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Keller @ Large: Why Hasn't The Chevy Volt Taken Off?

BOSTON (CBS) - Wouldn't it be great if we could run our cars on alternative forms of energy, so we could get out from under the wild swings in the oil market and protect the environment?

Listen to Jon's commentary:


And wouldn't it be especially great if, by doing so, we could create good-paying American jobs and help restore a pillar of an important American industry?

I would say yes, and yes.

And that's why the news about the electric Chevy Volt is so unfortunate.

GM announced late last week they're suspending production of the Volt for five weeks – laying off 1,300 workers – in order to "match production with demand," which means no one's buying them.

The numbers tell the story. The CEO of GM set a target of 10,000 Volts sold in 2011. They sold less than 7,700. Now he's backing off the 45,000 sales goal for this year.

No wonder. They sold 600 of them last month, and you can do the math yourself.

This is especially worth noting because of the emphasis the White House has put on growing green industry, and the pressure it put on GM to make that policy real with the Volt.

So, what's the company's explanation for the flop?

Says a top executive: "Sales in January were clearly impacted by the safety investigation and the exaggerated negative coverage."

That must be a reference to a probe -- by federal officials --of why the Volt kept bursting into flame during safety tests, an investigation that ended after GM agreed to fix design flaws.

So, yes, that news might well have suppressed sales.

But could it be that the Volt's base price of $40,000, and the fact that it only goes about 35 miles before it needs to tap into a gas engine, had something to do with consumer behavior as well?

I hope GM's finger-pointing isn't a sign that they don't know what they're doing.

Because a whole lot of workers and taxpayers would prefer to see them start getting it right.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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