General Motors has informed 1,300 employees near Detroit, MI, that they will be out of work for at least five weeks as the company suspends production on its Chevy Volt electric car, the Detroit Free Press reported on Thursday afternoon.
“Even with sales up in February over January, we are still seeking to align our production with demand,” GM spokesman Chris Lee told the newspaper.
GM sold 1,023 Volts in February and 1,626 for the year total, according to the Detroit Free Press, compared to 7,621 in 2011, the first year it was available for sale. The 2011 total came in at less than GM’s estimated 10,000 units. GM also revoked its projections that the car would sell 45,000 units in 2012, the Chicago Tribune reported hours before the news that production had been halted.
That said, Volt sales bested those of competitor the Nissan Leaf from October through December 2011 and again in February, TorqueNews reported.
The Volt, an electric plug-in hybrid with an onboard gas generator that got between 25 and 50 miles per charge, was first unveiled with GM by much fanfare by GM at the Detroit Hamtramck plant in November 2010, and first put on sale for $41,000, before tax credits.
But the car suffered a public image crisis after fires broke out during routine crash tests in November 2011, and due to consumers’ range anxiety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the fires at the time and concluded it in January 2012, finding that: “Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.”
The car also became a major target of conservatives due to the large federal and state tax rebates that Volt owners were eligible to receive, and following an analysis report released by Mackinac Center for Public Policy in December that the Volt was costing taxpayers up to $250,000 per car when all subsidies and incentives of its constituent parts were added together.
Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich quipped at a campaign event on February 20 that “you can’t put a gun rack in a Volt,” but that claim was proven demonstrably false by a man who mounted his own custom gun rack in a Volt and posted the ensuing video on YouTube days later.
On Tuesday, President Obama told the United Auto Workers conference in Washington, D.C. that he would personally buy and drive a Chevy Volt when he left office in 5 years after being re-elected. Today’s news obviously throws that goal into question.