By on September 3, 2009

Audi of America’s Johann De Nysschen calls the Volt “a car for idiots,” in an MSN interview. “No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a (Toyota) Corolla,” he tells Lawrence Ullrich. “So there are not enough idiots who will buy it.” And you have to admit that the guy has a point. For all the Volt’s hype, GM has offered little in the way of an explanation of the Volt’s potential appeal to people who don’t merely “want to show what enlightened souls they are,” as De Nysschen puts it. But don’t worry, GM has a meme for that! Specifically, that deep down the Volt isn’t an overpriced hair shirt . . . it’s a performance car!

Alex Cattelan, GM Powertrain Assistant Chief Engineer, Voltec Electric Propulsion System, wrote a post over at, describing tests of the Volt’s mountain performance. “Driving the twisty, winding roads of Knoxville, Tennessee,” she writes, “you really get to see what a car is made of. That is why I was there last week putting the Chevrolet Volt electric plug-in vehicle through its paces. ”

And what can she reveal about the Volt’s Tail Of The Dragon capability? We get some boring information:

Cabin conditions and under-hood temperatures all stand up to the heat and grade challenges put to the battery pack. System testing to date verifies that we can properly balance vehicle requirements such as drive performance, drive feel, thermal conditions and efficiency. Everything we are doing proves the Volt is right on track.

And we also get our moment of inspiration:

As I stood next to the Volt on top of a mountain last weekend, I felt overwhelmingly enthusiastic about its capability. I’m confident that Chevy Volt drivers will feel invigorated like I do by its exciting, smooth, quiet, and fuel-efficient performance.

You know, because it’s her job. But the best (and by best we mean least plausible) detail is saved for last.

For now, I look forward to hitting the open road again – but this time on my Suzuki GSXR 750 motorcyle.  Somehow, I suspect my upcoming vacation to Georgia along some of these same roads will be somewhat less exciting – since nothing will top the experience for me of cruising along in a high performance electric car.

The implication is that the Cruze econobox-based Volt is somehow more fun than what is widely considered to be the best road-going supersport bike on the market. And even if that were true (it’s not) the GSXR750 starts under $12K. Oops.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!


26 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 163: Sportier Than a GSXR...”

  • avatar

    Yeah nothing beats doing the Tail of the Dragon in an electric car, fo’ shizzle.

    Alex, clearly someone need to tell you this, so: you’re such a cool guy.

    Mmm hmm.

  • avatar

    I went to Gatlinburg TN with a few of my friends in early August. We were on our way to a popular swimming spot in the mountains and I knew I saw this. I was waiting for something to pop up. I’m definitely not saying it was shredding the road like a gsxr, but it was there. Why on earth they would they be testing it on mountain twisties when apparently they haven’t worked out the ICE problems is beyond me.

  • avatar

    I can’t wait to get mine! (so much for the boxster)

  • avatar

    The implication is that the Cruze econobox-based Volt is somehow more fun than what is widely considered to be the best road-going supersport bike on the market.

    It depends on your definition of fun. I thought going downhill in a Prius, with the engine shut off and the battery charging, was actually pretty cool.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a (Toyota) Corolla,”

    I would say, that is true, but we should not forget Mencken’s axiom that no one ever went broke by underestimating the taste of the American people.

    “As I stood next to the Volt on top of a mountain last weekend, I felt overwhelmingly enthusiastic about its capability.”

    Seeing if it had enough juice to get to the top, was a real thrill. Otherwise he was going to have to walk home.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Or heck, an Electric Supermoto:

    Electrics will probably be far more on the bikes than the cars. The Zero is almost a fully usable bike (range should be 40% further, top speed 20% higher, the cost 20% cheaper, and you’d be there!)

  • avatar

    Audi of America Johann De Nysschen calls the Volt “a car for idiots,” in an MSN interview. “No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a (Toyota) Corolla,” he tells Lawrence Ullrich.

    Perhaps he speaks from experience…after all, the public has avoided his A3 model, a $30,000 subcompact that makes the Corolla look like a freakin’ limo inside, like plague.

  • avatar

    Wow, I dont have a volt but I do have a gixxer 600. Its my track bike but still street ridden. I’d have to say… no!

  • avatar

    It’s going to be a riot of hilarity if Tesla S beats Volt to market, costs less, and is actually electric.

  • avatar

    Nobody thought anyone would pay a big premium over a Corolla for a Prius either…..

    Just sayin.

  • avatar

    Yes I’m sure “flying” up the road in an electric car with an ICE backup engine taking turns fast is exhilarting as hitting 0-60 in just over 3 seconds on a gsx-r 750.

    And on a long road trip that exceeds the volt’s electric range, I’d wager a gsx-r ridden at 60-80mph would get very near the same/better gasmileage of the volt @ higher speeds.

  • avatar

    I just had this same conversation with a retired UAW family member. He was excited about the Volt.

    I mentioned to him that:
    1) Toyota/Honda have had hybrids for sale for 10 years now and have developed their systems.
    2) You could almost buy the Prius AND the Insight for the price of one Volt.
    3) GM is not known for fully developing their vehicles before releasing them for sale. Witness the Camaro and Lacrosse issues at launch. And they’ve built regular combustion engine cars before. The Volt is all-new technology for them. Ponder that thought.
    4) Most folks outside Detroit are angry that their tax dollars were used to keep a failing company alive. Last month’s sales for GM lend support to this theory. 15% sales drop from last year WITH cash 4 clunkers… wow.
    5) For $40k you’re approaching entry-level BMW/Benz/Lexus territory.

