By on January 16, 2008

moon-landing.jpgIn 1962, President John F. Kennedy made a pronouncement that made a lot of people think he'd lost his mind: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade." According to GM's Vice Chairman of Global Product Development, Chevrolet's gas-electric plug-in electric hybrid is GM's moon shot. Wired magazine recently sat down with Bob Lutz and asked the Car Czar what would happen if the Volt doesn't succeed. "What if Kennedy hadn't pulled off the moon shot?" Bob wondered aloud. "If it doesn't work, it's not fatal. But if it does work, it will be sensational and it will have the same sort of symbolism." The U.S. put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, as promised. What are the chances the Volt will appear in a Chevy showroom by 2010?

Ever since the Chevy Volt burst forth from the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, "Maximum Bob" has been feeding an adoring press a steady diet of sound bites on the Volt's technology and timetable. The statements are frequently contradictory, usually unrealistic and subject to frequent change.

It began in March of last year, when Lutz promised a running Volt prototype by the end of 2007. A test mule with the Volt drivetrain crammed into an existing model would have provided reasons to be cheerful, part one. But it wasn't to be. In November, Bob revised his estimate: "Let's wait for the Easter Bunny."

In January, GM revealed the Volt's development team was having problems getting the mission critical, new technology batteries for testing from one of their suppliers. Recently, GM said that they'll have appropriate lithium-ion batteries "ready to demonstrate" by June (of this year). The reason for the new date? "Acceleration issues." We now learn that a Volt equipped with the current state-of-the-art batteries would require a full minute to amble from zero to sixty miles per hour.  

And that's just the technology. When Bob first mooted Chevy's Plug-in Electric Hybrid (PHEV), he pegged the PHEV's price point at a Prius-competitive $30k. As soon as the Volt team realized what a suitable lithium-ion battery pack might cost, GM announced that they were considering leasing the battery packs for around $100/month– to keep the "total" price within reason. Easter Bunny or not, GM hasn't said whether or not they're still pursuing that particular hair-brained scheme.

Now the $30K selling price seems to be going the way of Jamie Lynn Spears' virginity. Speaking to Wired, Backpedalin' Bob stated "it doesn't look like that's going to be possible." The Volt's price "might get there on the second generation, and they say if they had a lot more time they might be able to cost-optimize it [but] I don't want to wait for cost optimization. I'd rather come out in 2010, and if it costs closer to 40 than 30, well, that's too bad." Too bad for the customer…

No matter what the final price, we still don't know when we might finally see a Volt on the road. At the beginning of this saga, Lutz claimed the Volt would be humming along in 2010. Then, at last year's Los Angeles Auto Show, Lutz said the Volt would hit the streets by November of '08. Now it's 2010. Or not. Apparently, November 2010 has become GM's "internal target." "You don't know what you don't know," Lutz told Wired. "Could it go later than 2010? Yes."

Deadline, schmeadline. Maximum Bob's still pumped on the Volt. He crows that it's "symbolic of a renaissance in the American auto industry… If we pull it off successfully, it can really put us back at the top of the heap of automotive technology instead of being called laggards that are being left behind by the Germans and the Japanese." That is, unless a Japanese manufacturer doesn't quietly introduce a fully-realized plug-in electric hybrid first, as Toyota's CEO has just promised to do. 

Even IF GM rolls out a Volt by 2010, even IF it offers better performance than the next generation PHEV Prius, even IF it can compete with the segment leader on price, even IF it sells well, even IF it proves to be a reliable automobile, even IF it continues to sell, GM's Car Czar has already destroyed the Detroit automaker's credibility. And here's the real problem: the Volt probably won't do any of these things. 

John F. Kennedy entered the space race saying a moon shot "will be done in the decade." GM has refused to fully  commit itself to any deadline for the Volt, making the Hail Mary PHEV's appearance a moving target. Why? To avoid responsibility. And it is that difference– the difference between a culture of genuine accountability and GM's culture of endless streams of false, unrealized promises– that hobbles the Volt, and has brought GM to its knees. 

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62 Comments on “General Motors Death Watch 160: Promises Promises / Volt Birth Watch 24: Fly Me to the Moon...”


  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Lucky for JFK, LBJ and RMN that they had the full credit of the US taxpayers to pull off the mission. GM? Not so much.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Well, President Kennedy asked his best people a lot of tough questions, challenged them, listened carefully to the answers and brought out a proposal that was grounded in reality.

    It’s sad that the Volt team is hobbled by crazy management pronouncements. Maximum Bob should have shown the Volt as just what it was – a concept. Then go back and tell the team, “It’s a go…” and let them work out the best car that they could do. And keep his mouth shut.

    If, under those circumstances, the initial Volt had a 20-mile EV-mode range or GM did a hybrid more like the Prius but with a little more EV range or… whatever… GM’s prestige wouldn’t be at stake and we could all appreciate the Volt for what it was [is? becomes? Our language is sooo inadequate for vaporware], rather than depreciating it against Maximum Bob’s own uninformed benchmarks.

    And GM must change the name. Calling an EV the “Volt” is like calling a car with an ICE the “Hydrocarbon.”

  • avatar
    naif

    ” keeping mouth shut ” what GM cannot manage to do about most everything it does.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    Doesn’t it take GM 5-7 years to produce a vehicle from the ground up, regardless of revolutionary propulsion? Ummm… Good luck with that Bobby.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    The Volt hype was a last-ditched effort to sway Congress NOT to enact new CAFE standards, and to give GM a bit of good publicity when they needed SOMETHING to go well.

    Per usual, they oversold the car and undersold the challenges. As with the Camaro, they’ve been showing the car so much that when it finally (maybe) arrives, it’ll be old news.

    At $40K, the Volt will be DOA.

    GM needs this car to work, and work well. It could be a real game-changer, in the way the gen-2 Prius was. When Toyota came out with that car, all we could hear was GM bitchin’ that “Toyota loses money on every one”. Which isn’t true.

