By on March 4, 2012

 “Do you want to accompany? or go on ahead? or go off alone? … One must know what one wants and that one wants”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight Of The Idols

This week’s news that GM would stop production of the Chevrolet Volt for the third time in its brief lifespan came roaring out of the proverbial blind spot. Having watched the Volt’s progress closely from gestation through each month’s sales results, it was no secret to me that the Volt was seriously underperforming to expectations. But in the current media environment, anything that happens three times is a trend, and the latest shutdown (and, even more ominously, the accompanying layoffs) was unmistakeable. Not since succumbing to government-organized bankruptcy and bailout has GM so publicly cried “uncle” to the forces of the market, and I genuinely expected The General to continue to signal optimism for the Volt’s long-term prospects. After all, sales in February were up dramatically, finally breaking the 1,000 unit per month barrier. With gasoline prices on the march, this latest shutdown was far from inevitable.

And yet, here we are. Now that GM is undeniably signaling that the Volt is a Corvette-style halo car, with similar production and sales levels, my long-standing skepticism about the Volt’s chances seems to be validated. But in the years since GM announced its intention to build the Volt, this singular car has become woven into the history and yes, the mythology of the bailout era. Now, at the apparent end of its mass-market ambitions, I am struck not with a sense of schadenfreude, but of bewilderment. If the five year voyage of Volt hype is over, we have a lot of baggage to unpack.

When a history of the Volt is written, it will be difficult not to conclude that the Volt has been the single most politicized automobile since the Corvair. Seemingly due to timing alone, GM’s first serious environmental halo car became an icon of government intervention in private industry, a perception that is as true as it is false. I hoped to capture this tension in a July 2010 Op-Ed in the New York Times, in which I argued that

the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build. Unfortunately for this theory, G.M. was already committed to the Volt when it entered bankruptcy.

But by that time, the Volt was already so completely transformed into a political football, the second sentence of this quote was entirely ignored by political critics on the right. The culture of partisanship being what it is in this country, any nuance to my argument was lost in the selective quoting on one side and the mockery of my last name on the other. One could argue that that this politicization was unnecessary or counter-productive, but it was also inevitable.

The Volt began life as a blast from GM’s Motorama past: a futuristic four-place coupe concept with a unique drivetrain (which still defies apples-to-apples efficiency comparisons with other cars), a fast development schedule and constantly-changing specifications, price points and sales expectations. It’s important to remember that the Volt was controversial as a car practically from the moment GM announced (and then began changing) production plans, becoming even more so when the production version emerged looking nothing like the concept. But it wasn’t until President Obama’s auto task force concluded that the Volt seemed doomed to lose money, and yet made no effort to suspend its development as a condition for the bailout, that a car-guy controversy began to morph into a mainstream political issue.

At that point, most of the car’s fundamental controversies were well known, namely its price, size, elusive efficiency rating, and competition. Well before the car was launched, it was not difficult to predict its challenges on the market, even without the added headwinds of ideological objections (which should have been mitigated by the fact that they were actually calling for government intervention in GM’s product plans while decrying the same). But GM’s relentless hype, combined with Obama’s regular rhetorical references to the Volt, fueled the furor. Then, just two months after Volt sales began trickle in, Obama’s Department of Energy released a still-unrepudiated document, claiming that 505,000 Volts would be sold in the US by 2015 (including 120,000 this year). By making the Volt’s unrealistic sales goals the centerpiece of a plan to put a million plug-in-vehicles on the road, the Obama Administration cemented the Volt’s political cross-branding.

When GM continued to revise its 2012 US sales expectations to the recent (and apparently still wildly-unrealistic) 45,000 units, I asked several high-level GM executives why the DOE didn’t adjust its estimates as well. But rather than definitively re-calibrate the DOE’s expectations, they refused to touch the subject. The government, they implied, could believe what it wanted. Having seen its CEO removed by the President, GM’s timid executive culture was resigned to the Volt’s politicized status, and would never make things awkward for its salesman-in-chief. And even now, with production of the Volt halted for the third time, GM continues to play into the Volt’s politicized narrative: does anyone think it is coincidence that The General waited until three days after the Michigan Republican primary (and a bailout-touting Obama speech) to cut Volt production for the third time?

