By on October 14, 2010

TTAC’s long been used to playing the “heel” of the auto journalism world, and sure enough, our skeptical approach to the Chevy Volt is already renewing accusations that TTAC “hates GM.” For the record, this accusation doesn’t fly. We have the tendency to obsess on GM because that company’s rise and fall is the most compelling story in the automotive world. To read GM’s history is to watch a person claw their way up a cliff by his bootstraps, and upon reaching the top, spend the next several decades strangling himself with the very same bootstraps. I challenge anyone who is interested in the world of cars to look away from that.

In any case, our Volt coverage has focused thus far on dispelling myths, so in the interest of seeking the truth everywhere, I thought we should take a moment to make a few Volt myths of our own. After all,  despite planning to build only “10-15k” Volts next year and 60k in 2012, Automotive News [sub] says

Chevrolet is taking its message to a mass-market audience with television commercials during World Series broadcasts.

And even though my personal and professional obligations to the truth make me the worst marketing candidate ever, I may just have an idea of where to start…

The Volt was conceived around a simple vision: 40 miles of gas-free driving, and gas-powered operation thereafter. The problem, as I have noted elsewhere, is everything else. Most significantly, the price and presentation of accurate mileage ratings. Though GM is in the “final throes” of getting EPA approval for a Volt-appropriate window sticker, GM’s Doug Parks admits that

it’s possible the [electric range] figure will be below the 40 mile range that GM had long advertised… [because] “We’re kind of hoping we’ll over deliver.”

Still, after several years of throwing the 40-mile range number around, backing away for marketing purposes (even if real-world range meets or exceeds it) will be a tough pill to swallow. Besides, there’s still the issue of the gas-mode (aka Charge Sustaining, or CS mode) efficiency. What’s GM’s position on that important metric?

Parks said on gasoline-only mode, the Volt is currently getting in the “mid to high 30s” on a combined city/highway driving.But it’s not clear yet what figures the EPA will assign on the vehicle’s gasoline-only range.

Manfully admitted. And that brings us to an elegant solution: if the Volt’s EV range is 35 miles (conservatively… mustn’t underdeliver), and the CS mode efficiency is (roughly) 35 MPG, the Volt is a 35 mile-per-gallon car, in which “the first gallon of gas is free.” Which must make the ideal Volt marketing tagline
It’s a 35 MPG car… but the first gallon of gas is on us*
*except that it’s electricity, not gas, and you have to buy it yourself
Unfortunately that manages to seem both overly honest and misleading at the same time. Although it might be more usable than my previous attempt
If G.M. were honest, it would market the car as a personal donation for, and vote of confidence in, the auto bailout.
Did I mention that I would be a horrible marketer? Let’s hear your quick, coherent pitch for the Volt.
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95 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Sell Me on The Chevy Volt...”

  • avatar

    TTAC’s long been used to playing the “heel” of the auto journalism world, and sure enough, our skeptical approach to the Chevy Volt is already renewing accusations that TTAC “hates GM.” For the record, this accusation doesn’t fly.

    I won’t comment one way or the other.  It’s your website.  All I’ll say is those who issue vociferious denials of this sort aren’t terribly compelling. 

    This is unseemly.  Drive the car (next week is it?) and judge for yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      those who issue vociferious denials of this sort aren’t terribly compelling.  This is unseemly.
      Just setting the record straight. It’s dangerous for a site with a mission like TTAC’s when people start confusing rigor with bias. Or skepticism with “hate.” Everyone’s free to believe what they want, but I highly doubt TTAC would be around today if our core shared value were nothing more than “hatred” for or bias against any automaker.
      Drive the car (next week is it?) and judge for yourself.
      That’s the plan.

    • 0 avatar

      I will comment on that one. I’ve been a professional journalist for three decades. I suspect Ed is one of the most intellectually honest journalists around, and someone who tries hard to get it right. Intellectual honesty is not all that common in the world of journalism–or anywhere else in the world of H. sapiens. Ed’s refusal to pander to Fox’s lust for blood in the interview following the pres’ press secy’s mention of him is a case in point. It would have been easy to do, and would have probably guaranteed more appearances on that fine network. A major part of TTAC’s value arises from the rigor and skepticism in Ed’s approach.

    • 0 avatar

      +1.  Maintaining relations with the industry AND providing honest criticism are NOT mutually exclusive. Does it take diplomacy and unusually well-developed editorial skills? Undoubtedly, and especially for TTAC with all of the bridges Farago burned. It’s not the skeptical approach to GM per se; it’s the skeptical approach to the entire industry, lumping the established media in with them, that’s unseemly.
      Does the sterile rectitude of the voice-crying-in-the-wilderness stance justify being perpetually last in providing empirical input to the readership? When your access seems more dependent on the good will of dealer salespeople than corporate marketing departments?

    • 0 avatar

      TTAC has a quest for truth.
      As such, reporting on GM, and lately its government bed partner, almost has to end up with pessimistic editorials.
      The nature of anything government gets involved with will likely force some ugly truths to the surface and create bad feelings.
      But TTAC and bloggers voice equally unhappy feelings about Chrysler’s relationship and products as well.
      It’s hard to sound cheerful when your doing the play by play of Custer’s Last Stand!

      Can’t sell you on the Volt.
      I can’t sell my self on it…yet.

      I did stop by to see the Juke today.
      Couldn’t drive but it doesn’t look bad.
      My wife and son loved the look.
      It did seem to have an awfully small storage area behind the rear seat.
      Looking forward to a review and a test drive.

    • 0 avatar

      Seriously though, what is there to judge? In effect it seems like reviewers are being asked to make some sort of metaphysical/spiritual judgment on the value proposition of the Volt.

