By on April 28, 2009

This is not what I expected. Sure, I got the bankruptcy bit right. Big deal. Better analysts than me were making that call back when I was playing with Corgi toys (another car company destined for the scrap heap). But I never thought Uncle Sam would nationalize GM. Ace commentator PCH101 will tell you it’s all in good fun: a temporary government intervention that gives taxpayers a shot at recovering some of the tens of billions [we shouldn't have] spent keeping the zombie automaker alive. Or at least postpones GM’s inevitable dissolution for a less financially fraught finale. But I reckon politics will rear its ugly head, create a distortion field around GM’s car making business and kill any hope of GM surviving in any way, shape or form. The acid test: the Chevy Volt.

Clearly, the Volt is a born loser. For one thing, it’s too late. If GM’s electric/gas plug-in hybrid had appeared ten years ago, before the Toyota Prius created and satiated the market for econo-hybrids, the Volt might have had a chance. Second, it’s born under a bad sign: bankruptcy. Third, it’s arriving (if it ever arrives) at the wrong time. With the economy in the doldrums, gas prices in Davy Jones’ locker and new car prices about to tank (thanks to GM’s aforementioned C11), a relatively cramped $30K high mileage sedan boasting untested technology that requires consumer behavior modification (i.e., plugging it in) is, well, doomed. Which reminds me: the Volt doesn’t work.

The undaunted cheerleaders over at Autoblog (AB) posted a behind-the-wheel test of GM’s “plug-in savior.” Click on the video and you learn that the EV boosters were treated to an “80 percent plus representation of what [the Volt buyer's] electric vehicle driving experience will be in the Chevy Volt.” The test—such as it wasn’t— completely missed the point. It’s not the “experience” that counts. It’s the utility. Can the Chevrolet Volt drive a full 40 miles on battery power only? Uphill? Upwind? In an arctic chill? In the desert heat? How long does it take to recharge? And how does it drive on gas power AFTER the battery discharges? GM’s Volt man proudly proclaims The General’s about to build 75 Volt prototypes. Big friggin’ deal. Show us the practicality. Now.

Better yet, don’t. There is no business case for this car. In fact, the Volt is a near-perfect representation of the kind of half-baked, reality-divorced, over-optimistic product development that drove the artist formerly known as the world’s largest automaker into Uncle Sam’s loving embrace. It’s a Hail Mary from a company that doesn’t have a prayer of dislodging the Toyota Prius from its stranglehold on environmentally conscious, financially frugal car drivers. Never mind the Volt’s plug-in aspect. ToMoCo is already working on a plug-in Prius. If the Volt proves that power cords are pistonhead paradise, the Prius will have one. AND it will work.

Did I mention the Honda Insight? By the time the Chevy Volt gets around to getting around (for real), the Insight will have mopped-up the few thousand American consumers who want a Prius, but prefer someone else’s version. Lest we forget, GM has been producing knock-offs that singularly fail to knock the competition off their sales perch for the last thirty years or more. Be they economy, muscle or luxury cars. Truth be told, in the last two decades (at least), GM’s only consistently competitive, consistently profitable vehicles have been trucks and SUVs. Uh-oh . . .

Common sense says whatever’s left of GM after bankruptcy needs to make as much money as possible to pay us back. To stop sucking-up billions of our hard-earned tax dollars to provide work for union workers, management idiots and federal bureaucrats. The American automaker openly, brazenly admits that they’re not going to make money on the Volt for a long time. [See video above.] An indeterminate amount of time, in fact. Meanwhile, the Volt will require further billions to [maybe] make its technology work. And then tens of millions more to market the damn thing.

So kill it.

If the goal is to return to profitability, post-C11 “good” GM should focus on building the most profitable vehicles left in their arsenal. Then they should pick a couple of vehicles that have the most potential to be profitable and figure out how to make them profitable. There’s no way that niche products can pass this stress test. CTS Sports Wagon? Dead. Chevrolet Volt. Gone.

Of course, a return to profitability is no longer GM’s goal. Since when does the US government care about profitability? Have you looked at the federal deficit lately? When President Obama outlined his reasons for rescuing Detroit, it was all about green jobs and a healthy planet. Not profits or ROI. Which means the Volt will not die. But GM will.

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94 Comments on “General Motors Death Watch 248: The Chevy Volt Must Die...”


  • avatar

    The Chevy Volt woulda done better if it followed the example of the Fusion 2010.

    The Fusion is AWESOME.

    If i weren’t 6’7 I’d get one…but, I’m holding out for a CTS Coupe V.

  • avatar

    this commentator is really full of shit. You can feel it with his hand gestures

  • avatar
    mkII

    While I usually agree and tune in to TTAC’s commentary, this piece leaves me pondering.

    We’ve long blamed GM for brainless building large SUVs and cloning them with badge engineering, and now that they’ve finally used some of their remaining brains to cook up a new product (albeit not a very good one… british leyland only made one really successful car – the mini also), and this commentary tells them to forget about new products and “focus on building the most profitable vehicles left in their arsenal”?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “The Volt: Not Ready to Roll” by Charles Lane in the Washington Post on April 28, 2009:

    GM wouldn’t be in quite so deep a hole if it had not sunk a billion dollars, and much of its corporate reputation, into a not-very-realistic plug-in electric hybrid vehicle known as the Chevrolet Volt. Likely to cost consumers more than $30,000 even after a big government tax rebate, the little four-seat Volt “is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable,” President Obama’s automobile task force reported on March 30.

    Though Obama promised to have 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015, the dream of a mass-market electric car remains implausible and probably will be for years. For some people — environmentally friendly Hollywood stars and other wealthy dabblers — cost is not the top concern in deciding what car to buy. …

    Everyone else looks at total cost of ownership …

    A 2009 study by Boston Consulting Group found that the five-year total cost of owning an electric car would remain “relatively unattractive to consumers in 2020, unless its cost is subsidized.”

    * * *

    “The Obama administration should refrain from lavishing public money on losing propositions such as GM’s Volt — and let the entrepreneurs keep on tinkering.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    As a professional who works in both energy and manufacturing, I personally see the Volt as off-track, but if the USA wants to hand over the future of vehicles to external players then go ahead.

    Japan, China and even India will all be ready to supply mostly electric vehicles when the time comes.

    Spin the Volt off to a separate division and make it the basis of an exportable product. Where are the entrepreneurs/visionaries for this product?

    Just nay-sayers everywhere you look….

  • avatar
    holydonut

    re mkII – that’s been the fundamental problem in Detroit for some time now. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    That chart that was posted yesterday showing a break even calculation assumed that the slope of the variable profit line was positive. That extremely simplistic assumption doesn’t hold true for some of Detroit’s products.

  • avatar
    Harleyflhxi

    I think the technology has a lot of promise, and they should build it… as the Cadillac Converj. Then it could be priced where it should be AND make the General some money.

  • avatar
    Blobinski

    I agree with the article on many points. One logical issue stands out for me – tell me a car within the last thirty years that nailed the mark for GM. Show me their track record on introducing a groundbreaking vehicle that hit the mark….the Aztek (sorry to bring it up again), the Fiero, the new Impala or Malibu?

    I truly want to say “They should do the Volt just like they did the – - – -.” There just is not a vehicle they have introduced that ever lead a segment in the last 30 years. I will give the success the Trucks and SUVs their due, but that’s a market they entered with everyone else, not a market they ever clearly lead.

    The Volt will be a huge mistake if it is built.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So…the best way to make money for GM is to kill a car they’ve sunk a billion dollars into is to make sure it never makes production?