Of course, having used the Volt as a political prop itself from the moment CEO Rick Wagoner drove a development mule version to congressional hearings as penance for traveling to the previous hearing in a private jet, GM is now trying to portray the Volt as a martyr at the hands of out-of-control partisanship. And the Volt’s father Bob Lutz  certainly does have a point when he argues that the recent Volt fire controversy was blown out of proportion by political hacks. But blaming the Volt’s failures on political pundits gives them far too much credit, ignores GM’s own politicization of the Volt, and misses the real causes of the Volt’s current, unenviable image.

The basic problem with the Volt isn’t that it’s a bad car that nobody could ever want; it is, in fact, quite an engineering achievement and a rather impressive drive. And if GM had said all along that it would serve as an “anti-Corvette,” selling in low volumes at a high price, nobody could now accuse it of failure. Instead, GM fueled totally unrealistic expectations for Volt, equating it with a symbol of its rebirth even before collapsing into bailout. The Obama administration simply took GM’s hype at face value, and saw it as a way to protect against the (flawed) environmentalist argument that GM deserved to die because of “SUV addiction” alone. And in the transition from corporate sales/image hype to corporatist political hype, the Volt’s expectations were driven to ever more unrealistic heights, from which they are now tumbling. Beyond the mere sales disappointment, the Volt has clearly failed to embody any cultural changes GM might have undergone in its dark night of the soul, instead carrying on The General’s not-so-proud tradition of moving from one overhyped short-term savior to the next.

Now, as in the Summer of 2010, I can’t help but compare the Volt with its nemesis and inspiration, the Toyota Prius. When the Toyota hybrid went on sale in the US back in 2000, it was priced nearly the same as it is today (in non-inflation-adjusted dollars), and was not hyped as a savior. Instead, Toyota accepted losses on early sales, and committed itself to building the Prius’s technology and brand over the long term. With this approach, GM could have avoided the Volt’s greatest criticism (its price) and embarrassment (sales shortfalls), and presented the extended-range-electric concept as a long-term investment.

Even now, GM can still redefine the Volt as a long-term play that will eventually be worth its development and PR costs… but only as long as it candidly takes ownership of its shortcomings thus far and re-sets expectations to a credible level. And whether The General will defy and embarrass its political patrons by destroying the “million EVs by 2015″ house of cards in order to do so, remains very much to be seen. One thing is certain: as long as it puts PR and political considerations before the long-term development of healthy technology and brands,  GM will struggle with a negative and politicized image. And the Volt will be seen not as a symbol of GM’s long-term vision and commitment, but of its weakness, desperation, inconstancy and self-delusion.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

238 Comments on “Blind Spot: The Twilight Of The Volt...”


  • avatar
    johnhowington

    thank you patriots of america for forking over $40k instead of saving yourself $15k by buying a superior product: the prius.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      My gratitude is impeded by having to pay $7,500 to $11,500 of the difference for them.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        CJ – which you are also doing for the Leaf.

        Ed – the third shutdown does become a trend, but hasn`t GM said in general that it will resort to production slowdowns rather than incentives to match supply and demand? It has done that for the Cruze and is now doing it, for the third time, with the Volt. Isn`t that in a way a positive, because many on here have said GM (and Detroit in general) should match supply and demand without resorting to incentives.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        And which you also did for the Prius…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        A few trillion wrongs don’t make a right. Someone should tell the US government.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @CJinSD:
        The subsidy that you mention doesn’t apply to the regular (non-plugin) Prius hatchback, Prius V, or Prius C. The Plugin Prius is the only Prius variant that is eligible for the subsidy.

        The regular Prius has been making money for Toyota, without subsidies, for several years now. The technological goal-posts have been moved, and that’s a good thing!

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        First – great article.

        Second – I’m very sorry this happened. It is as though the planets aligned in order to make GM do what it has repeatedly failed to do. You are correct that the Volt predates the Bailout. The Prius and the Industry itself showed the World’s Largest Car Manufacturer that an alternative fuel/electric vehicle market was ready for a GM product. The car was not supposed to be political, it was just supposed to meet the competition’s products.

        Third – GM used it as a publicity stunt to demonstrate the wisdom of a GM Bailout. What were they going to do otherwise? Show up in an old Malibu and tout it’s ‘can do’ attitude? A Cobalt? GM needed to demonstrate a faresightedness to justify their legacy. So, GM promised everyone that we would be bailing out GM so that they can deliver A Miracle Car!

