The Detroit Hamtramck facility, where the 2013 Chevrolet Volt is made, is to pause production for four weeks, the second time GM has temporarily halted production.
The official Volt-haters society is surely throwing a huge party this week (if such people ever throw parties), but over here on the pro-EV end of the dial, the reasons for the holiday are less clear. A source at GM told InsideEVs that the closing is “to make room in the plant for the upcoming Impala, and it has nothing to do with the Volt really.”
InsideEVs offered some more juicy details. Apparently the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW) doesn’t share GM’s enthusiasm for building Impalas at D-Ham. A CAW spokesman told theGlobe and Mail that “the Impala is a Canadian-made vehicle; we own the rights to produce it in Canada and we’re going to continue to produce it in Canada.” The current CAW contract just happens to expire on the same day the Hamtramck plant is scheduled to be idled, which leads our colleagues to speculate that the move may be part of the sprouting rhubarb between GM and CAW.
Whatever the reasons for the production pause may be - caution, retooling or union intrigue - we’re not getting nervous just yet. GM says the plant continues to hire new workers, and plans to add a second shift early in 2013, to work on the Volt, Impala, and Malibu. And, as we reported at the end of July, the Volt is by far the best-selling plug-in - GM has sold 10,666 in the US year-to-date, and the Volt’s European cousin, the Ampera, is also a leader in its markets.
July US plug-in sales: Chevy Volt handily in the lead
Thu, 08/02/2012 - 9:34am
So far, it seems that the Chevy Volt’s many naysayers were wrong. Critics of the American standard-bearer have included not only far-right pundits, who seem to see the Volt as an existential threat to civilization, but also skeptical electrification evangelists (including this one), who prefer pure EVs, and feared the Volt would suffer by comparison to the far cheaper gas-burning Cruze.
Well, read the July sales figures and weep, wail and gnash those teeth (or, in our case, simply stand corrected). GM sold 1,849 Volts in July, bringing the year-to-date total to 10,666, and total US sales since launch to 18,663. The Volt’s European cousin, the Ampera (Opel on the Continent, Vauxhall in the UK), is also a leader in its markets - it has 77% of the plug-in market in the Netherlands, 45% in Switzerland, and 33% in Germany, according to technologicvehicles.com.
In second place in the plug-in race, Toyota delivered 688 units of its Prius Plug-In Hybrid in July, bringing total US sales since its February launch to 5,021, although it is currently only available in 14 states.
Nissan is lagging after a promising start. It sold 395 LEAFs in the US in July, for a total of 3,543 in 2012 (down 26 percent from the same point last year), and 13,236 since launch in 2011. The company is now offering what it hopes will be attractive lease terms in order to boost sales.
Mitsubishi doesn’t seem to have much interest in selling its EV, the i, in the US (monthly sales are in the double digits), but it is doing well in Asia and Europe (where it is also badged as the Peugeot iOn and Citroën C-Zero). The company has projected global sales of 25,000 for 2012.
Ford’s Focus Electric went on sale only last month, and the Honda Fit EV went on sale in July, so it’s far too early to consider them contenders in the sales derby.
Coda, Fisker and Tesla Motors do not release monthly sales figures.
Despite record sales, the Volt still makes the right wing see red
Fri, 07/20/2012 - 11:05am
A GM exec famously noted that the Volt had become a political football. However, the endless back-and-forth in the media about Chevy’s plug-in seems more like a long and drawn-out tennis match.
In 2011, a volley of anti-Volt columns and cartoons came from the right side of the court, as the fact that some Volt batteries caught fire during crash testing morphed into a conspiracy tale about mysteriously exploding cars, which was being covered up by the liberal media. Volt-hater number one seems to be Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, who ridiculed the Volt dozens of times on his show.
VIDEO: Neil Cavuto's Bizarre Hatred For The Chevy Volt
In February, Volt champion and outspoken conservative Bob Lutz returned fire with a column in Forbes, pointing out that no Volt, or any other factory-produced EV, has ever caught fire in normal use or in an accident (although 278,000 gas cars catch fire in the US in a typical year), and that the NHTSA awarded the Volt its highest crash-safety rating. Lutz waxed irate as he asked why the conservative media “feels it’s OK to spread false information [and] OK to hurt American employment in Hamtramck, Michigan, as long as it damages the Obama administration’s reputation.”
In March, media magnate Lee Spieckerman debunked the Obama connection on Fox & Friends: “I love oil, I’m a drill baby drill guy and…I love Fox News. But [some Fox commentators are] perpetuating this myth that the Volt was some kind of Obama Administration green energy fantasy that was forced on GM during the bailout. It had been in development two years before Obama was elected…and the tax break for buying the Volt was implemented by the Bush administration…So, unfortunately, there have been a lot of myths perpetuated.”
