Perhaps not since the infamous Ford Edsel of the late 1950’s has a new car been introduced in America to such staggeringly negative publicity. Its name- Chevy Volt. The Volt’s 2010 debut was certainly given a high-profile kickoff, even earning a rare presidential endorsement from Barack Obama and high marks from (some) environmentalists and advocates for a ‘greener’ planet. But even at that early stage, questions were raised about its price, ease of refueling, safety issues, and cost of replacing its battery.
Austin was chosen as one of the early test markets for the Volt, perhaps due to the city’s liberal-leaning population. Other test markets were generally in the northeastern US and in California. The vehicle’s promising start soon was drowned out by a series of news articles and reports, focusing mainly on the Volt’s poor sales, which continue to this day. Automobile analysts in particular are having a field day reporting July’s sales: a grand total of 125 Volts were sold in the entire country. Katie Pavlich, news editor at Townhall.com, calls the figures “embarassingly bad.” This follows reports that in February, the vehicle sold 281 which was by comparison, as Pavlich notes, a “good month.”
General Motors’ take on the story is that the problem is supply, not lack of demand. They claim the Volt is “virtually sold out,” and that the company is struggling to produce more of them. One can’t help but wonder why they would give such a high-profile introduction to a car if they were only able to produce a couple of hundred copies a month. A survey of several Chevy dealers found plenty of Volts in stock.
Wherever the truth lies, it’s hard to see an upside to this story for either GM or the beleagured Volt. Either they put a car out there for sale without the capacity to build more than a handful, or public apathy toward the Volt will soon relegate it to the dustbin of history. And now piling on are most automotive engineers, who according to Wards Automotive magazine, feel it is impossible to meet future EPA fuel requirements without sacrificing vehicle safety, which has pitted green lobbying groups against safety advocates.
Conservative groups are pointing out what seems to be obvious, that you cannot force a product, certainly not a $40,000 electric vehicle, down consumers’ throats if they don’t want it. The one good thing Chevy Volt owners might have to look forward to is their cars becoming collectors’ items in a few years.