Short circuit: Chevy Volt to halt production for five weeks, 1,300 workers to be laid off

B-b-but … California just gave it special car-pool privileges.

See now why I thought O was too optimistic when he said he’ll be buying a Volt in five years?

General Motors has told 1,300 employees at its Detroit Hamtramck that they will be temporarily laid off for five weeks as the company halts production of the Chevrolet Volt and its European counterpart, the Opel Ampera.

“Even with sales up in February over January, we are still seeking to align our production with demand,” said GM spokesman Chris Lee.

Lee said employees were told Thursday that production would put on hold from March 19 to April 23…

In 2011, Chevrolet sold 7,671 Volts, but fell short of its initial goal of 10,000.

That euphemism about “aligning production with demand” is the automotive equivalent of Ian Faith talking about Spinal Tap’s appeal becoming more “selective.” The good news: Volt sales actually picked up between January and February this year. The bad news: The monthly numbers climbed from just 603 units to 1,023. To put that in perspective, GM had initially hoped to sell 45,000 Volts in the U.S. in 2012 before backing way, way off that target last month. According to the Detroit News, current stock exceeds 3,500 units, which at their usual sales rates should be enough to get them through through the spring without needing to build a single new unit. Hence the layoffs.

I went over to Green Car Reports to see what they have on this. Nothing yet — but here’s one car buyer’s defense of why he chose a Prius Plug-in instead of a Volt. The Prius retails for $32,760 while the Volt will run you a cool $39,995, but that’s before tax credits. Thanks to Uncle Sam, you get a $7,500 break on the Volt but just $2,500 on the Prius, which still isn’t enough to create a price advantage for Chevy but at least gets them to near parity. Good ol’ government.

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