        Fourth – GM hung itself. It promised the unpromisable. Was anyone around here the bit surprised when the Miracle Car Of The Future started falling to Earth? I don’t remember thinking that anyone at TTAC, staff or BnB, were falling for the PR crap used during Bailout Week in DC. I found everyone to be hopeful and forgiving. But it got ridiculous and embarrassing to the point where only the GM Faithful could continue believing the Volt Hype.

        Fifth – The Prius crowd is NOT going to buy an American anything. Greenies are a self-righteous lot and doing whatever their neighbors are doing has always been a major turn off for them. Just as any new religious movement denying itself tobacco, dancing, alcohol or a blood transfusion, the Prius crowd denies itself of what American cars offer, so that they can indeed feel especially righteous and holy. Thinking a Prius driver would buy a Chevrolet is like expecting a Hari Krishna to buy a martini.

        Sixth – GM’s success has been so massive for so long, they can’t fathom not being accepted as a car for everyone. They honestly believed that their Volt was going to find the same level of acceptance as that found for it’s competitors. GM doesn’t see itself as how the now – 80%+ – of the auto buying market sees GM. GM is not self aware enough to recognize that it’s market doesn’t cotton to excessively expensive controversial compact cars. GM needed to demonstrate it can build good normal cars at good normal prices. Not this. GM doesn’t know this.

        Seventh – Sorry about the politics, but we got a guy right now who has made more broken promises than a Brothers Grimm character. He wrapped himself around the Volt like Farrah Fawcett used to do to Mercury Cougars. We have always had polarized politics, and the Man in the White House currently is without a doubt, the most polarizing ever. His Midas touch was not a good one for GM. I believe our current president could endorse air and find a majority of our country holding it’s breath.

        Eighth – Chrysler is headed for a recovery and GM is not. One of the reasons is that Chrysler never tried to do a Volt. FIAT has focused on the basics, and that is what GM should have done too. We all want GM to succeed because it is best for everyone. The Volt is a disaster for many reasons.

        RIP

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Well, as long as YOUR job doesn’t get shipped to Japan or Korea, feel free to buy a Prius, along with you Chinese-made Whirlpool dishwasher and your Korean made flat screen TV, your iPhone made from several Asian countries, and on your way home, pick up a few brochures for you kid at the local community college. Maybe the McDonald’s Burger University is hiring….

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        Or you can find a different job instead and let them build that stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        johnhowington

        thanks for the free advice, you have me down to a hair on all the consumer products i choose to buy. tell me where exactly i can buy a domestic manufactured cell phone, washing machine, or flat screen television? there isnt, because local american union’s greed busted themselves right out of the country.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Motorola wanted to build a factory near Charlottesville, VA a couple years ago. The Obamunites of C’ville blocked it with all their might. Industry is bad!

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        What’s wrong with shipping jobs elsewhere?

        If people and their families were to preserved the same jobs they had, both you and me are likely still be doing farming today, instead of posting on a forum.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @wsn:

        ‘If people and their families were to preserved the same jobs they had, both you and me are likely still be doing farming today, instead of posting on a forum.’

        And if the nukes wouldn’t have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we’d all be speaking Japanese and German…

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        @acuraandy:

        ‘And if the nukes wouldn’t have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we’d all be speaking Japanese and German…’

        I totally agree. If, back then, the American government bailed out everybody so that they can preserve their previous jobs, most Americans would still be farming in the 1940s and wouldn’t beat Germany to inventing the nuke.

        Instead, there was no bailout. Most farming jobs either got exported or vanished all together. The jobless had to look for work elsewhere and became cheap labor for the heavy industries.

        Going forward, if the American government keeps bailing out $50k~80k/year UAW workers, new industries won’t be able to grow because they can’t compete for the workforce in their early stages.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @wsn:

        Indeed. The manual labor jobs ‘held over’ in the late 1960′s (i.e., all the guys who worked the domestic automaker lines during WWII building Tanks and Jeeps), did either ‘disappear’ or were shipped overseas. Or, if they were ‘good enough’, they built Camaros and Chevelles in the late 60′s…:)

        The ‘greatest generation’ and subsequent ones after it have been forced into indentured servitude. ‘Corporatist’ or otherwise.

        The fact GM can build a glorified golf cart (TM AcuraAndy :) and force the people WHO DON’T EVEN BUY IT (like ME!) to pay someone who makes $170k-200k/yr $7500 in tax credit to buy it is beyond appalling. What a crock of shit.