      At the end of the day the Volt is basically a hybrid Cruze (with seating for one less person).  The Cruze is a $25k car, the Volt is a $41k car.  When judged as a car, I would be stunned if the Volt is significantly better or worse than the Cruze. But the Volt effectively comes with a “free” gallon of gas per charging.  So, call that a fuel savings of $400-$800 a year.

      Why pay $16k more up front to save $400-$800 a year?

      I just don’t understand what value proposition the Volt is supposed to represent. Being able to charge it up every day and not buy gas is kind of cool but it doesn’t turn a $25k car into a $41k.  I’m prepared to be proven wrong, but the Volt just seems to be marketed at the “I’ve got more money than common sense” buyer.

      No way I can sell anybody on the Volt. If I was attracted to this concept I’d recommend the Leaf instead. If I wanted a neat toy I’d just buy a Brammo.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      If I’m not mistake, a Corvette costs more, seats fewer, carries less, and gets even worse mileage. Imagine that!

    • 0 avatar

      So it the Volt GM’s Deadly Sin Number 12 before it is even sold to the public ???

    • 0 avatar

      Zammy’s observation about investing $16K for a return of $0.4-0.8K per year reinforces Honest Ed’s marketing theme of making a contribution to, and a vote of confidence in, the auto bailout. I think you still get up to $7.5K tax credit, but only if you pay that much in tax. That leaves out half the taxpayers completely and a percentage of the other half who don’t pay enough income tax to take full advantage of the credit. Nonetheless, for the self-indulgent prosperous, a return of $0.4-0.8K per year on $8.5K investment looks a lot better.

  • avatar

    We’re from Government Motors, and we’re here to help.  You’ll buy our overpriced hybrid, and you’ll like it, because we say so.  We’re the freaking government, and you’ll do what we tell you!

  • avatar

    Just when you think you’ve lost your faith in GM, when your pension plan has been decimated, your UAW contract terminated, your tax money confiscated. Don’t even bother running this car in the garage.
    The all-new Chevy Volt. You’ll have to kill yourself some other way.

  • avatar

    So where I live I can save a maximum of about $2 each time I charge the Volt.  ($2.68/gal – 8.8 kWh * $0.083/kWh = $1.95)…..which would probably be once a day, assuming I remember…

  • avatar

    12,000 cars? How many Nissan Leaves? Why is the government packing incentives on these pilot programs? Surely there are enough twits to buy up the first year’s production volume at full price.

    • 0 avatar

      Government Motors will sell as many as they can at full sticker “plus” to those who live in places like West Hollywood or the Peoples Republic of Santa Monica and have reasons to buy one other than, “It’s a good car.”  The rest will be bought by Federal, State and Local governments to support the bailout and show they’re doing their part for the environment and “Buying American.”

    • 0 avatar

      I guess the dealers will get the windfall. The taxpayers money will be wasted on the huge incentives no matter what the transaction prices, and the dealers will get the offset on the $7,500 subsidy, $12,500 here in California. If a moron is willing to pay $50K for a Volt or Leaf, the dealer will take it. That the car only costs $41k less $7,500 of tax money will just mean that our money will go to subsidizing the dealers that the Obama administration chose to keep in business with reduced competition. Great.

  • avatar

    How is this car any less practical than a Corvette or a $45,000 crossover, or just about any of the other 100 or so $45,000 car models out there?   If I had $45k for a car and didn’t need a minivan, I’d consider one, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity (and to have fun with hypermiling).  Satisfying curiosity is at least as defensible as satisfying the urge to go 0-60 in 5 seconds versus 8 seconds.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to say essentially what you’ve said. If you throw out the saving money or saving the planet part, it can be argued that it’s a unique toy/gadget to have. Nothing wrong with that. I’m thinking of one of those 10k Brammo electric motorcycles for the same reason. I’m not sure if I’m going to save any money and I don’t care – it’s kind of an interesting plaything.

    • 0 avatar

      The toy factor works for me as well.  Unfortunately, if the Volt hypermilers are anywhere as bad as Prius drivers – look for traffic delays due to idiots who could care less about the normal flow of traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d also buy a brammo if I wanted a toy.  Or even a roeher esuperbike (supposed to be VERY close to a stock 600cc sportbike in performance although probably down about 20hp and up about 100-150 lb-ft of torque).
      I could then buy a stripped down versa for winter and probably still get 35mpg on my 70 mile daily commute.
      I just really can’t see any way the volt could be useful to me.

    • 0 avatar
      martin schwoerer

      Come on everybody, let’s face the fact that most cars are toys, for most people anyway. Strictly utiltarian transport doesn’t sell, unless you’re talking about the Dacias that the U.S. won’t get. Cars satisfy our practical needs to some extent but they need to satisfy our emotional needs as well.
      Just because the Volt has no chance to satisfy your particular emotional needs doesn’t mean that it’s a useless car.

  • avatar

    It’s a 35 MPG car… but the first gallon of gas is on us
    I think that’s an excellent tagline.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with gslippy. excellent tagline. But I’m not impressed with 35mpg or the 35 mile electric range. I don’t get an impression of excellence here, any more than I do with any hybrid outside of the Prius (except ***maybe*** the Fusion–have to see how they hold up over the long haul). If I wanted a plug-in or an EV with a range-extender, I’d wait for the Prius version.

    • 0 avatar

      With the cost of electricity per charge [ (8.8 kWh / .8 charging efficiency) * $0.12/kWh = $1.32], that free gallon is looking mighty close to half a gallon.

  • avatar

    Well Ed, to each his own… but I personally see no problem with publicly vilifying and “hating” an automaker that:

    Glutted the US market with substandard vehicles for 40 years;

    Cost taxpayers billions to salvage, in direct opposition to the majority opinion of that very same taxpaying public;

    Insists on bringing to market a horrid, taxpayer-funded little joke of a vehicle that is twice the price, yet not nearly as practical in the majority of real-world situations, as its primary competition;

    Has the gall to be offended when others rightfully point out these obvious shortcomings;

    Lies outright about the capabilities and quality of its products;

    And, allows the UAW to cling to the American economic system like a malignant, festering tumor.

