Chevrolet said today that it is moving up the national rollout of the Volt hybrid to the end of this year instead of 2012. The latest development for the increasingly popular four-seat car comes closely after General Motors decided to increase Volt production for at least the second time in four months.
GM now says that a 50% increase in 2012 U.S. production will result in 45,000 Volt models in 2012 instead of the 30,000 Volts originally scheduled.
The $42,000 Volt was named The North American Car of the Year by a jury of 49 automotive journalists earlier this month.
“This is the right thing to do for our customers and our dealers who are seeing increased traffic onto their showroom floors,” said Rick Scheidt, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet Marketing.
The Volt is hybrid vehicle with a driving range of up to 379 miles, based on EPA estimates. For the first 35 miles, the Volt can use electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas-powered engine/generator is used to extend the driving range another 344 miles on a full tank of gasoline.
Chevrolet Volts – fewer than 1,000, but all produced — have been delivered to customers in the Washington D.C. area, as well as California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Texas. Customer deliveries in Michigan begin this spring.
Customers nationwide will be able to order Volts with participating dealers beginning in the second quarter. Deliveries will begin in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii in the third quarter. During the fourth quarter, Chevrolet expects to deliver Volts in all 50 states.
Questions remain about just how large the market will ultimately be for the $42,000 Volt, which essentially gets the same mileage as the Chevrolet Cruze that sells for half the price and has more interior room. GM is actively pursuing cost reductions across the board, especially for the $10,000+ lithium ion battery pack.
Nonetheless, Volt is emerging a formidable marketing tool for Chevrolet, mimicking the early successes of the Toyota Prius hybrid, which firmly established Toyota’s “green reputation.” Last year Toyota sold 70% of the hybrids in the U.S.
“The Volt is clearly bringing new customers to Chevrolet,” said Harry E. Criswell III, president and owner of Criswell Chevrolet in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “We are seeing 10 to 15 customers a week who are seriously considering buying a Volt. Many of them own competitive brands and now have a Chevy on their shopping list because of the Volt.”