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USA: If GM Volt is in such low demand why is it so hard for people to get one?

By now most people who follow green technology developments know that GM has temporarily suspended production of its Volt plug-in hybrid. Specifically, production will be shut down for five weeks so that GM can “align production with demand.” A post-crash-test battery fire with the Volt last year (which was overblown, but nonetheless probably turned off many consumers) and the vehicle’s high price have been cited as main reasons for slower-than-expected sales and the resulting production re-alignment.

As Lacey Plache, chief economist for the auto information site said, “The fact that GM is now facing an oversupply of Volts suggests that consumer demand is just not that strong for these vehicle.” Electric-vehicle haters have eaten up the news, and are actively blogging away about how the Volt is a failure.

Gimme a break.

The biggest mistake here is that GM — and Nissan for that matter — was far too aggressive with its sales projections. The Volt’s success, given its initial price point, was always going to be limited to early adopters during its first few years of availability. It’s doing no worse than the Toyota Prius did during its first couple of years in the U.S. market, and the Prius had the advantage of already being available in Japan three years earlier.

So no, the Volt is not a market failure or a failure of technology. The temporary production stoppage is a problem with GM and its inability out of the gate to manage consumer (and market) expectations.

But what really boggles the mind about this story is the claim that there’s not enough demand to meet supply. Anton Wahlman of The Street seems to be confused about this as well. He writes that the average number of Volts at dealerships is quite low (often just two) compared to other vehicle models, and this appears to be the case across the United States — New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco included.


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