General Motors today said that thanks to “strong public interest” in the Chevrolet Volt, it will increase production capacity of the four-seat series hybrid car from 30,000 units to 45,000 units in 2012.
The announcement came as U.S. President Barack Obama toured the Detroit-Hamtramck facility, where the Volt is being produced now for sale later this year.
“We are very proud to host the President of the United States at this plant, where the future of the American automobile industry is being built today by the men and women of General Motors,” said Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., the GM Chairman and CEO, who was approved by the Administration and took over as the failed company was emerging from bankruptcy.
U.S. taxpayers invested more than $60 billion in GM to allow it to survive and now own a majority stake in the privately held firm. It is a matter of much debate as to whether taxpayers will get all of their money back, but recent developments, including GM’s return to profitability, means some of the more than $50 billion spent will be returned if a public stock offering is successful.
Earlier this week, Chevrolet dealers began taking customer orders for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, following the release of retail and lease pricing. (See Chevy Volt Electric Vehicle Starts at $41,000, Gulp, about $8,000 More than the Nissan Leaf)
Taxpayers are providing massive subsidies to help overcome the objections of potential buyers for what are now and for the foreseeable future high cost, limited range electric vehicles, including tax credits of up to $7,500 per vehicle to purchasers, as well a variety of subsidized infrastructure changes. (See Taxpayers to Subsidize EVs and Charging Stations)
The Volt offers a driving range of about 340 miles and is powered by electricity at all times. For up to the first 40 miles, the vehicle drives using electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas-powered, engine/generator operates to extend the driving range another 300 miles on a full tank.
The Detroit-Hamtramck plant received $336 million in new investment to prepare for production of the Volt; part of more than $700 million GM has invested in eight Michigan facilities to support Volt production since 2008. This includes a 33,000 square-foot battery systems lab in Warren; a battery assembly facility in Brownstown Township; and supporting engine and stamping operations in Grand Blanc, Bay City, and three plants in Flint.
Besides direct GM jobs, the Volt helped spur additional supplier employment and investment. Earlier this month, Korean-owned battery cell supplier LG Chem/Compact Power Inc. broke ground on a $300 million, 650,000 square-foot plant in Holland, Mich., to support Volt production, creating 400 jobs.
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