[ad#post_ad]January sales figures for GM were announced yesterday, and the automaker continued to see positive gains with overall sales coming in 22% greater than a year ago.

Included in the total of 178,897 cars and truck sold, GM announced that it had sold 321 Chevy Volts. This is in addition to the 326 Volts sold in December, indicating 647 have so far reached customers. Nissan for its part only sold 87 Leafs , and only 19 in December for a total of 106 units sold, less than one sixth as many as Volts.

Demand for the Volt has been red hot, and sales figures would be much higher if GM wasn't deliberately pacing themselves. "Right now we're selling every one we can make," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said, "so as shipments rise we expect sales to rise as well."

Nissan has 20,000 people who placed $99 deposits for a Leaf, so they could have sold more as well but for the fact they are being exceptionally cautious.

GM has plans to continue building on the Volt's  momentum. In addition to new plans to build 25,000 Volts this year and up to 120,000 next year, the Volt team is highly focused on reducing costs.  After all with demand at $41,000 it is certain more would be sold a a lower price point.  GM CEO Dan Akerson has charged his team with taking at least $7500 in cost out of the car by its next generation. With the federal tax credit still in place that would put the car well below $30,000 and in the reach of a far greater amount of people.

Auto journalist Peter Valdes-Dapena of CNN analyzed discussed several areas GM is working to cut cost from the Volt.

The battery is believed to cost $10,000 and could be made cheaper by reducing its size. Currently GM only uses 65% of the 16 kwh pack for driving duty. As they become more comfortable with the battery's durability it is possible to move that band closer to 90%, possibly reducing lithium cost by a third. Also new advanced lithium cathode technology the company has invested in could amplify those reductions by increasing energy density. "You do extensive amounts of research and development and you get the same functionality or better with fewer cells," said GM Ventures President Jon Lauckner, "and you take a whole lot of cost out of the vehicle."

By increasing production volume costs will become lower due to economy of scale.  Units become less expensive the more that are built and sold.  Putting the Voltec drivetrain in other models will also help in that regard.

Electric motors are expensive because they rely on valuable rare earth elements like neodymium which are only available in limited quantities from places like China.  Engineers are designing new electric motors that do not require rare earths and will thus be less expensive.

The Volt contains specialized first generation accessories like air  conditioning, heating, power steering, and braking that are powered by electricity rather than by the gas engine as their traditional counterparts are.  For the first version of the Volt these parts are particularly expensive.  GM engineers are now simplifying and refining those components so that they will be less expensive by the next version

Finally there is the possibility some of the neat high tech features found in the current Volt, like the LCD screens and capacitive center stack, could be made optional to produce a more economical future version.

Source ( CNN )