Recently General Motors conceded it began 2011 Volt roll out too conservatively, but aims to catch up with its now-in-production 2012s to the Nissan LEAF as soon as possible.

“It’s fair to say GM underestimated demand for the Volt,” said Volt Line Director Tony Posawatz. “By January, the capacity we need will be online.”

That capacity at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant is expected to be 5,000 Volts per month, which by the way, is more than GM has sold to date.


A Volt on the line at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

It was expected these kinds of numbers would be announced for calendar year 2012 to meet GM's commitment to produce 60,000 Volts and Amperas for worldwide sales next year. Of these, three-fourths will go to the U.S. market with the rest divvied up among Chevrolet's other markets.

Nonetheless, this will be a significant year-over-year increase for the new kind of car, and GM is now expected to be on better footing to compete with Nissan's all-electric LEAF.

According to the latest end-of-month tallies, Chevrolet’s Volt trails Nissan’s LEAF, having sold 2,745 Volts compared to 3,875.

In fact, these are only the U.S. numbers, which is all GM has had for the U.S.-only Volt, but Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn recently said that 10,100 LEAFs have been delivered worldwide.

Thus, if anyone is keeping score, Nissan is really well ahead in getting its LEAF in the hands of drivers.

All this said – and as we independently observed not long ago – it is not even a race yet. This week our intuitive analysis was confirmed by at least one professional analyst in an interview with Bloomberg.

When will the real race be on? It will start in 2012, said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, a firm based in Lexington, Mass.

“This is very much about supply constraints as opposed to a sales race,” Lindland said. “Next year will really show true demand for these kinds of cars and which one wins.”


Volts share the road with some other low emission vehicles at a GM event in Brazil.

Bloomberg reported that both vehicles are actually in short supply and both companies have thousands of people in various regions on waiting lists.

As new models of both pure electric and electric-plus-gas-generator equipped vehicles come online to add to the fray, in question will be which approach gets the most votes.

Will it be EVs or extended-range EVs?

And for those who believe the Volt will be the winner, will the 45,000 units for U.S. delivery be enough? Further, will 15,000 Volts and Amperas for the rest of the world be enough to meet that expected demand? Or will it be their turn to wait as Americans have all year under the circumstances of having some Volts, but with excessively pinched availability?

On this supply question, yesterday we asked GM Spokesman Rob Peterson whether Detroit-Hamtramck could significantly escalate production mid-year if GM determined market conditions would allow for more than the forecast production.

"We're not publicly discussing production capacity or forecasts beyond 2012 at this time," Peterson said. "The fact that we provided forecasts for 2011 and 2012 is highly unusual for the industry, but publicly stated as part of the transparent communications approach."

Although he could not offer the information we asked for, Peterson did clarify another issue. Since Chevrolet has said it would produce 10,000 Volts for the U.S. market in 2011, and we know it has not sold nearly that many but has started producing 2012s already, we asked him to confirm that Chevrolet is counting 2012 Volts built from July onward toward the 2011 total.

Peterson said this the case – Chevrolet built fewer than 4,000 2011 model year Volts, and the rest of 16,000 Volts to be distributed worldwide this year are to be 2012s, albeit built in 2011.

"We produced 3,900-plus 2011 Volts. Roughly 500 were sent to dealers as demos, 200 for internal purposes and the remainder delivered to dealerships (fewer than 100 remain unsold)," Peterson said. "We will produce 16,000 Volts in calendar year 2011 - 12,000 of which will be 2012 model years."

The same scenario will be true next year he said. In short, Chevrolet is counting the widely published "60,000" 2012 Volts and Amperas due for global distribution based on units made during the 2012 calendar year. He did not disclose when the 2013 model year will begin, but, he said, "60,000 includes both 2012 and 2013 model year vehicles."

Bloomberg