    It’s time to start calling a spade a spade. “Correctness” and impartiality be damned.

  • avatar

    Sure the Volt may cost $24,000 more than an equally equipped Corolla but you’ll save $500 per year on fuel you’ll never have to buy… Just drive the Volt for 48 short years to recoup your investment!

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      At least you save $500 in gas. You can spend $30k extra on an Escalade compared to an Odyssey, and burn *more* gas in the process.

    • 0 avatar

      SVX pearlie,

      You seem to not understand that a Volt does nothing better than any other compact sedan other that use less gas. An Escalade tows medium duty loads, has luxury features, is available with 4WD, and has more power than an Odyssey. That is why people might justify its purchase. Why would anyone buy a Volt over a Corolla? No reason, unless they don’t understand that compact sedans are mostly purchased for economic reasons while Corvettes and Escalades are not.

  • avatar

    I’m just going to wait for the review. I can understand Ed’s cynicism though, the sheer amount of BS and crap GM have been throwing out into the world about this car is beyond belief. I say that everyone keep quiet until the test drive is over.

  • avatar

    I dunno, Ed…this is kind of like being asked to convince the Pope that God doesn’t exist. The Volt is not the car for everyone…but which car is? What will attract buyers? It is newfangled. It is an American answer to the Prius. It will save money for those with short commutes. It looks newfangled. It is the newest thing on the block.
    Find a car company that does not engage in marketing that strains both credulity and good taste. Find a car company that isn’t propped up or aided in some way by government. You won’t.
    Finally, to paraphrase FDR, Government Motors is a son of a bitch, but it’s OUR sonofabitch.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’m visualizing a commercial.
    Bachelor party guys go out drinking. Groom has a Leaf and best man a Volt. Obviously, they’re the desginated drinkers, and when the night is over, their buddies take them home. The Groom Leaf owner can’t plug in his car because he’s hammered. The next morning, he can’t get to work. loses his job, fiancee calls him a loser and dumps him, wedding is off, money he save by buying the Leaf was spent on a ring, etc. He’s SOL. But Mr. Volt? He can still get to work, wins the Big Account, gets a raise, a promotion, and the hottie in marketing decides she wants him to be her date at the PETA furless hot tub fundraiser.
    Other than that, I can’t think of a reason this car makes sense. If you want to drive it like an electric and save the planet, then just save yourself $15k and get a Leaf. Then take your savings in gas money and use it to pay for the occasional longer-range rental that burns unicorn farts.

  • avatar

    It’s a 35 MPG car… but the first gallon of gas is on us*
    *except that it’s electricity, not gas, and you have to buy it yourself

    These two lines describe the Volt better than any marketing material.

  • avatar

    1st off they have to do mass marketing with the world series and probably the superbowl.  It’s hard to find people that are both wealthy enough and dumb enough to buy one.  So maybe every time they blast 100 million people, they sell 50 cars.
    Regarding the tag line “Chevy Volt.  It’s a super cool name, nobody understands how it works (including us) and if you drive less than 30 miles a day, you can brag that you get 1 billion MPG!”

    • 0 avatar

      It’s hard to find people that are both wealthy enough and dumb enough to buy one.
      The problem is that you can’t be too wealthy. If you’re subject to the AMT, no $7500 from the government. You have to pay full price.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s hard to find people that are both wealthy enough and dumb enough to buy one.”
      Really? Money and brains have a strange relationship with each other. Plenty of Silicon Valley types have little common sense, and I’d imagine they’re the main market for the Volt.

  • avatar

    The Volt City car – you could get 235 mpg!

  • avatar

    The Volt, like any new technology, is expensive right now.  And, like with any new technology, there are people who will pay a premium to have it first.  The current price for the Volt makes it a poor choice if you look at it purely from the perspective of total cost of ownership.  If that’s what you’re looking for, perhaps a Jetta TDI or a used Camry is in your future.  Maybe even a Prius, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    A year from now, however, things will be different.  Let me sell you not on the Volt, but on the idea of a range-extended hybrid.  Most Americans have some sort of commute to their job, which they drive 5 days a week, 265 days a year (unless you’re luckier than I am and have more than 5 days of vacation).  For these people, the idea of the Volt makes sense.  For those 265 days, you drive the Volt to work, and then you drive it home.  At night, you plug it in and it dutifully recharges its battery using off-peak, cheap electricity.  You never use a drop of gasoline, and you laugh at all the luddites filling their tanks out in the cold as you silently whiz by.  And for those occasions when you have to drive a bit more than the usual commute, or if you feel like going a little over the speed limit without watching your battery meter plummet, you don’t have to worry at all because the trusty range extender is there to help.  Try that in a purely electric vehicle, and you’d either find yourself stranded on the side of the highway or waiting a few hours every 100 miles to charge your battery.

    The Volt, in it’s current implementation, doesn’t make a lick of sense.  But, it’s the future.  The price will come down, and the EV range will go up, and when that happens you will want one.  I can’t sell you on the Chevy Volt, but I think that the IDEA of the Volt makes a lot of sense.

    • 0 avatar

      The Volt, in it’s current implementation, doesn’t make a like of sense. But it’s the future. The price will come down, and the EV range will go up, and when that happens you will want one. I can’t sell you on the Chevy Volt, but I think that the IDEA of the Volt makes a lot of sense.

      I agree with you on principle but what we wanted was 200+ mile range on pure electrial charge. I think that was sorta promised based early 230 mile estimates plus the EV1s that GM teased us with in the ’90s. A mass produced and affordable but slower 4 door version of Tesla Motor’s Roadster perhaps. The technology’s out there… The Chevy Volt kinda missed that mark by a Detroit mile.