    Time for Bob to shut his piehole and let the engineers do their work.

  • avatar

    lewissalem Doesn’t it take GM 5-7 years to produce a vehicle from the ground up, regardless of revolutionary propulsion? Ummm… Good luck with that Bobby. I just keep looking at how long it's taking them to get the Camaro to market. And that's a car that's based on an existing platform, uses an existing drivetrain, and can be assembled on existing assembly line. They may be able to have a few hand-assembled Volts to show the press by the end of 2010 (a la Tesla), but production versions will take much longer if past performance is any indicator.

  • avatar
    Queensmet

    Who cares what Lutz said, what is important is what GM does. When GM actually arrives with a plug-in (years after Toyota) let’s look at the product. As Lutz has proven, words are just that words. Actions are what is important. Lutz is like our politicians anything to get some press.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Well Toyota and Honda lost money on the first generation hybrids – but over time they refined production and were able to economies of scale for supply with increase sales of vehicles (Toyota to its credit really drove sales). That’s the way it is when you develop an entire new platform – you lose money in the beginning but then start recouping costs from the experimental R&D (then it becomes production, marginal improvement & sustainment R&D).

    Bob is a sales guy through and through. He unfortunately is a sales guy with absolutely no accountability and is able to say anything he wants and as the wind changes (most sales professionals salary is tied to sales themselves – creates that funny thing called motivation). In fact he likely makes ~1M a year for doing absolutely nothing but talk and never deliver and sqwuak to the press. Probably the most useless waste of money at GM. X him and at least one million a year can go to the bottom line.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    At the risk of sounding like a nit-picker, I’d like to point out that Kennedy made the promise in 1961, not 1962.

    http://history.nasa.gov/moondec.html

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    The problem with what Lutz said is that when the Volt arrives after the competition, GM will look all that much worse, and Bob will be long gone. The new managers will blame it on Bob, and Bob will blame it back on them. In the meantime, they all “earn” 7 figure compensation. Go figure.

    The have all learned to avoif the “R” word like the plague. Responsibility is dead.

  • avatar
    mykeliam

    Didn’t GM already make a working electric car? Why can’t they just pull one of those out, put a Volt body on it and drive it out to the press? Oh…Say what? They crushed all of those and said that the American public didn’t want them?? Who was the idiot that made that decision!?! and why didn’t he listen to the people who drove the cars and were willing to pay any price to keep them?? I personally have no pity for them crying the blues about not meeting the tough new CAFE standards. They had passed the smell and had it licked already!

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Frank & lewisalem-Right on the money. The timeline was ridiculous from day one.

    Kixstart-good comments, esp. on treating it as a concept and shutting up.
    This is the behavior of desperate people.

    Ironically, when the “usual suspect” (starts with a “T”), does bring a PHEV to the market they will have benefited from GM getting the public all excited about the idea.

    Advertising for your arch rival…does it get any dumber than this?

    Tally-ho,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but has Honda already launched a pseudo-production version of their Clarity hydrogen powered car in California? I though I read that they were leasing test vehicles to a group of folks for $600/month on 12 month leases?
    Wouldn’t that be the biggest revolution in auto propulsion of late? An automaker quietly launching a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to real customers for testing and evaluation purposes?

    It’s taken so long for the new Camaro to reach production, and that when they’re building something they know how to do, RWD V8 muscle. At this rate we won’t see anything Volt-like until 2020!

  • avatar

    I don’t think GM has the money required to put a Volt on the road.
    Toyota spent billions on developing Hybrid Synergy Drive …

  • avatar
    salokj

    Wasn't the Cold War a battle for the hearts and minds? It was all about convincing Americans (I don't know what happened in mother Russia, I wasn't there) that they had to win and following the government was the path. I think the JFK analogy is intriguing in that what GM is trying to do is market to the masses. I mean come on, come 2010, who's going to remember the Volt anyway (other than the devoted following on this site)? The next big thing from GM will already be making the rounds of the Car Shows and it'll be the new talk of the town. That's how I see this anyway…hot air to placate the masses.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Actually I would be willing to bet that Johnnie Red State is much more automotively inclined than Blue Staters. The “Flyovers’” impression of the coasts is a bunch of sandal-wearing tofu-eating hippies who tear apart draft cards not engines.

  • avatar
    salokj

    I’m not talking about the amount of automotive knowledge of anybody…I think your stereotypical blue-stater is already lost to GM and I think that this marketing push is towards the people who would tend to be moved by it…not the “Prius-is-God’s-gift” people.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I still think we need a timeline for ths car somewhere on the site. So we know the official start(claimed start from Lutz) and how far along, or not far along they are.

    I think that $30,000 and now $40,000 price tag is a pipe dream. I questioned this on a Volt news article a few weeks back that I think was dead so I’m just going to clip it in to see if anyone has any input on what I was thinking.

    Redbarchetta :
    January 9th, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    …I was hoping someone with a little more knowledge about the car and the industry to explain this imaginary $30,000 price tag for the far in the future Volt.

    Are they insane this far out from having a real car to even put a number like that on it. And I’m not talking about the batteries when I ask this, those will add on another breifcase of cash to the cost. Are they just hoping material costs, energy costs, labor costs, etc. wont increase in that time. Not to mention they have no idea if any suppliers will be able to meet their component costs projections for parts that dont exist yet that far in the future. How can THEY even know when they haven’t designed it yet. Then add in the development costs that need to be added in to the cost of the car to recoupe the investment. I really think we are looking at a $50,000 car without them even making a profit. If they can do the Volt(brand new technology, fast timeline, high development cost) for $30,000 shouldn’t the Corvette(platform tweeks, mild body changes, proven powertrain with added hp, moderate development costs, tons of existing suppliers) be costing around $20,000?

