News From the Nation’s Major Auto Producer
General Motors announced this week that it would temporarily stop production of the Chevy Volt, the electric car model that has received much publicity since its 2010 release. According to the company, production will cease from March 19th through the end of April. During this period 1,300 workers will be laid off from the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant where the car is made.
The Chevy Volt runs on a 400 pound battery pack that allows the car to travel over 35 miles without gasoline. After 35 miles, if it is not recharged, the car will switch over to a gas-powered engine. The EPA rates the Volt’s fuel efficiency at 90 miles per gallon, a figure that competes closely with it main competitor, the Nissan Leaf.
Despite an appealing design and an excellent fuel rating, the Volt has suffered from a couple key issues since its first release. First, the high price tag ($41,000) in a dismal economy dissuaded many consumers from buying the car, a development that caused Volt sales in 2011 to fall several thousand short of GM’s original goal. Second, battery fires that occurred during crash tests generated negative publicity for the product and put a further damper on sales. General Motors says that the fire problem has been resolved.
As a result of this disconnect between actual and projected sales, GM has found itself with a surplus of Volts on its hands. Consequently the company has made this decision to temporarily halt production for much of the spring. It expects to bring back the 1,300 workers and resume manufacturing Volts in time for the summer season.
The timing may be an ideal one. Gas prices this summer are expected to hit record
highs across much of the country, a trend that should contribute to sticker shock at the gas pump and stronger electric car sales. Moreover, several metropolitan areas are expected to approve the Volt for travel in carpool and high occupancy lanes in the next several months.
Until then, however, the Volt’s suspension will be largely used as political fodder. On the Republican side, several politicians have accused the Obama administration of pushing GM, in which the government has a stake, towards nonviable electric car production instead of domestic oil and natural gas. President Obama, meanwhile, has promised to purchase a Chevy Volt for his personal use when he leaves office – in five years.
When Obama’s presidency comes to an end and he does a phone number lookup online for the nearest Volt dealer, we can only hope that sales are stronger and that the car is still in production.