      The next generation Volt could be using completely different tech borrowed from the Leaf or Tesla so who knows? The whole Volt concept/production was like a multi billion dollar publicity stunt on acid.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent pitch, SpaceyWilly. Remember when the Prius first came out. And for years after. Many, in fact most, criticized both Toyota and anyone who bought one. Toyota for making the Prius. Buyers for buying one.
      GM is getting more of the same. To some degree, criticism of the Volt makes sense. I criticize GM for it too. GM has hyped it much too much. The Volt’s not the “game changer” that GM and others claim it is. More important, GM should be focusing, like a laser beam, on its core business. Not on a high-risk, low-reward, politically-correct project like the Volt.
      But the Volt is the first series hybrid on the roads. That’s a big step. A huge one. And having made that first step, GM now has the jump on everyone. Say what you will about the Volt, it’s engineering is first class. Much better than I expected.
      Even so, GM has plenty of room to improve in efficiency, performance, and cost. Look to the next car like this to be a lot better.
      Not to say that GM will succeed with the Volt. Toyota did a good job with the Prius, but also had a lot of luck. GM is gambling with the Volt. Even if the gamble pays off — and it’s a risky one — the payoff is quite far in the future, and pretty modest for the risk.
      So how would I market the Volt? As the car of the future, today. As the first of a totally new type of car. As cutting edge technology. A car beyond the Prius.
      GM’s letting lots of people test drive the Volt. Lots of reviews have come out. Most seem to like it. I’m looking forward to TTAC’s reaction.

  • avatar

    throw in two tickets on Taggart Transcontinental.

  • avatar

    Electricity is completely free, costs the planet nothing, creates no CO2 or pollution (if you even believe in that global-warming Gore-douche nonsense), giving the Volt well over the conservatively-advertised 230 MPG.
    If you want to be a True patriot to your country and honest Amish union labor, you will spend every last cent of your income and available credit on Chevy Volts and Toby Keith tickets.
    Now get with the F***ing program, Benedict Arnold!
    Glenn Beck

  • avatar

    Buy a golf cart and a vespa.

  • avatar

    My pitch…
    GM hopes there are enough dolts to buy all their volts.
    Same as it always was.

  • avatar

    I don’t think they need to say much more than
    “A very good gas car. A pretty good electric car. All in one package for less than you can buy both, and a unique experience due to advanced technology”

  • avatar

    Here’s a pitch:

    Buy a Volt because every dollar you don’t spend on gas won’t fund a pissed off terrorist taking flight lessons.

    Maybe: Buy a Volt becuase an all electric car fleet will put our government out of the emissions testing buisness.

    or how about: Buy a Volt becuase it’s eleventy trillion times easier and cheaper to upgrade a national power grid to greener energy than it is to chase after every moron who can’t be bothered to maintain their SUV’s emission system.

    Better Yet: Buy a Volt becuase the world is running out of oil, what else are you planning on driving?

    My favorite: Buy a Volt explicitly to piss off TTAC (free bumper sticker with purchase)

    • 0 avatar

      The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska ‘s Prudhoe
      Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign
      oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion
      barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable… at $107 a barrel,
      we’re looking at a resource base worth more than $5..3 trillion.

      “When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see
      their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea..” says Terry Johnson, the Montana
      Legislature’s financial analyst.

      “This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found
      in the past 56 years,” reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It’s a
      formation known as the Williston Basin , but is more commonly referred to as the
      ‘Bakken.’ It stretches from Northern Montana, through North Dakota and
      into Canada .. For years, U. S. oil exploration has been considered a dead
      end. Even the ‘Big Oil’ companies gave up searching for major oil wells
      decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up
      the Bakken’s massive reserves…. and we now have access of up to 500
      billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels
      will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!

      That’s enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 2041 years
      straight. And if THAT didn’t throw you on the floor, then this next one
      should – because it’s from 2006!

      U. S. Oil Discovery- Largest Reserve in the World

      Stansberry Report Online – 4/20/2006

      Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the
      largest untapped oil reserve in the world. It is more than 2 TRILLION
      barrels. On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction. In
      three and a half years of high oil prices none has been extracted. With this
      motherload of oil why are we still fighting over off-shore drilling?

      They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders,
      than all the other proven reserves on earth. Here are the official estimates:

      – 8 – times as much oil as Saudi Arabia

      – 18 – times as much oil as Iraq

      – 21 – times as much oil as Kuwait

      – 22 – times as much oil as Iran

      – 500 – times as much oil as Yemen

      – and it’s all right here in the Western United States .

    • 0 avatar

      @Buickman, technically the Bakken Formation has little actual oil — it’s an oil shale formation.  Once you mine the shale, you then have to process it into synthetic crude oil (see the Fischer-Tropsch process, for example, used by Germany during WWII).
      As to the size of the Bakken, some estimates indicate that only 1% might be recoverable due to the characteristics of the shale.  No one really knows for certain, though.  The CIA Factbook still lists the US reserves in 13th place.

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      @Buickman It is my understanding after reading about extraction of oil from shale that it takes a whole lot of water, which happens to be in short supply in the area of the Rockies where the shale is found. The Colorado river water is dammed and diverted to so many places that it doesn’t make it to the Pacific any more.

      And I must let everyone know reading this that yes, I work for GM as an engineer and this is my own opinion.

    • 0 avatar


      I’ve done further reading myself and you’re right about the water, though it doesn’t seem like something that couldn’t be overcome

  • avatar

    it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the Volt runs best on Kool Aid.

    • 0 avatar

      The Bakken isn’t quite as good as the emails make it out to be:
      Looks like its only good for about 3.6 billion barrels of oil or so – at our current consumption rates that buys us one year – maybe more if we all drive volts.

