GM Plans For 36,000 Volt Based Sales This Year After “Frustrating” 2012

FEB 28 2013 BY JAY COLE 44

Although executives at General Motors are not putting their names to any future Volt/plug-in sales forecasts, two sources familiar with GM’s internal targets (who did not wish to be revealed) have told Bloomberg that GM hopes to sell 36,000 Chevrolet Volts and other plug-ins” worldwide for 2013.  An approximate gain of 20%.

CEO Dan Akerson Says GM Looking To Sell 3,000 Volts A Month

CEO Dan Akerson Says GM Looking To Sell 3,000 Volts A Month

This number is consistent with the monthly Volt sales figure that GM CEO, Dan Akerson, said he had hoped to achieve when he last spoke to the press about the subject in April of last year.  3,000 units per month.

Separately, Cristi Landy, GM’s marketing director for small cars, said in an interview this month in Chicago that she hopes for more consistent Chevrolet Volt sales in 2013:

“We had some on and off starts with the assembly plant. California, which is our strongest market, was selling great then they would have no products. They’ve run out of products probably three or four times in the last 12 months, it’s been very frustrating.”

Unfortunately, a decision by GM to extended Christmas shutdown in December has already adversely affected 2013 numbers, as only 2,766 Volts were sold in January and February in the US (1140/1,626 respectively) due to the lack of West Coast inventory.

The 36,000 plug-in sales will come primarily from these vehicles, with some additional sales on the side from their all-electric EV:

  • Chevrolet/Holden Volt
  • Opel/Vauxhall Ampera
  • Chevrolet Spark EV

In 2012, GM sold approximately 30,200 extended range plug-in vehicles, so 36,000 in 2013 would not be a huge jump.  And although GM has already handicapped itself in January, the improvement still does not seem unreasonable.

However, looking at the outlook for each of GM’s plug-in hybrid vehicles, and where they are sold, US sales of Chevrolet Volt will be counted on to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

Chevrolet Volt:  Top Selling Plug-In Vehicle In 9 Of 12 Months In 2012

Chevrolet Volt: Top Selling Plug-In Vehicle In 9 Of 12 Months In 2012

Outlook:  US – Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet’s flagship, the North American built and sold Volt, will be counted on to virtually run the entire worldwide sales race for them in 2013, as General Motors continues to offer many attractive financing and leasing deals that appeal to Americans.

To hit the goal of 36,000 Voltec units sold in 2013, we estimate GM will have to sell 30,000 Volts in the United States, up from 23,461 in 2012, and another 2,000 internationally (mostly Canada).  For a total of 32,000 vehicles.



The Ampera Has Not Been Received Well In Europe.  We Don't Expect It To Contribute Much In 2013

The Ampera Has Not Been Received Well In Europe. We Don’t Expect It To Contribute Much In 2013

Outlook: Opel/Vauxhall Ampera

After having a nice initial run with some fleet sales (that apparently made up as much as 75% of all the 2012 MY Amperas sold), the Ampera is now a wounded dog. Europeans either don’t understand it -or- they do, and they still don’t care for it.  Bringing the US-made Volt to Europe now seems like a mis-step by the General.

To illustrate this point, after producing almost 8,300 2012 Amperas, virtually none are now built at all.  The demand is that low.

GM is now seven months into the 2013 MY production cycle, and GM has built only 2,141 cars.    In the past four months GM has built only 69 Amperas in total (Jan-42,Dec-6, Nov-19, Oct-2).  To make things worse, if you take away the Netherlands, which has some ungodly advantages for plug-in cars over standard petrol cars, then you take away over half Ampera’s sales.   Even with a pricing equivalent to $50,000-$60,000 USD per car in most countries, GM has to be losing their proverbial shirts trying to sell this car in Europe.

To hit the goal of 36,000 Voltec units sold in 2013, we estimate Ampera would make up about 4,000 units.


The Spark EV May Assist GM In Sell A Lot More Plug-In Vehicles, But Not In 2013

The Spark EV May Assist GM In Sell A Lot More Plug-In Vehicles, But Not In 2013

Outlook: Chevrolet Spark EV

While its hard to predict the reception for the Spark EV long-term, we do know its 2013 rollout will be minimal, or as GM says, “limited”. 

The Spark EV will first go on sale in South Korea this summer, with the deliveries in the US beginning “late” in the year.  GM has already stated it will be a limited rollout out at first in the US (California/Oregon), and Canadian deliveries will be fleet only starting in the fall of 2014, with Europe not adding to the sales numbers themselves until sometime in 2014.

For 2013, we expect about 1,000 Spark EVs to be sold.



Conclusion: Can GM sell 36,000 plug-ins in 2013?

