The reality of $4 or $5 a gallon gas doesn’t seem to be helping the sales of GM’s $39, 145 plug-in hybrid electric cars very much. GM only sold a meager 1,626 of the high mileage, high tech automobiles so far during the first months of 2012 compared to the 45,000 hoped for 2012 sales target. So GM is shutting down Volt production for five weeks, putting 1300 Detroit-area workers on a layoff schedule.
There has been a lot of speculation that GM was pushed toward dropping some car brands and concentrating on building new high mileage vehicles such as the Volt by the federal government when GM sought their auto bailout loan. However, the huge sales disaster of the Volt also shows what can happen when Washington bureaucrats who don’t normally work in the automobile business attempt to manage an industry that they don’t know or understand. To some Washington bureaucrat, these plug-in hybrids look to them to be the solution to high gas prices, fuel conservation as well producing greener vehicles. But, the cold reality is that the Chevy Volt just doesn’t sell very good at all. And GM has invested a huge amount of money into this product, only to be shocked by the extremely poor sales figure. Other automobiles such as the Edsel were dropped by Ford when they only sold less than 30,00 units. The dismal Volt sales are much worse than almost any car brand that has been dropped by any major company. Other dismal market failures such as the AMC Pacer actually sold a lot better than the Volt.
Some companies such as Fred Meyer and now even Walgreens have installed electric charging areas. However, it could be years before many electric cars such as the plug-in hybrids really exist in decent numbers. Today, these cars are a real rarity.
During the early 1900’s one highly successful all electric automobile was the Baker. The electric portion of the Baker automobiles worked just fine, but the suspension systems tended to break parts on the rough, often cobblestone streets, compared to much stronger Ford model T cars, which could withstand the rough roads of the early 1900’s. So the technology for viable electric automobiles has existed for nearly 100 years, however modern buyers tend to fear the new technology, even fearful of fire danger and other, often irrational concerns.