    The Pruis wasn’t as ambitious as this when it came out 10 years ago and it was near $30,000 back then with little to no profit until they started to make volume.

    Add in the fact that this car is the “Next Best thing” savior of the company. So it has to sell at least at a modest profit with a high volume to do any good for them. In order for it to sell at a high volume the car has to be perfect, I mean PERFECT, especially with GM’s past, or people will stop buying the $50,000 family sedan with rental batteries. We will be kissing GM goodbye after that for sure because the losses on this car will be HUGE if it’s not a smashing success.

    Am I wrong? Can someone with a better grasp of the costs involved break it down?

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    salokj so what your saying is that GM thinks the people who already buy their cars/trucks that aren’t “lost to them” are stupid and would completely forget about the Volt by 2010. Just move on to the next great thing GM talks about even if they were really looking forward to buying one in 2010 like they stated they could. I don’t even think GM is that dumb, they don’t need to be alienating the customers they already have, again.

  • avatar
    salokj

    @ Redbarchetta, @Landcrusher

    I mean no offense to anyone from a red state or a blue state. And I obviously am not questioning the intelligence of anyone from anywhere. The point of the matter is that marketing works very very well and I don’t think I’m insulting the intelligence of anyone by saying that [in my opinion] the majority of people will have forgotten GM’s promises about the Volt in 2007 and 2008, when GM’s MKG department starts throwing millions of dollars at the next big thing in 2010.

    My opinion is that the majority of people are not “car people” and they want their car to:
    1) Go forward
    2) Go backward a few times a day
    3) Smell nice

    When they hear quotes from Maximum Bob (or news stories on Fox or CNN or whatever non-political news source you wish – ’cause I’m really not trying to make this political) that GM is “Going to be launching the earth shattering Volt, that’s better than anything that Toyota has ever done” (Toyota is king in green marketing) they don’t know/care enough about cars to pay attention.

    Marketing works.

    Last little after-thought…now that the Volt is launched, when was the last time someone talked about the Hy-wire? It too will be produced by 2010.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    salokj -pretty close on your list

    add

    4. not cost too much
    5. not break too much
    6. not drink too much (even if it’s a jump from 12 to 15 mpg).

    We gear heads are way to enamored of OUR view of cars.
    The buying public wants a good appliance.
    Toyota got this a loooong time ago.
    They ignore us.
    They are right (from a biz plan stand point).

    Get over it folks.

    Cheerio.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Ah yes, what ever DID happen to the Hy-Wire? It’s only 2 years away now… right?

    And good observation Bunter:

    Toyota got this a loooong time ago.
    They ignore us.
    They are right (from a biz plan stand point)

  • avatar
    50merc

    GM’s marketing motto: “Fire! Aim! Ready!”

    The Volt won’t reach the market in 2010 because Lutz assumed there’d be a timely breakthrough in battery design. Advancements in basic science are unpredictable.

    Kennedy had a more realistic goal in reaching the moon before 1970, because that project was mainly about civil and mechanical engineering, scaled up.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Excerpt from the interview:

    But why, some say, the Volt? Why choose this series hybrid-electric car as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 75 years ago, fly across the Atlantic? Why does San Diego bother to play New England this weekend, when we know they’re going to get their butts handed back to them?

    
We choose to build the ass-backwards Volt. We choose to build the Volt in this decade and do the other hydrogen powered pipe dreams, not because they are easy, but because is a damn good PR coup over Toyota. Because that goal will serve to impress the brainless pundits and fanboys and spin the best of our upcoming anticipated 2008 and 2009 losses in North America, because that the challenge of improving corporate fuel economy is one that we are abdicating to the competition, one we are willing to use up all our E85 CAFE credits, and one which we intend to drown the nation in corn-based ethanol, and the crap-derived ethanol we just invested a few million in last week, too. 


  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    salokj thats a good point about marketing but the climate has changed since the Hywire marketing ruse. The Volt is supposed to be in direct competition with the Prius, and a claimed better product. They are even bad mouthing Toyota’s efforts before they have a prototype finished. People can see a Prius hybrid driving around right now and is heavy in the media unlike some sci-fi future fuel-cell. So the hybrid concept wont be so easy to forget. Plus there are a bunch of comercials on TV with the Volt, not a little PR snippit here and there, big national ads and they have been way more vocal about this project. Add to that fact I don’t think Toyota is just going to play nice after the egg on the face and constant poking they GM has been doing to them. I bet when the gen3 PRius comes out with PHEV they will have some national ads about the PHEV you can buy now.

    Sure there are a lot of people who just hear the marketing shoved in there face right now and forget, but what about the people who really want a GM “Prius beater” in there driveway and could use the short range for their commute. They aren’t simply going to forget if they are eagerly awaiting one, they aren’t going to keep waiting on GM’s PR ride. I think they are really shooting themselves in the foot with this one. People wanting to go back to GM in a Volt wont if it never comes or comes way to late.

  • avatar
    salokj

    But I would love to see GM come out with a Prius beater…scratch that, I would love to see GM come out with something that will beat the Prius’ successor.

    The Volt shouldn’t be a direct competitor of the Prius. The Volt should change the market so the Prius no longer is the “Green car”. Yet the most likely course of events is that Toyota will have something more efficient (and more marketable) for sale before the Volt ever gets to market.

    I’m not saying that people swallow the marketing bit hook, line and sinker, but I think that a lot of people just don’t care…they hear little tidbits of info about the Volt and this makes GM look better to them in their minds…and yes, I think that GM’s marketeers know full-well how most people are going to process this information.

    The fact of the matter is that in 2002 GM unequivocally stated that they could put the Hy-Wire on the road by 2010…yet four years later have focused on the Volt.

    By always being behind its competitors, GM never actually has to do anything but say that they will make a better car…in the future.

