Now into the second quarter of 2011, General Motors announced last month it sold 608 Chevrolet Volts in March and had delivered about half of the demos intended for 595 participating Volt launch dealers.

Several stories have spun it positively, saying 608 more than doubles 321 sold in January plus 281 in February. But reports also mention Chevrolet's year-over-year sales increased 11 percent, thanks in part to a 54-percent spike in new model sales numbering in the tens of thousands.

So what is the true picture for the Volt? Is it doing well? Just alright? Is there cause for concern?

According to GM spokesman Rob Peterson, any doubtful conjecture would be misinformed.


Since its launch last year, the Volt has received lots of attention. Here students and faculty at the Detroit International Academy celebrate $10,000 given from the $225,000 sale of Volt number 1.

“We’re right on target,” Peterson said, “Our sales target for 2011 is we’re going to build 10,000 units, and our expectation is we will sell every one of those 10,000 units.”

First off, only seven states are initially selling the Volt. This will increase to all states by year’s end. An ostensibly slow start has no one at GM caught by surprise, even if reporters and others may wonder.

“Many other people will look at the raw numbers and try and either extrapolate that we’re going to come short for 10,000 units, or they’re just going to take the raw numbers and say it’s not a success,” Peterson said, “And I don’t buy that, I think it’s a short-sighted analysis. We’re 100-percent confident that we’re going to get there.”

In fact, Chevrolet will sell more than 10,000 Volts for 2011. GM will actually build 15,000 Volts at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant this year. And while we’re on the topic, next year it won’t build 45,000, it will build 60,000.

This is not an announcement of new production increases, however. The extra production is for European and other foreign customers who next year and the year following will take up the extra units comprised of Volts, Vauxhall Amperas and Opel Amperas.


Matt Stehouwer is pictured with his Volt in March in Lansing, Mich. He said he was getting 62-miles-per-gallon after 1,500 miles driven, including a trip to New York, where he bought the car.

How did GM decide on these numbers? It carefully calculated the initial roll out based on a few factors, Peterson said.

“You’ve got a couple different things. You are going to have to manage your supply chain and you have to manage your customer experience. And the two of them go and in hand,” he said. “They all lead to having a high-quality launch. Our internal calculus came up with this target of 10,000 units [plus 5,000] and deemed it the appropriate level at which we can build them at the quality and manage the customer experience.”

First things first, is a deliberate process of training service personnel, sales, and monitoring initial customer feedback, Peterson said.

“It’s a very gradual, measured approach,” Peterson said, “it’s the way all vehicles get launched.”

Also, going forward through 2011, don’t expect to see 12 months neatly divided into the number of units projected, he added, or even a consistent progression. Peterson already predicted April’s sales numbers may look lower.

“There are months in which we have more production not going to retail and April happens to be one of those months,” Peterson said. “We will be billing out the remaining demonstrator vehicles for the dealers. And so we’ll be earmarking a large portion of our production to hit dealer demonstrators rather than going to retail. So you might see a retail sales dip in the month of April.”

So you read it here first. The Volt already was the brunt of several April Fool’s jokes. If April’s sales are low, don’t let an after-the-fact April fools lark concern you.


Vanessa Branch poses with the Volt on the green carpet of Global Green USA's 2011 Pre-Oscar Party in Hollywood.

If sales this month are lower, it will have “nothing to do with lack of demand and everything to do with lack of supply,” Peterson said. “If anything right now we’re supply constraining.”

GM’s emphasis now is on getting more people in dealer demonstrator drives, he said. As mentioned yesterday by GM’s legal VP Mike Robinson, Peterson confirmed the Volt has become a public relations tool par excellence.

“So many people are intrigued by the Volt and they want to drive it. We’re confident that as soon as they get in the car, and experience the car, they’ll recognize the beauty of the car, Peterson said, “Many people who are buying Volts today have never been in a Chevrolet dealership before, or don’t even own a Chevrolet or don’t own a GM product. So we’re drawing new people in to dealerships with this product.”

Papers around the country are featuring these kinds of human interest stories – from senators to everyday citizens drawn to the new electric- and gasoline-powered curiosity by Chevrolet.

“We’ve heard countless stories from dealers” said Peterson, mentioning one of a dealer who brought a Volt back to Atlanta. Once parked in the showroom, it was “immediately seen with flocks of people coming into the dealership to see the Chevrolet Volt and possibly get a test drive. So those dealer demos play a very important marketing role for the entire Chevrolet dealership network.”


James Brazell, stands by his new Volt. He took delivery in February, but the retired oil company executive deserves mention for having placed his deposit on the oil-beating technology in 2008.

After its deliberate and careful first year, GM does plan to ramp up Volt production. With 45,000 Volt sales planned for 2012, the U.S. is to get the lion’s share out of 60,000 Volts and Amperas.

Although Europe has shown itself most ready to embrace electric mobility, we were not able to ascertain why more Volts and Amperas are not projected to be delivered there.

Nor did Peterson confirm any plans to build the car in Europe – or China – at this time. Other reports have said the former is probable, and Chinese production could be possible.

But for the time being, the Volt is made in the U.S.A., and being exported only.