General Motors dealers were notified yesterday (Monday, November 7th) that they are now allowed to sell the demo models of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid vehicle, a decision that puts double the number of available units into the market place.
Until yesterday, GM dealers were required to keep at least one Volt on their lots, in order to pique customer interest in that model specifically, as well as other models known for their fuel efficiency, like the Chevrolet Cruze.
The addition of 2,300 demo Volts to the market is meant to provide a boost to GM's goal of selling 10,000 of the cars this year. As of the end of last month, only 5,003 of the plug-ins had been sold. The 10,000-Volt goal has been stressed by GM's CEO Dan Akerson, who believes his company needs to lead the American auto industry toward fuel economy innovation, as well as spread plug-in technology across the other GM brands.
Last December, the Chevrolet Volt was launched in seven key markets, but since July the automaker has been selling the car nationwide, and has almost reached its other Volt-related goal: having 2,600 dealers offering the vehicle for purchase.
Unfortunately, most of those dealers have received only a single Volt, which they were required to keep for demonstration purposes.
In a memo to all its dealers, GM referred to the fact that many of them had requested permission to sell their demo models, and that yesterday's change in policy now gives them the ability to satisfy their customers and meet demand for the car.
The decision increases the number of Chevrolet Volts available for purchase from 1,800 to 4,100, with another 1,100 cars in transit to dealers as of yesterday afternoon. Dealers who sell their demo Volts will be reimbursed $1,500 by GM, to offset depreciation of the vehicles, as well as the cost of removing certain window decals, but only if the cars are sold by January 3, 2012.
In addition, dealers who sell their demo Volts will be required to replace them with new Volts by the end of January.
Why is Volt availability such an issue? For most of this year, production capacity was lower than necessary, but over the summer General Motors made changes to the assembly plant in Detroit that makes the Chevrolet Volts, and now capacity is nearly doubled.
This has improved availability to some degree, but many customers - as many as 72 percent of those who are interested in the car - are still unable to find one.