  • avatar
    Point Given

    As another commentor stated, GM did have the lead in this market with it’s EV1. They were well on the way with a first mover advantage and then promptly shot themselves in the foot, with a rocket launcher. Twice.

    Now getting back to a position of dominance in the EV/near EV market is almost impossible for GM. Unless they acquire a silicon valley start up for the elusive 43rd GM Brand (or whatever the hell# they are on now).

    The Volt smacks of a “we almost missed it” mentality. I am mildly suprised that GM is devoting the big money to this. I would encourage them to look at Phoneix Motorcars model of putting 3rd party batteries, powertrains etc etc into a product with as minimal “new” high cost development technology as possible. Let the smaller nimble companies develop the technology and license away. Buy if need be for that one “killer ap” technology but save the cash. Let your truely talented engineers work on more near term misson critical familiar technologies. ie. incremental improvments in interior plastics, fuel economy, brakes, transmissions, etc etc etc.

    Just a thought.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    salokj,

    Your theory would normally be true, if GM were offering some innovative feature that had nothing to do with anything other than cars. Unfortunately, what GM is advertising (on TV in commercials even) is an environment saving car. If they don’t come close to meeting the deadline they have set, GM will be crucified in the press. There will be conspiracy theories, maybe even another Michael Moore film coming out of this. People will not buy into GM’s next big promise when they hear environmentalists crow about evil GM and how they still produce all of these gas guzzling SUV’s and trucks in spite of global warming. GM is already catching plenty of flack from that well connected with the media crowd and they aren’t going to forget or stay quiet.

    This is a huge PR blunder for GM. What would have really blown people away would be if GM kept this project secret and unveiled the production ready Volt in 2012.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    From Frank’s editorial:

    “And that’s just the technology. When Bob first mooted Chevy’s Plug-in Electric Hybrid (PHEV), he pegged the PHEV’s price point at a Prius-competitive $30k. As soon as the Volt team realized what a suitable lithium-ion battery pack might cost, GM announced that they were considering leasing the battery packs for around $100/month– to keep the “total” price within reason. Easter Bunny or not, GM hasn’t said whether or not they’re still pursuing that particular hair-brained scheme.”

    Please understand that the PHEV and the Volt are different development programs. The GM PHEV, like the one Toyota is talking about, will still have mechanical drive, supplemented with electric. Volt will be electric drive only. The PHEV VUE (God, and the descendents of Stan Ovshinsky willing….) will launch the end of next year, according to GM. Volt is still vaporware….

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Stein X Leikanger:
    I don’t think GM has the money required to put a Volt on the road.
    Toyota spent billions on developing Hybrid Synergy Drive …

    Exactly. If GM continues posting overall net losses in the future, which is highly likely and continues to burn through it’s depleting cash reserves, WHERE will GM find the money required to build the Volt?
    To build the Volt will be a big investment for GM money-wise. Let’s say GM does manage to build the Volt and sells it for 30K. The problem is, that’s NOT price-competitive with the Prius. The Prius has an MSRP of 22K. Also at 30K GM will likely be losing thousands on each Volt. Will GM have enough money to be able to sell Volts at a loss?

    I called it a long time ago that the Volt would be delayed until 2011 if not longer. There are simply too many things going against GM for this project to be successful.

  • avatar

    Johnson :

    Please understand that the PHEV and the Volt are different development programs. The GM PHEV, like the one Toyota is talking about, will still have mechanical drive, supplemented with electric. Volt will be electric drive only.

    The Volt still has a gasoline engine. The idea: the Volt will drive the first 40 miles on battery power alone THEN switch to gas assisted power.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Captain Tungsten the Volt is a PHEV also. That point of having the 40 mile electric only range so you can just plug it in and recharge it. As I understand it the engine recharging the batteries isn’t a very efficient process while the cars in e motion.

    Johnson That was the point of my post up above trying to figure out how they could make a $30,000 Volt. There is no money in there for the billions in development cost, a profit they need really badly, and the $20,000 extra it costs to make the car. I really don’t think this car is going to see the light of day with all the things stacked against it, not to mention the cheaper competition.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    RF: Your quote was from Captain Tungsten, not me.

    Redbarchetta:
    That was the point of my post up above trying to figure out how they could make a $30,000 Volt. There is no money in there for the billions in development cost, a profit they need really badly, and the $20,000 extra it costs to make the car. I really don’t think this car is going to see the light of day with all the things stacked against it, not to mention the cheaper competition.

    Even if GM does get the car to market, I think they will run the company into the ground doing it.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    Will be done in a decade. Maxi bob Probably meant GmM going to better hunting fields and pushing up daisies. You see, going to moon, and assembling volt are 2 different tasks. Shuttles are not assembled by questionable workers with questionable record and origin and education, but by fine engineers. US is the best womb for inventions and the nationwide scattered universities can spawn really breathtaking ideas. But US. has never been a good manufacturer of moving mechanisms, because sooner or later corporate greed takes over , and update, fit and finish and diversity gets neglected.I will repeat. outsourcing labour , you also outsource their standards of quality. So having too many immigrants, you make them a huge consumer party with mediocre demands for quality. This allows local companies to neglect quality, because they can sell these commodities anyway, for subpar quality is not noticed by not too picky society. Yet imports have been gestating in a completely different environment competing with high quality products, in a `picky` society. When entering US market , locals can`t compete, and simply vanish.I wish GM good luck with Volt, But my common sense says it is going to be a failure. A company that has to build it`s top shelf sts Cadillac on a derived half-junk german omega platform derivatives , doesn`t leave an impression of `able-stable`.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    By the way, a notch out of context, but anyways. U.S. annual spending for iraq campaign equals- 35 brand new car platforms. Or a complete engineering, design, maiden flight ,prototyping of Comanche, Raptor and Globemaster combined. U.S. for the annual Iraq war budget could engineer the next generation CVS-x ( carrier vessel), Crusader howitzer, Next gen kc-x, replacement for Chinook and develop Venture Star-x33,. For the money they could bring out 35 brand new models of cars that wouldn`t share a shit of exterior. Or could pay half of the program for manned flight to Mars( a name of a planet.). Every year U.S. spends money in Iraq that could be used to create the next generation infra-red telescopes. The annual iraq spending equals 25 brand new top -of -the -shelf- stae-of-the-art submarines. In one month they spend more there, than SETI has received funds throughout its history. It equals about 20 Burj Dubai towers, 350 concept cars and exceeds the R&d of all american manufacturing companies combined by 2 times. Does anyone hear me?

