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USA: GM Seeks Volt Boost From California Carpool Lanes, Super Bowl Ad

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) — General Motors Co. hopes its plug-in Chevrolet Volt, stung by safety concerns, can get a sales boost from a version due next month that lets solo California drivers use carpool lanes and a Super Bowl ad touting its technology.

A modified version for California, the biggest market for alternative power autos, should be selling there “by early March,” according to Alan Batey, vice president of Chevrolet sales and service.

“Our biggest opportunity is seats in seats,” Batey said in a Feb. 3 interview in Las Vegas at a J.D. Power and Associates conference. “When people drive the car, they’re wowed by it.”

Sales of the Volt, which can go more than 30 miles on its lithium-ion battery pack before a gasoline engine powers it, totaled 603 last month, fewer than half the 1,529 Detroit-based GM sold in December. The drop came after U.S. regulators late last year said they were reviewing the car after a fire caused by a Volt battery pack damaged in a government crash test.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in December it was satisfied with modifications GM made to strengthen the vehicle’s frame that protects the Volt’s battery in case of a collision. Scrutiny of the car caused “collateral damage,” GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson told reporters Jan. 25 in Washington.

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