By on January 14, 2009

GM’s VP For R&D Larry Burns has a new post up at Fastlane, calling for a “partnership between the U.S. government, auto manufacturers and suppliers, the energy and infrastructure industries, and other key stakeholders focused on transforming the automobile.” After all, as Burns says “we all seem to be coming to the conclusion that the automobile as we know it — powered by a combustion engine — must eventually go the way of the horse and buggy. It is simply not sustainable.” And so Burns humbly offers GM’s solution: The Cadillac Converj, A concept car that is powered by electricity. Unless it wants to go more than 40 miles, in which case it’s back to the ol’ ICE. But luckily “significant challenges” are actually a good thing when you are going for government handouts and not the Standard Of The World.

After all, just as GM needs help working out the kinks in its wondercars, the politicians need help convincing consituents that they are working “deliver a broad set of societal benefits, including enhanced energy security, sustainable mobility, increased competitiveness and significant economic and jobs growth.” Win-win, right? Uh, yeah, they tried that. It was called the Partnership For A New Generation Of Vehicles (PNGV). It didn’t work out so well. As in $1.5b of your tax money wasted with nothing to show for it. Unless GM is considering filing for 501c3 status, we’ll take a pass on “sharing the public/private risks and rewards” as Larry puts it.

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15 Comments on “Bailout Watch 341: GM’s “Partnership” Proposal (PNGV II)...”


  • avatar
    menno

    “$1.5b of your tax money wasted with nothing to show for it”

    That fact used to rile me up a bit. Now – phsaw. Chump change!

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “sharing the public/private risks and rewards”

    Like now, the public takes the risk and the private company gets the reward. Yay!

  • avatar
    schadenfred

    Ah, see you missed the opportunity for a Simpsons Monty Burns graphic…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Here’s a better idea: why not provide an artificial incentive to buy more fuel efficient vehicles? Tax credits, offset lease/buy incentives, actual purchase credits.

    After all, if supply-side government interference was—as GM’s executives themselves argued—a bad idea when we did it under CAFE, it’s a bad idea here, too.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Heat engines have sure turned into the whipping boy for all that ails the world apparently. It’s kind of ironic that human beings are heat-cycle motors running at a much lower temperature, kind of a weird self-loathing at work viewed that way.

    Its as if we all agreed going back to being under-powered reptiles that constantly worry about staying warm in the sun and conserving energy is the way because it reduces greenhouse gases (it would too, no more cows!).

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Well, I wouldn’t say the PNGV was completely wasted…at least not in the sense that the much larger bailout amount is being pissed down a drain today.

    The program was canceled by the Bush Admin. at the request of the automakers two years before they were to have a market ready car. Problem is, none of them applied what they had to anything in production. An 80 mpg diesel hybrid may have been a stretch for 2003, but 50 mpg? Had they done that we perhaps wouldn’t be bailing out GM today? Instead they were more interested in high profit SUV’s at the time. Look where that got them.

    Additionally, I’ve read that the exclusion of Toyota from the PNGV was their motivator in developing the Prius. When gasoline topped $4/gallon I’m sure GM was wishing they had that in their lineup. Well you idiots, you could’ve.

    Bet they also wished they hadn’t ditched the EV1 too. I don’t want any new “partnerships” with dead auto companies walking because they failed to do anything with the last partnership.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    The car picture has quite the resemblance to the 2nd gen Prius.

  • avatar
    menno

    GM could have called that rear engine hybrid “thing” in the picture….

    the Chevrolet CorVolt. (Corvair + Volt, get it?)

    Badump, bump. Thank you, thank you. I’m here all week. Tip the waitresses.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    What happened to Inconvienient Truth’s Freedom Car joint venture? Gov provides the green and Detroit makes it vanish.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    ‘After all, as Burns says “we all seem to be coming to the conclusion that the automobile as we know it — powered by a combustion engine — must eventually go the way of the horse and buggy. It is simply not sustainable.” ‘

    Define sustainable. Theoretically no power consumption is sustainable. But we don’t know what the future holds. I’m pretty sure that ICE’s will carry us through 2012. That might be long enough. Assuming we all make it past that point there is a least a chance that, using hydrogen or something else, they could go another 100 years or more.

    But I guess I’m missing the point. He’s just looking for another jive plan to get more of my childrens money without having to give anyone anything.

    On the other hand…
    “Its as if we all agreed going back to being under-powered reptiles that constantly worry about staying warm in the sun and conserving energy is the way because it reduces greenhouse gases”

    Perhaps we (ok, CarnotCycle) have solved why reptiles have apparently weathered changing environmental conditions that other species haven’t. Or maybe everyone else besides me knew that already.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    Not to be pedantic, but the Volt is an electric car. The power to the wheels comes from the electric motor, the gas engine just charges it up when power is low. Unlike a hybrid, which has a HYBRID of energy supplies, the gas engine is never directly powering the wheels. I suppose the upside of this versus a gas-electric hybrid is that the Volt is limited to diesel levels of engine speed, never exceeding 4200rpm. How one tunes to get adequate power out of a little 1.4L engine, God only knows, but I hope GM can make a profit out of this eventually. Besides, that follows Alfred Sloan’s philosophy, and, remember, America’s sports car was born of that policy. The Corvette didn’t make money for years. And on the subject of early GM philosophy, the “car for every purse and purpose” mantra can be effectively applied with the quintet of remaining GM brands, Chevrolet for everyman, GMC for the working man, Buick for the Lexus, Audi, Acura, Infiniti intenders, Cadillac for Benz, Bimmer, and Jag buyers, and Pontiac (what’s left of it, unfortunately) for the enthusiast. The optimist in me hopes that this more streamlined operation works, but, as I’ve seen, this site never focuses on the sunny side.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    The USA needs a comprehensive Energy Policy that provides a clear path for; efficiency everywhere, renewables, research and independence.

    Companies and governments can make decisions and get on with business.

    The USA needs to communicate to citizens that the use of fossil fuel energy is very likely to be extremely expensive, or hold the nation captive to outside interests.

    Obama might be the man….

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    I don’t know what everybody’s bitching about, they did make an energy efficient car, and it’s a BUICK too !…..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSwig1tgUtY&feature=related

  • avatar
    Mekira

    Blast from the past (kinda)~~~~I actually saw the car in the picture at a Mobil station of all places in Livingston County when I was 11 in 2001. All the GM research person cars that were following it had to fill up I guess. While my mom was filling up our car I got out and talked to the people in the Precept and told them I knew what the name of the car was under the camouflage. They seemed really nervous. Didn’t they know Popular Science published a whole spread about it two months earlier???

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    @Rev Junkie,

    “How one tunes to get adequate power out of a little 1.4L engine, God only knows, but…”

    I may be getting old but I (fondly) remember when the mightiest cars in the world were 1.5L fire breathing monsters. We called them F1 cars.

    In Europe, most cars – including diesels are less than 2L (due to taxes and artificially high gas prices).

    Just one more thing – city and highway seems are comparable to the US. A 750cc Smart Roadster would be just as fun on I40 as it is on the Autobahn and that would equate to even more fun than a Solstice!

    I know, it’s off your point about the Volts drivetrain but small engine performance CAN be more than adaquite. If you get a reliable car with 100 HP from 750cc just think what you could get from one of the new clean burning 2 strokes of the same displacement!


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