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    Maybe Lutz should just stop talking about the Volt so much.

    It’s a cool idea, we get it, now let’s just let the engineers do their thing, eh?

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    With your inferiority complex with the Japanese, you Americans are starting to sound like Canadians (we Canucks always benchmark ourselves to you).

    Whatever happened to the brash ‘take no prisoners, we are number one’ attitude that I grew up with?

    Whether or not you believe in the ‘verbal diarrhea’ Bob Lutz tends to spout, at least he doesn’t seem to be intimidated by the competition and believes in his engineers and design team. GM sorely needed someone like him to bring back the excitement of building cars, hopefully they can overcome the bad management decisions of the past also.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    It took seven years for GM to finally replace the cav with the Saturn Ion and another couple to put the cobalt into orbit. Well done on that model.

    GM, if it really wanted to, could produce the car quite quicklY if it did it in the same way as VW employees put together the first GTI.

    But that would mean executives (like somebody I could mention) would have to get out of the way. Fat chance.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    jurisb,

    Either a country has, and has the will to use, a military, or it does not. The cost of the latter is incalculable and makes Iraq look like a bargain. Having fancy weapons and not being willing to use them is a waste of money as well.

    If you want to call Iraq a bad idea then fine, but your other ideas for the money are going to get judged in hind sight as well. Maybe they turn out better, or maybe not. We will never know the costs we would incur had we NOT invaded.

    I am quite sure that 35 new GM cars would not help stabilize the middle east. Let’s not argue about whether we helped or not, because no one planned to fail. In fact, we may not have failed. History will take decades to decide.

    Let’s have more fun and talk about what GM has done, and should be doing. Should they pull the plug on the Volt? Will it be their Bay of Pigs? Will someone several years from now talk about all the money they spent on it and how it could have been better used to listen for signals from outer space?

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    “The Volt still has a gasoline engine. The idea: the Volt will drive the first 40 miles on battery power alone THEN switch to gas assisted power” -RF

    That is correct, but the power will be delivered by electric motors running off batteries being charged by the gas (or diesel or fuel cell or…, hence the “flex” in “E-flex”). The PHEV is similar to the two mode hybrid being introduced now, but the operator has the capability of charging the batteries by plugging it in. It has both electric drive and mechanical drive. The Belt-alternator (“mild”) hybrid has mechanical drive only with electric assist.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    landcrusher- having fancy weapons and being willing not to use them is a waste of money? So you suggest that maybe we should launch Minuteman 3 just to have a usage for it? Should russians launch their s-300 systems or maybe the Kuzma`s Mother as well? Weapon`s are not being made for usage, they are made to refrain your enemy from using them. weapon`s are not supposed to kill people, they are supposed to warn people of their lethality and stop them from actions that cold provoke their usage. You went for oil to iraq. Now you can by 100liters of fuel in Iraq for 1 US dollar. when taken home the same liter of fuel makes it 3 dollars a gallon. So you see, a mere greed is what makes oil prices.You want to invade Iran, because it has 3rd biggest oil reserve in the world, 2nd biggest gas reserve.. What`s next? I will tell you what`s next. Next is Venezuela. For Venezuela has the 4th biggest oil reserve. And i believe that drug dealing will be used as a reason for intervention. Sorry veered again away from Volt. Should we discuss Bob`s promises? better wait till there is a real product then judge. We are to much of bla bla bla, before the real hardware comes in. Quite often it is rather CGI than FOC.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Except for the batteries, what is so difficult about the Volt? I see it as a fairly basic, easy to build, tiny car that doesn’t need a complicated transmission or ICE. (The ICE is direct-connected to a generator and runs at a single, constant speed and load.)

    So, for the time being, throw in any batteries and get on with the demo car!

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    J,

    You completely missed the logic. I did not say anything about being willing NOT to use them. I said you must be willing TO use them. You cannot take what I said and make any conclusion about what you said. Being willing not to use them is all fine and dandy, but if you are not willing to use them (and more specifically, if others percieve you are unwilling to use them) then you might as well not have them.

    The remainder of your post deals with the assumption that we invaded over oil. Once again, you make an invalid leap. It MAY be true that we would have no interest in Iraq were it not for their oil, but that does not necessarily mean that any invasion is therefore BECAUSE of the oil. The case for an oil invasion is terribly weak when you consider that we did not conquer them and take their oil, as would have been expected of any country before the example we set at the end of WW2. We changed the rules by showing the superiority of befriending a foe, rather than subjugating them.

    All the brouhaha over the big mean US is just a bunch of meaningless whining. The truth is that we could take from this world about whatever we wish, and it is because we have shown so much restraint for so long that most of our rivals are content not to attempt to try to defend themselves from us.

    I would further attempt to explain my original point, but I don’t think it would do much good.

  • avatar
    jeremywilson

    We all know gasoline will be 4 bucks plus a gallon soon and what will GM or Ford do when nobody buys there gas hog pickup trucks, will they quietly ship them back to Detroit and re-outfit them as a real hybrid like the volt. or worse yet the POS hybrid trucks they sell now for a crazy, i mean crazy $51,000 bucks. Who would be so stupid to fall for that contraption. Tons of maintenance and huge payments and crappy mileage.
    It could have been so much more simple. A 200kw
    Ac motor with 32kw batt pack with a plugin.
    I converted my 2006 F150 pickup to this configuration(bev) for
    19,480 bucks. I didnt wanna wait till 2012+ to get a bev that works. So hey GM and Ford just sell us a truck body and I will put the drivetrain in for you for 20 grand, meybe 14 grand on volume. So what gives with all the bullcrap.
    Can a stupid 26 yr old out do a huge corporation.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Jesus.