    • 0 avatar
      alluster

      @Luke: ‘The regular Prius has been making money for Toyota, without subsidies, for several years now. ”

      That may have been true during the good old days when the dollar bought 100 or so yen. Not anymore and def. not in the last 3 years.

      “Toyota, along with all other Japanese car makers have taken a serious beating from the unusually strong yen, a problem that has been dragging on for a good part of this year already. In August, Toyota even had to revise its FY2012 financial earnings forecast made in June, when the Yen continued to drop further. Toyota Motor Co.’s Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa have mentioned before that the break even point for Toyota is 85 Japanese yen to 1 US Dollar. Today, the rate stands at 78 Japanese Yen to 1 US Dollar.”

      http://moneymorning.com/2011/06/22/hot-stocks-toyota-motor-corp-nyse-tm-wont-be-back-on-track-any-time-soon/

      Toyota has consistently lost money for the last three years in domestic operations which include domestic sales and exports. Now, Toyota wouldn’t specifically say if the Prius is profitable. For anyone not math challenged… They lose money on exports as a whole and more than 70% of all exports from Japan to US are the Prii.

    • 0 avatar

      A fully loaded Prius plug-in is over $39,000, and the tax credit is $5,000 less than the Volt. Therefore, the price of the two cars, fully loaded, is almost exactly the same. Not “$15K less.”

    • 0 avatar
      ralph1948

      According to the Kiplinger Investment Group, taking in all factors, such as msrp, depreciation, fuel cost, mtc., etc., after 5 years, the Volt and the Prius II are a wash. After that, the Volt is cheaper to operate. The Prius 5 fares worse.

      The problem is that there is so much negative information out there about the Volt, that everyone is believing it. For instance, most believe that the Volt can’t compete in the mpg category, yet the European Volt took 1st place in the Monte Carlo Alternative Fuel Rally this year. In fact, they took 4 of the top 10 spots. The field included 100 of the best alternative fueled cars such as diesels, plug in hybrids and pure electrics. The goal is to use the least amount of fuel over 4 days and hundreds of miles of driving.

      What most people are ignoring is the fact that in just a few years, there will be another billion cars on the road because the Chinese will be enjoying the American dream. What will fuel prices look like then?

      The European Volt is selling great because it is the best mpg car out there and the price of fuel are extreme over there. That is why the auto savvy Europeans named both the Volt and the Ampera the European Cars Of The Year.

      As for the tax credit … most ignore the fact that it is not a subsidy. There are whole industries out there that don’t pay taxes. Even if it was a subsidy, the average tax payer would pay 4/1000 of a penny towards each Volt. A far cry from the extra $100 a month I am putting back into the economy vs. Big oils fat pockets.

    • 0 avatar
      ralph1948

      johnhowington wrote “tell me where exactly i can buy a domestic manufactured cell phone, washing machine, or flat screen television? there isnt, because local american union’s greed busted themselves right out of the country”.

      I worked for one of the largest utility companies in the country, if not the largest. The company is a union company. They just reported record earnings this quarter. The union members are paid very well, as is management. The members have excellent medical coverage. Because the membership makes great wages, they stimulate the economy 4 times more than the same workers at non-union shops that are cutting into the business. Our union also kept the top echelon management types from giving themselves hundreds of millions in bonuses and wages. Customers don’t have to stay with the company, but they do. Why? Good service.

      People like you don’t realize that when you go to a cheap, cheap product, you support companies that keep their workers at the brink of bankruptcy. All so the big stock holders can enjoy their summer homes.

      Fact: the top 1% earn more than the bottom 50%. These are “never worked a day in their life” people. The company is now cutting into the current workers benefits and pay, even though they reported a record quarter, all so they can give more to the 1%’ers.

      Most companies that took their business overseas were making profits here. It is the big stock holders that insisted on more profits. That is the real reason this country is in trouble. Working to just barely make it is not the American way. A fair share was the American way until recently. Now that most of the unions are busted, things should be rosy according to your playbook. But it isn’t, is it? Why? No middle class to buy the cheap products that are being made overseas!

      When you give the 1%’ers their fair share, there is much more to go around and the workers are happy, able to pay their bills, and are stimulating the economy. That is the American dream!!!

