In a setback to General Motors' goal of selling more Chevrolet Volts, new reports suggest a number of U.S. dealers are refusing to increase their inventories of the plug-in electric vehicle.
Some dealers are likely concerned about the recent crash test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Three weeks after the test, a damaged battery pack and coolant line caught fire, raising questions about the Volt’s safety. The NHTSA conducted an investigation and concluded last week that it “does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.” Regardless, Chevy released a number of retrofits to make the Volt safer and plans to better educate owners on proper procedures to take following a collision.
In addition to the investigation, some dealers are discouraged by the Volt’s sales performance thus far. According to The Automotive News, GM sold 7,671 Volts in 2011, missing its goal of 10,000 units.
We spoke with GM spokesperson Rob Peterson who was cautious to say exactly why some dealers are becoming wary of taking on more Volts.
“I’m confident that once all the chatter of the investigation and misinformation is finally behind us then things will return back to normal,” Peterson said. “Only then will we get a better idea of what to expect in terms of sales for 2012.”
Automotive News found a number of dealers who said customer interest has dropped off including one East Coast Chevy dealer who reluctantly accepted five Volts allocated to him this month.
"I probably should have taken only one," the dealer told Automotive News. "Sometimes as a dealer you choose to do things that are good for the company. I believe in the car."
However, it’s a different story out in California, one of the Volt’s strongest markets, where the dealers we spoke to are experiencing the opposite. Community Chevrolet in Burbank, California, sold about 12 to 15 Volts in 2011, and told us they'll accept any and all allocated units headed to the dealership.
“I think we have a good customer base down here in Southern California, and they all have nothing but good things to say about the Volt,” said sales manager A.J. Mendoza. “We feel reassured by what GM told us and I think customers know the cars wouldn’t be on the streets if they’re not safe.” Mendoza also said his dealership hasn’t had any Volt owners attempt to sell back their car following GM’s offer stemming from the fire investigation.
“These cars are gold here in California,” said Carlos Uruchurtu, General Manager of Win Chevrolet in Carson, CA. “GM has done everything they can do with the investigation and a lot of it is just typical media hype and misinformation.” He points out that the particular Volt involved in the NHTSA crash was improperly handled and stored following the test.His store sold 14 Volts last year and will accept all 12 units allocated by GM. Uruchurtu also expects sales to pick up once HOV-approved Volts arrive in showrooms in a few months.
Source: Automotive News (subscription required)