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Just a few day after President Obama promised to purchase a Volt after his presidency, GM suspended its production.
Fresh from a strong sales surge in February and encouraged by President Obama's pledge to purchase a Chevy Volt when his presidency ends in "five years' time," GM announced the suspension of Volt production for five weeks, idling about 1,300 workers at its Hamtramck facility. The suspension comes on the heels of a disappointing start for the year with sales of only 1,626 units, miles short of expectations. This shouldn't have surprised pundits, however, as Chevrolet recently said that it will produce the Volt only for specific orders to meet demand.
Currently there are over 3,500 unsold Volts, including demo cars. A year ago Chevrolet had high hopes for the range-extender vehicle, with predicted sales of 60,000 units for 2012. The suspension of production hints at a more realistic sales target of about 10,000, if the latest development in the saga of the electric car won't deter further potential customers. In the last few months, as the automotive industry came to the fore in the run up to the U.S. presidential election, the Volt became one of the most effective weapons in the Republican Party armory against the administration and its sponsorship of the auto bailout.
President Obama was personally accused as being the Volt's chief sponsor mainly because its development cost hundreds of millions of dollars but was kept on the production line only because of government involvement with and part ownership of GM. Now that production has been temporarily suspended, the pressure might be off the President as well.