    • 0 avatar

      Next to Boff’s Pope/God exampe, this is my fav for the night!

      By th way, there is one reason for the Volt.
      But its the same for any electric system…they are supposedly so much better at low end torque.
      I know some on this sight make fun of us low end torque fools, but it is a drug of my choice.

  • avatar

    I see that the TTAC Volt jihad is still going strong. It may be a technological showcase and a major stepping stone in GM product evolution or just a very expensive marketing campaign to convince the public that GM “gets it” but either way, lets see how it evolves and not throw stones before the car is even released.

  • avatar

    “Volt, Watt, Ion – whatever….may the best…er….Extended Range EV win.”*

    *there is only one Extended Range EV in this class.

  • avatar

    The Volt is a turd. Diesel engined cars in Europe get far better mileage. GM is still a candidate for another bankruptcy. Of course, so is Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      I am European.
      I drive >900km  (sometimes I reach 1000km) for every 50 liters of diesel I drop in my Toyota Avensis gas tank.
      That´s 5.5 l/100km, or 42mpg (US gallons).
      My car seats 5, is gigantic by European standards, and was worth 23000€ new.
      I am not very impressed by the Volt.
      Very bad things happen when companies are not allowed to go bankrupt.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Might we not have been better off had GM simply updated the EV1 to use modern batteries and electronics? The Volt suffers from being neither fish nor fowl. It’s EV range is so short that the people who could make good use of it would be even better off taking the public bus or a train. It’s CS fuel economy is worse than that of the Honda Insight, but at double the purchase price.
    The Volt is the ultimate answer to a question very few buyers are actually asking. Yes, GM will sell some to fanboys and fangirls, but then what? The hardcore EV buyers will get a Leaf. The fuel economy obsessed with get a Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      You raise a good question. But I read the EV-1 story to say that people did not like battery electric cars. I don’t think people will like them any more today. Of course, whether people buy the Leaf or not will tell us.
      To me, the Volt seems more likely to succeed because people will see it as being both fish and fowl. The best of both the gasoline and electric worlds. Not the worst.
      That’s the way I see it. I have thought about buying a Volt, and might. I have thought about buying a Leaf, and won’t.

    • 0 avatar

      “I have thought about buying a Leaf, and won’t.”
      No, you won’t because you can’t. The Leaf is sold out, all 20,000. Nissan will start taking orders again next year.

    • 0 avatar

      The Leaf is NOT sold out. They have not sold a single unit yet. All Nissan has done is taken refundable deposits for all 20k units, but as soon as push comes to shove I’ll be there will be plenty available.

  • avatar

    I can’t really sell you on the Volt. It seems intended for what marketers call “early adopters” and you don’t seem to be one.
    There’s the perception of bad GM quality with first year models which remains to be seen if it bypasses that. Any issues with it in the first year, minor or otherwise, will be magnified by the media and word of mouth as being a reason not to buy it. It took several years for the Prius to get its status as the economy car to buy and had Toyota’s reputation for quality to help it, which GM clearly doesn’t. Also putting it under Chevy doesn’t help because Chevy isn’t a make that people aspire to, more of a starting point for buyers which $41K is out of price for Chevy’s typical buyer/market. Better would be to start selling it under Pontiac (alas can’t happen) or Buick.
    I’ll have to re-read the technical stuff, but only 40 miles on electric seems real low. Why can’t it go down to 20 or 15% charge remaining instead of 50%(?), then gas kicks in thus getting a much more useful range in electric only mode for most drivers.

  • avatar

    The Volt is just eye candy to get people into the showroom.   Take a look at it, all nice and shiny, then go test drive and buy a V8 Silverado or a Camaro.

  • avatar

    How about: Buy a Volt because you went to public school.
    Some people are in serious need of thermodynamics study…Storing electrons in chemical goo is really a stupid idea…In fact, I want a fuel cell for my cell phone and laptop.

  • avatar
    M 1

    The funny part is pretending that any of these electro-smug cars are worth a damn yet. The only way I’d come near a Prius is if they make a hearse version shortly before my clock runs out.
    While I’ve read most of the comments on TTAC, I can’t say I’ve read many “accusations that TTAC hates GM” but I guess there wouldn’t be much of Yet Another Frigging Story About the Volt without that assumption. Or maybe it’s hate-mail we don’t see? Either way, wake me up when you find an interesting new non-Volt angle to harp on. The Volt doesn’t get half a million yards per kilowatt, or it costs more than a junk-ass Corolla and is therefore doomed to failure and we can all feel petulant and grumpy come April 15, or whatever the next minor variation of this months-old campaign is going to be. You don’t hate GM, but you do hate the Volt, and you want a pony. We get it.

    As for self-proclaimed noble pursuits of Truth and Justice (am I the only one who felt a little creepy reading that, like maybe Ed needed a box of Kleenex when he was done and my god I didn’t really need to see that?), if you were really that hard-up about the capital-T-Truth, you wouldn’t crow so much about interiors from Lexus.

  • avatar

    Is the EPA sticker going to show the utility costs and emissions emitted at the power plant required to charge her up? Just wait until cap and tax raises the electric rates.
    GE is running feel good ads showing their version of the electric gas pump. Immeltt would love to get GE in the game on this, imagine the cash flow from a captive market like this.

  • avatar

    This Dilbert comic from Oct 15, 2010 seems to capture succinctly what Ed is discussing vis-a-vis GM and the Volt:

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “The Volt was conceived around a simple vision: 40 miles of gas-free driving, and gas-powered operation thereafter.”

