DETROIT -- General Motors has begun shipping a low-emissions version of the Chevrolet Volt to dealerships in California, a move GM hopes will revive sales of the plug-in hybrid.
Buyers will be eligible for a $1,500 state rebate and access to the state’s carpool lanes, perks that buyers of past Volts didn’t get because those cars didn’t meet the state’s tough emissions standards.
A GM spokesman said that the automaker restarted Volt production at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant on Feb. 6, after six weeks of downtime that included a holiday break and time to implement changes to the car’s battery pack. GM stopped production in late December amid a federal investigation into the risk of the car’s battery pack catching fire.
In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed the probe, concluding that the risks don’t appear to outweigh the risk of fire in gasoline-powered vehicles.
During the investigation, GM proposed voluntary changes to better protect the battery pack. It is offering to make the fix for existing customers and has implemented the changes at the plant.
Fallout from the investigation likely dampened Volt sales, GM officials have said. January sales dropped to 603 units, the lowest monthly total since August.
GM hopes that Volt sales will get a lift from carpool certification in California, where users save an average of 36 minutes per day on their commutes, GM says.
The new version is “certain to be a strong draw for California commuters looking to travel the state’s notoriously congested freeways in the carpool lane,” Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for Chevrolet, said in a written statement.
Volt buyers also can receive a $7,500 federal tax credit. Georgia, New York and Florida also allow Volt drivers access to carpool lanes, GM says.
The low-emission Volts should begin arriving at Chevrolet’s 140 California dealerships starting next week.