Advantage: Volt. However, this week, like a tennis player picking up some old threadbare balls out of the gutter and putting them back into play, the web site Fox Nation ran a new story that repeats several of the anti-Volt talking points, including one that Fox’s own Steve Doocy rejected back in March. The progressive blog Media Matters quickly returned the ball, restating the facts and rebutting five falsehoods from the latest article.
Meanwhile, the only referees who really matter, car buyers, gave the Volt a thumbs-up. The American-made Volt was the top-selling plug-in vehicle in the US in June, selling 1,760 units for the month. Volt sales reached 8,817 units for the first half of 2012, up from 2,745 units in the first half of 2011.
So, game, set and match for the Volt in this game of fantasy tennis? Don’t bet on it.
Auto sales soaring, Volt remains by far the best-selling plug-in
Wed, 07/04/2012 - 12:00pm
Cars are cool again - last month’s US auto sales were up 22% compared to June 2011. Inexplicably, the majority of sales are still old-fashioned gas burners, but plug-in vehicles are coming on strong. It’s becoming clear that buyers are favoring PHEVs over pure EVs.
June’s big winner is the Chevrolet Volt - it was the top-selling plug-in vehicle in the US in June, selling 1,760 units for the month. Volt sales reached 8,817 units for the first half of 2012, up from 2,745 units in the first half of 2011. It now appears that GM’s initial prediction of 10,000 units for 2011 was only a little premature, and should be handily surpassed this year.
The new Toyota Prius Plug-in roared out of the starting gate to take second place - no surprise considering the well-established Prius brand name. It sold 695 units, representing 3.6% of Prius family sales in June.
Nissan’s LEAF isn’t looking so good - the all-electric hatchback came in third for the month with 535 units sold, down 69% from the 1,708 units sold in June 2011. In the first half of the year, the LEAF sold 3,148 units, down 19% from the 3,875 units sold in June 2011.
2013 Chevrolet Volt boasts a better battery and better range
Thu, 06/07/2012 - 8:51pm
The increase may not be as impressive as what the Moore’s Law-driven semiconductor industry is used to, but the third model year of the Chevy Volt will offer an improvement in efficiency and range. GM announced this week that the all-electric range of the 2013 Volt will be 38 miles on a single charge, a three-mile increase from the 2012 model. The miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) will increase from 94 miles to 98 miles.
GM engineers made minor changes to the battery cell chemistry, resulting in improved performance and durability. Storage capacity has been increased from 16 kWh to 16.5 kWh, and engineers have expanded the state-of-charge window to use 10.8 kWh of the total battery energy - in other words, the size of the buffer that the system maintains to protect battery life has been reduced. The improved range will result in a slight increase to the Volt’s charge time - about 4.25 hours at 240 volts.
“The best way to explain what we’ve done at the cell level is to compare it to a cake batter recipe. Sometimes if you use more sugar and less vanilla you get a better tasting cake. We’ve done some work at the cell level to modify the ‘ingredients’ to make a better end result,” said Bill Wallace, GM director of Global Battery Systems Engineering. “This attention to detail will allow our customers to experience more pure EV range, which is the true benefit of owning a Volt.”
The American-made Volt handily beat its Japanese competitors in US sales for the month of May. The major makers of plug-in vehicles have released their sales figures for the month, and the score is:
Chevrolet Volt: 1,680
Toyota Prius Plug-in: 1,086
Nissan LEAF: 510
Mitsubishi i: 85
The first Ford Focus Electrics arrived at dealerships in late May. Fisker doesn’t provide monthly sales figures, but it announced last week that it had sold 1,000 Karmas since December 2011.
To draw any broader conclusions from these figures would be perilous, considering that some of these models are still not available nationwide, many dealers are not actively pushing them, and the general public is still not clear on the differences among hybrids, PHEVs and EVs.
But, what the hey, let’s do so anyway:
- Volt sales have surpassed 7,000 for the year to date (about the same as total 2011 sales), so it appears that GM’s projection of 10,000 for the first year was not as wildly over-optimistic as critics claimed.
- The two PHEVs are trouncing the two pure EVs. Does this vindicate the many commentators who say that range issues cause consumers to prefer plug-in hybrids?
- Total sales for all plug-in models currently amount to about a quarter of a percent of total US light-duty vehicle sales. That’s not a spectacular blast-off, but for a new product that’s still arguably in the test-marketing phase, it’s pretty impressive.
