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TheStreet Open House

Chevy Volts Are All But Sold Out in America

Stocks in this article: GM

Just to take a quick look and confirm at least a small sample of the cars.com numbers for the Chevrolet Volt inventory numbers, I visited some of these dealerships over the weekend. The Chevy dealers I visited had so many Cruzes, Malibus, Sonics, Camaros, Tahoes, etc., on hand that it wasn't even meaningful to count them. Rows after rows; a sea of cars in stock. But only one Volt. Not two. Not three. One.

GM may be stuffing the channel with all of those other Chevrolet models -- I didn't bother counting them -- but the evidence is crystal clear that there are way too few Volts at most of the Chevy dealerships. Obviously you will find a few Chevy dealerships scattered around the country that have many more than the average of two Volts, but as the evidence shows from cars.com, those dealerships are very few.

Missing in New York

Let's take New York City, for example. The inventory system indicates there is only one Chevrolet Volt available on Manhattan. One car for a place where 1.6 million people live, and many more work. If you include the other boroughs, add 16 of them -- for an area where over eight million people live, and many more work. This isn't channel stuffing: It's more like water in the Sahara desert.





This insanely light level of Volt inventories isn't limited to New York City. My investigation into Volt inventories in the San Francisco area yielded 17 cars and the greater Washington DC area 15. I wouldn't be surprised if plenty an exotic car company can muster more than 16 new cars for sale in NYC, 17 in the San Francisco Bay Area and 15 in the greater Washington DC area.

With inventories this low, GM must be extremely pessimistic about the prospects for Volt sales in the coming months, given the upcoming March 19 to April 23 work stoppage. One wonders why?

Two things should be in order to understand:

1. The Opel, Vauxhall and Holden-badged Volts recently (Feb. 6?) started production, and the backlog from Europe and other geographies were said to be in the many thousands of units. What is going on with this?

2. The Volts manufactured Feb. 6 and onward are eligible for the new California carpool lane sticker, valid 2012 to '15. Many people in California held off buying Volts manufactured before Feb. 6 for this reason. In the coming days and weeks, thousands of Volts should be arriving at California dealerships, where they will quickly be put into the hands of eager carpool lane drivers.





With these two positive things going on, combined with the already super-thin Volt inventories, one wonders why GM is halting production at this particular time, even for only five weeks. We are all eager for GM to clarify how they envision their Volt math for the upcoming year.

At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Anton Wahlman was a sell-side equity research analyst covering the communications technology industries from 1996 to 2008: UBS 1996 to 2002, Needham & Company 2002 to 2006, and ThinkEquity 2006 to 2008.

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