Dealers turn down Volts even after NHTSA approval

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GM's troubled Chevy Volt. Image: Wonderdawg777/Flickr/CC BY

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded its safety investigation into the Chevy Volt, giving the car a relatively clean bill of health. However, the Volt is still struggling to make it in the marketplace. Many Chevy dealers are refusing to take the plug-in hybrid cars off of GM’s hands.

Safety issues investigated

GM fell far short of its goal to sell 10,000 Volts in the U.S. in 2011. The automaker was only able to move 7,671 units last year. GM has cited the recent NHTSA investigation into alleged engine fires following side-impact collisions as the reason for the decreased demand.

The NHTSA concluded its investigation Monday. The agency released a statement saying that with GM’s recent fixes, the Volt is safe:

“The agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.”

Sales slow before probe

However, sales were slow on the model even before the safety issues emerged. Now Chevy dealers on both sides of the U.S. are balking at buying the cars.

In December, GM had 104 Volts earmarked for 14 dealerships in the New York market. According to Automotive News, only 31 of those cars were actually accepted by the dealers. Some might blame the area for its lack of infrastructure to support electric vehicles, but the same thing happened in California.

Brett Hedrick, a dealer in Clovis, Calif., moved 10 Volts last year. GM has allocated six Volts a month to the dealership, but Hedrick passed on all of the vehicles in December and January.

“We’ve never sold more than two in a month,” he told Automotive News.

[A friendly dealership: Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep Springfield]

GM abandons quota

GM said at the Detroit Auto Show last week that it would not be pursuing its previous goal of selling 60,000 Volts in 2012. Instead, the car maker will produce the hybrid electric vehicle as demand dictates.

Is U.S. ready for plug-in?

Jalopnik suggested Monday that the problem may simply be that the U.S. is not that keen on electric vehicles yet. Other research suggests the same. According to Bloomberg, a survey released in January from Pike Research concludes that the American public is showing a decreased interest in electric vehicles. Those expressing interest in EVs went down from 48 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2011, according to the survey.


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