    Sure…that way they will never, ever even have a chance to make their money back.

    Brilliant!

    Business case? What was the business case for the Prius? It was essentially a Corolla-sized car that drives like crap, costs $5,000 more, and gets marginally better gas mileage. And Toyota lost money on every one it built until the last couple of years, if I hear correctly.

    What’s the business case? It boiled down to tech-oriented and enviro-buyers who could probably afford a much more expensive car, but bought a Prius to make a statement. Four or five grand doesn’t matter as much to these folks as it does to a freshly minted, $40K a year college grad picking out his first ride.

    And as to practicality…the Volt isn’t my thing, but consider this: my last job involved a two-way commute of about 25 miles a day. Assuming the Volt’s technology works, I could have had an all-electric commute every day, and plugged the car in when I got home. For me, that wouldn’t have been worth spending thousands of extra dollars, but for enviro buyers, it’s worth it in spades.

    Plus, when they need a car to go further than their daily commuting range, they don’t have to worry about plugging in.

    In concept, it’s great. And I think envio-conscious buyers will dig it.

    Granted, this is a limited market, but so is the market for the Prius, and (once again) assuming the technology works, the Volt kicks the snot out of the Prius product-wise for not a whole lot more scratc ($30K for the Volt versus $26K for the Prius).

    Give the thing a chance. If it flops, then it flops. It’s not as if Toyota and Honda haven’t had their share of cars that didn’t sell (Echo, anyone?).

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Blobinski :
    April 29th, 2009 at 12:21 am

    I agree with the article on many points. One logical issue stands out for me – tell me a car within the last thirty years that nailed the mark for GM. Show me their track record on introducing a groundbreaking vehicle that hit the mark….the Aztek (sorry to bring it up again), the Fiero, the new Impala or Malibu?

    Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.

    The Prius is the only one I can think of.

    I can also think of all kinds of outside-the-box efforts from Japan, Inc. that flopped. How about the Honda Element, Ridgeline or Accord Hybrid? How about the Nissan Quest? The Toyota T100 and Echo?

    Ugly? Yes, the Axtek is an all time loser…but have you ever looked closely at an Element? Or a Ridgline, which looks like it was designed by a four-year old armed only with blocks and a protractor?

    Hate to break it to you, but GM isn’t the only automaker that strikes out.

    GM – or any other automaker, for that matter – won’t survive by introducing stellar new concepts. It’ll survive by taking the ones that they know people will buy and refining them. If it fails to do that, it won’t survive.

    But I think that based on my snapshot of their current product mix, and some of the upcoming products, they’re going to do OK – if the quality is there.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Harleyflhxi :
    April 29th, 2009 at 12:17 am

    I think the technology has a lot of promise, and they should build it… as the Cadillac Converj. Then it could be priced where it should be AND make the General some money.

    It’d be an interesting effort,but I think that the target buyer for this type of vehicle – an enviro/tech head – might actually be more apt to reject Cadillac as a statement.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.”

    There haven’t been many. The original Ford Taurus qualifies. The Chrysler minivan qualifies. The rebirth of the Mustang was a solid effort. The New Beetle hit the mark for several years, and the New Mini is still doing so.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    “Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark. ”

    Range Rover and SUVs in general, have defined a new market, worldwide. Now, they may not be flavor of the month, but that is beside the point. Same with vans or people movers, that is a market segment that did not exist before a few products got in there and defined the species.

    To be honest a groundbreaking design is such a rare thing, I doubt you’d really see more than one or two per twenty years.

    here’s my list, for the last 50 years:

    Mini (small FWD cars)

    Miura (first of the modern layout mid engine supercars)(well there might be Ferrari before but I’m feeling perverse)

    Range Rover (exec 4wd off and onroader)

    SUV (big thing full of brats that looks like a Range Rover)

    Van (big thing full of kids that doesn’t look like a Range Rover)

    Prius

    That’s it. So you could argue that the big 3 have at least successfully exploited two of the last 3 groundbreaking trends.

  • avatar
    George B

    The lithium ion battery pack on my year old laptop computer has significantly lower capacity than when new. I assume the Volt will have similar issues where an already expensive Chevy needs an expensive battery replacement to restore the original battery only range. I’d be pissed if the primary reason for owning a Volt, the ability to drive to work and back without gasoline, went away within the life of two sets of tires.

    I like the idea of being able to buy a series mode hybrid just like I like the idea of being able to buy V8 powered RWD Holdens and Opels with euro-tuned suspensions, but GM needs to focus on designing high volume Chevrolets they can sell at a profit.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    “….but GM needs to focus on designing high volume Chevrolets they can sell at a profit.”

    I seriously doubt this will ever happen again in the US outside of one or two players. Such high volume marginal models will be built elsewhere and/or by other far more competent companies (eg Toyota).

    Innovative, high quality and high value-add product is where the future of American manufacturing might look.

    More like Apple than Dell. More like John Deere than Belarius.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    a relatively cramped $30K high mileage sedan

    I’d be thrilled if this car came in at 30K. I could have sworn it would have to be in the high 30s for GM to turn a profit.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    GM is now firmly in the political sphere. If they can get close to the 40 mile target and get the Volt classified as an electrical car for tax purposes then this car could become a reasonable deal.

    Under the right circumstances i could see myself driving an Opel Ampera in the not too distant future.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    well RF, although you are right on many points, you always keep forgeting the EV1.

    GM had the Hail Mary car all figured out. the EV1 if I remember correctly was a great car for what it was, and could have served as an excellent testbed for GM’s future eco friendly Volt with Battery technology. Hell the Volt would probably not need a backup generator if the EV1′s ongoing battery development kept it going. not to mention that build materials in the EV1 were exotic at the time and now could have become more efficient to use, not to mention that the initial cost of the EV1 project could have been paid over albeit partially over the years instead of just crushing the things.

    i think if GM were to be castrated and submited to the penalty of being government funded and partially owned, they should be done on the sole criminal fact of creating something good and then destroying it, wasting their money….

    I have the solution, turn corporate money wasting into a crime, payable by year end taxes. how much money have you wasted???? you have to pay as much in taxes just for being stupid….

    I still can’t believe that the EV1′s successor doesn’t show up in a GM viably plan, GM has the basic know how to do another one at greatly reduced cost than the Volt but they choose not too. And the government or anyone else for that matter don’t remind them….

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    So they drop the Volt, Toyota puts a cord on the Prius, and 5 years from now we complain that Chevy had a plug in hybrid but they abandoned it.

    For 40 miles or so, it works as an electric. The rest of the time it runs as a hybrid, the ICE producing juice. If they can make it work, it’s a good idea. I’m not eve sure they need to bring the price down to Prius levels. It does run in full EV mode – maybe that’s worth something to early adaptors and evrio-possers.

    GM has been criticized for over-reacting to changes in market conditions. Gas isn’t going to get cheaper in the long run. Might as well stick with it.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    Innovative, high quality and high value-add product is where the future of American manufacturing might look.

    More like Apple than Dell. More like John Deere than Belarius.

    +1 this statement. America (and by that I mean American’s) cannot afford to compete one for one with China, Korea, Japan or even Europe. They (we) expect too much from our existance. Since we can’t compete equally, we either need gov’t subsidies/tarrifs or we need to produce high end, value added products in small quantities for a high price.

    I’d also like to +1 the Volt should be a Caddy. Traditionally all new technologies came on the high end cars first and filtered down to the standard line. Make a luxo barge that gets micro care milage with electro help. Then, when batteries and the tech matures, put it in a small car.

