DETROIT -- California Chevrolet dealers hope that a revised, low-emissions version of the plug-in hybrid Volt will attract new buyers with a powerful carrot: access to car-pool lanes.
General Motors expects to have the car to California showrooms by early March, GM spokesman Rob Peterson says. It will be eligible for California's high-occupancy-vehicle lane sticker, a big perk that previous Volt buyers didn't get.
Peterson said that GM in November began curbing the number of Volts it allocated to California in anticipation of launching a low-emissions version. The new package also will qualify Volt buyers for a $1,500 state tax rebate. All Volts already qualify for a $7,500 federal tax break.
Some dealers have said they were disappointed that the Volt did not qualify for high-occupancy-vehicle status when it first launched in late 2010.
On the new package, GM engineers added a secondary air-injection pump to the Volt's catalytic converter that pipes air into the exhaust stream to strip out more pollutants.
Christopher Leggio, co-owner of three Chevy stores east of Los Angeles, believes car-pool eligibility will appeal to commuters. Thus far, most Volt customers have been environmentalists and wealthy tech guys intrigued by the technology, he says.
"We think that the second wave of Volt buyers will probably look more closely at the fact that it has an HOV sticker," says Leggio, whose Mark Christopher Auto Center has sold about 50 Volts since the car's launch a year ago. "That's huge in California."
Leggio says he doesn't think current Volts will be tougher to sell after the low-emissions version arrives. "There are plenty of buyers who like the car simply because it's environmentally friendly," he says.
GM sold 7,671 Volts in the United States last year. Nearly one-quarter of those were sold in California.