    5 pages of snide remarks and I think i cought maybe 1 positive one.

    I understand it is easy to pile on. I mean, if everyone else does it, maybe I should to.

    Perhaps Bob should shut his mouth. But I haven’t yet heard anyone mention that by doing what he’s doing, he’s lighting a fire under every single ass at the RenCen to make this thing work. Imagine if Kennedy had never said they’d go to the moon, but instead simply said “we’d like to try to go to the moon someday, and maybe beat the Russians, and we’ll spend some time on it and see what happens”. How effective would that have been?

    This simply keeps crackin the whips. Deadlines and accountability are how great things get done, not just “workin on something” with the hope you’ll win. Instead of the Russians, GM has Toyota. Bob Lutz has decided this is how he will motivate General Motors. Maybe in Japan, Toyota motivates its workers in some other way.

    I guess I just look at this and want to see it happen. I think it is great GM is pushing itself this hard. This is exactly the mentality they haven’t had for 30 years, and they need it back if they want to have any chance to be a leader in the auto industry. Even if they miss it, if it still gets done just a bit later, it still gets done. Is that not better than not really trying?

    This is the automotive equivalent of a moon landing. You do everything you possibly can to get it done, save face, and change the world. And yet people here are bashing the idea they’re even trying this??? You talk about lack of accountability? He’ll be held accountable, and you bet your ass he won’t be made to look bad. This is Bob’s legacy here. There isn’t anything else after the Volt. He either does it and rides off into the sunset as the greatest excutive the auto industry has ever known, or he ends his career with a thud. Lutz I doubt has ever ended anything in his life with a thud. I don’t expect he will this time either.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Jerome10, you miss the point entirely. There’s no rational deadline. Lutz keeps moving it around.

    This might be whip cracking, but it’s not accountability.

    If you were working on an advanced project and your boss was going to the principal customer every other day or so and telling themm something new and different about the product – that you haven’t figured out how to build yet – do you think you’d be happy?

    I used to be in a similar position and our management was very careful about what they said we’d deliver and when we’d deliver it. They didn’t tell people what would be in the product or give an estimate of when it would be delivered until AFTER we figured out how to produce it. They were extremely careful to keep in touch with the team leaders to make sure their projections weren’t getting ahead of capabilities.

    Stop and think about this a minute. Just a month or two ago, they took the prototype to a wind tunnel and discovered it was not a good design. They don’t have a battery. It’s not clear that they have an engine. Do they have samples of the electric motors? The generator set? The control software hasn’t been written. Nothing in the design could possibly be final. Yet, Lutz is talking trash about how Toyota’s going to have egg on its face over this “when the Easter Bunny arrives?”

    I think I’d find it rather de-motivating to have my boss making random pronouncements about the project.

    “Maybe in Japan, Toyota motivates its workers in some other way…”

    Japan? Try Kentucky. You could go there to ask people how they get motivated at Toyota to get things done. You might share whatever you learn with Lutz.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    This simply keeps crackin the whips. Deadlines and accountability are how great things get done, not just “workin on something” with the hope you’ll win. Instead of the Russians, GM has Toyota. Bob Lutz has decided this is how he will motivate General Motors.

    One of Edward Deming’s primary messages was that one cannot blame workers for failure when the system is designed to set them up for failure. It’s a shame that decades after coming up with this stuff that Detroit still isn’t listening. (It must be even easier to ignore him, now that he’s dead.)

    The future of the Volt is likely to be dim because of issues associated with the batteries, which is beyond the scope of GM’s engineering staff. Unless you just enjoy making whip noises in their general direction, beating them up to urge toward the finish line is just going to draw blood from the wrong people.

    GM’s longstanding problem is not with the people at the bottom, who are stuck with working through the limitations of the system, but with the leaders charged with managing those people and that system. Imposing a deadline that ignores the obstacles is just a cop out that allows people like Lutz to parade around like the proverbial naked emperor, unaware of his own shortcomings.

    And if the goal was to urge on the team, then he should be speaking to them, not to the media. Of course, Lutz is focusing his communications efforts on the press because he is less concerned about urging on the employees than he is about convincing the public to buy GM products, while Wagoner persuades the shareholders to hold on to their stock.

    The reasons for these dramatics are simple: With Toyota’s success in the hybrid arena, GM is looking pretty primitive and second-rate these days in comparison to its main rival. Toyota’s ability to use its hybrid efforts to build its reputation as an R&D leader is what will help them to push GM out of the number one slot, a defeat that GM desperately wants to avoid. This is a huge boon to Toyota, which built its reputation on copying stuff very well; now, it has risen up the ladder by emerging as an innovator.

    Because GM doesn’t have leading technology to sell you, Lutz is doing the next best thing by selling the promise of technology. Even if it doesn’t exist. Or won’t.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Jerome,

    You are way off base. Bringing God into it won’t help, and if you think everyone is being “snide” and piling on because we all think it’s cool to beat up on Lutz you need to reevaluate.

    And it likely need not be said, but Lutz is no John F. Kennedy. I won’t rehash my whole other post, but there are apparently no leaders left near the top of GM.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    I would love to see a time line graphic. Also include furture hurdles like crash testing, tooling plants, actual production time of the cars and batteries. I think if you factor in all that they already have overshot the 2010 dealine.

