GM Powers Down the Volt -- Again

The Chevy Volt can't seem to gain traction.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that General Motors (NYS: GM) is idling production of the plug-in car that also has a small gas tank for the times when the roughly 40 miles its gets on electric between charges isn't enough.

Volt production at the Michigan plant will be suspended on Sep. 17, resuming again on Oct. 12.

This isn't the first time that GM has put the Volt assembly line on hold. There was a five-week production halt in March, and that was on the heels of an extended holiday stoppage.

The Volt just isn't selling well. Industry tracker Autodata shows that just 10,666 vehicles have been leased or sold, and that includes the ridiculously cheap lease deals that Chevy introduced earlier this year to clear the specialty cars off dealer lots.

GM was originally hoping to produce 60,000 Volts this year, targeting 45,000 for stateside consumption.

Well, that's obviously not going to happen. Autodata reports that there were 6,450 Volts collecting dust in showrooms at the end of last month, far more inventory than dealers would like to keep on hand.

Demand for plug-in vehicles remains lukewarm. Sure, Tesla Motors (NAS: TSLA) has a long waiting list for the Model S sedans it began delivering this summer, but Tesla's a prolific all-electric poster child that's only making thousands of cars this year.

The niche has been weighed down by a slow economic recovery that has held back appetite for pricy electric rides. A surprising downturn in gasoline prices heading into the critical summer season also played a part in squashing demand, though oil prices are starting to move higher lately.

It also doesn't help that the actual batteries that fuel electric journeys have generated unflattering headlines. Lithium ion battery maker A123 went as far as issuing a recall, and even a few of the original Tesla Roadsters had to deal with dead batteries.

Getting the story out
My wife bought a Volt in February, and she certainly doesn't regret it.

She still hasn't had to gas it up. She gets more inquisitive looks and questions than if she were driving a six-figure Italian sports car.

She and 10,665 drivers like her are not good enough this year, though Volt owners are generally more than happy to play brand ambassadors. Whether it's GM's own marketing shortcomings or consumers just aren't ready to pay more for the conveniences of electric, it's an uphill battle to reach a closed factory.

Hit the road
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