need the gasoline, so we have to put up with all that other stuff too”.

    In just a few years there will soon be hundreds of thousands, then millions of people with a whole different attitude about gasoline and the oil industry. This will be a powerful shift in the political situation.

  6. Leptoquark says:

    Agreed. There will be thousands, then millions of plug-in drivers, especially after the next sustained gas price shock.

    As a Nissan Leaf driver, I find the re-electrification of cars fascinating. I keep comparing the rollout of ev infrastructure to the emergence of gas stations in the early 20th century. The main difference is that gasoline is sold at large central stations, while an ev charger is much smaller scale, and can be installed in far more places.

    I use an app called Plugshare ( to keep track of where chargers are. It’s useful if I’m driving anywhere over about 50 miles away. 99% of my charging is done in my garage.

    Compared to the 12 cents per mile in my ’98 Saturn, which the Leaf replaced, I’m now paying 3 cents per mile.

    My bumper sticker says “This Is What The End Of Gasoline Looks Like”.

  7. Sasparilla says:

    Great bumper sticker…absolutely awesome.

  8. James W. Crissman says:

    Bought one for my wife for Christmas. Awesome car. Wide distribution of battery weight under the floor gives the car a great ride. Much more stable on the road than lighter cars, and incredibly efficient and quiet. Love it.

  9. John says:

    I bought a 2013 model at the end of the year. It puts a smile on my face every time I drive it. Each year they tweak the battery to get a store little more juice. Originally it was rated at 16kwh and now its up to 16.4kwh. I’ve also notice GM has announced they are coming out with a Cadillac version in September of this year.

  10. SecularAnimist says:

    BBHY wrote: “I keep seeing more and more fellow electric drivers on the road.”

    What EV do you drive? You didn’t mention in your post.

    I’ve been seeing quite a few Volts and Leafs on the road in the DC area, and an occasional Mitsubishi MiEV or Think City.

  11. Thomas says:

    Had my volt for a little over a year now. Absolutely love it. I do not like gas engine vehicles any longer. I do most of driving within the electric range. Have to use gas only on out of town trips.
    Was worried about the Texas heat last summer, but it was a non issue. Easily got 37-40 miles during the summer heat.
    The car feels solid and is very quiet. Noticed that I am a lot calmer when sitting in traffic since there is no engine running idle and it is almost like a sanctuary in the madness.

  12. Paul Klinkman says:

    The reason for switching given in “Who Killed the Electric Car” is that people hate going to gas stations. Pumping your own ‘tane at a gas station is smelly and toxic.

    Electrics are completely clean under the hood, as opposed to the average blackened oil-soaked gasoline engine. Gas engines have big maintenance issues too.

    The new reason is that gas is immoral. It doesn’t feel good being in bed with any oil company, except maybe if you burn used restaurant grease.

  13. BBHY says:

    I have a Tesla Roadster. It was way too expensive and not terribly practical but I truly enjoy it.

    I’ve been interested in electric cars since the 70’s when I knew some people who had City Cars. They were ugly, slow, short range “punishment cars”. Still, I found the idea of driving on battery power fascinating. We have come a long way from the time of primitive vehicles using lead acid batteries.

  14. Andy G says:

    I’m a new Volt owner and I love it. My driving patterns mean I hardly ever use gas, but I can drive as far as necessary at any moment. It is also great to put one’s money where one’s mouth is, although with GM’s loan deal (no down, no interest up to 7 year term) that will be a slow process. And this is all before my California carpool lane sticker arrives!