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Volt sales target is red meat for the bashers

DETROIT -- General Motors sold 10,666 Chevrolet Volts in the United States this year through July, a clip that should translate to around 19,000 for 2012.

In Europe, through June, GM sold 2,861 of the Volt's sibling, the Ampera. And GM recently began selling the car in China, tallying a modest 18 Volt sales there through June, according to LMC Automotive.

All of that should make for an exciting countdown in coming months as GM aims for its 2012 production target of 35,000 to 40,000 Volts.

"What?" you might ask (at least those of you who've been paying attention). "I thought GM had gotten out of the business of forecasting Volt sales."

Not quite.

If you had been paying really close attention, you'd have noticed that in late June, following a speech he gave in Chicago, GM CEO Dan Akerson floated yet another Volt target.

Akerson reiterated that GM won't hit his earlier production target of 60,000 Volts this year, including 15,000 for export. (He and other GM execs had abandoned that goal in January).

"We'll probably hit somewhere between" 35,000 and 40,000 this year, Akerson said, according to Bloomberg.

Now, for most any other car, tossing off an informal bogey like that wouldn't be a big deal. But the Volt isn't any other car.

The industry still is trying to gauge demand for electrified vehicles, and is closely watching Volt sales as a bellwether.

And, as Akerson himself lamented during an appearance before a House subcommittee early this year, the Volt has become a "political punching bag." Obama bashers and EV naysayers are rooting for the car to flop.

So, any whiff of Volt sales falling short of expectations -- regardless of who set them -- is sure to draw scrutiny and searing headlines.

That's what happened late last year, when it became apparent that GM would miss GM's U.S. sales goal of 10,000 Volts. The narrative quickly morphed from the Volt as a halo car that showcased the innovation of the new GM to one of Volts piling up on dealer lots.

Thing is, if you don't have any expectations, there's much more leeway to shape the story.

But now there's another target out there. Let the countdown begin.

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