  • avatar
    dean

    If Lutz had just said “We are busting our asses to meet a production release target in 2010″ and then shut the hell up, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    But every time he opens his mouth he contradicts himself, or his boss, or he prepares his excuses and obfuscates, or he gives Toyota bulletin-board material (to use a sports metaphor).

    Add to that the GM ad campaign that touts their green prowess by prominently featuring vehicles that you can’t buy, and they’ve asked for the snide remarks and the ass-whuppin’.

    I think its a good concept, and it is great that they are working at it, but they risk killing what little credibility they still have every time Lutz makes a promise.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    So, what makes you think that Lutz and Co. aren’t doing this on purpose, and having a big laugh watching the blogosphere wrap itself around the axle, while hanging on on his every word. Just askin’

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Could be, but shareholders tend to get pissed when you’re foolishness costs them money.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    The shareholders are probably enjoying this vapourware hype right now. The PR helps keep the stock price up or at least from falling more, and probably gets some cars sold. The big problems will come in the future when the product hasn’t materialized and Toyota starts cramming Lutz’s words back in his mouth with a PHEV you can actually buy.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    GMs stock price just hit a 52 week low. Keep it up Bob.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Haha, none of you have figured it out yet?

    GM’s plan is to use the Volt (and E-85 and “Flex Fuel”, etc) as justification to ask for bailout money from the government.

    Come on, we all know it’s inevitable! Don’t anybody here be surprised when we hear GM management claim that allowing GM to go under would be “ecologically irresponsible.” Then we’ll hear the greens and our own congressmen and senators parroting this sentiment.

    And there you have it, the taxpayers will pay for GM’s bad management, marketing idiocy, and eventual bailout. And you’ll pay for it with a smile, because we’re saving the environment, dammit!

    Will somebody please bookmark my post, so that I can lord it over everybody when it comes true?

    Thanks! ;)

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    tankd0g I guess I’m wrong I thought their stock had stablized. I guess the pumped up stock is coming down to it’s true value.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    “Could be, but shareholders tend to get pissed when you’re foolishness costs them money.”

    yeah, they get pissed, but really can’t do much about it…

    http://www.nbc11.com/money/14603421/detail.html

  • avatar
    Event Horizon

    Frank Williams,

    First of all, could you please provide your exact source for this statement: “… Lutz said the Volt would hit the streets by November of ’08 .” I don’t recall any anouncements to have a production vehicle on the streets by ’08. He was probably referring to a prototype vehicle that would be tested on the road.

    Secondly, If GM does not bring this vehicle to market by 2010 it will not be for lack of effort. They currently have a very dedicated, innovative and bright team assembled to develop this vehicle (with the necessary resources). Would you rather GM continue to stand by and get further behind Toyota in advanced propulsion technologies. Or would you rather them keep this tucked away and kept secret until they can present a fully validated product. Where is the motivation in that? Before anmouncing the Volt I’m sure they had very serious discussions about weather it woud be prudent to show it to the world. They understand the consequenses of not delivering this vehicle and by putting it out there they have gained my full repect. Since when is the pursuit of innovation something to be mocked and frowned upon.

    You wrote: “Even IF GM rolls out a Volt by 2010, even IF it offers better performance than the next generation PHEV Prius, even IF it can compete with the segment leader on price, even IF it sells well, even IF it proves to be a reliable automobile, even IF it continues to sell, GM’s Car Czar has already destroyed the Detroit automaker’s credibility.” So if they bring out a Volt that shames the competition and sells great they will still be losers in the end because they lost credibility in the process because the date changed a few times? Right. With any project things are learned and plans need to be reformulated. Toyota even pushed back it’s ICE Corolla so don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill. You guys at TTAC get so hung up on what what Lutz says that it is quite humourous. What would you do without him? It’s statements like the one above that expose the disdain TTAC has for GM and your failure to be objective and fair.

    Did you read the fine print about Toyota’s pledge to bring out plug-in electric hybrids? From the January 14 edition of the New York Times: “Mr. Watanabe said the lithium-ion fleet would be made available first to Toyota’s commercial customers around the world, like government agencies and corporations, including some in the United States. He did not say when they would be available to consumers.” In case you missed it, Toyota has also failed to ” fully commit itself” to a retail plug-in electric vehicle deadline. Selling to customers and making “available” to commercial customers isn’t exactly the same thing.

    It’s also interesting to read what Martin Eberhard wrote about the Volt and Lutz after meeting him a year ago: “I walked away from that meeting deeply impressed by Bob Lutz and willing to believe that the Volt might be a real program. Over the past year, I have come to meet several more people on the Volt program. Hold onto your seats, people: I believe that the Volt program is real, with top GM talent moved onto the program, major bucks behind the program, and support all the way to the top within GM. I think GM is placing a huge bet with this program.”
    Uhm, let’s see…who would be in a better position to judge the progress and possibility of the Volt. First we have Martin Eberhard with a Masters in Electrical Engineering who founded an electric car company and has met several memebers of the Volt team. Then we have Frank Williams….I’m sure you’re a good person but I don’t know a thing about you. All rise…Judge Eberhard presiding.

    The bottom line is Toyota and GM are agressively developing a brand new technology. It’s the type of event that is not entirely predictable and full of surprises along the way. They cannot anounce a production date before a validated battery. Toyota is playing defense right now and have put out this pseudo production target in response to the Volt. Regardless of no firm production date, GM has taken an aggressive position with it’s Volt promotion and has backed it up with the appropriate resources. Regardless of what some belive, their credibility has not been destroyed and will be validated in the not to distant future.

    Incidentally, it is fitting to use the “moon shot” example because GM helped get those men to the moon by developing and manufacturing the guidance and navigation systems for the Apollo 11 mission. Not to mention designing and manufacturing the mobility system for the Lunar Roving Vehicle for the Apollo 15 astronauts.

