The Chevrolet Volt may well be one of the best packages of technology yet produced by the American automotive industry and an exemplar of the right kind of transportation for America's future. It drives well, and it doesn't cause owners "range anxiety" that all-electric vehicles do because of its onboard gasoline engine.
It's just that Americans don't seem ready to buy enough of them just yet.
General Motors said that it plans to suspend production of Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck, Mich., factory for 26 days as part of a move to pare excess inventory. Automotive News first reported the move. It's the second time this year GM has idled output of Volt due to soft demand.
Volt sales already have topped 10,000 this year, more than triple the level of a year earlier, but overall dealer inventories of the vehicle have reached 84 days, according to Autodata, while a 60-day inventory is considered desirable in the industry.
While the move will idle about 1,400 hourly workers, it also will allow GM to finish prepping the assembly line for also building the 2014 Chevrolet Impala starting early next year. That full-size sedan, while until now largely a bellcow for GM's fleet business, will become a more important retail nameplate for Chevy in its new manifestation.
Volt's history has been up-and-down since its introduction to great fanfare two years ago as the industry's first "plug-in," or extended-range, hybrid. Even after an extensive marketing and consumer-education campaign by GM, sales of Volt were slow to take off last year. Then there was an under-hood fire scare late last year that turned out to be essentially a false alarm. Earlier this year, Volt sales began upticking smartly.
The biggest driver behind higher Volt sales so far in 2012 has been a modified low-emissions version of the vehicle that qualifies for California's coveted car-pool lanes. Previous versions of the car didn't qualify.
But presumably elsewhere in the United States, demand for Volt hasn't risen as smartly.