    It’s hard for me to sell you on the Volt when you don’t understand what it is. Forget the back-up generator for just a second. GM didn’t pull the 40 mile bogey outy of thin air. BTW if you read up you’ll find most are easily surpassing that getting closer to 50, and I’m not talking about the hyper-milers. Research said that’s what it needed to do to satisfy most peoples daily driving habits. They also determined the limited range would be a major negative for most potential EV buyers. So they added the range extender. But the intent was never to drive it like a Prius or a Ford Fusion hybrid. If they wanted that it would have been much more easy to simply scale down the two-mode system they put in the Tahoe in a small car and let it run with the other crop of hybrids currently available. 

    If your only concern is to save money then forget the Volt. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure the economics aren’t there. Someone in the press did call the Volt a space shuttle due to all the new technology it packs. If you want an electric car that doesn’t need gas welcome to the only one available until the Nissan Leaf come’s out.

    Either way the Volt is a game changer and anyone who can’t see that is just going through life with their head stuck in the sand. As my old boss used to say concerning change, your either a leader, a follower, or your in the F’ing way.  So what are you?…LOL


    • 0 avatar

      How is a limited production car a game-changer? A true game-changer would be something that is in line with current cars’ price and availability. Any current electric vehicle is at best a transitional technology. It’s a stopgap distraction for some other technology, maybe fuel cell maybe something else.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Yeah, rather than go where the market is … GM chose to go where the market isn’t.
      “As my old boss used to say concerning change, your either a leader, a follower, or your in the F’ing way.”
      Ah yes, the Doctrine of Change as preached by many a highly paid MBA. The problem is, some change is good, some change is bad, and some change is a mixed bag. In the end, change is just change, it isn’t ipso facto desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      martin schwoerer

      Or, your boss might have said: you’re part of the problem, or part of the solution, or part of the landscape.

  • avatar

    I agree with Mike.  The Volt is small beer, but GM has to do it, because they said they would build it and – #2 – it keeps their foot in the door for when the next round of technologies come to market.
    For now, the real earners that pay the bills are Silverado, Malibu and LaCrosse.  The second tier which includes the Cruze need to sell well enough not to lose money.  These vehicles need to sell well for GM to stay solvent in the short term.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “For now, the real earners that pay the bills are Silverado, Malibu and LaCrosse.  The second tier which includes the Cruze need to sell well enough not to lose money.  These vehicles need to sell well for GM to stay solvent in the short term”

    Absolutely. No way will the Volt save GM short term. Long term that may be a different story. And a car doesn’t have to sell in droves initially to be a game changer. How many people purchased 10K plus flat screen TV’s when they first came out? How many have them in their homes today? Or for a better comparison. how about the Prius.

    If you think the Volt will have no impact on what other car manufacturers will offer in the next 2-3 years, your kidding yourself. The auto industry as whole has just been changed. Imagine if I lease a Volt next year what will be available at the end of that 3 year lease. Stuff that will blow the current Volt away, some of it by GM.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah maybe a flying car will be mass-market by then and everyone will dress like Star Trek. And no the original $10k flat panels weren’t game changers. Remember, most of them were plasma which is basically a dead technology now. Flat panels didn’t become mass market until cheap LCD screens happened. The original ones did pave the way for current ones but the game wasn’t changed until the technology was mass-market. The Volt isn’t mass market, it has too many caveats including price.

    • 0 avatar

      For those who feel the Volt technology is a game changer, time will tell.  What do you think matters more, the fact that this particular EV technology is different than past EVs under our technical scrutiny or the fact that this technology difference only matters to less than ~5% of us?  I feel this is a big difference in the real world marketing of this car.

      I go back to the original question asked….how the heck do you differentiate the Volt, a Prius and any good $22K 4 cylinder car getting an average or 27mpg in the customers mind?  Very hard to do.

      Lastly, how many vehicles has GM produced and marketed in the last 25 years as game changing?  Saturns were supposed to be the demise of the foreign stanglehold on the small car market; same with Azteks, the CTS, the Fiero, the Chevy Montana, Transport, and on and on.

  • avatar

    When the power grid goes down, you can plug into your Volt to power such household accessories as TV, cable box, computer, microwave, refrigerator, espresso maker, wine chiller, and more.
    Think of it as your own person UPS.

  • avatar

    As mentioned, the difficulty in selling this car to is to explain what it is.  The simplest definition I can give it is a large electric city car.  It’s performance numbers were overhyped by GM at a time when they were desperate to prove to the government that they were worthy of being saved from bankruptcy.  This was the direction they pointed when they needed to argue that they had learned the error of their ways and would move from making un-PC SUV’s to green friendly EV’s.  Now that job #1 of baffling the beaurocrats in DC with enviornmentally friendly BS is done, job #2 of baffling the consumers with economic BS will commence.  I suspect like the Smart for two the Volt will sell about 10,000 units just as a novelty to invididuals, perhaps another 10K as a government fleet car, GM will declare it an unqualified success and drop it out of production in 3 years because its too expensive to build and provide warranty work for it.  At best it gives GM a bit of breathing room in the CAFE standards.

  • avatar

    Let me try again.. Lots of good comments got my juices flowing….
    “Chevy Volt – Enjoy a gas free commute with hassle free touring!”
    And they need to weave in “never worry about gas prices again” “save the planet from the evil of oil” themes.
    I could drive a Volt to/from work every day and would need to put Sta-Bil in the tank once a year if I never took a long trip and I plugged it in each night.

  • avatar

    Let’s start with separating the Volt from GM – GM deserves the criticism, in general, and specifically for the exaggerated claims made about the Volt. The Volt at this time is an unknown factor, as no ordinary citizens have driven it for an extended period.

    If the Volt does as advertised (and that’s a big if at this point), or realistically does 80% of advertised claims, then for some drivers it will deliver the goods. There are lots of drivers in smaller urban areas, or smaller cities (like myself) who only travel 5 miles each way to and from work. If I were to plug in the Volt on Sunday night, I could realistically not have to plug in again until Wednesday night, and I might actually go two or three months without ever putting gas in the car. The reality is that I might not have to fill-up more than four or five times a year, and pay a fraction of the cost of gas for the electricity I would consume.