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        A previous employer of mine had the most profitable year ever – and they gave the employees nothing for the months and months of working extra hours. A bunch of people left looking for an employer with a better balance between work and personal time. Overtime is great unless you are working 80 hour weeks and risking health problems from the stress. Meanwhile the investors and management are sitting pretty after last year. Seriously – it quietly revealed one year by management that the top insurance claims were for antidepressants, ucler/stomach remedies, and things like that.

        In previous years came Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas bonuses, Christmas dinners, and other fluff. This past year with record earnings? Nothing.

        The employer has an interesting situation where unemployment is high enough here that if a dozen or two experienced guys walk out the door, there are apparently enough resumes piled up that they can have new workers within the week albeit green, untested workers with unknown abilities beyond what they wrote on their applications.

        A friend who hires people with similar skillsets says that my former employer would be shocked to learn how many of the best employees came to my friend looking for work so they could leave that place for good. These are folks with good trades experience and/or engineering backgrounds. None are union employees. I left years ago when I saw a much better opportunity surface at another employer. More freedom, more variety, more autonomy, more money and a better balance between home and work.

        So is this the new American way? Running your employees into the ground while a select few of the management and the investors stack up money at the bank? Robber Barons 2.0?

        Beware the discount American economy based on cheap good produced elsewhere. It’s a race to the bottom in price and wages both. The only people that benefit long term are the folks running the companies – and they profit regardless of where the product is assembled.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    If the definition of ‘halo’ car is a high-tech, low-volume seller, then comparisons to the Corvette make sense.

    But if the definition of ‘halo’ should also include it being a superior performer, highly-desired, and (gasp!) profitable, then I dispute this label for the Volt.

    As for the Prius, the Volt can never be it. While technologically marvelous, the Volt’s locomotive-style engineering design is exceptionally costly and offers inherently less efficiency.

    The hype reached its all-time high when the “230 MPG” banner was displayed – a marketing moment which will live in infamy.

    • 0 avatar
      lw

      230 MPG ranks right up there with “mission accomplished”.

      • 0 avatar
        Some Guy

        Yeah. 230 MPG is a deceptive number, especially when you see that some people get over 500 MPG:
        http://www.voltstats.net/Stats/Details/6

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Hanson

        Sigh… I thought most cases of Bush Derangement Syndrome had been cured by now. I’ll try to use small words so you can understand. The Mission Accomplished banner had nothing to do with Bush’s arrival on the warship. The six months it spent at sea is known as a “mission”. A complete victory in Iraq of course was far beyond any possibility for a warship. The ship and it’s crew had successfully accomplished everything that had been asked of them. Their mission was well accomplished, and they were now entitled to some proud R and R with their families. That’s all the banner referred to.

        I realise however that the purpose of your post is to distract us all from the folly of a POTUS and DOE that still, against all hope and reason, are pretending that a million EVs will be on the roads of the US by 2015. Not to mention that even were that to occur, it would mean we no longer need to drill for oil and gas.

        We have more energy, in terms of oil and gas, than Saudi Arabia and Russia combined, and we are shooting ourselves in the foot by restricting our drilling for them. A million EVs on the road in our lifetimes is a total fantasy. The Volt doesn’t sell because no one wants a car anything like it. There will be a million Lamborginis on the road far before there are ever a million EVs on the road.

        Try to stay on topic, ok?

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Yeah, 230 is actually a bit lower than mine, though I dipped below 250 thanks to a trip out to Kreuz Market in Lockhart a few days ago..

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @Some Guy: Your 647 mpg example was for a car driven 94% in EV mode, but that isn’t how the EPA tests these things.

      The equivalent electrical energy must be accounted for somewhere, hence the 85 mpge shown in the example you cited.

      Even the Leaf – a truly all-electric car – ‘only’ gets 99 mpge using the EPA calculation. Ironically, the Volt owner in this example could have saved a lot of money by driving a Leaf, since their daily mileage was all under 60.

      • 0 avatar
        Some Guy

        The cheapest driving option would be some old 4-cylinder beater that’s mostly depreciated in value already. But what car a person buys should depend on analysis of their own wants and needs–not from some pre-conceived notion from Fox “News” or someone with some political axe to grind.

