Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog



GM Selling the Volt Short

by Roger Lanctot | Aug 23, 2012

The news from General Motors, reported by the GMAuthority a week ago, was that 1,849 Volts were sold in July a 125% increase over the year ago period and a 100-unit improvement compared to June 2012. I couldn’t be happier to hear some good news about the Volt – with its clever dual-mode, extended-range powertrain, but the GMAuthority report proceeded to tout the minimal sales of Volts to “fleets.”

For some reason the word “fleet” continues to be a dirty word in Detroit and other automotive capitols, at least in North America. When an automotive executive hears “fleet” the normal association is to rental car fleets where cars are sold at steep discounts to clear out inventories and make up for shortfalls in retail sales.

There is another kind of fleet business, which is commercial fleets, and commercial fleets are increasingly interested in green technologies as represented by the Chevy Volt. The roster of corporate incentives for private employee vehicle purchasing is growing (See: http://www.hybridcars.com/corporate-incentives.html) but GM remains on the outside looking in.

GM remains locked in an out-of-date mindset that associates fleet sales with all things negative. The Volt, now in its third year, may be outselling the Nissan Leaf but it is no secret that the sales volumes for this innovative and cosmetically attractive and socially acceptable green machine have been disappointing. It is also no surprise that most of the executives responsible for the initiative from its inception have been exiled from GM, with many joining competitors - including some that touted fleet sales.

The Volt accounted for 10,666 units sold in the first seven months of 2012, a 270% increase over the same time period last year. The Leaf moved 3,543 units, down 26.3%. Both figures were reported by GMAuthority.

GMAuthority further notes that Volt sales have gotten a lift in California where the state has granted solo access to carpool lanes for Volts – adding that “about 1 in 3 Volts are now sold in the Golden State.” This local demand translates to a 34-day supply of Volts in California vs. a 52-day supply everywhere else.

In a separate bulletin from GMAuthority, the news source comments on attractive new lease rates for Volts. All of these efforts have the flavor of too-little-too-late to make the Volt the kind of viral success it was intended to be.

I still nearly catch my breath every time I see a Volt on the road - partially because it is such a rare occurrence. The attractive styling – in contrast with the dowdy Leaf and Toyota Prius – combined with the ecological cred still imparts a powerful aura to the car. But steep dealer markups in its early restricted availability days and the cold shoulder turned to the corporate fleet market have consigned this loss-producing car to a highway heading to nowheresville.

It’s not too late for GM to wake up to the private/retail sales opportunities in the corporate marketplace. But it is a shame to consider the thousands of units in potential sales that have already been lost.

Previous Post: Scosche, Sony Out of Touch with Automotive UI Mainstream | Next Post: AAIA: Less Driving, Fewer Collisions, More Business for Repair Shops
Leave a comment