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Chevy Volt: Worst Product Of 2011?

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On: Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 2:35PM | By: Chris Weiss

Chevy Volt: Worst Product Of 2011?

Just before the new year rolled around, media outlets 'round the world whiled away the slow holiday hours by putting together all forms of "best of" and "worst of" lists. Sometimes lists were spot on and others were completely insufferable. A report called the "Worst Product Flops of 2011" is a little of both. The report was published by 24/7 Wall Street and republished by Yahoo Finance, making it visible for millions. While the report pinpointed some seriously failed products, it treated the Chevy Volt rather unfairly.

The Volt was number three on the list and made it for failing to meet sales expectations. The article said of the Volt: "Indeed, sales for the vehicle have been consistently low. Only 125 models were sold in July 2011. This was after GM spokeswoman Michelle Bunker was quoted as saying that the Volt was “virtually sold out” due to its popularity — a statement later shown to be misguided."

That information is somewhat misleading. The 125-model sales figure is indeed low. In fact, it's too low, because it came during a month when Chevy shut down the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that builds the Volt in order to retool it for increased production. Chevy admitted to slow summer sales because of this retooling and rebounded once it got the plant back on track. Chevy sold 723 Volts in September and increased again in both October and November.

Chevy will fall short of its initial 10,000 Volt sales goal, and while the automaker deserves some heat for pretending as if it never had a 10,000 sales goal despite clear quotes from executives to the contrary, the Volt won't exactly be a complete disappointment. Despite its summer production issues, Chevy sold 6,142 Volts through November. While it's highly unlikely to get to 10,000, it should finish off the year between 7,000 and 8,000. Given that the Volt is a brand new technology that costs a marked premium over similarly equipped gas vehicles, 7,500 or so sales doesn't seem worthy of a number 3 biggest flop award. In fact, I wouldn't say the Volt flopped at all.

The 24/7 Wall Street piece also cited the NHTSA's investigation into potential battery fire problems in the Volt. While that's certainly been bad publicity for Chevy, the investigation hasn't turned up anything of yet and Chevy has said that years’ worth of its own internal testing have revealed no problems with the battery. Chevy also turned the bad headlines good when it agreed to issue refunds or loaner cars to worried Volt owners. Again, the situation wasn't anything worthy of "worst flop of the year."

I believe that GM deserves a little criticism for the way it's advertised the Volt, calling it an electric vehicle even though it's so obviously a hybrid, denying that it ever planned to sell 10,000 even though it's on the record as saying 10,000, etc. But the Volt is a groundbreaking, multiple award-winning green vehicle that performed admirably enough in its first year to convince GM to build a premium version in the Cadillac ETS (okay, it probably didn't need much convincing since it has a lot of investment to pay off). Overall, it's been a success or at least a "need more time to evaluate"-type product.

Granted, 24/7 Wall Street is concerned only with the bottom line, but I don't think the Volt was all that bad even by that singular measure. Even in the face of a plant shutdown (aimed at bolstering sales in the long term), Chevy still managed to sell 3/4 of its original goal. So yes, the Volt underperformed, but I don't think you can rightfully call it a flop.

The only other car on the list is the Fiat 500. By the blog's account, Fiat sold only 12,000 of its 50,000 goal, a far cry from 75 percent. The 500 was plastered all over television for much of the year but didn't even meet 25 percent of Fiat's sales goals--that's a flop.

What do you think? Was the 2011 Chevy Volt a flop, a success or somewhere in between?



Stephy21 | 9:27AM (Mon, Jan 9, 2012)

I think the Chevy Volt had a great run at the beginning but once the fires happened after the test crash i think a lot of people backed out of buying. Everyone wants a safe car for their families and loved ones and hopefully when they redesign the Volt's battery pack it might get a little more attention. I personally would not buy a Chevy Volt just for the simple fact of the battery pack catching on fire it just seems to me to be a hazard if the car were to crash and go up in flames.

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