        If I knew that I would NEVER have to drive more than 50-60 miles in a day or deal with switching baby seats around betwen my and the wife’s vehicle for farther driving days, or get a new job that is farther from home, I’d consider a Leaf. Unfortunately, life is full of surprises. Maybe the old beater would for for me then.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        Oh, boo hoo – but is it fallacious? My round trip to my office is about 4 miles. Even head office is only 65 miles – right on the cups of the Volt’s highway range. I doubt I’d have to fill the tank more than a couple times a year.
        All manufacturers pick the best ever mileage ratings, I guess it’s only General Motors you don’t like.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “Halo” means something that brings buyers into a dealership and results in improved sales of other cars (the halo effect). The Corvette does that, so did the original Prius, as did the New Beetle. It has nothing to do with performance or volume, just consumers’ interest and buzz.

      The thing is that a halo car doesn’t have to sell well to be a boon to a car company, and I’m not sure if GM is properly utilizing this fact with the Volt. People will come in to see the Volt, but they won’t buy it because it costs too much. But if the dealer can show off a sister car to the Volt–say, a hybrid Cruze–that people could afford and makes them feel like they are getting the same benefits as the Volt, I think it would do very well.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        I agree with you about the hybrid Cruze idea, but that’s what GM should have developed from the start.

        BTW, nobody doubts the value proposition of the Corvette – it delivers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “that’s what GM should have developed from the start.”

        You are a classic late adopter, as is much of the TTAC audience.

        If the Volt is going to succeed, then it needs to be marketed to, and purchased by, innovators and early adopters, i.e. small groups of consumers who are very much not like you.

        Selling the Volt on practicalities is a mistake. That is exactly what GM should not do. Late adopters are the last audience for this product, not the first.

        If the Technology Adoption Lifecycle is applied to the Volt, then it should be clear that the car should be first marketed to tech geeks and the environmentally aware. Once support is built among those groups, then it would probably make sense to push it into the corporate fleets of companies that could combine fuel cost savings with the ability to talk up their forward thinking and environmental awareness, which can then form the basis for purchases by the early majority of consumers who like to save fuel for the sake of saving fuel, not necessarily for the sake of saving money.

        If all of that is successful, then the late adopters will eventually follow. But the late adopters, by definition, will not lead, and strategies that appeal to them (price and incentives) should be avoided.

        I suspect that part of the problem is that GM is managed by people who are used to selling pickup trucks and the like. When they have something that people don’t want, their solution is to put cash on the hood. They don’t seem to know how to create markets from nothing, but that’s exactly what GM would need to do in order to make this work.

        As for hybrids, Toyota pretty much has that market sewed up. Nobody comes close to competing with TMC, and most specifically, the Prius. Playing follow the leader is a good way of ensuring that someone else is winning.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I dispute the idea that the Corvette is a better halo car than the Volt. What Chevrolet other than possibly a Camaro would a person looking at a Corvette ultimately buy? At least the Volt has the potential to increase exposure for the Chevrolet Cruze. I would argue that the Cruze is a well executed solution for a Chevrolet customer concerned about high gas prices while the Camaro is a heavy, poorly executed solution for someone looking for a sports car.

      • 0 avatar
        Yeah_right

        I don’t think Corvette is a halo car for the balky-looking Camaro. The Vette works it’s magic when you’re in the showroom to buy a Chevy Traverse to haul your kids and the sales rep let’s you sit in the cockpit of a Z06. You think “someday…” and feel better knowing your soon to be depriated glorified minivan at least has lineage with a beautiful piece of performance machinery.

        Maybe it works the same way with a Greenie buying a Traverse and pining for the Volt. I rather doubt it, though.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        I look at the halo car effect in a different way. For me, it’s not “I like the Corvette, so I’ll buy the closest thing that I can afford – ie. Camaro”. The reality is that I am impressed that GM can make a car like the Corvette, so GM as a whole rises in my opinion. Even if I had the money and lifestyle to drive a Corvette, I wouldn’t buy one, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed by the Corvette’s (and hence GM’s) capabilities.

        The same applies to the SVT vehicles from Ford. Ford’s overall cool factor is way higher with me just because SVT produces appealing vehicles, increasing the possibility that I will buy another Ford, SVT or not. I believe that Ford gains from SVT, even if they lose money on every unit sold.

        With the Volt, GM has the capability to do the same with alt-fuel vehicles. The Volt needs to improve its efficiency in both electric and i.c.e. operation for me to be impressed enough to view GM as an leading builder of advanced vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      Those two cars aren’t comparable. The Volt runs 37 miles on average totally gasoline-free, and then moves forward at between 35-40 MPG, which is very good for such as heavy performance car. And if you don’t drive that far between charges, you won’t consume any gasoline at all. The average Prius consumes in the neighborhood of 240 gallons per year.

