By on December 5, 2010

Note to those who comment “slow newsday?” whenever there is something that can be construed as even mildly uncomplimentary towards GM (sorry if you bought the stock.) You are right. The newsday must be glacial. First, the Freep’s investigative reporters unearthed a slowdown at Toyota. Now, the crosstown competition at the DetN found GM’s super-secret car of the future. Stop press! It will be that epic fail, formerly known as the Segway.

When we saw (and panned) GM’s rebadged Segway with a canopy thrown on at the beginning of the Shanghai Expo in March, we quietly, but sincerely hoped it would be one of those “cars of the future” things that appear at expos, promptly to fade from memory thereafter. One of the things of which nobody honestly believes that they have any future. Then, obstinate GM showed the contraption again at the Beijing Motor Show.

And now, the DetN announces that “General Motors Co. believes it’s got the right car in mind for one population segment that typically shuns driving — the city dweller. It’s electric, wirelessly connected and able to squeeze through traffic with its compact two-seater design.”

It’s also a two-wheeler. It’s the same old Segway. Actually, it is the Segway-based Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility prototype, a.k.a. PUMA that had been shown at the New York Auto Show in April 2009, something we called “a wheelchair even a Stephen Hawking would avoid.”

PUMA begat EN-V, or “envy.”

As if anyone would be envious of it. It’s target market is identified as “buyers in big congested cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.”

Well, first off, people there definitely do not shun driving. But they would shun me. If I’d show up with one of those in Beijing, my requisite second, third, fourth and fifth wives would desert me for a guy who owns an Audi A6L and a BMW X5 for the luggage. My visa would be revoked, and I’d be laughed out of town.

Visitors from Germany recently remarked to me that “in your building’s garage are more S-Class cars than in our whole town in Germany.” This is not the target market for something that causes car envy.

GM vehemently disagrees: “This vehicle is going to be increasingly needed in the markets where we hope to grow our business,” said Chris Borroni-Bird, GM’s director of advance vehicle concepts. Mr. Borroni-Bird Sir: What’s needed there is cars.

GM will continue to show the “car” at car shows the world over, they will even introduce it to the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas in January. They must be serious.

Saving grace: “A real production model, however, is probably more than a decade away and is likely to first appear overseas, rather than in the United States where most motorists travel by highway,” announces the DetN with razor-sharp perception. In China, they drive on the sidewalk. (Well, sometimes, they do.)

“These vehicles are going to be more like handheld PDAs, as opposed to today’s desktops,” said Borroni-Bird. PDAs are highly mobile, connected to a wireless network – and LaHood thinks they are a menace to society.

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22 Comments on “GM Insists On Causing Car Envy...”


  • avatar
    Hank

    A rainy day Segway.  Another question no one asked.

  • avatar

    Do you buy them out of a gumball machine?
     
    I say you strap the GM executives in this “car” and have a headon collision with Yukoburbalade at top speed and 80mph respectively.
     
    Not even as useful as a scooter.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My visa would be revoked, and I’d be laughed out of town.
     
    So they don’t have any flamboyant geeks or “I don’t need a car” types in China yet?  Just give it time.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    A real production model, however, is probably more than a decade away
    That timeframe applies to just about everything the imagination can dream up….
     
     

  • avatar

    same old GM. and ur surprised?

  • avatar
    Advo

    What are places like China going to do when traffic can’t move in their cities due to massive congestion? Can an internationally competitive economy really afford to have their workers stuck in traffic jams for hours at a time – or their delivery trucks and just-in-time components?
     
    10 years from now people’s attitudes could very well change because their fed up at not being able to get around easily. They might want these vehicles as an alternative to electric bicycles or scooters that would be the preferred alternative at the moment. GM might as well be prepared for that possibility (although perhaps with the crisp Hyundai-look instead?).

    • 0 avatar

      They’ll do what Tokyo and Hong Kong do: Build multilevel roads.  Knowing the Chinese, they will build 4 levels at a time. As for low footprint conveyances: There are gadzillions of electric bicycles. But they are not welcome on the major thoroughfares. Until 2005, there were even plans to ban electric bicycles inside of the 4th ring road, but these plans were scuttled.

    • 0 avatar
      tparkit

      “What are places like China going to do…” – ?

      http://americandigest.org/mt-archives/driveby/something_wonderful_chris.php

  • avatar
    also Tom

    “Visitors from Germany recently remarked to me that ‘in your building’s garage are more S-Class cars than in our whole town in Germany.’ ” Brutal.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Maybe their aiming at London? Not Beijing.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I don’t know if 10 or 12 years is the right timing, but I think this could one day be something especially for city dwellers, where space is at a premium.  It might be the car of the future, but a future I don’t see yet.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    South Park had it first…

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/153051/flexi-grips

    “We’re going to have to rethink cities!”

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I can’t believe this is a serious proposal.  It’s like a “motorcycle” called the Uno, and in my opinion suffers from similar multiple problems, two of which are fatal.  But while the Uno was/is a one-person show, it’s remarkable no one in a company as large and smart (joking) as GM can see these issues.
    One problem is braking.  You can’t exert any force to stop the thing unless you first rotate it backwards.  Otherwise it will flop on its nose.  It takes time to rotate back, and it still can’t brake sharply.
    The other biggie is that if the computer crashes, or the software hangs, you lose control.  I doubt these things could be insured, and hence cannot be sold.

  • avatar
    msquare

    I think the target market here is not the consumer, but government officials nervous about infrastructure limitations. Now it might be true that the Chinese will build multi-level roads and the like, but if you notice who’s been using Segways (mall cops and occasionally real cops) it’s not so farfetched for a company with government ownership to put on a show for their stockholders.
    So I wouldn’t take their concept seriously but it’s nice to have the technology if it’s ever needed for real.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    GM thinks this is what is needed in the areas where they want to grow their market; ‘need’ not want.  As Bertel pointed out, there are plenty of low-footprint vehicles that are undoubtedly more practical and affordable than this contraption, it appears that GM’s latest bit of group think is that the ‘green meme’ is universally true and universally accepted.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Design inspiration revealed: AT-ST from Star Wars.

    http://www.modelermagic.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/2009-05-30_kg_code3_at-st-002b.jpg

  • avatar
    seth1065

    my sons loves it, at first he thought it was a helmet but hey he is only 8, he wants to buy one when they come out, I am scared very scared….

  • avatar
    Grrr

    If GM can succesfully convince the feds this is a “car” then it’s CAFE woes are gone.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Finally, a car the Chinese want to buy.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Even in its early concept stage, this is the dumbest vehicle GM has proposed in a long time. So much weight and complication can be avoided altogether if you just attach two friggin’ wheels to the front of the damn thing.

    Just as nobody bought the Segway in numbers anywhere near expected because it’s an inherently unstable, over-engineered, overpriced vehicle, no one will buy this either for the same reason, only add the fact that when it does fall over (and it will fall over) it’ll cause a lot more damage to itself and others.

    Even a balanced vehicle of this size won’t sell if it isn’t efficient and competitively-priced (the Smart is neither, and so suffers). Not to mention drivers won’t exactly line up to buy a vehicle that people will laugh at as they drive by. A more fitting name for it would be INDIGNI-T.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    All GM apparently needs to do to sell this in China is slap a Buick Logo on it, and we’re golden….


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