Avnet Express donates disassembled Volt to ASU's Formula Electric Team
Wed, 04/18/2012 - 8:35am
Arizona State University's Formula Electric Team, a group of automotive engineering students who design EVs, received a generous gift from the Drive for Innovation Program: a Chevy Volt. Only one catch - it didn’t come in a brand-new box with a foam insert, like an iPhone. It came in a whole lot of boxes.
Drive for Innovation, which is sponsored by two giant electronics suppliers, Avnet Express and UBM Electronics, chronicles the adventures of Mr Brian Fuller as he drives a Volt across the country, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs and students along the way. The Drive for Innovation team tore down the car to highlight the technology used inside the Volt.
Wade Gyllenhaal, Formula Electric Team captain, said, "We are incredibly excited to be the recipients of the torn-down Chevrolet Volt. We're looking forward to studying the 'guts' of the car and learning what's really under the hood. We couldn't be more grateful to Avnet Express for the opportunity to study the inner workings of the car."
Fuller said, "The electric vehicle is chock-full of technology and will give the Arizona State University students a hands-on experience outside of the classroom. As these students continue to build new electric cars and compete, this technology will foster exciting new developments in the students' understanding of the intricate components and systems and their application of this knowledge to the vehicles they design. This kind of intellectual challenge is what will keep our universities graduating engineers with the knowledge to create innovative technologies and remain competitive in the worldwide marketplace."
Faced with an oversupply of Volts, GM plans to suspend production of the new PHEV for three weeks in July, instead of the traditional two-week holiday. The company has already idled the Volt production line at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant for five weeks to allow demand to catch up with supply.
However, the Volt had a record month in March, selling 2,228 units, so GM may cancel the summer shutdown if sales stay strong. According to Ward’s AutoInfoBank, GM had enough Volts in its inventory at the end of February to supply dealers for 154 days. A 60-day supply is considered optimal.
Automakers have learned (the hard way) the wisdom of modern “just in time” inventory management, but it’s a feat that’s not so easy to pull off with a complicated fashion accessory such as an automobile. And the Volt is no ordinary automobile – it’s been compared to the iPhone, the Space Shuttle and a political football. Workers on the Volt production line may have to get used to an erratic work schedule.
Video: A pro-Volt conservative finds a forum on Fox News
Thu, 03/29/2012 - 2:26pm
Well, well. The network that prides itself on its “fair and balanced” coverage has aired a segment in which a prominent conservative makes a case for the Chevy Volt, and joins Bob Lutz in rebutting some of the misleading and downright false statements that right-wing pundits (including some on Fox News) have been making about the car.
Lee Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Media, made his comments on a recent edition of Fox & Friends: “I’m a Texan, I love oil, I’m a drill baby drill guy and…I love Fox News. But like a lot of my fellow conservatives, [some Fox commentators] seem to have kind of a fetish for demonizing the Volt and they’re perpetuating this myth that the Volt was some kind of Obama Administration green energy fantasy that was forced on GM during the bailout. It had been in development two years before Obama was elected…and the tax break for buying the Volt was implemented by the Bush administration. That was not something that occurred under the Obama administration. So, unfortunately, there have been a lot of myths perpetuated.”
Spieckerman goes on to make a conservative case for the Volt on national security grounds. “I don’t understand what is so conservative about wanting to send $35 billion a year to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela for his oil or to send $70 billion to Middle Eastern OPEC countries. We’re propping up the world oil price, which is giving Iran the resources it needs to develop nuclear weapons, indirectly it’s funding Hezbollah and Hamas and terrorists that are trying to kill Americans.”
Spieckerman calls the Volt “the iPhone of the American automobile industry,” and addresses the issue of the Volt’s high price compared to its sister the Cruze. “Over five years you’ll save a ton of fuel. There’s a price differential but at the end of the day we really only need to get the Volt about 20% cheaper to make it comparable to the Chevy Cruze…Look at flat screen TVs, they’ve come down 50% in five years, computers have gone down 90%.”
Video: Bob Lutz predicts strong March Volt sales in new interview
Tue, 03/27/2012 - 11:26am
Fans of GM executive Bob Lutz and his outspoken defense of the Chevy Volt will find a trove of treats on the YouTube channel Plugin Car Fun. Volt owner and EV advocate Jeff U'Ren recently spoke with Lutz, and has broken his interview up into several sound-bite-size videos in which Lutz discusses topics ranging from the media disinformation campaign against the Volt to his involvement with electric truck maker VIA Motors to the unfortunate lack of a national energy policy.
It’s always interesting to hear what Mr Lutz has to say. He’s a conservative who famously called global warming “a crock,” but he sees the electrification of the automobile as “inevitable.” In this new interview, he notes that the Volt recently became the first US-designed car in history to win the European Car of the Year title, and assures us that March will be a record year for Volt sales.