    Oh, and they should investigate a line like Chrycos golf carts…

  • avatar
    Bytor

    I am critical of the economics of all BEVs at this time. You have to factor in the huge consumable cost of your battery. Which is probably close to $16K here and I have a hard time seeing this last the 10 years/150K. That represents nearly 4000 cycles on a lithium. Unheard of. Even if they use 50% of the capacity. 4000 half cycles does the damage of 2000 full cycles + lithium lose capacity just sitting around and after 5 years you won’t be getting 40 miles or your will be using more than 50%. Either way accelerating the decline.

    But even with that. GM can’t kill the Volt. Suggesting so is ridiculous. They have too much mind share and marketing capital invested in it.

    If GM kills the Volt they will implode (worse than they are now). The Volt is the new GM halo car and will likely provide an economically Viable car in ~10 years.

    GM can’t kill the electric Car twice and hope to survive.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Looks like the Volt’s plug-in system costs more than the 2-mode hybrid powertrain used in the GMT900, and that costs in the neighborhood of $10K. Speaking of which, is the Saturn Vue 2-mode hybrid still going to be produced?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Freedmike: “Business case? What was the business case for the Prius? It was essentially a Corolla-sized car that drives like crap, costs $5,000 more, and gets marginally better gas mileage. And Toyota lost money on every one it built until the last couple of years, if I hear correctly. What’s the business case? It boiled down to tech-oriented and enviro-buyers who could probably afford a much more expensive car, but bought a Prius to make a statement. Four or five grand doesn’t matter as much to these folks as it does to a freshly minted, $40K a year college grad picking out his first ride.”

    So much misinformation, so little time…

    The Prius has the utility of a midsize car. The price premium is more on the order of $3K. Under most circumtsances, it gets far better fuel economy.

    For $22K, the techno- and enviro-buyers can indulge themselves. This is an affordable increase, even compared to a Corolla.

    Even if we agree that Prius buyers, as a group, can afford a more expensive car, that they would buy one. As far as I can tell, they’re not about conspicuous consumption… most appear to be fairly careful with their money.

    So, the market now has two cars in the neighborhood that are “green enough” at a very small price premium. What rational marketing plan determines that people will buy a car that’s slightly more green (if, indeed, green has a cash value) for a LOT more money? The marginal utility is not there.

    Further, the base utility of the vehicle is compromised. It seats FOUR, where pretty much everything else with a back seat holds FIVE. The gas tank is going to be very small… this won’t have a lot of highway range. While GM was aiming to end “range anxiety” for the electric end of the vehicle, they ignored the same effect for gas cars.

    Toyota and Honda never lost sight of the goal of an affordable car, which is why they sell fairly well (although they are sensitive to the price of fuel). Even with cash incentives from the government (a bad idea, to be sure), this car isn’t affordable.

    As long as I’m ranting, I’ll criticize the Volt on technical grounds, too.

    First, GM went with a conventional looking car. This is going to rob the Volt of some aerodynamics that would help its range on the highway.

    Second, the Volt has an enormous battery… there’s no getting around that, given the requirements for electric range. But the Volt also has an engine sized to actually run, with adequate performance, a car of this size. This engine is bigger than they should need for a range-extender (allegedly its mission). GM could have saved a lot of space and weight and had more freedome with packaging if they had used a much smaller motor, one more suitable to the mission.

    Not only is it expensive, it isn’t the best car that it could be. I guess GM couldn’t stomach the idea of a car that looked somewhat like the Prius but in the market who cares? Apparently, that shape will sell. And that shape is the one that aerodynamics dictates. GM didn’t make decisions based on what the consumer wants in a car, they made decisions based on their self-image. In something like the Camaro, this is probably OK (if it makes sense at all… I question that). In a grocery hauler or an eco-mobile, this is a big mistake.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    John Horner: ““Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.”

    There haven’t been many. The original Ford Taurus qualifies. The Chrysler minivan qualifies. The rebirth of the Mustang was a solid effort. The New Beetle hit the mark for several years, and the New Mini is still doing so.”How about:

    Chrysler PT Cruiser
    Toyota RAV4
    Mazda Miata
    Honda Civic

  • avatar
    dwford

    I agree with the commentator: The Volt is just another in a long line of “hit’em where they ain’t” products from GM that go where the customers don’t want to go and have no impact on the market. Why can’t GM just come out with a “normal” hybrid that beats the Prius at it’s own game. No GM attempts to invent another game, again.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Groundbreaking vehicles don’t come along very often because transportation needs haven’t shifted much since, say, the Fifties, and don’t shift very fast – and we have a big selection of vehicle types already.

  • avatar
    davids

    The plug in Prius will have a realistic range of only 12.4 miles.
    http://priuschat.com/news/2010-plug-prius-will-have-124-mile-ev-range

  • avatar
    RangerM

    FreedMike :
    Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.

    The Mazda Miata.

    I’d say no other car has hit the mark more directly.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    The Hummer died when they killed off the H1. The Volt died when they announced the $40k price. It is as simple as that. The Volt has NEVER been a serious threat or even a viable business opportunity that made sense. A moon shot is only a success if you actually get to the moon. And the Volt was flawed from the beginning.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    quote kixstart:”But the Volt also has an engine sized to actually run, with adequate performance, a car of this size. This engine is bigger than they should need for a range-extender (allegedly its mission).”

    70HP is hardly considered adequate for a car that weighs as much as a Volt. A 3500lb(?? guessing here on weight) car with 70HP motor has adequate performance? Name one regular car with a power to weight ratio this bad?

    With an E-Rev you can get away with less, than a regular car, but how much less? If the car turns into a absolute dog once you wear down the battery (road trip anyone) the car will get panned big time.

    70HP is likely just barely adequate and no doubt some will find shortcomings. (climbing extended grades with flat battery).

    So, No it doesn’t have an oversize ICE for the task. It has to still behave like a car when the battery goes flat. Not a piece of farm equipment crawling down the side of the road in emergency limp home mode.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.

    Ford Explorer, millions sold. I’m surprised someone hasn’t mentioned this already.

    EDIT: answering my question above, Saturn Vue 2-mode Hybrid and PHEV have been cancelled, per autonews.com. The FWD 2-mode hybrids are now planned for 2011

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    Sorry, how was the PT Cruiser ground breaking? It was a Dodge Neon with a “funky” body.

    The RAV4 is a knock off of the Isuzu that failed in the market.

    The Miata isn’t ground breaking, it just filled a nitche that was left empty by the demise of British Leyland and the birth of the 911.

    The (litte) Civic wasn’t ground breaking but came to the American market at just the right time. Much like the Prius. Timing is everything. GM has none.

  • avatar

    The Last of the Mohicans seems to play on my local cable system about every 15 minutes, and the following dialogue reminds me of the RF’s enmity for all things GM.

    “When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Before he dies, Magua will put his children under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed is wiped out forever.”

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Bytor: “70HP is hardly considered adequate for a car that weighs as much as a Volt. A 3500lb(?? guessing here on weight) car with 70HP motor has adequate performance? Name one regular car with a power to weight ratio this bad?”

    Look at it this way, it’s a 1.4L engine in a four-place car. For comparison purposes, the Yaris holds five and comes with a 1.5L engine.

    When it’s consuming gas, it has a 400lb anchor in the form of a battery. When it’s on battery, it has (at least) an anchor in the form of an engine (plus radiator plus gas tank plus whatever).

