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by Tim Beissmann

General Motors has confirmed unprecedented consumer interest in the Chevrolet Volt has forced it to increase build plans by 50 percent for 2012.

GM initially planned to produce 30,000 of the plug-in hybrids in 2012, but that number has now been boosted to 45,000.

Supply from the vehicle’s launch in the final quarter of this year until the end of 2011 is limited to 10,000 units, despite more than 73,000 people registering their interest in the Volt on its website.

Chevrolet last week revealed US customers will be able to purchase the Volt for $US41,000 ($45,400) and would also be eligible for a federal tax credit of $US7500 ($8300), bringing the overall price down to $US33,500 ($37,100).

Following the pricing announcement, GM confirmed hits on the Volt’s website increased eight-fold and registrations of interest were 13 times higher than the daily average.

The announcement of increased Volt production coincided with a tour of its Detroit-Hamtramck factory by US President Barack Obama.

Obama was in town to defend his decision to invest more than $US50 billion ($55 billion) to save GM and Chrysler last year, revealing that another million jobs would have been lost had his government not stepped in. Instead 50,000 jobs have been created this year, the highest level of growth in more than a decade.

The visit to the Volt factory also provided the President with a rare treat. After some lengthy discussion with his aides, press team and Secret Service unit, Obama got behind the wheel of a new Volt on the assembly room floor and drove forward about three metres.

The President’s impression of the Volt? “Pretty smooth,” he said.

The drive marked just the second time he had driven a car since getting Secret Service protection in 2007. The only other time was around three months ago in a Dodge Charger at a Secret Service training ground.




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