Chevy Volt sales tripled in 2012 but remain well below target

Demand for the Chevrolet Volt is way up, but GM had far higher hopes.

When General Motors details its 2012 sales figures later today, the automaker will boast that it has tripled sales of its eco-friendly flagship, the Chevrolet Volt, to about 23,000 units in the United States.

But don't pop the champagne just yet. While that's an impressive gain over 2011's 7,671 new Volt deliveries, it's still well off of the 45,000 or more extended-range EVs the automaker initially hoped to put in American driveways this year.

And that's despite Chevrolet's best efforts to trim Volt lease prices, which are currently advertised at $299 per month with about $2,500 down. When the Volt first launched, GM offered a $350 per month, $2,500 down lease, and it has recently promoted deals as low as $279 per month.

Buried among the Volt's sales data is word from the Detroit News that about 1 in 3 U.S. specification units are delivered to California, where the car is granted access to carpool lanes regardless of the number of passengers aboard. It was that access that initially propelled the Toyota Prius conventional hybrid to great success in California, although only the plug-in version of the Prius qualifies for solo driver access to carpool lanes today.

Globally, GM will probably sell around 30,000 Volts, including the rebadged European-market Opel and Vauxhall Ampera and the Australian-market Holden Ampera. Again, that's a far cry from the 60,000 versions of the Voltec-powered compact five-door hatchback GM forecasted back when the car launched about two years ago.

Still, the Volt is significantly outperforming the Nissan Leaf, which will also miss its manufacturer's target of 20,000 vehicles sold during calendar year 2012. Nissan hasn't released 2012 sales figures yet, but it's likely that the Leaf will finish the year just shy of last year's nearly 10,000 units.

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