By on October 4, 2010

My time at TTAC has been full of surprises. Some days it seems that every hour holds a new, more gob-smacking shocker. But the surprise I received today, when I learned that I had been invited to the Volt’s press launch later this month, was one of the least expected and most gratifying to date. After all, not only has TTAC been a longtime critic of GM as a whole, but the Volt has been a special target for us since its conception, even earning its own category in our news blog. I’ve even criticized the Volt project (as opposed to the car itself) in the print media, drawing the ire (of sorts) of the White House press secretary. In the old GM, the very idea of rewarding our relentless criticism, questioning and second-guessing with access to the car itself would have been unthinkable. But today one GM rep explained to me that

The Volt’s been attacked at one point in time by just about everyone. Opinions of the vehicle have been all over the map, but fortunately we now have vehicles for people to drive and experience themselves rather than having to defend it with words and Powerpoint

That GM believes strongly enough in its most high-profile car to allow its most strident critic to drive it marks a material break from past practice (documentation of which abounds in TTAC’s archives, but here’s an especially infamous example). Allowing products (especially a controversial, high-profile car like the Volt) to speak for themselves before their harshest critics speaks to a much-improved culture taking hold at The General. This doesn’t mean the problems are over for the RenCen, but it shows that GM’s new managers are building for the future on a solid foundation of accountability. And that is a big enough deal to warrant a tip o’ the hat.

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23 Comments on “TTAC Invited To Volt Launch...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    And of course, TTAC will attend and return the favor by reviewing the car.  Period.  No side editorial comments, no political pronouncements, just a straight forward review of the car itself.  I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I will, eagerly, review this car in exchange for some seat time.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I hope this is the beginning of a new confidence at GM, rooted in performance and accomplishment rather than denial and arrogance.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    “Allowing products (especially a controversial, high-profile car like the Volt) to speak for themselves before their harshest critics speaks to a much-improved culture taking hold at The General.”

    “GM’s new managers are building for the future on a solid foundation of accountability.”

    A gilt-edged invitation to the Volt launch and you go weak in the knees? I can’t believe I’m reading this here.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know from weak in the knees, but I’m strong enough in the head to know when to recognize change. Again, I’m not saying “GM is all better now,” I’m simply noting progress from the days when inviting as relentless a critic of the Volt as myself would have been unthinkable. If you can’t see the improvement, you either need to read more history or get yourself checked for stage-3 bias (aka “Silvy Syndrome”). Remember, we’re trying to tell the truth about cars here.
      I’d like to think it goes without saying, but yes, I am attending this event to review the car, period. TTAC doesn’t need a re-hash of the Volt’s long, tortured history, it needs a review of the car itself. We have archives aplenty for those who want to fight the battles of the past, and I’m sure we’ll have more news and analysis about the Volt project on an ongoing basis. In the meantime, this is about getting a sense of what this car is really like to drive, and reviewing it as accurately, incisively and seriously as possible.
      But don’t stop questioning me Daanii… TTAC thrives on accountability. Which once again explains why I think this is a good sign for GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      I mean no offense. But it seems to me that GM inviting you to attend the Volt press event means very little. I don’t think it was a decision made very high in the GM management ranks. Nor do I think that it reflects a new culture of accountability taking root at GM.
       
      But that’s just my opinion. I may well be wrong.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Can’t wait for this! Tomorrow morning will be interesting. Let me know how far the rear windows roll down!

  • avatar
    mtypex

    All I can say is that I’m really sorry.
    However, given that GM’s left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, it’s not surprising.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Hey Ed, despite the savaging you’ve done to the Volt, do you think the glowing review (by TTAC standards) you have done on the Cruze could have had an impact on opening up this door to you?  TTAC did review the Cruze “on its own merits,” to paraphrase GM and gave it very high marks. I had to double check I was still on TTAC when I read the post. ;-)
     
    From people who have actually had wheel time in a Volt, I haven’t heard much negative.  I haven’t driven a Cruze but did get to spend a lot of time crawling around a pre-production LTZ model and was, well, honestly, blown away on just how darn good it was inside and out.  I would have loved to have drive it.  Pictures really don’t convey how good the inside is and I suspect the Volt may be the same case.
     
