The Electric Car Future Revs Up
It is of course not yet known how many of these all-electric SUVs Toyota intends to produce with the help of Tesla. It is also not yet known how broadly they will be made available, and how quickly the availability will spread after the initial customer deliveries this third quarter of 2012. Typically, with these kinds of cars, they start out by being made available in five to 10 U.S. metropolitan areas, then expanding a few states at a time, and then worldwide, within about a year or so.
Want to make a bet? California will be first on Toyota's list. That's where by far the largest demand for electric cars resides.
On its April month sales call, taking place on May 1, GM reported that inventories of the Chevrolet Volt were down to an insanely low eight days in California. That's basically sold out. Normally, inventories should be approximately two months.
In an article on March 5, I pointed out that already in early March, the Volt was almost sold out in California. GM shut down Volt production for an intended five weeks, which was subsequently cut down to four, when they realized I was right. Volt production has now been resumed for little over two weeks, and Volt-starved California dealers should begin to see their inventories replenished in a couple of weeks from now.
Over the last two weeks, I confirmed this deplorable inventory condition by visiting a handful of Chevrolet dealers in the Silicon Valley. And yes, it is true, inventories of Volt cars are down to essentially zero. I asked the salespeople, and they told me they could sell "tons" of Volts if they were just provided cars by the factory in Detroit.
Yet, despite production shortages impacting the deliveries of one of the most popular cars in Silicon Valley, GM sold a decent 1,462 Volts in April, slightly more than 1,396 Corvettes, according to GM's press release. In addition, GM sold an as of yet undisclosed number of Volts (under a variety of labels, including "Opel Ampera") abroad in April as well.
What is the conclusion here? Electric cars are on the march, whether in pure form, like the Tesla-engineered Toyota RAV4 to be unveiled on Monday, or the hybrid form, like the extended-range high-performance Volt from Chevrolet, which has now sold well over 10,000 units and with the highest customer satisfaction of any car to date (93%).