    This is why the “synergy” in “Hybrid Synergy Drive,” actually makes some sense beyond marketing buzzwords. The two ends work together.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I thought it was very amusing that he quickly brought up the $7500 tax credit for buyers.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    Come on KixStart, The Yaris has 40 more HP and weighs 1000 lbs less.

    You have to size the engine to what you actually have not some hypothetical car without the batteries. So as it is, the 70HP is barely adequate not overdone as you originally claim.

    I am not endorsing the Volt here, just questioning your specious reasoning for arguing against it. You would have more traction arguing the RE motor is too weak than arguing it too strong (laughable).

    In 10 years when batteries last the full life a vehicle without question, and cost 1/4 what they do today, the future Volt will make economic sense. But It doesn’t today.

    It is a moot point though, GM has no choice at this point, but to continue the Volt. To turn back now would utterly destroy GMs already weak credibility. They would be a complete laughing stock.

    For Better or Worse, GM must continue the Volt.

  • avatar
    NN

    let’s review history:

    -GM develops EV1 in 90′s at great expense and leased cars at great loss for a short while.
    -shortly afterwards, Toyota and Honda develop and introduce the first mass-market hybrids, at great initial expense.
    -Gas prices plunge to below $1/gallon across the nation (in 1999 I was buying gas in western VA for $0.78/gallon). GM scraps the EV1. Very few gen 1 Prius’s/Insights are sold. Economics make no sense, yet Toyota continues to develop gen 2 Prius.
    -Gas goes up to $4/gallon, everyone shits a brick, Toyota introduces Gen 2 Prius, saves the world.

    History repeats itself, and we are there again. Gas will come back up. Environmental regulations will not ease. The heavy costs GM is incurring now for the Volt are a must if it ever wants to have a future at all. It is rumored that the Prius is now profitable for Toyota after 10 years on the market. GM will likely need a similar amount of time.

  • avatar

    NN:

    It is rumored that the Prius is now profitable for Toyota after 10 years on the market. GM will likely need a similar amount of time.

    So, throw out a number, then. How much money are YOU willing to “invest” in GM to see this car become profitable? $100b? $200b?

    Madness.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Is it a bit late? Yes. Is there something on the market like it now? No. By your rationality plasma TV’s should never have been made 15 years ago because they were 20 times the cost of a normal set. But yet look at today where you can get a plasma for under a grand. This short-term approach is what Americans and American companies/government have been blasted for.

    Somebody has to start with new technology, then refine it so that it cost effective. One of the benefits of the series hybrid design is if you have a short commute you don’t use any Arab oil. Whereas with a regular hybrid you just use less.

    Here is why GM through bankruptcy or not will continue. The U.S. government wants a poster child, something that says hey we are trying to become oil independent and increase our security. The Volt is one step in that process, it’s made in America (mostly) by Americans for Americans. It makes for great politics.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    It isn’t a rumor that the Prius is profitable. It only lost money in the first generation.

    Recently there was speculation profit is about $3000 per Prius, but they have long been profitable.

    “So, throw out a number, then. How much money are YOU willing to “invest” in GM to see this car become profitable? $100b? $200b? ”

    These numbers are based on what? They plan to sell the car near the break even point. Say a max loss of $1000 and max sales of 20 000. That is $20 Million in losses, not $200 Billion.

    They have already invested in lion share in development. It would be suicide to end Volt now. The damage to GM would be irreparable.

  • avatar
    Byobassoon

    The Volt must die? GM must die.

    Lets face it folks. Its a terrible company. Has been for years. And especially because they have been insulting the intelligence of people like the ones who leave comments on this website for years.

    The only reason that I would like to see GM continue is because I have a soft spot in my heart for the general. However, I also had a soft spot for PanAm. They went belly up and what did we get for it? Cheap air travel to increased destinations.

    I miss the PanAm letters on the now MetLife building but it was worth it.

    The government wasted the opportunity to say to the world that only a great……no, a fantastic product is what the America people deserve. Instead, mediocrity insurance has been guaranteed to every company in our nation.

    Welcome to the Peoples Republic of America. All hail glorious leader Obama, Bush, Congress….take your pick.

  • avatar
    1998S90

    “Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.”

    Honda Accord – marked the beginning of small car domination by Japan.

    Ford Taurus – First of the jelly-bean era cars. Amounted to a grand-slam home run for Ford and began their recovery in the 80′s. Of course, Ford ceded this market to the aforementioned but now bloated Honda Accord and the blandtastic Toyota Camry.

    BMW 2002 or 3-series?

    The VW Beetle – the first one.

    Volvo 240? I don’t know. I really liked it and remained virtually unchanged thoughout it’s production run.

    Nissan 240Z?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    NN: (recaps Prius and Insight history, investment and profitability)

    Sure. But Toyota and Honda funded those cars out of operations to business plans that they thought made sense. They might have been a bit risky but they were business plans.

    Even before they admitted bankruptcy was an option, GM was obtaining marketing support, in the form of a $7500 tax credit, from the Feds. Without that, this program would have been dead last year.

    Even with that, GM had admitted that they can’t make money on the Volt “for years.” There’s no business plan, here.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    In principle I don’t see how the Volt’s technology “doesn’t work”. A train is run by electric motors powered by a diesel generator, and they run in all climates, so why can’t the Volt. The main problem is price, and that will reduce as technology gets cheaper, and with volume. They have bugs to wrok out, for sure. All new products do, but that doesn’t mean the Volt is doomed.

  • avatar
    97escort

    A lot of Americans, if you can believe them, claim they would not be caught dead in a Prius. They view them as snobmobiles for tree lovers. Not me, I would would love to have one. But there is a group of buyers who would take a different view of a hybrid that doesn’t scream smart ass.

    And if you believe that Peak Oil was about 3 years ago as I do, then we need some think ahead which I know is hard for Americans who live for the moment. The Volt is not a “Hail Mary”. It is something to sell when gas prices go back up to $4 which they surely will if any kind of economic recovery happens.

    And the continuing decline in oil exports from exporting countries makes a return to $4+ almost guaranteed. It is lack of foresight that got GM into bankruptcy. If the new GM is more of the same it will fail. Cancelling the Volt would be a sign that there is no future for GM. In that case all the taxpayer dollars are lost for sure.
    Bankruptcy will not help if GM doesn’t have product that is up to date and ready for future demand.

    We live in the present and look to the future. The past is dead.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    This is going to sound harsh, but stay with me for a minute after I say this:

    What is going to doom the Volt is that GM is producing it.

    I don’t mean that GM haters won’t buy it or that
    GM doesn’t have the engineering chops to make a good vehicle, but here’s the sad history that makes this prediction easy:

    GM loves to rush “Game Changers” to market, and skimp on development time. How many GM products can you name that were essentially good designs but had fatal flaws that weren’t caught during the the development cycle?

    The Volt is being rushed to market, and under tremendous cost pressures. Too many small things won’t work,or will break too soon, and the reputation of the car will be ruined before it ever has a chance to succeed.

    I don’t care how good the underlying technology may be. The fact is that the car will be underdeveloped at the time of introduction and it’s going to have problems, and that is going to sink the reputation of GM farther. However canceling the car will do the same thing.

    They’re officially in a no-win situation.

  • avatar
    Byobassoon

    Hear, hear Lokkii,

    The company took its time on the cobalt. YIKES!

    Another “Unsafe at any speed” is very possible.

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    I disagree, the Volt was an amazingly successful vehicle. It’s just that the purpose was not to produce a car consumers would actually buy.

