In the sales slap fight between the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, the Leaf has the Volt by the wrists and asking why it keeps hitting itself. Chevy's response: Wait 'til next month.
We've learned from Nissan today that it sold 1,362 Leafs in the United States in August alone, bringing its total since December to 6,187. The company's execs have said they could move 12,000 Leafs this year, part of a massive ramp-up worldwide. Meanwhile, after shutting its Detroit factory for retooling a slightly cheaper 2012 model in July, Chevy sold an anemic 302 Volts in August, and has moved 3,498 so far since December — versus its target of 10,000 for calendar year 2011.
While GM said it had almost no Volts in stock at the end of July, it built 2,395 in August; Cars.com now lists more than 1,200 for sale. The numbers alone suggest Chevy has a far larger supply of unsold Volts than typical for a new vehicle, especially one that's supposedly in high demand.
Chevy spokeswoman Michelle Bunker says the sales figures don't include 784 Volts delivered to dealers as demo vehicles, part of a marketing plan to put a Volt in almost every Chevy dealership nationwide as a showroom lure, which will soak up 2,500 Volts this year. Bunker also says not all of the Volts built in August have left the factory, and that GM is still filling the pipeline of Volt demand.
That said, to meet its target of 10,000 retail sales for 2011, and prove to many critics that the Obama administration-backed public dollar-financed bankruptcy was a success, GM will need to sell about 1,700 Volts a month starting right now. That's about 65 a day for every day its dealers are open, versus the 11 a day it managed in August — for a $40,000 small car in an economy where consumers appear to be more nervous about spending than they've been in years.
For all its taunting of the all-electric Leaf for the range anxiety that comes from potentially being left stranded without a charge, it appears it's Chevy that's now facing a different kind of anxiety — sales anxiety.