Things are speeding up for the Chevrolet Volt as dealers report new shoppers and production numbers significantly escalate.

The automaker reports Pacific Northwest and Mid-Atlantic dealers in particular are drawing out people to see the car, as new Volts are being allocated.

“We’ve been here a long time and the Volt is bringing in people we have never seen before,” said Alan Starling, a dealer in Starling Chevrolet in St. Cloud, Fla.


Chevy Volt.

GM said initial buyer surveys it conducted show more than half of the people buying Volts have not darkened the door of a Chevrolet dealership in the past 10 years. Almost one-third of these buyers have never been to a Chevy dealership.

“The Volt is an intriguing proposition that’s drawing new faces to Chevrolet dealerships to learn more about the car and re-discover the brand,” said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet Volt marketing director. “To date, the Volt has been available for sale at dealerships in only seven states. In the next four months the number of Chevrolet dealers with Volts available for test drives and for sale will increase from 550 to more than 2,600.”

GM said more than 700 Volts are being shipped to Volt dealerships in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington for use as demonstration units.

Meanwhile, the Detroit-Hamtramck plant is churning them out even faster. We reported a little while ago that by January 2012 it will be producing 5,000 Volts and Amperas per month. As of today, it is producing around half that number – 150 Volts per day, four days a week. This in itself is significant considering sales started this year in the hundreds per month – including August (last month), during which 302 Volts were sold.

But just as GM is telling how it's winning over shoppers who'd been implicitly critical of its past, it also may be doing what it can to head remaining critics off at the pass by plainly declaring the Volt is yet a halo car to many buyers who wind up going home in its lower-priced cousin.

This is the gist of a "fair-and-balanced" story Fox News wrote about the Volt, and instead of whitewashing issues, GM verified them in its own press release.

GM reports customers searching online for fuel-efficient transportation often begin looking at the Volt, then cross-shop the Cruze.

“Since April, nearly 200,000 visitors searching for information on the Chevrolet Volt also searched for information on the Cruze,” GM said.

In fact, Web traffic data from both Chevy.com and Edmunds.com show the Cruze is the most cross-shopped vehicle to the Volt, GM said, adding the Cruze has been the number-one selling compact in the U.S. for the past couple of months.

Nor are some Chevy dealers altogether unhappy about this. We at GM-Volt have been personally told by a Chevy dealer the Volt was overpriced, as he attempted to switch us to the Cruze. We have heard several similar reports besides.

Perhaps GM's disclosure is an attempt also at “transparency” on Chevrolet’s behalf, as the company openly says the Volt is still a magnet leading to the Cruze.

“As far as image goes … the Volt is huge because it’s also helping sell the Cruze,” said Inder Dosanjh, a Chevrolet dealer in Dublin, Calif. who was quoted by Chevrolet in the same press release.

What does it mean?

In any event, GM is still selling cars, and making money is why it is in business.

Nor is it entirely egg on its face to report slow sales for the Volt when its own Cruze is the one beating it. It's not like another brand is the most cross-shopped, so it is a mixed blessing for GM.

Further, this is still a transitional time for the Volt. GM is well aware of cost-benefit analyses that could attract more cost-conscious buyers to the Volt.

We suspect when it really needs to – that is, when supply is up to speed in more locations – it can create an even more compelling case for the Volt that will spell out the advantages.


Old paradigms die hard.

A few days ago, we ran a story showing how Kiplinger had analyzed the five-year cost between the Volt and Cruze. That story had to be corrected, but post-correction, the five-year ownership cost difference in one potential scenario was still just $1,575 more for a 2011 Volt vs. 2011 Cruze, even though the Volt's MSRP was about $18,000 more.

We know many people – even GM-Volt readers – are waiting for costs to come down in Gen 2, but out of the starting gate the Volt is not a half-bad financial proposition for many would-be buyers.

Regarding the Kiplinger analysis, GM’s Tony Posawatz told us this is a “very important message that few are truly understanding.”

Fact is, GM understands its own strengths and weaknesses. That the Volt is predominately a winner is why the company has stuck to its guns and let the critics yell their heads off.

The company continues going about its business promoting the car, and ramping up production. Nor will it want them sitting on lots unsold just so critics like Neil Cavuto and his ilk can continue to rant.

Question is, what more will GM do, and how effectively can it get its message across that today's Volt makes sense? These are interesting times for the Chevy Volt.