    The purpose was to get Nancy Pelosi and a left-wing Congress to hand over Billions in taxpayer money to GM.

    Mission accomplished.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    GM has to continue with the Volt because it is absolutely critical that GM build experience with advanced hybrids, and more specifically, lithium batteries. I’ll grant you that GM is racing for second place behind Toyota, but GM has a shot at being a strong second. GM is also in a position where they have to take a risk. Even if the Volt is objectively inferior to the Prius, GM should have no problems selling its planned 20-30,000 units. That’s enough to test whether GM’s assumptions re the electric/ICE balance are correct, and then adjust accordingly.

    I predict that two years from now, the Prius will be the top-selling car in the United States, with sales only constrained by supply. Toyota was correct in subsidizing the original and Gen 2 Prius, working under the assumption that the experience curve effects would later give Toyota both a technology and cost advantage that other car makers couldn’t match. GM IS playing catch up, just like everyone else.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    “The purpose was to get Nancy Pelosi and a left-wing Congress to hand over Billions in taxpayer money to GM.”

    This was started before GM went to the government with cap in hand. This is GMs hail mary to get back in the green game.

    The presidents task force has been very critical of the Volt as a project that doesn’t seem geared toward making money.

    Don’t blame the Volt on the Government. This is all GM.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    +2 to Lokkii.

    If GM put this tech into a single high end vehicle – a gimick – an expensive luxury, then let it trickle down to the econboxes when the tech got small and cheap enough, it would be one thing. But they are not. They are going for the Grand Slam, the home run, the shot out of the park that will put them back in the lead.

    It just ain’t gonna happen.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I don’t know if this is what RF is trying to say but GM needs to shelve the Volt. As usual GM’s timing is horribly wrong. You guys are all forgetting one very important thing: GM DOES NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO MAKE THE VOLT! If it wasn’t for us taxpayers GM would be bankrupt already and the Volt killed by a judge. Can anyone give me a solid case for this car to seriously survive a bankruptcy filing?

    The car would be great for GM if they were a healthy profitable company that could take the profit and loss hit on the Volt for a few years, like Toyota did with the Prius. But GM isn’t like Toyota their normal cars aren’t selling, you know the ones that need to be making a profit so they stay alive. The money(our money at this point) for the Volt could be used to make the cars that have fallen flat better and more desirable to customers, more refinement on the Cruze so when it gets here it really is a hit, or even speed up it’s arrival with more development money. Their are any number of things they could be using that money for the help themselves in the short term so they might actually have along term future.

    You guys are missing the business case for the Volt and their really isn’t one in the condition GM is in right now. And it’s more proof that GM’s corperate thinking is still very flaud, they are still doing the same “Hail Mary” tactic they have been doing for 30 years.

    And I think you guys are wrong about the publics reaction if they stopped work on the Volt. Everyone knows GM is in deep sh*t right now, a little honestly goes a long way, something GM has still not figured out.

  • avatar
    Byobassoon

    Lets say the Volt works.

    Whats the guarantee that people are actually going to buy it?

    I don’t want to bet my tax money on it?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Here’s an article that illustrates plainly why the Volt isn’t going to happen:

    http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=109981

    You see, the 2009 Prius was supposed to be everything that the Volt is supposed to be — a plug-in with lithium batteries.

    Now that 2009 is here, we see that the forthcoming Prius will not have lithium ion batteries or an extension cord.

    Ask yourself why the leader in hybrid technology isn’t doing this, even though the company publicly announced that they would. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s because Toyota figured out that it wasn’t going to be ready. (Not much of a limb, because the news about the battery tests were not positive.)

    The Volt is a necessary R&D mule. GM should be working on it if it is going to have a future. (OK, I know that future is debatable.)

    But it is not going to be ready by next year. If they do release something, it’s going to be a big beta test, which is only going to hurt the company’s reputation when they don’t work well.

    My guess is that they will rush something to market, and it isn’t going to work well. This will only help Toyota, as this will substantiate its leadership in the hybrid market and confirm its position as an innovator.

    As usual, Detroit oversells and underdelivers. Must be a genetic defect, because they make the same mistake too often for it to be a fluke.

  • avatar
    A is A

    british leyland only made one really successful car – the mini also

    Minis were sold at a loss.

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/index.htm?stokesf.htm

    The Mini was a technical success, a cultural success, a racing success… but a giant entrepenurial FAILURE.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    RF, your comments on the Volt are exceptionally correct.

    A 2-mile drive at low speed simply means it’s functional. Nobody still has reported on its 1.4L performance, because it will be awful.

  • avatar
    RickCanadian

    “Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.”

    As a manufacturing guy, I believe that the most important thing about a product, and a huge part of its success, is the way it was made. In the industry, “hitting the mark” has almost nothing to do with the coolness of a given car. You can make a car by hand and get a cool one, tune up another and get the most of it. But remember, this is an industry.

    So to me, there is no groundbreaking vehicle, but groundbreaking manufacturing systems. Nobody can say that the Ford T was a cool car, but it was hugely successful because of old Henry’s innovations in the factory. In the past decades, the Toyota system is, hands down, the most revolutionary thing that happened to the industry. That means that the humble, totally un-cool Toyota Corolla, of all things, is the car that “hits the mark” in the past 3 or 4 decades.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    It’s sad when a large selling point has to be a tax credit for owning it.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The car that the industry was referring to as the 2009 Prius is actually the 2010 Prius.

    For cost reasons, the car is being introduced with NiMH batteries; however it has been engineered for the possibility of accepting lithium batteries and plug-in capability before the next re-do. Toyota has a plug-in Prius on the road with 150 more to follow.

    See this link: http://www.autobloggreen.com/2009/02/02/toyota-plug-in-prius-returning-65-mpg-in-testing/

  • avatar
    menno

    Kixstart said ” So much misinformation, so little time…

    The Prius has the utility of a midsize car. The price premium is more on the order of $3K. Under most circumtsances, it gets far better fuel economy.

    For $22K, the techno- and enviro-buyers can indulge themselves. This is an affordable increase, even compared to a Corolla.

    Even if we agree that Prius buyers, as a group, can afford a more expensive car, that they would buy one. As far as I can tell, they’re not about conspicuous consumption… most appear to be fairly careful with their money.”

    I am on #2 Prius (2005 and 2008), having put 48,000 miles on #1 and 26,000 miles on #2.

    My initial objective in 2004 was to buy a Hyundai XG350, because I simply wanted a high-value semi-luxury barge (and I liked the look, call me crazy, as well as the local dealer. You don’t just “buy” from a car company; you “buy” from the local dealership too).

    I discovered the Prius. Similar price to the XG, similar room, similar utility. I chose to “swap” leather and an ersatz-Bentley look (if you squinted enough) for a futuristic look and more than double the MPG’s.

    The Prius is a MID-SIZED CAR. People nearly soil themselves when they see two NEWFOUNDLAND DOGS getting out of the back and then when they see the dog barrier from floor to ceiling, they are amazed.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people “it’s only small OUTSIDE. Inside, it is a mid-sized car.”

    It’s true. By the time you spec up a Corolla to anything near base Prius spec (as close as you can get), there is only a few thousand dollars “in it” for not only getting better MPG’s (by nearly double), but also more room, more utility and more comfort.

    As for peak oil, whether we passed it worldwide in 2006 as one poster wrote, or in 2007 as I surmised, makes little difference to the fact that we are on the “wrong side” of PEAK OIL.

    “Logic” would have GM and Chrysler go Chapter 11 without huge handouts from we taxpayers.

