GM Volt to miss sales targets amid fire furore

GM's fire problems with the battery-powered Volt may have been only the latest of the car company's headaches around its earth-friendly vehicle. General Motors is apparently set to miss its conservative first year sales targets by 20-percent, the WSJ reports, with around 8,000 of the 10,000 expected to be sold set to leave the forecourt before 2011 is through. The reason for the shortfall is simple, dealers say: the Volt is just too expensive.

"We're getting a lot of interest, we're just not getting a lot of buyers" one GM dealer told the newspaper, referring to the $41,000 price tag of the electric car. "Customers come in, they are wowed by the display, the quick acceleration. It's just going to take a while for the American public to accept the price."

Now, though, it seems the public will also have to stomach the Volt's patchy safety record. General Motors has moved swiftly to reassure early-adopters that the fire risk to the car is negligible, even going so far as to offer to buy back vehicles from those people who have decided the Volt is not for them. Unfortunately, a federal safety investigation is already underway into whether the Volt presents a serious safety problem.

According to GM, a fix is in the works for the roughly 6,000 Volts already on the road – a number that indicates another 2,000 cars are expected to be delivered to satisfy existing orders, or sold to new buyers, before the year is out. The problem, the company claims, is where a broken pipe drips coolant onto the battery wiring and, eventually, causes a short-circuit. US government testing on three cars found the issue caused the li-ion batteries to spark or catch fire, after the cars had been used in crash testing.

GM has set a 45,000 Volt sales target for 2012. According to former vice chairman Bob Lutz, who led the Volt project, the 2011 target "was ambitious and should never have been announced" and was likely to fail from the outset as production couldn't keep up.