  • avatar
    lw

    So what happened in July of 2011? Sales and production were roughly aligned until then.

    My bet.. GM made commitments on minimum volumes from suppliers for the volt components and decided it was cheaper to build them and shove them on the dealers, but they got hammered with the fire scandal, the leaf and generally cheaper gas prices.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      If building 5,000 cars and selling 3,000 of them can be called aligned. On the one hand, they only had a 3 month supply of cars on hand at that point. On the other hand, they were still making them 40% faster than they could sell them.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “One thing is certain: as long as it puts PR and political considerations before the long-term development of healthy technology and brands, GM will struggle with a negative and politicized image.”

    I wouldn’t assume that’s it.

    I’ve said this elsewhere here, but here’s a simpler theory: This was Lutz’s baby, under the Old GM. (He claims that the Volt was inspired by Tesla, but I suspect that it was more of a case of Prius envy, combined with a reaction to the film “Who Killed the Electric Car?”)

    But now it’s the New GM, and Lutz is just a consultant. The New GM does not care about Lutz’s projects, so much as it does about short-term profits and cost reductions.

    The Volt could be the new Saturn, another project that lost support with a change of CEOs. The Cruze probably seems a whole lot more exciting, as its sales success to date supports the belief that GM’s future lies in offshoring significant chunks of development and production to Asia. Cost reduction as ideology ran deep within the old GM, and I suspect that is probably engrained in the culture of the new one, too.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that the Volt seems to lack an influential advocate in the upper reaches of GM’s hierarchy now that Lutz is just a consultant. And though I don’t share Bob’s profound optimism about the EREV’s intrinsic promise, I also don’t think that it should now be abandoned.

      In the short term, all they can do is redefine the current generation as an unambiguously low-volume (by GM standards) halo car (not load up on incentives, which to GM’s credit, hasn’t been done yet). From there, I think the next generation drivetrain needs to be offered at vastly reduced price premiums (even at a loss), and in a variety of segments. One unique, overpriced car can easily become a politicized symbol; a technology package with multiple applications, less so. The failure of the Volt should not be misread as a complete rejection of the EREV model, and at this point GM would be foolish to give up its advantage with the technology.

      The Volt is clearly a lost opportunity, but its fall gives GM a new opportunity: to show independence from the government, humility before the market, and most importantly, the ability to learn from mistakes and evolve its strategies rather than continuously reinventing the wheel. If the Volt goes the way of Saturn, it will prove that institutional ADD is the uniting theme of both “Old” and “New” GM. On the other hand, the Volt’s genesis in the technological ashes of The General’s previous hybrid failure, the Two Mode Hybrid, suggests that this is by no means inevitable.

      • 0 avatar
        moorewr

        I always have expected this to repeat the corvair and vega pattern. That’s GM.

        Surely the drive-train is going in other vehicles – I can see them making a tolerable price-point on an SUV, for example. The idea that any non-luxury sedan could sell for $43,000 in any volume was always silly. That said it *is* a halo car, so much so that for this “save the manuals” disel wagon blah blah blah luddite it was the only hybrid or EV I ever wished I could own.

      • 0 avatar

        Very nice editorial. I can’t help thinking that part of the Volt’s problem is that the gas mileage–30 mpg–is so mediocre in ICE mode, the relatively short range means it will frequently be driven in ICE mode, and the enviro-geeks and American self-sufficiency geeks I imagine to be the most likely customers are going to be turned off by that. If my car purchasing choices were guided foremost by my own strong feelings on these two issues I’d be driving a Prius, and I would have left the Volt off of the list for precisely this reason. My Civic–which is straight ICE–gets 36 on the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “From there, I think the next generation drivetrain needs to be offered at vastly reduced price premiums (even at a loss), and in a variety of segments.”

        I am not an engineer, but I seriously doubt that this is possible.

        The Volt concept, by its nature, requires a large battery. (It’s that battery that makes the EV-only range possible.) But that battery is (a) an expensive item (b) with costs that don’t scale well, while the Li-ion versions are (c) prone to long-term deterioration.

        So the car is inherently expensive, and can’t fall in price that much. That makes it necessary for GM to figure out how to justify a price premium for it, and to sell enough of them to make them scale as it writes big checks to suppliers for the battery.