    Then “logic” would have any portion of surviving GM DROP THE VOLT and go cap in hand to Toyota for a license to have NUMMI (50% GM and 50% Toyota) in California build a version of the Prius for badging as – oh what the hell – the Chevrolet Saturn Hybrid. Or Chevrolet Volt, even… given the prior PR already done.

    The dies for the sheetmetal of the prior generation Toyota Avensis sedan, 5 door hatchback and 5 door wagon could be cribbed from the UK, since this car shared many under-body components with the prior-generation Prius which will remain in production for Japan. It could be done within 12 months. GM and Toyota would be able to make a small profit on it (as opposed to GM losing money hand over fist with this idiotic Volt). Then a plug-in version could be developed alongside Prius technology for later introduction IF IT IS VIABLE.

    But of course, none of it will happen.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    The Volt is a product that should be built by a money making company that is looking down the road to dominate a market it’s not yet in. Look at MS and the Xbox. The first gen Xbox program cost MS all kinds of money. But it prepared them for the Xbox 360. Even though the Xbox 360 still is a money loser for MS, it is getting them that much closer to having a machine that dominates the market. And as far as game sales goes, the 360 is already the market leader.

    GM doesn’t have that kind of money to play with. And they don’t have that much foresight to get to a product that will be a category killer.

    I’ve always felt that the whole Volt program was created to make upper management look good and not to add any value to the company. This is same thinking that was applied to making hybrid versions of full size SUV’s. How many full size SUV buyers worry about fuel economy?

  • avatar
    Rastus

    I LITERALLY laughed out loud (LOL) when the guy behind the wheel, doing a whopping 3mph stated “it corners fairly flat”….

    Ausgezeichnet!!! :P

    So many things in life are based upon timing…and this is one prime example. Had GM continually refined the EV1 over the past 20+ years, I’d say GREAT!!

    But staring down the barrel of a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun, GM is now worried if they left the bathroom clean for the other family members – before GM’s brains are splattered all over creation.

    It’s a little too little, it’s a little too late!

    I’m Gonna Git you Sucka!!! :

    http://www.imfdb.org/images/thumb/9/94/CrankMossberg500-2.jpg/500px-CrankMossberg500-2.jpg

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Wrt PT Cruiser, it was wildly sought for, and marked up ( 10K at some dealers ), in S. Calif when it debuted.

    As for Volt, the General should evaluate Volt prototypes, then press on with the Cadillac version and forget the Volt. Chevrolet has rarely succeeded with vehicles outside the norm (remember the Chevette? The MAXX?) – the Volt will probably suffer the same fate.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Toyota has a plug-in Prius on the road with 150 more to follow.

    Sure, it’s under development. But it is behind schedule and won’t be ready for retail sale for some time.

    I have no confidence that GM is ahead of Toyota in getting a car ready for market. GM has no history of being particularly innovative or of maintaining technology leadership, and there’s no reason to believe that the Volt is a great exception. If Toyota can’t get this car to market by 2010, how can anyone expect GM to do it first?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    KixStart :
    April 29th, 2009 at 6:49 am So much misinformation, so little time…

    The Prius has the utility of a midsize car. The price premium is more on the order of $3K. Under most circumtsances, it gets far better fuel economy.

    For $22K, the techno- and enviro-buyers can indulge themselves. This is an affordable increase, even compared to a Corolla.

    A comparably equipped Corolla LE with automatic costa about $16,000. The base price of the Prius is $22,000. I haven’t seen ANY on my local dealer’s lot for that price – most are around $25,000. But the comparison remains – the Prius costa an extra six grand or so, and while it may offer “the utility of a midsize,” that’s because it has a hatchback. Inside, it’s slightly bigger than a Corolla or Civic.

    I think you are missing my point and have interpreted what I said about the Prius as a slam. It isn’t. The Prius is a brilliant design. It ought to be for the price Toyota charges for it.

    But as an enviro-mobile…I’m just not that sold. Even assuming an extra 10-15 mpg in the real world over a Corolla, this is a car that costs six grand more. It will take years to recoup the extra investment at current gas prices.

    In the meantime, in many ways, the Prius is an inferior car to conventional compacts. It’s WAY slower, and handles very poorly. While a conventional compact will get the same mileage no matter the weather conditions, people who buy Priuses in cold climates will find them to be less efficient.

    Now, how does this relate to the business case? The Prius is more expensive than the average compact, and while it gets better mileage, the price differential is major. It is acceptable to drive every day, but a conventional compact will offer far better acceleration and handling.

    It’s not all that rational a purchase unless you are either a) a devoted buyer of the latest and greatest tech, or b) a devoted environmentalist. Who wuold have thought that there was a market for it 10 years ago?

    That’s why the Volt deserves a chance. It out-techs the Prius (assuming it works as advertised), and if it costs 30 large, I don’t think it’ll bug the target market much, considering that almost all the Priuses I see at the local lot are 25 to 30 grand.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Hybrid development programs are necessary for the future but are massively expensive in the short-term. Toyota and Honda could get away with it because they had the extra cash to burn. GM doesn’t have his luxury. It needs to make money right now. I expect the volt program to be quietly mothballed during the upcoming bankruptcy chaos. Maybe in the future when Chevillac can post a profit again they can license Ford’s technology or something.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    I disagree, the Volt was an amazingly successful vehicle. It’s just that the purpose was not to produce a car consumers would actually buy.

    The purpose was to get Nancy Pelosi and a left-wing Congress to hand over Billions in taxpayer money to GM.

    Mission accomplished.

    This person gets it.

    Now Phase Two – using phony ‘tax breaks’ and onerous so-called ‘clean air’ regs to ram the Lap Top Battery powered Daewoo down our throats.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Hybrid development programs are necessary for the future but are massively expensive in the short-term.

    It supposedly cost $1 billion to develop the R&D for the Prius. Compared to standard vehicle development, that isn’t much of a premium.

    GM could have saved far more than that just by avoiding all of its failed acquisitions. Going forward, it can save multiples of that just by putting an end to all of the badge engineering.

    The cost of the Volt shouldn’t be a problem. GM’s general lack of credibility in engineering and R&D is a much greater threat. If it doesn’t involve a V-8, there’s just no leadership to be expected from GMNA.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Perhaps the biggest problem with the Volt is that it is a Chevrolet.

    If it had been developed QUIETLY as a Buick the price point would be a little less sensitive and since the Buick is popular in China and sense the Chinese are desperate to improve their air quality and sense the Chinese have several battery companies competing with new types of batteries the introduction of the Volt could have been a more dignified less stressful endeavor with support from other companies and governments.

    It could have been called a Fute or Dianya.

    And it wouldn’t have had to look like another ugly Chevrolet.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    Pch101 and I agree on something!

    Yes, I’ve said it before many times – GM should NOT even ATTEMPT to be a so-called “technology leader”. No, leave that to the others. You’re not fooling anyone anyway, there GM. We see how you take modern technology and “CRUSH” it like a grape under your powerful (at one time powerful, that is) combat boots.

    No- stick to carburetors, mud flaps, 4×4 pickups, push rods, …i.e. GM needs to become the “Harley Davidson” of the automakers.

    Pickups and SUVs…that’s IT. But not just ANY pickup- no, these have to be “CRUDE, RUDE, and In-your-face!!!”

    Believe it or not, there is an “element” in our society which LOVES that type of product.

    http://ketadesign.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/barbie4.jpg

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    GM has plenty of money to play with, our money. You think the public will allow AIG to continue and let GM fall to liquidation?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    GM should NOT even ATTEMPT to be a so-called “technology leader”.