They can, but it won’t be as easy as it might seem to those of us who closely follow US sales, where the Volt has owned the top of the sales podium 9 of 12 months in 2012.

GM now faces a full year’s worth of competition from the Toyota Prius plug-in and Ford C-Max Enegi, not to mention the upcoming Ford Fusion Energi and Honda Accord PHEV entering their segment, as well as a new generation of fully electric cars, and an old EV guard that is slashing their prices.

Our opinion is GM needs to get serious with it’s pricing in the United States in order to improve on 2012 sales by 20% to reach 36,000.  And we think they know it too.  Look for GM to do what needs to be done to hit their goal in 2013.  Keep your eye out for more incentives today, and a price reduction in the not-so-distant future.


Categories: Chevrolet, Opel / Vauxhall

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44 Comments on "GM Plans For 36,000 Volt Based Sales This Year After “Frustrating” 2012"

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They missed their opportunty to reach most of the early/edge adopters by waiting this long. As you pointed out the PHEV competition is out now. It doesn’t matter that the Volt is an EREV anymore as the distinction is blurred except for those that really care about driving on electric only like a BEV for the first 40 no matter how fast you drive or how hard you press the pedal.

Jay, according to the Opel website, the Ampera is the best selling EV in Germany… Not well received?

While that is true; words like “percentage” and “best selling EV” are often used when you don’t want to use actual figures. In 2012, Opel sold just over 800 Amperas in Germany (2nd best result in Europe, a country of 82,000,000 people.

There is a very large cost to rolling out (and building a infrastructure behind) a captive import to a region (think Pontiac GTO/G8, Cadillac Catera to the US), and that is made worse when that region is broken up into many sub-countries and the fact you have a new technology to adjust to as well. If it was not for the marketing value/EV-halo behind the Voltec platform, I don’t think we would see this car in Europe.

Volt sales in Australia are very slow as potential customers still do not fully understand what the Volt plug in is all about. Everyone who has been in mine is impressed, however our local brand in reality is not a status symbol for the fully loaded show case price. To me it’s great value compared to European brands for the technology etc you get in the car and the fantastic EV drive experience. Specially if your in the 80% of people who drive 70Km or less a day. Ironically they may have sold lots more at greater profit had it been a differently branded or co-shared with a luxury Euro brand (We know that will never happen as only Opel is in the GM family) Australians are early adopters of new technology – except EV’s, it’s a strange exception that I hope will be broken with more EV’s on the road. With the closure locally of Better Place the Volt is looking much more attractive than the completion EV ever did. Now GM locally only have to get their marketing in to gear, get rid of the sub contracted Australian Volt advisors and employ their own knowledgeable Volt tech support… Read more »

Finally a new Holden Volt Advert:


Our friends down under seem to be having the same dilemma the
marketers in the USA did – HOW TO TELL THE COMMON FOLKS
HOW A VOLT WORKS! …. Finally, after two years of crap ads costing
GM hundreds of millions of $$$s , they got ” Electric When You Want
It, Gas When You Need It!” – and they got some customer testimonial
ads which sold the car well. This was after aliens lusting after a Volt
owner’s wife – numerous ads with drive-thru burger and parking lot
attendants trying to figure out how it works…etc. This Aussie ad
still leaves Volt appearing as an EV – guys at the water cooler will
dismiss it saying ” Hey, it only goes 40 miles and leaves you stranded!”.
This is what happened in America – people didn’t get it – either that
or they felt it was a Chevy Prius for 1/3 more money.

The uptake for an EREV is a slowwww process for the mainstream
auto buyer.

So Martin good to see you here again. How are you enjoying your new Volt now that you’ve assumedly put some kilometres on it?

You might be old-fashioned in other ways (same as myself), but you’re obviously Up to the Minute with your New Aussie EV.

Electricity is pricey by you but your petrol is even worse so the commercial you’ve showcased should have the desired effect.

Hi Bill,
Cars going great and loving in except for one thing….
We get the random brown out when they change power grid circuits caused a POD3E DTC, which stupidly illuminates the “Check Engine” light thanks to the US’s sill CARB rules.

Only a GM brain surgen could explain why they wasted their time locally removing the On-star and the ability of owners to program addtional spare keys locally – but leave in tact the crazy parameters behind this DTC (Of memeory – less than 85V for 540ms in a 620ms window) this applies some how to CARB rules (Which we have nothing to do with in Australia 0- should be auto reset).

Since they removed Onstar they should have initiated details messages on the DIC vs 0 messages with engine check light on – now come on guys!


While I like that they’ve finally focused on the lower cost of electric fuel, it should not take 60 seconds to make that point. Also, it should not be the *only* point considering a Volt costs almost $20K more than a comparable Cruze.

