News Briefs: March 5, 2012

Here's what we have our eye on today:

  • Starting the week of March 19, GM will idle Chevrolet Volt production at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant for five weeks, Automotive News reports. GM sold just 1,626 Volts through the first two months of the year, with a 223-day supply of Volts (versus the industry's 66-day average) on hand Feb. 1, according to Automotive News data. The automaker will resume production April 23 "to maintain the right inventory levels and continue to meet demand," a spokesman told the publication. GM originally planned to build some 45,000 Volts in 2012 to sell in the U.S., a figure executives have since backed off. Detroit-Hamtramck's 1,300 employees build the Volt — which has become a political lightning rod in recent weeks — alongside its Opel Ampera sibling.
  • Amid rising gas prices and criticism from GOP lawmakers over his energy policy, President Barack Obama defended his administration's higher corporate average fuel economy standards, adding that automakers' adoption of a 54.5-mpg CAFE — which translates into high-30s mpg on EPA window stickers — will save the average family a trip to the pump every two weeks, The Associated Press reports. "What's happening in Detroit will make a difference. But it won't solve everything," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "There's no silver bullet for avoiding spikes in gas prices every year."
  • GM will offer versions of its heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups that can run on fuel or compressed natural gas for 2013, reports. The trucks, which go on sale late this year, will be able to run on regular fuel from a 36-gallon tank or less-expensive CNG from a 17-gallon tank. Over three years, GM says truck owners could save as much as $10,500.
  • February's 15.1-million seasonally adjusted annual sales rate beat expectations by a mile, Automotive News reports. Citing new models, available new-car loans and restocked inventories, upbeat analysts and automakers told Automotive News that February's sales rate — up 16% versus year-ago levels — is sustainable, and American consumers are better-situated to deal with rising gas prices than in recent recession-strapped years.
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