    In summary, the GM faithful will buy a few Volts. Nobody else will.

  • avatar

    The naysayers have a mountain of data to back up their skepticism toward the Chevrolet Volt. GM’s given us so many reasons to doubt them on the Volt. GM’s let down their customers so many times, for so many years. I can’t possibly make a realistic case as to why the Volt is going to be a success.
    However, I’m rooting for GM and the Volt anyway.

    Yikes, I guess this means I’m out of touch with reality!

  • avatar

    “No one is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a (VW) Passat,”

    Oh wait… Audi A4? De Nysschen is so full of himself….

  • avatar

    I guess Johann doesn’t want any Volt owners to buy an Audi for their other car. Only an IDIOT would say such a thing.

  • avatar

    Perhaps someone should hand Mr. Cattelan a towel.

    He’s still got some “marketing” on his face.

  • avatar

    THe “winding roads of Knoxville, Tennessee” does NOT equate to Tail of the Dragon. There are companies which set up along the TOTD and snap photos of anything that drives past. Find out what day he drove those roads and we can check those photos to see if he really drove a Volt on TOTD. I’m guessing not.

    Besides, since they won’t let it run with the ICE providing the juice, how could he get there? There are few places to gas up in that area, and even fewer places with a handy 220V plug to recharge!

  • avatar

    I think I know what is going to happen. GM is betting that the government is going to make sure the Volt doesn’t fail.

    GM’s ex-CEO Waggoner and the BoD bet the company that the government would bail them out and prevent them from going out of business. That is why they never made the hard decisions and corrections that were (and still are) needed. GM was right. They were deemed “Too big to fail”.

    GM is playing the same strategy for the Volt. They are betting the government is going to pay GM $15-20K in subsidies per Volt sold. It may not be done directly. I think it will be done indirectly via the massive cash infusions GM gets from the federal tax tit.

    That is why GM is so confident it will sell and be competitive. They know they have an ace up their sleeve and Congress by their short hairs.

  • avatar

    Jerome10 — the base Prius “II” is about $22K, and comparable Corolla LE is about $16.5K, a difference of about $5.5K. That really isn’t that much, especially since they’re not really competing in the same segment.

    The Volt, however, is in a completely different price range. The $15K premium is relative to other hybrids, not the Corolla. At $40K, the premium over similarly sized and spec’ed gas-only hatches is now closer to $23K.

  • avatar

    Oh, I know. Much bigger price difference Corolla-Volt.

    But I think most folks thought nobody would pay a 5k premium either, and hundreds of thousands did and continue to.

    Don’t underestimate how much someone is willing to pay to be “green”…and make sure their neighbors are well aware of it.

    Going Green is the preferred method of conspicuous consumption these days. Just like the navigator or Suburban of the 1990’s or the Saab or BMW of the 80’s, or the enormous Cadillac of the 60’s and 70’s.

  • avatar

    I would think anyone that has purchased solar panels for their house is a potential Volt customer. Financial payback is not part of the equation.

  • avatar

    Johann De Nysschen calls the Volt “a car for idiots,”
    Kettle, meet pot.

  • avatar

    The implication is that the Cruze econobox-based Volt is somehow more fun than what is widely considered to be the best road-going supersport bike on the market.

    Gixxers are nice bikes, but even my friends with GSX-R 1000s say the Hayabusa is the “best road going supersport bike on the market”. Technically the ‘Busa is part of the GSX-R line (Autoblog had a blurb on the new GSX-R 125cc, which is kind of a cool idea – but then I tell my sportbike friends that I’d love to have a 250cc racing bike and ride it on the road), but both the 1300 first gen or current 1350 Busa are seriously faster than the 750 Gixxer.

    Me? I think serial hybrids are cool ideas but I think I’d rather have a John Player Special Norton Commando than either a Volt or a GSX-R.

    But what do I know? I always thought my brother’s ’63 Mini was more fun to drive than my ’66 Elan. While the Elan was a superbly handling car and faster too, the Mini was just a Mini and if it got wrecked, it wasn’t a Lotus.

  • avatar
    tcwarnke (of GM)

    Alex Cattelan is female.  The post should be updated to reflect this.

  • avatar

    When a person is paid to support a position, they will say anything this proves it.

    Al Gore is more proof

    Scientists that are paid to find support data for global warming

    I could go on but,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Budda-Boom: Something very similar happened to me about 20 years ago. I dared to pass an slow-moving Allegheny...
  • stuntmonkey: I’m seeing a quiet but steady proliferation of the Corolla Sedan in my area, only a handful of...
  • Manta9527: This is a sad state of affairs … as if Marchionne doesn’t have enough problems to deal with. :(
  • 28-Cars-Later: I’d have to compare specs to a Tahoe, but the GX is at least of similar size and it sells well...
  • I_like_stuff: I’m sure Mr. Gagne is un upstanding citizen. Probably volunteers at an orphanage every Sunday too.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote


  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States