Is the Chevy Volt a sales flop?S

General Motors has repeatedly claimed a sales target for 2011 of 10,000 units for the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt sedan. But, nine months into the year, they've only shipped 3,895 off the lot. In fact, in September sales numbers, released an hour ago, GM sold only 723 Volts. Will GM fail to meet its own sales predictions?

To be fair, GM has claimed that sales would falter during the summer because of a pre-planned shutdown of the automaker's Hamtramck assembly plant. But, it was thought by most analysts that GM would have already swallowed that hiccup and by September we'd see higher sales. Despite more than doubling last months sales, we somehow don't think 723 units sold this past month is what one would consider massive sales momentum — especially given this summer's anemic numbers. And that's not to say there aren't any Volts on dealer lots. Cars.com shows over 2,600 units available in a nation-wide search of new vehicle listings.

To give you an idea of how few vehicles that is, here are just a few of the GM vehicles that sold better than the Chevy Volt this month:

Cadillac Escalade - 1,527
Chevrolet Colorado Pickup - 2,171
Chevrolet Avalanche - 1,861
Chevrolet Suburban - 5,246
Buick Lucerne - 1,068

That last car, the Buick Lucerne, is even more ironic considering it's made on the very same assembly line as the Chevy Volt — yet the Buick-for-blue-hairs still managed to sell almost 50% more units this past month.

Compare those sales with the vehicle most pundits position as a direct competitor — the Nissan Leaf all-electric car. Nissan sold 1,362 Leafs during the month of August and 1,031 during the month of September. Year to date, they've sold 7,199 — twice the number of Volts GM has shipped off dealer lots.

GM has a steep hill to climb if they plan on making their claim of 10,000 units sold. By our count it means they'll have to sell over 2,000 Volts during each of the remaining three months of 2011. We'll see if they can make it — or if the Volt ends up being a flop for GM in its first year of sales.

So what does all this hand-wringing mean? Who knows. It could mean there's very little desire for such weird, new technology. Or it could just mean GM's still working the kinks out of the supply chain. All we know is — sometimes it's best not to put hard targets to leap over unless you're sure you can clear 'em. Because tripping and falling always hurts.

Photo Credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images News


You can keep up with Ray Wert, the author of this post, on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.