This article was originally published on Climate Progress. It has been reposted with full permission.
Chevrolet posted the biggest sales gains of any GM brand last year, with total volume up 4.3 percent year-over-year. Several models made enormous leaps in sales volume: the Sonic compact, for instance, finished December up just 4.3 percent, but a strong year helped push the car to a 415-percent overall gain compared to its first year on sale. The Chevrolet Volt, too, saw sales leap 206 percent from just 7671 units in its difficult first year on the market to a respectable 23,461 cars in 2012. Despite a significant drop to just 1293 sales last month, the Colorado small pickup posted an 18.7 percent annual sales gain. And the Equinox crossover enjoyed a 7.5-percent boost to 19,551 December sales and ended the year up 13.1 percent.
The surge in demand for the Volt capped a tumultuous 2012 for electric vehicles. In 2011, manufacturers fell well short of their sales targets. And as criticisms mounted last year, it seemed like automakers had to spend more time defending electric vehicles than actually making them.
As one of the most prominent automakers getting into the electric vehicle market, GM took a lot of heat from conservative politicians, bloggers, and Fox News pundits about its Chevy Volt. The car was called “crappy” and labeled an “exploding Obamamobile” by commentators looking for an opportunity to attack President Obama’s investments in clean technologies.
Tired of the barrage of attacks, former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz — a Republican who once called climate change “a crock of shit” — lashed out at his fellow conservatives for spreading fear and cracking jokes about the car: “This is an unfortunate, knee-jerk reaction…Folks, it’s pure fiction. Please get it out of your heads,” Lutz said.
Although GM is still below its sales targets for the Volt, the company is promoting its latest sales figures as proof that more Americans want fuel efficient and electric cars.
The average price of gasoline in the U.S. last year was the highest ever recorded, boosting consumer interest in fuel-sipping automobiles. With more fuel-efficient models available from automakers, sales increased substantially — up 13 percent over 2011 sales.
“The U.S. light vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of LMC Automotive, an industry analysis firm, to the Associated Press.
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration finalized new standards that will increase the average fuel efficiency of America’s cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Natural Resources Defense Council says those fuel standards could save consumers $68 billion in fuel costs each year after 2030, when the mileage targets have been met.
Stephen Lacey is a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he writes on clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.