    We’ll see – the $41K starting price is still painful, and there are huge questions on MPG, and it doesn’t seem like the Volt will come close to its 100 MPG gas/electric combined benchmark from two to three years ago.
     
    Your insight would be appreciated.

    • 0 avatar

      do you think the glowing review (by TTAC standards) you have done on the Cruze could have had an impact on opening up this door to you?
      I have no idea. If it were as simple as GM PR thinking that a good Cruze review must equal a good Volt review, I’d guess they might have specified Baruth as the reviewer. And they’d be dumber than they seem. Both Jack and myself are reasoning, independent-minded, critical adults, and we know we’ll have to explain our conclusions to the B&B. There’s no room at TTAC for pre-determined conclusions.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’d love to see Baruth power slide a Volt off the track.  I believe GM reps on hand would actually physically soil themselves.

    • 0 avatar

      Jack would make the brake fluid boil on it before that.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      A hybrid or EV actually has some real track potentional.  On the kinds of tracks that you’d burn pads or boil fluid you’ll also reclaim a lot of kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost to, well, flames.
       
      It’s not going to perform miracles, but on a sufficiently tight track the torque advantage of an electric motor and the reclaimed power could go a long way.

  • avatar

    they probably realized that your criticism is not gratuitous, especially after your appearance on Fox.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, congratulations to both you and GM.  You have a tough job with this one, it seems to me, because, unlike the case with so many cars, there are two big issues to consider with this one: the concept and the execution.
    The concept is unique: a plug-in hybrid biased towards all-electric operation to the degree that short-distance commuters can avoid using gasoline at all, but the presence of the gasoline engine powered generator means that its range is the same as a gasoline-only powered car.  Will there really be a demand for this kind of vehicle?  Will the compromises in the execution (or the high price) make it unattractive?
    The execution will be interesting, too.  Electric cars have their attractiveness as city cars, to be sure; but how well does the Volt do as a gasoline-powered car, once the battery is exhausted?   Is it a car that you really wouldn’t want to drive, say, from Los Angeles to San Francisco on the interior route, up the Grapevine Hill?
    Theoretically, I would be the ideal purchaser for this car.  I use my car for a daily commute of less than 5 miles, in city traffic and only occasionally make long drives on the highway.  For trips with the dog and my adult children, there’s the “primary car” a Honda Pilot.  Problem is, for the limited number of miles I drive, fuel economy is a non-issue.  So, the Volt would be a pure “fashion statement” car for me; just like my Z3 is a different kind of fashion statement.  Economy of operation doesn’t fit into the equation; just purchase price.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The real test of this car is how well it runs after the battery runs down. How long does it take for a passing maneuver like 30-50 mph or 60-80 mph?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’d hazard that the real test is how long before that becomes necessary, and if battery performance degrades signficantly (like the original Insight and Civic Hybrid) or doesn’t (like the Prius) over time.
       
      If the Volt hardly ever goes into generator mode under normal commuting distances, the performance under that mode is moot.

  • avatar
    campocaceres

    good sir, i understand you’ve been away from the internet for a week (which may as well be a year) and thusly been cleansed of its cynicism and negativity.  but seriously, are you singing praise of a changed GM culture just because you’ve been invited to a launch event and fed the “we now let product speak for itself” line??   why not just, in essence, stfu and review the car when it comes time to review to the car?  sorry to be so harsh, but i’ve just come back from hearing a modern day snake oil salesman give me his pitch, and quite franky, i am freshly bitter.

    also, coincidentally, i really hope you implement a firesuit policy on this post.   welcome back :)

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    If the Volt hardly ever goes into generator mode under normal commuting distances, the performance under that mode is moot.

     

    If your using the generator on the Volt on a daily basis you’ve purchased the wrong car.  The Volt is an absolutely perfect second care for the millions of surburban mulitcar families w/garages. I’ll read TTAC’s review when it comes out but doubt it will sway my decision to buy/lease one. Along w/Leaf, truly the most exciting thing to happen in the auto industry in a long time.


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