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Chevy Volt Plug-In Sales Surge In CA, Outsells 'Vette Too

By John Voelcker | HighGearMedia.com,

It's quite the morning for electric-car news today, but we didn't want to let one from yesterday slip by either.

After a lumpy start to sales of the Chevrolet Volt, it appears that California dealers now can't keep the range-extended electric car in stock.

According to an analysis of registration data from January through March provided by R.L. Polk, the Detroit Free Press reports that California bought more Volts by far--837 of them--than in the second-highest state, which was Michigan at just 232.

California buyers are crucially important to the future success of Detroit's automakers, who sell far fewer vehicles there than Asian and European brands.

One in four Volts

Almost one in four Volts sold in the first quarter was registered in California, and the pace is likely to continue.

The Free Press quotes two different Chevrolet dealers saying they're basically sold out of Volts, and notes that California dealerships are resorting to buying Volts from other dealers.

They can't bring in Volts from dealers outside the state because to qualify for single-occupant travel in the High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes on California's notoriously congested freeways, the Volt must be fitted at the factory with additional emission control equipment.

All about HOV access

And in fact it's the HOV-lane access that is proving to be the success factor for Volts in the Golden State, as most electric-car advocates had long predicted.

Sales of three hybrid cars--the Toyota Prius, original Honda Insight, and Honda Civic Hybrid--soared in California several years ago when the state issued special yellow stickers giving 85,000 of those cars access to HOV lanes even with only a single occupant.

Those stickers expired last year, but they have effectively been replaced with green stickers for plug-in hybrids (like the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid) and range-extended electric cars (like the Chevrolet Volt).

White stickers, denoting zero-emission vehicles (battery electrics like the Nissan Leaf, or fuel-cell vehicles like the Honda FCX Clarity), have existed for many years now.

Volt vs 'Vette?

In an interesting statistical side note, Fox News reports that the Chevy Volt is now outselling the brand's other low-production, high-performance halo car, the two-seat fiberglass Chevrolet Corvette.

Not only did the Volt outsell the 'Vette when May sales figures came in (1,680 to 1,219) but it's ahead for the first five months of the year (7,057 Volts vs. 5,547 'Vettes).

In an unscientific reader poll at the end of the story, however, Fox readers opted for the Corvette over the Volt 69 percent to 9 percent (the Silverado pickup truck, the third option, got 22 percent).

We must admit we wonder how many of those Fox News voters spend time stuck in the slow lanes on California freeways while plug-in Volts zip past them.

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