DETROIT -- General Motors is notifying dealers today that they are free to sell their Chevrolet Volt demonstration models, a move that more than doubles the availability of the plug-in hybrid.
Until now, GM has required dealers to keep at least one Volt on the lot as a demo model to expose customers to the technology and drum up interest in other fuel-efficient models in the showroom, such as the Chevrolet Cruze.
The move to free up the 2,300 demos on dealer lots comes as GM faces a steep curve to meet its closely watched target of 10,000 Volt sales this year. Through October, GM had sold 5,003.
GM CEO Dan Akerson has cited the 10,000-unit goal and has emphasized the need for GM to lead in innovation and spread the Volt technology across GM’s brands.
GM launched the Volt in December in just seven markets. Since July, it has been rolling out the car nationally, and is nearing its target of 2,600 dealers in all 50 states.
But many dealers have received just one Volt and must hang onto it as a demo.
“Multiple dealers have requested to sell their demo to satisfy customer demand,” GM said in a memo to dealers.
GM spokesman Tom Henderson said GM is “giving them the choice to satisfy their customers and the flexibility to meet pent-up demand.”
The move will increase the number of Volts available for sale to 4,100, from 1,800, Henderson said. Another 1,100 units are in transit.
GM will reimburse dealers $1,500 to compensate for depreciation and for the cost of removing some decals from the demo models. Dealers must sell their demos by Jan. 3 to qualify for the payment, Henderson said.
Dealers who sell their demos are then required to replace the demo models by the end of January, Henderson said.
Tight production capacity curbed Volt sales for most of the year. But over the summer, GM overhauled the Detroit assembly plant where the vehicle is made to roughly double capacity.
Although availability has improved in the last month, Henderson said would-be customers continue to struggle to find Volts for sale.
He points to survey data showing that 72 percent of people who would like to buy a Volt but haven’t bought one cited a lack of availability.