The Volt may be rolling out at a deliberately slow pace, but this has not prevented Chevrolet from posting substantially increased sales of its economical internal combustion models.

Last month Chevrolet announced a 25-percent year-over-year increase in total and retail sales after selling 169,794 vehicles.

Nearly 40 percent of these April sales were from just three fuel-efficient models: the Volt’s cousin, the Cruze, as well as the Malibu, and Equinox.

Chevrolet dealers are selling more and more fuel sipper cars. The Volt should be welcomed into this environment being established.

A big spike reportedly came from California where gas prices are really starting to make people react as evidenced by their purchasing behavior.

“With gas as high as $4.50 a gallon in parts of California, the number of miles per gallon is just as important as the monthly payment for many shoppers,” said Joe Herold, president of Quality Chevrolet in Escondido, Calif., “That demand for fuel economy has made the Cruze one of our most popular models – we sold five times more Cruzes in April than we did the Chevrolet Cobalts last year.”

But California is not the only trend setter, as nationally, average April Cruze sales crested three times above what Cobalt sales were the year prior.

Chevrolet said nationwide it sold 25,160 of the up to 42-mpg, four-cylinder Cruzes in April – a new high, and the most compact cars Chevrolet has sold since May 2008.

As for the 33-mpg, Ecotec four-cylinder-powered Malibu, in April Chevrolet said it sold 24,701 – a year-over-year increase of 49 percent.

The various iterations of the Cruze are leading the charts.

Malibu sales were the best Chevrolet has seen since 2000, and specifically, were up 8 percent for April, and 4 percent for the year compared to 2010.

Similarly, Chevrolet had positive news for the 2.4-liter, Ecotec four-cylinder-powered Equinox – sales of 17,067 units represented a 42-percent jump for the crossover, and the best April sales ever reported for this model.

“Our lineup of gas-friendly vehicles like Cruze, Malibu, and Equinox offer drivers more miles per gallon without sacrificing performance, style or value,” said Alan Batey, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet sales and service, “Clearly, that is resonating with car buyers today.”

As reported yesterday , Chevrolet has also recently said the Volt has proven a major draw to Chevrolet dealerships.

In regions where the Volt is available, it was credited as being the single largest attraction to new car buyers, and nine out of 10 trade-ins at Chevrolet dealers were from those who had never owned a Chevrolet product.

What is unknown is what dealership sales reps are saying to make a sale on eco-friendly models other than the Volt.

Certainly the Cruze is less which will be recognized by buyers already concerned about costs. The Cruze has an MSRP from $16,525 into the low 20s, and it’s a very nice car for the money as conventional cars go.

Out of curiosity, a couple days ago I stopped into a suburban Philadelphia Chevrolet dealer in a fairly high per capita earning neighborhood to inquire when it would be getting its allocation for the Volt.

The Volt does cost twice what a Cruze does. It can also get 5-10 times the fuel mileage in some usage cases, if not more.

Two salesmen in a showroom devoid of shoppers told me they were Volt trained, expected it in a couple months or so, but – as salesmen will do – they tried to sell the model they had on hand.

While I had asked for the Volt, and demonstrated some knowledge of the car, one of them told me the Cruze represented a far better value – and I could practically get two for one.

After some talk along these lines for a little while, I asked the other salesman, “So you’re not sold on the Volt?”

“No, but I’m not supposed to tell you that,” he said, as I sat in a Cruze on the showroom floor.

In order to acquire a Volt, a buyer better have extra disposable income, I was told. It is like a lot of things, if you want to be environmentally friendly, you need to be sufficiently well off.

Since this was only one dealer, this by no means represents a survey, but we have heard of unmotivated potential Volt sales people in other regions already, so bring it up for what it is worth.

No doubt other dealerships will embrace the Volt, and sell it properly.

But given mixed reviews by some media, and considering a number of other subjective factors, we would not be surprised to learn would-be Volt customers will be converted by some sales reps to the far-lower-price Cruze, or other models.

We are also pretty certain Chevrolet would not want even one of its dealers shooting the Volt down before it hit the showroom. The company is going to great lengths to prepare its nationwide dealers , and has a lot wrapped up in this car as a centerpiece for the new GM.

The Volt has developed a lot of interest for new Chevrolet customers. Certainly motivated dealers who really believe in the value will continue this trend.

It is true that conventionally powered, lower-price cars can be a path of least resistance for salesmen who just want to make a sale, and less stress for less-than-fully informed customers to pull the trigger on.

But Chevrolet's April results indicates the Cruze and other economical models are already doing great without any need to steal sales from the Volt.

For those who will truly be best served by another model, we wish them all the best.

Otherwise, to the degree that it is true, we hope any tendency to denigrate the Volt in order to sell lower priced models will be brought fully to Chevrolet’s attention.

The Volt must be properly represented, and if its own dealers won't do it, this stands to adversely affect its success as Chevrolet anticipates nationwide roll-out of its most prized economical car by year’s end.