    Sorry, I don’t agree with that. If GM is to survive as a mainstream automaker, then it should become innovative.

    But what is needed is a candid admission that GM is currently not innovative. It has built its business on options packages, branding and tailfins, not technology leadership.

    It claims to be a technology leader, but that’s a lie. Look back through their product lineup, and it’s clear that GM tends to be a laggard, not a leader.

    All of the major automakers should be working on these alternative platforms. The deception comes in with GM pretending that the car will be ready on time, when it won’t be, or that the car can singlehandedly save GM, when it can’t. The Volt is guaranteed to lose money out of the gate; it might be a good halo/ marketing platform, but a cash generator it won’t be. GM is not Toyota, and that’s GM’s loss.

  • avatar
    Rastus

    Maybe the Volt, when it hits the showroom floor, will come standard with a Confederate Flag plastered in it’s rear window, come with a free six pack of your favorite Old Milwaukee, come with cigarette burns in the upholstery, Kool Aid stains, and the smell of greasy Fried Chicken inside. And if you look under the seats, you’ll find 18-month old fried Okra …

    HAHAHA :)

  • avatar

    OK, so pretty much nobody expects GM to be a technological leader. So kill the volt, watch GM die. Fine.

    Gas will eventually get more expensive, and we are not about to give up our 2.3 cars per household. We need to find a good way to develop better technology. Maybe the better way to use the bail out bucks is to give the $$ to Ford specifically to develop competitive technology. Otherwise, we will be buying it from Japan, Korea, or India.

    And, maybe as mentioned before, it starts at the top of the price field, and works its way down. That must be what Telsa is hoping for.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    Coming to a theater near you…

    Who Killed the Electric Car II ?: This time we’ve got DNA!

  • avatar
    Engineer

    My issues with the Volt:
    1. It was inspired by the Tesla Roadster. As RF kindly keeps reminding us: even at $100K a pop, the Tesla is hardly a case study in profitability.
    2. There is a serious mismatch between the 160 hp electric motor and the 70 hp engine. Sorry folks, at half the horses the Volt is in limp home mode once the batteries are flat. When I first pointed out this issue (sorry can’t find the link), Paul Niedermeyer opined that the engine would be used to recharge the battery, so that the Volt would still have 160 hp available, if intermittently. However, we have since learned the key fact that the engine will NOT be used to charge the battery.
    3. Effect of loss of battery capacity: in the Prius loss of battery capacity means a loss of mileage. Unless you’re into good record-keeping, you won’t notice. No difference in how the car drives. Not so with the Volt: As Paul points out in these opening paragraphs, the reduced range will come as serious shock to Volt owners. Combined with #2 above (limp home once battery is flat), it will be a serious disappointment. Even for true believers.
    4. Shape: Sure looks nice. How does that affect the mileage? Remember, hybrids and electrics are more sensitive to resistance. In its haste to provide a green car that’s different from other different-looking green cars, GM overlooked the issue of performance. Ignoring the engineers, again?
    5. Price: Sure there are some GM-loyal greens out there who would be happy to spend $30K for freedom from Big Oil. But it is a small group. As RF mentions, the “No thanks to Prius” greens will most likely be buying Insights over the next few years.

    In short, an expensive car with a shrinking range and hence more frequent limp home episodes is not a recipe for high resale value, or long term success. No matter how cool it looks. As per usual, Detroit executives made a decision based on testosterone (“If they can do it, why can’t we?”) rather than logic. It will cost them dearly. Again.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Freedmike,

    At the moment, I don’t need a car and my wife doesn’t want a car payment, so no Prius for me.

    But I get my oil changes done at the Toyota dealer, so I grabbed a salesguy while I was waiting last year, told him there was zero chance I would buy a car that day and asked for a test ride.

    He still wanted to sell me one. They had plenty of $22K variants and were offering them for $21K.

    It’s a nicer car than the Corolla and has the interior room of a Malibu. Like menno says, it’s only small on the outside. Inside, where my fat @$$ goes, it’s plenty big.

    My other point remains. For $22K, if the Prius is bought on account of nebulous green fantasies, people can indulge these green fantasies for just $3 to $6K over a “comparable” vehicle. With the Volt, such indulgence will be far more dearly bought. Even the greenies are somewhat price-sensitive.

  • avatar
    Happy_Endings

    ($30K for the Volt versus $26K for the Prius).

    The Volt won’t be $30K, it will be closer, if not over, $40K. Even with a $7.5K tax credit, it will still be about $10K more than the 2010 Prius.

  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    GM needs to become the “Harley Davidson” of the automakers.

    Pickups and SUVs…that’s IT. But not just ANY pickup- no, these have to be “CRUDE, RUDE, and In-your-face!!!”

    In other words, GM has to take the GMT900 into the demographic currently driving Dodge Rams.

  • avatar
    probert

    I don’t know if the Volt will succeed or not. It seems short sighted to call for its premature demise.

    The gas engine WILL only charge the batteries.

    The numbers can be confusing because motors don’t function like engines. Any electric motor has 100% torque starting at 0rpm. You can go online and see an electric toyota drag racer beating all gas cars and setting new track records.

    The HP ratings are deceiving much like those of a diesel engine. For example the Peterbilt PX-8 diesel is rated 240 – 330 hp – low uh – but it has 1000lb-ft of torque. Oh yeah.

    In my opinion 2 things are killing the American car industry: cynical management and health care.

    The first can be seen in the SUV which exploited a legal loophole to avoid cafe and safety standards. It was so profitable they stopped developing cars (something the japanese never did). When you ask why the Cavalier was around so long that’s the reason.

    regarding health care: every modern industrial country has national health care so the companies aren’t burdened with this additional cost.

    When people (TTAC always it seems) criticize the workers who build the cars we love, for high wages the truth about workers wages (TTWW) is that don’t earn nearly the $75.00/hr that is always quoted – but rather a third of that is health care costs GM is responsible for.

    For those ranting on the “republic of Obama” remember the billions Bush gave to GM for the development of hydrogen cars. That was cynical. Where is that money – where is the car?

    One last thing: The idea that government should make a profit has no validity. It isn’t producing a product so where does the profit idea come from. The government is there for other reasons: protection of citizens via military, environment, etc..
    (see flu vaccine before you jump on this).

    What this purpose is is the great debate – but profit isn’t part of it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Why did you buy the first flying car? Didn’t you know there would be problems with it?”

    “I know! It’s a flying car!”
    -
    Show me the last groundbreaking vehicle ANYONE made that really hit the mark.

    No one wants to give even a small nod to the Ford Thunderbird and Pontiac GTO?

  • avatar
    blowfish

    british leyland only made one really successful car – the mini the Mini was a brilliant design, by Sir Alec Issigonis.
    It had spun off to defferent designs, he also designed the Morris Minor.

    I read somewhere the Mini never did made any money for BLMC.
    Read it somewhere as Ford wanted to build a car similar to that. They dissected it and found the costs cannot be contained so they didnt bother to build another one only to lose money.

    GM & Chrysler will shortly be owned by the UAW, hope it can work out, some say dont be too excited yet, as United Air Line was owned by workers did well initially but in the end there’re conflicts there to make it unworkable.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    RF

    I read the editorial before going to work this morning. My earlier comment was on the Volt, but this line stuck in my head all day –

    Sure, I got the bankruptcy bit right. Big deal. Better analysts than I were making that call back when I was playing with Corgi toys (another car company destined for the scrap heap).