Nice Ad!

The article says, “To hit the goal of 36,000 Voltec units sold in 2013, we estimate the Spark EV would make up about 1,000 units.”

However, I do not believe the Spark EV uses the Voltec system. After all, the Voltec system is designed for coupling an ICE. It would be like saying Toyota made a pure EV and called it Hybrid Synergy Drive. That makes no sense.

You could definitely say it would contribute to their overall plug-in sales, though.

Yeah, that was a slip/shouldn’t be included (math still works though, lol). I probably should have put the word “mostly” Volt-Based sales somewhere in there, or made the addition of the Spark EV into the article a little more clear. The quote from sources is “36,000 Chevrolet Volts and other plug-in hybrids for worldwide delivery this year.”

Does GM internally consider a Spark EV a “plug in hybrid”?

No, thats on me. Article was a little obtuse/potentially misleading in that regard.

We just wanted to add the Spark EV into the article while we were looking at GM’s other plug-ins en route to 36,000. I will put some more clarity in there. /my bad

Thanks Jay, it’s all a lot of new terms and definitions, and given the small initial volume of Sparks, I wasn’t sure if they were just lumping in all “plug ins” in the “plug in hybrid” category. 😉

I rather chose the term “Electric” than a “plug in”. Because when a regular gas engine vehicle is brought to a station for refueling, the hose is “plugged in”, too!

By that argument, in the winter, many diesels are “plugged in” to run a block heater!

But I personally prefer plug-in to electric. It captures the group of cars that can use electricity from the grid rather than simply gasoline, for example the plug-in prius. It would be flat-out wrong to call that an electric car – it’s a plug-in hybrid.

Voltec was always supposed to be flexible in where the electricity came from.. still the motors, chargers, inverters, battery testing labs and most importantly software can all be reused in the Spark. Making the techs familiar with the stuff also helps.

So finally slashing the price of the Volt is an item that is seriously on the table now…Amen for that. Jay, is there any word out there as to how much could be cut? I mean, if it’s a few hundred, they may has well forget it. Now, something like $5000 off may get some attention.

I think “slash” might be too extreme of a description of future
Volt price drops – Lease deals and creative pmt. options –
perhaps more accurate.

I don’t see any pricing until late summer when
dealers have tons of Volts unsold on the lots.

That sounds a lot like more of the same things they have been offering. I think GM needs to offer a serious price reduction at this point. That’s the only way sales are going to increase. It is too inaccessible (price-wise) where it is now. And the Volt is not alone in being expensive. Every plug-in is expensive. Nissan made a sage decision to lower the price of the Leaf, now the rest should do the same IMHO.

Nissan lowered the price of the Leaf because they reduced the cost. GM will have a higher “floor” to which they can reduce the cost because of the double power-train. At the same time, in the near future the Volt is moving to their global platform. With any luck, that will help.

I would expect a price cut during the transition to the MY14 cars. That said it wont be big – maybe $1500-2000 to get the price after rebate (the one they advertise) under $30,000.

Wow, if GM is frustrated, Nissan should be really really frustrated! Negative spin BOOOO!

This really is an informative article even if it is based on annual forecasts. There are parts of Europe that can make good with a PHEV, but really it is better equipped for the US infrastructure and mentality.

For the title though, it implies that GM’s frustration is over low sales, when I believe it was over lack of supply on two occasions. So that’s TWO now……
“Inventories Push Chevrolet Volt Sales To Yearly Low In January, Only 1,140 Sold”

I need a cup of coffee….

They don’t have enough inventory to realize the true level of interest from customers, but then they shut down the plant. It’s like the left hand isn’t talking to the right hand, or they’re intentionally trying to limit Volt sales due to cost overruns.

I wish we could get to the bottom of this.

I suspect the want to sell “just the right amount” because they aren’t profitable. So they want to sell enough to look good, but not too many.

That’s kind of the impression I get too, otherwise things don’t seem to add up. That being said, I want my impression to be wrong. 🙂

I think there is enough inventory out there. I think sales numbers are what they are. There is still a large education process going on. A lot of Prius fans will go straight to Toyota without realizing the C-Max which is sad because I feel the C-Max is superior in a lot of ways. There is still a big divide in 20 mile PHEVs and 40 mile PHEVs. This is substantial.

With Nissan dropping their price by $6000 on the Leaf, you now have a $10,000 divide between at least one BEV and the 40 mile Volt PHEV which is also substantial. “Time” will erase the PHEV, but you would expect a huge change with a $10,000 delta. Many US customers are still willing to pay $4000-$7000 for this added capability. I am not expecting movement on Volts tomorrow. I am expecting to see Nissan surge with $6000 off of the price. If there is not substantial movement with Nissan over the next few months, it might be an indicator that $$ is not the hold up, simply education and public acceptance.