    NYT Quote Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/business/14plug.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=toyota+plug-in+hybrid&oref=slogin

    Martin Eberhard quote source: http://www.teslafounders.com/

  • avatar

    Event Horizon: Frank Williams, First of all, could you please provide your exact source for this statement: "… Lutz said the Volt would hit the streets by November of ‘08 ." - Mark Phalen, Detroit Free Press, Nov 15, 2007: General Motors aims to have its revolutionary Volt electric vehicle on the road by November 2010, company vice chairman Bob Lutz said at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007711150381 - Katie Merx, Detroit Fre Press, Jan 16, 2008: General Motors Corp. gains confidence every day that it will be able to deliver a Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric vehicle by November 2010 and it is the automaker's top vehicle priority, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said Tuesday. http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080116/BUSINESS03/801160427/1002/rss02 - Lyle Dennis, http://www.gm-volt.com, Nov 14, 2007 In particular he [Lutz] gave the first specific production date for the Volt, now more detailed than ever. It will be November 2010; and, per spokespersons, will be released as a 2011 model year. http://www.gm-volt.com/2007/11/14/lutz-chevy-volt-production-to-begin-november-2010/ - Lascelles Linton, http://www.autobloggreen.com, Jan 15,2008 Bob Lutz: Yes, I guarantee that the official internal General Motors target date is November 2010. http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/01/15/bob-lutz-video-its-immaterial-whos-first-on-evs-guarantees/ So if they bring out a Volt that shames the competition and sells great they will still be losers in the end because they lost credibility in the process because the date changed a few times? Yes, I know project timelines slip. However, every time Lutz opens his mouth he's contradicted something he or Wagner said previously. If an organization's top leadership can't keep their stories straight or they make wild claims, their credibility suffers. (Don't believe me? Ask Bill Ford what his declaration that they'd be producing 250,000 hybrids per year by 2010 did for his reputation and credibility.) And Mr Watanabe's statement about plug-in electrics isn't the same because he didn't start setting deadlines then changing them. And changing them. And changing them. It's also interesting to read what Martin Eberhard wrote about the Volt and Lutz after meeting him a year ago: I read it. And reported on it on the same day this was published. You guys at TTAC get so hung up on what what Lutz says that it is quite humourous. What would you do without him? We've wondered the same thing. He's God's gift to journalists. First we have Martin Eberhard with a Masters in Electrical Engineering who founded an electric car company and has met several memebers of the Volt team. … and who founded an electric car company that has changed deadlines even more than Lutz has and yet has a marketable product. It's the type of event that is not entirely predictable and full of surprises along the way. They cannot anounce a production date before a validated battery. Agreed. So why are they doing it? Incidentally, it is fitting to use the "moon shot" example because GM helped get those men to the moon by developing and manufacturing the guidance and navigation systems for the Apollo 11 mission. Not to mention designing and manufacturing the mobility system for the Lunar Roving Vehicle for the Apollo 15 astronauts. That was done by a division they've since sold off, so they have no direct connection to those accomplishments any more. GM can't even get their production supply lines worked out so they can meet demand. I'd hate to see what they'd do with the moon shot now.

  • avatar

    since gm is about to become an arm of the government why don’t they just sub out all their r&d like the feds. it really frosts my miniwheats that we might be bailing out these overpaid car execs in their ivory towers, because the public still believe that “as gm goes, so goes the nation”. they lied about the corvair, they lie when they say they can’t meet emission or gas mileage deadlines (honda and toyota have always stepped up to the plate), they lied when they said nobody wanted the ev1, and now they are lying about making a new electric car (the volt).

    but i don’t really give a fig: all of these cars
    require enormous amounts of resources to make regardless of any efficiency advantage. all of them still pay homage to the oil producers. all of the are designed to assuage dogooders’ desire to
    drive as much as ever or more without a shred of guilt for their mindless consumption.

    the gullible sheeple swallowed whole bush’s standing by an ethanol pump where he uttered that
    this was the future. this stuff is bad for your motors people, and pollutes more than gas, but worse, it takes a gallon of oil to make a gallon of ethanol.

    let me be positive for a second. instead of making another prius, i would suggest that all manufacturers be required to license honda engine technology. then we would have cheaper, lighter, simpler, more frugal cars than what is produced with the porky hybrids.

    old crazy henry ford did as much work to develop
    the electric battery as all of the engineers at
    gm all BY HIMSELF.

    let gm and ford die peaceful deaths; the government has enough bills already without
    bailing out these backwards pathetic incompetent snivelling thieves. we bailed out chrsyler once,
    and look at the mess they are in after their recent divorce from daimler. not one of the three knows an automobile from a wheelbarrow. good riddance. if they want heavy industry on the other side of the planet, great. send them all the raw materials they need. certainly they will at least make something good with these precious
    resources. NO CORPORATE WELFARE.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Product development is a game of poker. Think about it, what other car slated to be on sale in 2 years time are you hearing the manufaturer boast about in such a mannor? NONE. You know sweet f*** all about the next gen Prius. Why do you think we only get spy shots of heavily camo’d cars right up until the moment they are unveiled at auto shows? Why would you tell your competition and the world where you are in development and exactly what you are doing? It’s SUICIDE. Unless Bob is lying through his teeth and the car is almost ready to go all they are doing is telling Toyota not to worry, you still have the market locked up for the next 3-4 years and you were right, a serial hybrid doesn’t seem to be as easy as we thought.

    I find it incredible that a site full of car enthusiasts fail to see what is so blatantly obvious. Bob is doing EXACTLY what we all love to heckle Tesla for doing, big baseless promises followed by ever revised diminished targets. The silicon valley .com pump and dump, it’s no way to run a car company.

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    Accountability? Responsibility? Not likely, remember it’s the General, where nothing suceeds like failure and if you screw up you move up. How can we expect better from an organization that has continued to lose market share but refuses to change the team that got them there. I saw the Volt at the LA show and loved the styling, too bad we may never see it on the road.


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