General Motors plans 20 percent more Chevy Volts in 2013

A file photo of the Chevrolet Volt, manufactured A file photo of the Chevrolet Volt, manufactured by General Motors. Photo Credit: AP

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General Motors Co. is planning this year tobuild as many as 36,000 Chevrolet Volts and other plug-in hybrids forworldwide delivery, 20 percent more than in 2012, two people familiarwith the effort said.

GM is planning to build 1,500 to 3,000 of the fuel- efficient vehicles amonth, said the people, who didnt want to be identified because thetarget isnt public. GM sold about 30,000 Volt and similar Opel Amperacars globally in 2012, said Jim Cain,a company spokesman, who declined to give a target for this year.

Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has struggled to competeagainst more successful alternative-power vehicles such as ToyotaMotor Corp.s Prius. The CEO originally touted the Voltsgasoline-and-electric system as the technology of the future andforecast global Volt sales of 60,000 in 2012, before settling for half thatamount.

The 36,000 target is probably a doable number, Jim Hall, principal ofconsultancy 2953 Analytics, said. It will have a full calendar year inEurope and GM will probably sell more this year now that the Volt iseligible for the car-pool lane inCalifornia, he said.

Battery-only and plug-in hybrids that meet strict California emissionsrules qualify for a sticker that permits solo drivers to use the lanes withvehicles carrying multiple passengers.

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The plug-in Volt can travel 38 miles (61 kilometers) on electric powerbefore a gasoline engine engages to recharge the battery. Plug-in hybridscan also be recharged by plugging into an electrical outlet. U.S. sales ofthe Volt more than tripledlast year to 23,461, about half of Akersons original target of 45,000.

Very Frustrating

After last year, which included temporary production shutdowns, theDetroit-based automaker wants to find a consistent selling rate for Volt,Cristi Landy, GMs marketing director for small cars, said in aninterview this month in Chicago.

We had some on and off starts with the assembly plant, she said.California, which is our strongest market, was selling great then theywould have no products. Theyve run out of products probably three orfour times in the last 12 months, itsbeen very frustrating. GM produces the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramckassembly plant.

Besides the Chevy Volt and Opel Ampera, GM plans to startproduction of the Cadillac ELR, a two-door plug-in hybrid that usesVolt-like technology.

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Consumer Reports

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GM shares rose 2.1 percent to $27.40 at the close in New York.Theyve declined 5 percent this year compared with a 6.3 percent gainfor the Standard & Poors 500 Index.

CEO Akerson said during a Bloomberg Radio interview in April 2012that he wanted to increase U.S. Volt sales to the 3,000 a month level. InJune, he cut his original forecast of 60,000 worldwide and 45,000 U.S.Volt sales in 2012 to somewherebetween 35,000 and 40,000, without specifying a breakdown by region.

Slow sales have exasperated GM executives as the Volt gotentangled in U.S. presidential politics last year with Republicanscriticizing it as a symbol of President Barack Obamas auto-industrybailout.

The Volt, chosen as 2011s North American Car of the Year,succeeded in satisfying its customers, with 92 percent of surveyrespondents telling Consumer Reports they would buy one again thesecond straight year it ranked highest.

Toyotas Prius

The Volt went on sale in 2010 with the aim of putting GMs Chevroletbrand on the forefront of green technology globally and taking onToyotas mass-market Prius hybrid, which starts at $24,200. Toyota alsosells a subcompact Prius c that sells for$19,080.

GM, Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota and Volkswagen AG arecompeting to be the top-selling automaker in the world. Toyota overtookGM last year as No. 1 while the U.S. automaker finished second,outselling VW by more than 130,000 deliveries.Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW says it wants to become the worldsbiggest by 2018.

Starting at $39,145, the four-seat Volt is loaded with pricey batteriesand more expensive than a similar-size gasoline compact, even with a$7,500 U.S. tax credit. The Toyota Corolla, for example, starts at$16,230.

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