2012 Geneva autoshow day one on the John Batchelor radio show

Imported from Detroit, Chevy Volt/Opel Ampera, wins European Car of the Year

The Chevy Volt has had a rocky year. A start-then-stop, to retool, the Detroit Hamtramck plant put the Volt behind in the sales General Motors had forecasted. In November the Volt took another hit when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced they were investigating the Volt for a fire that started three weeks after it was crashed by NHTSA.

Now, General Motors has said they are halting production of the Volt to meet demand. This is the new General Motors. In 2011 General Motors halted production of the Chevy Sonic. It was just common sense, says Mark Reuss, President of North America, “Instead of producing more than we were selling, and having to offer a larger incentive to sell them, we halted production to meet demand. Over producing was what got us into trouble before.”

Other alternative vehicle sales have slowed as well. Hybrid sales have stalled at around two percent of sales. Alternative vehicles might well see sales rise if the price of gasoline continues to spike.

On Friday I was on KCRA-3, NBC’s Sacramento based television. According to the KCRA announcer, Adrienne Bankert, gas prices have risen .34 cents in the last twenty-five days. People are starting to talk about the price of gasoline again. Republicans are starting to remind Democrats that President Obama, and Secretary Chu have said they want gasoline prices to rise. In our nascent economy, people are starting to get jumpy about the economy.

If history is to repeat it’self, as gasoline prices skyrocket people start looking at ways to save gasoline. At first the stories are about how to save gasoline on the cars that people own. As the price of gasoline stays high, the stories start including the most fuel-efficient cars on the market. That is where the Volt, and alternative cars start to make headway.

The question is, is this a temporary spike in gasoline prices, or are we finally starting to see the effect of gasoline demand from emerging countries?

According to Wards auto research the world has crested one billion cars on the road globally. According to R. L. Polk, of that one billion, the United States claims ownership of 240,000,000 vehicles.

Michael Choo lives in Korea and works for Kia. I emailed Choo and asked about the price of gasoline in Korea. Choo told me that the price of gasoline had shoot up from 1,800 won a liter to 2,000 won a liter in the last month. Quick use of currency exchange told me that was .72 cents more a gallon increase in the last month!

Each day the world uses approximately 87 million barrels of oil a day. As emerging countries continue to demand more gasoline, gasoline prices will go up globally.

In Leipzig, Germany, last year, the International Transport Forum calculated that there would be 2.5 billion vehicles on the road by 2050. Eighty-seven million barrels of oil per day won’t take care of 2.5 billion vehicles. Even if we find more oil, it won’t be cheap oil.

Well see if the arrival of the first California HOV-eligible Volts, this month, will boost demand in the Golden State. Winning European car of the year is a good start.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.