Bob Lutz may have left GM, but TTAC’s not through with the man of Maximum just yet. One quote in particular, from an “exit interview” with gm-volt.com, exemplifies the kind of candor that seems likely to disappear from GM along with Lutz. Possibly for good reasons. Well, good PR reasons, anyway. After all, with Lutz unable to deny that GM will lose money and/or battle sticker shock with its forthcoming Volt EREV, he’s the kind of guy who will tell the unspeakable truth instead of playing coy like a good PR man. To wit:
How do we get the cost down without in any way diminishing the value of the car in the eyes of the customer? By just doing some more elegant engineering than we did the first time around where we inadvertently did some belt and suspenders stuff because we wanted to move fast. Now as we look back at the car we say ‘gee I wish we’d done his different,’ …’ gee I wish we’d done that different’ because this is a very expensive solution and we could have done that for a lot less money.
That faint sound you just heard was Ed Whitacre expelling fillet of rattlesnake out his nose after reading that little nugget. Meanwhile, you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth: the Mk.1 Volt will be expensive, unprofitable, and unpolished. Or, to use a PR term, “belt and suspenders.”
But don’t worry, there’s more. But hell, this Bob Lutz we’re talking about… you knew there was more:
Gen two will have all these intelligent cost saving things built in. Ultimately there’s no question that we will make some money on the Volt.
On pricing, its going to be higher than people would normally expect to pay for a car of that size, but on the other hand there’s a federal credit of $7500. Many states are now talking about credits, some cities are talking about credits, and some employers are offering credits, like Google.
So that at the end of the day if somebody has a federal credit, a California credit or whatever state, a major urban credit, and she works for Google, she’ll wind up writing a five thousand dollar check and getting a Volt.
Can you see the ad now? “Do you have a job? Do you have five thousand dollars? Well, come on down to Maximum Bob’s House of Volts, where you don’t buy a car… the government does.” And, in typical GM fashion, though the marketing come-on has already been committed to memory, there are still a few things to work out. Specifically, the “some restrictions may apply” part.
Without committing to [a] ten year or 150,000 [battery] warranty basically we are very very confident in the capability and the life of this battery in all but the hottest climates. So it could be that in certain very hot climates where people leave this thing in a baking supermarket parking lot all day, these lithium ion batteries, if they get much over 95 or 100 degrees Fahrenheit, they quickly start losing life. So we may have to adjust warrantees, but we really haven’t decided how to do that yet.
Too bad GM didn’t have time to do its two years of “customer experience optimization” testing until after the Volt goes on sale in California. At least it never gets too hot in California, right? But, as Lutz himself told Newsweek back in December of 2007
If some Silicon Valley start-up can solve this equation, no one is going to tell me anymore that it’s unfeasible.
You know, eventually.