“Our opinion is GM needs to get serious with it’s pricing in the United States in order to improve on 2012 sales by 20% to reach 36,000.”

I feel like if they’d get serious with their inventory first, that could go a long way. Until people can go into a dealership within 20 miles of their home, and find a Volt configuration/color that they like, the sales will be muted versus actual demand.

Of course, once inventory is sufficient, then they could look more at price. But if there are no Volts to be found on dealer lots, lowering the price won’t help them sell something they don’t have in stock.

“Until people can go into a dealership within 20 miles of their home, and find a Volt configuration/color that they like”

3000 GM dealerships ?

Just as a random thing, GM currently has just under 6,000 Volts in US inventory, which is fairly close to an all-time high if I am not mistaken. They have really made an effort to “stock the shelves” in February, it will be interesting to see the corresponding sales result.

You’re being far too literal, Herm… you only need a few hundred dealerships to cover where the vast majority of the population lives. You don’t really need a dealership every 40 miles in rural america. That’s not what Mr. Cote was implying.

Any forecast of the ELR sales for this year? I know it’ll be minimal with a late rollout.

I’ll try to stop spamming the story with comments now. 🙂

Oh drat. I guess they’re not being sold until 2014. #Fail.

Yupe, the official word is production starts late 2013 with sales beginning in 2014. Even still, it looks like a ‘one and done’-type production run. I’d say we are looking at 1,000-2,000 units.

Ha! My sales projections for Volt in NA were worse than 2012.
Not many ( ! ) had the jumbalaya to predict 2013 EV sales –
Here were my predictions – where I guesstimated 18,000 Volts
and change.

Ford will put it’s spin on C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi – and they will cut
into Volt sales for sure. PIPrius will get it’s share of Prii Faithful…

Personally, I’m surprised ANYBODY at GM whether on or off record – would
speak openly about Volts sales being stronger. This will only happen
with deep price cuts and I don’t see that happening until the above
becomes obvious and dealers sound off.

While it’s only a single data point, January sales would suggest you’re estimate of 18,000 vehicles is very low, since the Volt experienced a month-over-month gain of 200%.

However, it’s hard to infer anything statistically significant from a single datapoint. 😉

The next couple months will be Volt’s best, as gas prices are
ramping up early, and traditionally efficient cars sell most when
gallons are high. The telling time will be July through December
when sales of hybrids traditionally fall off.

My prediction of 18,500 Volts sold means a 12 month avg. of
1,541 per month – which seems pretty close so far. Take the
“hot” months at 2,000 units falling off drastically toward fall/winter.

I don’t see the data to support that these early 2013 months will be the Volt’s best, but time will tell!

Opel Ampera has a hard time in Europe. The only large country with mentionable incentives is France, but it’s market is dominated by Renault (Z.E.-range) and PSA (with the badged i-MiEVs). The Ampera is also in a niche between premium (price wise, also appearance) and eco. In premium it gets beaten by a lot of cars with it’s just 4 seats and not enough space, and people who like eco-cars mostly like smaller cars too in crowded Europe. BMW i3 is designed for our premium-eco-small-car needs (.5 meters shorter than Ampera with about the same price and field of application as range extended EV) and will soar *soothsaying*

Consumers are learning and adopting to electrified cars more each year. So I expect GM to exceed the 36k number worldwide for 2013, if they can keep inventory in their dealerships.

Well GM you seriously screwed up production and distribution of Volts in 2012, what did you expect? Sending Volts to dealers who don’t want to sell them and not sending enough Volts to California dealers who were perpetually sold out. That combined with multiple plant shutdowns was just a recipe for shortages and poor sales. A brief look on shows 5416 Volts nationwide, more than I have ever see. However there are a whopping 432,296 Silverado pickup trucks, that is 80 Silverado’s for every Volt on dealers lots. That is some seriously screwed up distribution of production. GM should stop producing Silverado’s and double the shifts of Volts being produced. At least until there are down to 100,000 Silverados and 50,000 Volts. They can’t be having battery shortages, the LG Chem plant is idle for god sakes, put those people to work!!!

“Well GM you seriously screwed up production and distribution of Volts in 2012, what did you expect?”

Dealers buy Volts from GM..

This is a very timid goal. They should be aiming at doubling sales every year until it competes main stream. This clearly states that they are not introducing anything new (unannounced) this year and unlikely to reduce price much. The original plan was to ramp up to 60k – 120k cars per year at $30k price point. At that quantity the cost would drop dramatically, and at that price customers will buy. Disappointed.