    For people like myself, who travel much shorter distances, with the occasional longer trip on weekends, the Volt makes some economic sense (albeit at $30K, not $41K, but see, that’s criticism of GM, not the actual car!).

    The second generation of the Volt will be incrementally improved, and lower priced, thereby offering drivers like myself the opportunity to save money not filling up the car every week or two. If the purchase price was more in line with the Prius, the Volt would be a no-brainer.

    Also, if the Volt was from BMW or Toyota, would the criticism be as intense? Probably not. GM has been delivering far better product for the past five years than I ever thought was possible, and it’s possible that the Volt will be well built and well engineered; far exceeding standards from just a short decade ago.

    While I do believe that criticism of GM is valid, to criticise the Volt because of GM bankruptcy is folly. Let’s judge the car on it’s merits or failings separate from GM, because there is a market for this car, and I think it falls in between the Leaf, with it’s inherent range anxiety, and the Escalade with it’s propensity for consuming vast quantities of fossil fuel.

    That’s my 2¢ for now.

    • 0 avatar

      separate it from GM and it’s even a worse maneuver. who else could sustain such massive losses? would else would even with government subsidies?

    • 0 avatar

      I travel small distances for work too, and an EV isn’t out of the question if it is practical.  I don’t see a $40K plus car for the purpose of driving 3-10 miles a day as a way of saving money.  Better I bought an economical used car for that.  If the Volt were from BMW or Toyota I think the criticism would be similar in as much as the Prius has been a whipping post for years and there’s been no love lost on the TTAC threads over the recent unpleasantness that Toyota has been going through.   The BMW ActiveHybrid 7 series’ MSRP starts out $30 thousand more than the standard 7 series and only shows a 4mpg improvement in the city and a 7 mpg improvement on the highway.  That’s makes less sense than the difference between the Volt and the Cruze. 

      I don’t think you can separate the Volt’s merits from GM’s folly; the company that was too big to fail designed and built a car that was too overblown conceptually to abandon for something simpler and easier.  

    • 0 avatar

      Sure, and lots of people buy cars that make far less sense than a Volt. What makes the Volt a possible game-changer are the hundreds of thousands of people like myself; those who will travel short distances during the week, but make longer trips on weekends, and a Leaf can’t go more than 100 miles. When I go to the lake, I will travel the first half hour on electricity only and the last two hours in charge-sustaining mode. I will use approximately a half-tank of fuel each weekend, yet use none at all during the week. If the Volt does 80% of what GM claims, it fills a need for me that no other car can. Unfortunately I’m not willing to spend $41K for the privilege.

      Are there 10,000 people willing to spend $41K for the Volt? Yes, and I bet there will be even more than that willing to spend $350 per month on a lease and wait out the three years until Generation II is ready, probably at a lower price and with better range and mileage.

      Regardless of what you feel about GM, if the Volt is as good or better than what GM has made in the past five years, it may be a true game-changer, and you better believe there are a lot of nervous car companies watching the ongoing saga.

      I see a need for both the Leaf and the Volt, and suspect that each will find enough buyers, enough to continue refining the technology until Generation II. I also think that the Volt might even be evidence of some long term thinking within GM lower management and engineering echelons, as in “let’s get the Volt and it’s future technology out there to show the world we can really engineer cutting edge stuff”.

      Again, let me reiterate, I am no GM fanboi, and I curse the names of Roger Smith, Rick Wagoner et al, but there lurks within the Volt an opportunity for GM to prove that the world’s former largest automaker is not down and out for the count.

      I am taking a wait and see attitude towards the Volt, because I don’t know if it’s what GM says it is, but I do know that so far, there’s not any in the hands of customers, so any claims that the B&B are making are opinions only, certainly not facts. I say let’s wiegh the merits of the car, on the merits of the car, and if the day comes when you can tell me “I told you so!”, I will admit that I was wrong. Really, all I’m trying to say is that it’s far too early to call it a complete failure or roaring success.

  • avatar

    Two guys commuting home, one in a Volt, one in a Leaf.  Both go low on battery.  They both park and plug in.  Unfortunately, as they plug in, both of their pregnant wives run out, water broken.  Leaf guy, screwed.  Volt guy unplugs, drives off.  Leaf guy has to call a taxi.  Tagline: “Volt, the electric car with it’s own backup.”  Ok the tagline sucks, but you get my point.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, utilities say that taxing the local grid is a very real issue. If four or five drivers come home and plug in at the same time, it could cause a brownout or blackout on a local transformer that serves about 10 or 12 houses, said Tony Early, the CEO of utility DTE Energy.

    That’s from an article on cnet:

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      From the same article
      “He said utilities will be able to find out which neighborhoods will have a concentration of electric cars and upgrade their transformers to handle the bigger load, or they can install smart meters which allow people to charge during off-peak times.

      Read more:”

  • avatar

    Tune in, turn on, drop fifty billion.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly…  It’s a joke.. GM is a joke and EV cars are a joke.
      A few simple concepts that people just don’t want to admit.
      1) GM could be gone and it would be no big deal.  I’m so tired of all the “but what about all those jobs”.  Hear me now! “NOT A SINGLE REAL JOB WOULD BE LOST.. NOT ONE.. NADA.. ZERO”   We the consumers would still buy the same number of cars and we would just buy them from other manufactures that would ramp up production to meet demand.  Sure many people woud be hurt and many others would be helped.  That’s called winning a losing..  Remember when everyone didn’t get a trophy?  Well if you don’t, you will soon.. Very soon…
      2)  THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF OIL.. Won’t be for thousands of years.  So what if shale oil is hard to deal with.  How much do you want to make the business model work?  $5 / gallon? Fine.  How about $10?  No problem.  People will pay and be happy to pay compared to the alternative.
      3) Your worried about killing the planet with oil use?  Well global warming “science” only gets weaker as people dig into it more.  Why is that?
      4)  There will always be a market for people with special needs.  For example “I have a great life.  I live in a nice home and wonder what type of college my kids should go to.  10 generations ago my family lived in a sewer, literally.  So I need to feel bad about stuff.  I’ve chosen to feel bad about killing mother earth and I ignore facts and data that would prevent me from feeling bad.  I watched Avatar 50 times and I’m still crying about it.  The more I pay for an EV the less guilty I am.  Can I get that with 20% interest?”

