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Did my wife just adopt an orphan?
General Motors (NYSE: GM ) is halting production of Chevy Volt vehicles. The Michigan plant that assembles the battery-powered hybrid will suspend production for five weeks at the end of next week, and that comes after a prolonged holiday shutdown.
GM sold 1,023 Volts in February. My wife and I bought one of them.
It seemed as if the car -- which logs the first 40 or so miles on electric between charges before switching over to a nine-gallon tank of gas of nearly 300 more miles -- was finally starting to come into its own. After falling short of its goal of selling 10,000 cars last year and negative press surrounding its battery-pack woes, sales were revving up.
GM sold a mere 676 Volts before the 1,023 units that cleared out last month.
Even though GM sold more than twice as many Volts as Nissan (OTC: NSANY) did with its Leaf last month, it's been hard to catch a break.
There aren't too many plug-in vehicles on the road, but that will change. Tesla's (Nasdaq: TSLA ) Model S sedan hits the market in July, with the recently unveiled Model X crossover SUV shooting for a 2014 release. Ford (NYSE: F ) is about to crank out an all-electric Focus. Tesla partner Toyota (NYSE: TM ) is working on an all-electric version of its RAV4 compact SUV.
Between reports of Tesla battery failures and GM idling its Volt plant through mid-April, it's hard to get too excited about the prospects of the new initiatives.
The move to halt production at the Volt plant is definitely going to send the kind of message that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In showing my wife's car to my father over the weekend, he told me that he heard that GM was killing the Volt. This is how misinformation starts. A five-week production lull gets misinterpreted.
It also doesn't help that GM in general and the Volt in particular have become the center of an unwelcome political tussle.
My wife isn't going through buyer's remorse. She loves her Volt, and it has impressed her friends on both side of the political electric fence. In retrospect, maybe we should've leased the car instead of buying it outright. In a move to clear unplugged and unloved Volts, GM just dropped the monthly lease price from $399 to $350 a month.
At a time when gas prices are nearing multiyear highs, it seems silly for GM to temporarily freeze the production of Volts. As bad as sales may have been, the news is -- pardon the wordplay -- shocking.
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