    I give you more credit than you’re giving yourself with this line. You may not have been the very first to realize GM was headed for C11, but you’ve certainly said it more consistently and frequently (what, 3 times a day, every day :D) than any other journo.

    One can only wonder what it would be like if it were possible to read intelligent and truthful analysis in mass circulation daily papers. I have seen BK mentioned in the same paragraph with GM, as long as 4 years ago, but only in a tepid, questioning way, and only very occasionally.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    The Prius is larger than the Corolla. Compare it with the Camry, not the Corolla.

  • avatar
    skygreenleopard

    “KixStart :
    April 29th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Freedmike,

    At the moment, I don’t need a car and my wife doesn’t want a car payment, so no Prius for me.

    But I get my oil changes done at the Toyota dealer, so I grabbed a salesguy while I was waiting last year, told him there was zero chance I would buy a car that day and asked for a test ride.

    He still wanted to sell me one. They had plenty of $22K variants and were offering them for $21K.

    It’s a nicer car than the Corolla and has the interior room of a Malibu. Like menno says, it’s only small on the outside. Inside, where my fat @$$ goes, it’s plenty big.

    My other point remains. For $22K, if the Prius is bought on account of nebulous green fantasies, people can indulge these green fantasies for just $3 to $6K over a “comparable” vehicle. With the Volt, such indulgence will be far more dearly bought. Even the greenies are somewhat price-sensitive.

    You nailed it. $22k for a (slightly overpriced) Prius is NOT comparable to $30k for a (WAAY overpriced) electric car from a floundering company with limited mileage. And throw a $19k Insight in the mix starting this year, and the Volt is DOA.

  • avatar
    A is A

    Yes, I’ve said it before many times – GM should NOT even ATTEMPT to be a so-called “technology leader”. No, leave that to the others

    No- stick to carburetors, mud flaps, 4×4 pickups, push rods, …i.e. GM needs to become the “Harley Davidson” of the automakers.

    Believe it or not, there is an “element” in our society which LOVES that type of product.

    Uhmmmm… sounds reasonable and well argued. Good comment.

    But: Rover tried just that.

    In the late 1980s Rover abandoned any Hi-Tech pretense (and they certainly had that pretense).

    Instead, Rover went straight to the Retro Chrome-Wood-Leather-Nostalgia-Patriotism-UnionJackFactorySticker niche.

    It did not work. In 2005 Rover went out of business.

    Harley Davidson does not need big series to be profitable. Outrageous prices and old technology are tolerable in that market. After all, no one rationally needs a Harley. Owning a bike is a whim.

    GM does need big sales to be profitable. And a car is a necessity, not a whim.

  • avatar

    I’m sure I’m not alone in being righteously pissed to see yet another poorly managed corporation being fast-tracked to tax payer support. GM came to the table with a frightening tale of how they needed OUR money to prevent them from closing plants and dealership, laying off tens of thousands, and effectively shafting the whole world.

    Now they’ve burned through BILLIONS of taxpayer money and what are they doing? They’re closing factories and dealerships, laying off tens of thousands, and dragging out what could have been a singular crisis for the economy to absorb and recover from. And they’re singing about this Volt thing like it’s that home run mentioned well earlier in these comments. FAIL.

    It’s sad, because the Corvette, CTS-V, and Silverado are great vehicles. Why can’t they get their act together and translate some of that ability to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles? They’ll put the same engine and transmission in 40 different models, so why not focus on a small displacement turbo diesel to wear the Duramax nameplate?

    Why not compete with these overly complex, uninteresting, actually-worse-for-the-environment-when-you-consider-the-manufacturing-process hybrids and EVs by providing those of us who aren’t tree hugging sycophants or pretentious a-holes seeking solo time in the carpool lanes smaller cars that get 40+mpg on tried and true turbo diesel power?

    That GM isn’t finding ways to reduce the weight (and thus mileage) of existing cars, improve the desirability of their less expensive models, and innovate just goes to show they will continue to fail and burn through OUR money as long as it they can.

    I thought this was a deathwatch. When are they gonna die already?

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Engineer:”2. There is a serious mismatch between the 160 hp electric motor and the 70 hp engine. Sorry folks, at half the horses the Volt is in limp home mode once the batteries are flat. When I first pointed out this issue (sorry can’t find the link), Paul Niedermeyer opined that the engine would be used to recharge the battery, so that the Volt would still have 160 hp available, if intermittently. However, we have since learned the key fact that the engine will NOT be used to charge the battery.”

    Wrong. In charge sustain mode the engine will maintain the battery SoC at around 30%. When you put you foot on the pedal you’ll get full power from the engine, some power from the battery, to give full power from the electric motor to the wheels. They’ve already published all this, a year ago.

    If you were to drive at high power up a sufficeintly long hill then the battery will overheat or become too discharged, so you’ll be reliant on the engine only. As an engineer I am sure you can work out what sort of hill that would take. Also don’t confuse kW and hp, there’s a 30% difference.

  • avatar
    russification

    cavalier electric hybrid?

  • avatar
    davey49

    “We’ve long blamed GM for brainless building large SUVs and cloning them with badge engineering”
    Who is we? Brainless large SUVs was genius.

    “and this commentary tells them to forget about new products and “focus on building the most profitable vehicles left in their arsenal”?”

    Yep, totally agree here. All car companies have to stick to making bettter versions of cars that already exist. They should only make “new” cars when the old ones are perfected.

    “They’ll put the same engine and transmission in 40 different models, so why not focus on a small displacement turbo diesel to wear the Duramax nameplate?”
    I think they would if the emissions laws were not impossible to pass with any profitability.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    1. The article pre-supposes that gas prices will remain flat. Specious reasoning at best. When (not if) the economy sputters and catches, then starts to rev up, gas prices will head so far north that we will look back on the summer of ’08 as the good ‘ol days when gas was $4 per gallon.

    2. If the Volt is such a good idea, then we need to get out of the way and let good ‘ol fashioned capitalism work. Visionaries create a product financed from venture capital, who bring it to market, and the market rewards success and punishes failure. If your company can’t raise capital based on it’s current failed business model, liquidate that company and form a new one with a newer, better business model. If the government wants to kick in with subsidies for the R&D, say for example under the guise of possible application to military hardware, that’s OK, we waste so much in the Pentagon most people would hardly notice. But for the taxpayer to be held hostage to completely fund the flier on this technology, with no recourse but Congress or the President to decide when to fold the hand is irresponsible socialism at its most pernicious and corrupt.

    I think I’ll start to look for a job in Russia. It ain’t any different from what this country’s fixin’ to become….

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    “Wrong. In charge sustain mode the engine will maintain the battery SoC at around 30%. When you put you foot on the pedal you’ll get full power from the engine, some power from the battery, to give full power from the electric motor to the wheels. They’ve already published all this, a year ago.”
    A 70 hp ICE is to power a 2900 lb car and charge the battery?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    RogerB34: “A 70 hp ICE is to power a 2900 lb car and charge the battery?”

    Sure. What does it take to maintain 70mph in a compact car? 30hp? 40? The excess goes to the battery. Lift your foot, it all goes to the battery. Downhill, it all goes to the battery.

    Mark MacInnis: “I think I’ll start to look for a job in Russia. It ain’t any different from what this country’s fixin’ to become…”

    I think you’ll be surprised by what you find. And not pleasantly.

  • avatar

    Agreed. The Volt won’t save GM. The Prius isn’t exactly Toyota’s cash cow.


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