It looks like the Chevy Volt‘s fortune might just be turning around; General Motors has announced that it will resume production of the plug-in hybrid on April 16, a week earlier than anticipated. The Volt’s earlier low sales figures were compounded by aggressive politicization during the Republican primaries. As sales lagged behind expectation, GM announced a five week halt in production at its Detroit Hamtramck plant, which began on March 19. But as production idled, sales of the Volt jumped; in March 2,289 units were delivered in the U.S. – a staggering 277% increase compared to the same month last year. With hopes that sales of the Volt will soon total 3,000 cars per month, Mark Reuss, president of GM North America told attendees of the New York International Auto Show, “We are meeting supply and demand… It’s not just the Volt. It’s everything.”
The scaling back of the Volt shut down will no doubt prompt a sigh of relief among the Detroit workers who just a few days ago were told to expect an extension of their standard halt in production this coming summer. But it also signals a turn around in fortunes of the Volt and GM at large. While a goal of 3,000 cars per month is scaled back from GM’s original intent — they had hoped for 2012 sales to total 45,000 units in the United States alone — this amended target and uptick in sales does suggest a significant car-buying population who look beyond the negative media attention the Volt has endured.
GM spokesperson Chris Lee told Bloomberg News “Employees are being called back one week earlier than previously announced due to increased Volt sales since January and the need to meet demand in our strong markets, including California,” GM is set to begin producing a modified Volt which will allow Californian drivers to qualify for “Clean Air Stickers” which allow for single occupant use of carpool lanes in the state.
Sales for the company as a whole might well represent a population keen to move away from vehicles reliant on increasingly expensive and environmentally destructive oil. GM reports that it in March it sold over 100,000 cars with a fuel economy rating of at least 30 miles per gallon, reflecting a shift in customer demand and company inventory. Reuss stated that around 40% of GMs cars have a fuel economy of 30 mpg, up from 16 percent just three years ago.