  • avatar

    I just got back from a short vacation in Paris. While I was not there for the auto show, I did enjoy seeing all of the local automotive fauna. Yesterday it struck me that we Americans are trapped. We’re trapped by a combination of circumstances and perceptions that prevent us from considering other options of motive transport, both  car-based non-car-based. Paris streets are full of really interesting, often cute, often attractive small cars. Yet the inevitable “what happens when it gets hit by a Silverado” question comes up. This question ignores the fact that there are a lot of very large heavy vehicles that operate on the roads of Europe, many much bigger than a Silverado. Our perceptions blind us to possibility. We’re trapped by gas prices that are nominally cheap yet sometimes very expensive. This is exceptionally disruptive both politcally and economically. We’re trapped by our disdain for public transit which, as anyone who lives where it is well-run and well-thought out knows is a fine way to get around. It was incredibly liberating to not have to worry about having a couple of beers in Monmartre and getting safely back to Montparnasse afterward. I could go on and on.
    I believe that the question here gets to the heart of this problem. Mr. Niedermeyer is asking us to come up with some way to convince him of the value of the Volt. A number of us have no problem coming up with arguments that are compelling. And so we come to the crux: we need more options. The point is not to consider the Volt to be a failure if we fail to sell Mr. Niedermeyer on it, the point is to convince him that enough people think it to be worth the effort and the money. Marketing is not only about meeting the perceived needs of the marketplace, it’s also about identifying and developing untapped and new areas of the market. The Volt may well fail. GM is certainly not short on hubris. But they are to be applauded for offering what might very well turn out to be a viable alternative for many people, thereby, possibly, creating part of the future.
    When thinking the importance of moving people around, consider this: If one were to all up all the profits and losses of the airline industry over its entire history, it’s a huge net loss. Yet it has not gone away. The reason is that the real value of something can’t always be measured in a typical P&L.

  • avatar

    Bias or no bias, the truth about cars often is very negative.
    Having said that, being critical is fine, but repeatedly bringing out the same horse to beat (like the New York Times and Fox News do) often leads to accusations of bias.
    Just because you say you are “fair and balanced” doesn’t mean you are. TTAC should look in the mirror and see that while much of the auto industry and the media has herpes, you yourself have some warts as well.
    OK, let’s talk electric cars. All electric cars, despite mankind’s best efforts are flawed. There are still severe limitations to EV, chief among them the energy density and energy capacity of battery packs. The interesting thing that no one talks about is that even if the battery capacity/density miraculously doubles tomorrow, that introduces a deal-breaking problem: the time it takes to charge the car would be more than 24 hrs! This is why The Volt, despite detractors pointing out that it has an inelegant series hybrid system and it’s 30 mile E-only range, is an engineering tour de force. It is by early accounts the first Electric car that behaves like and has comparable utility to an I.C.E. car.
    The Nissan Leaf takes 16-20 hours to charge on a 110 V socket.
    Why is it worth gov’t money to develop this type of vehicle? Well let me just turn the question around for  a moment.  If we don’t invest Gov’t money in this, will progress in the cause of electric motoring proceed in a swift fashion?
    EVs may turn out to be a red herring ala fuel cells, but EVs are indeed tantalizingly close to being an efficient alternative to I.C.E.V.’s. TTAC has pointed out the negatives ad nauseum. What are the positives?
    1. Electric engines are cheaper than I.C.E’s
    2. Electric engines are more efficient than I.C.E.’s
    3. EV’s use coal, natural gas and even renewable energies as fuel. If and when EVs are used on a grand scale, the net effect would be a strategic advantage for America over oil-producing nations.
    On the negative side, EVs are prohibitively expensive. Computers were prohibitively expensive in the 70s. Cell phones were prohbitively expensive in the 80s.
    I’m not naive enough to think that EV’s will scale to such a magnitude, but on the positive side, EVs as they are now are NOT outrageously expensive; there exist I.C.E’s that are more expensive than the current set of EV’s. Society is within striking range of a truly affordable practical EV. The truth is that we as car enthusiasts should be leading the charge in at least giving this thing a shot.
    Let’s not sit around with hands folded at every sign of progress or be unaffected by every stab at excellence and progress ala Pitchfork. (If you’ve never heard of them, there’s a reason why.)

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      If we don’t invest Gov’t money in this, will progress in the cause of electric motoring proceed in a swift fashion?
      Swifter fashion in fact with no govermental money involved.
      Look at the “progress” of space travel when govermental money is involved: 35 years of Space Shuttle, an overpromisig-underdelivering spaceship that was a turkey from year one.
      No govermental money was required to create the Prius, nor the Leaf..

    • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    Another ad idea came to mind…
    Show a guy filling up his 40 foot RV.  Guy drives up in a Volt.  RV guy walks over and says “Thank you.”  Gives the Volt guy a big hug.  Says “I’m a GM retiree and you are helping keep the checks flowing which pay for this RV.  Also you pay a huge premium to use electricity instead of gas which means your subsidizing the 75 gallons I just put in this bad boy!  God Bless you!”

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