        I suspect that Toyota’s approach of using the electric motor as a sort of booster was a smarter route to take. By being less dependent upon the battery, the production costs can be better managed. Under most conditions, a Prius will provide most of the same benefits, net-net, given the mix of driving that many people have. TMC can’t boast of having up to 50 miles of range on its battery, but it makes up for that with the overall benefits of the package.

        And by being first, the Prius gained first-mover advantage. It stole the glory, and GM has to distinguish itself from the Prius in order to gain its own advantage. So far, it has failed to do that, and that is probably more the fault of marketing than anything else.

        So here you have a car that is expensive to build and that GM doesn’t know how to sell. While it’s too early to say that it has failed yet, I suspect that it will soon enough.

        GM does a fair job of selling rental cars in quantity, but I doubt that it knows how to reach a bunch of technology geeks and environmentalist types who should be absolutely ga-ga over this thing. Of course, the conservative bloggers are squawking because they enjoy the sound of their own chirping, but you can’t really fault them for GM’s failure to know what to do with the Volt.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        @ Pch101,
        For once I agree with you on your premise that GM chose a more costly technology to champion. But what Ed says about this being an opportunity for GM to continue on with the platform I believe is still correct. Battery technology is improving and GM can reduce costs with economies of scale (cross platform leverage of the platform).

        GM really got caught in the cross hairs with the Volt. I believe they’ll stick with the tech. There was one point in time where all powertrain ops at GM were focused solely on the Volt. Incredible, really. I am glad they believed Hamtramck was a good place to produce it, but disappointed the plant got ‘stuck’ with it.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        There is a meme that the Volt gets poor mileage in the hybrid mode, it does not.. it gets 40mpg on the hwy and 37 combined, and it will do this under fairly aggressive conditions, unlike the majority of 40mpg cars on the market.. granted its not as good as a Prius, but you give up other things with a Prius.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “There is a meme that the Volt gets poor mileage in the hybrid mode, it does not.. it gets 40mpg on the hwy and 37 combined,”

        Don’t forget – the volts EPA ratings are with premium gas. A 40 mpg car burning regular will go further on $1.00 worth of gas than a 40 mpg car burning premium.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Ed- “not load up on incentives, which to GM’s credit, hasn’t been done yet”

        I think reducing the lease price to $350 per month is a pretty big incentive considering that the MSRP for the car is $40k and the residual value is a complete mystery. The low lease price is not exactly cash on the hood, but it is either a big incentive up front or a huge gamble on the back end, and GM taking the residual risk is definitely an incentive.

      • 0 avatar

        The Volt development was mostly paid for in the 2007-08 time period, leading up to the unveiling of the production car on September 16, 2008. At this point GM should put the Volt technology in a few Cadillacs and price them to compete with the Tesla Model S (base price $77,400, fully loaded around $95K) and the Fisker Karma (base price $106,000). I’ve put 10,000 miles on my Volt and it’s totally awesome. Everyone I know who got the Volt got it instead of getting a Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide, Mercedes, BMW, big Audi, etc. It was by far the cheapest car they considered. Several people were gunning for a Bentley or Rolls Royce, but got the Volt instead. GM is a fool for marketing the Volt as some sort of money-saving eco-box, when the buyers are considering $50,000-$350,000 cars as their real-life alternatives.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ed, GM should do exactly what you wrote in the second-to-last paragraph. Follow Toyota’s lead and price the Volt accordingly and take the loss on future dividends. If they did, I would be sorely tempted to sell my Impala right now and buy one.

    Any new technology takes time, and the ICE engine has been in our hearts and minds for over a hundred years and has and is still the standard vehicle powerplant. Changing that takes time.

    • 0 avatar

      Almost all people I know didn’t consider some Toyota when buying the Volt. They all “traded down” from luxury cars such as Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes, and even two guys with a Rolls Royce. GM should re-badge the Volt and put a Cadillac sticker on it with $59,000 as the base price and option it fully loaded somewhere closer to $70,000. That way it would be a huge success in the “sports 4 seater” market, going up against Panamera and Rapide, among others.

  • avatar
    VA Terrapin

    Leaving aside the politics of the Chevy Volt, the Volt is horribly marketed. For whatever reason, GM seems to be embarrassed to mention that the Volt a plug in gas-electric hybrid that can go on electric far longer and at higher speeds than a Prius while offering far greater range than a Leaf thanks to its gas engine. Instead, GM gives us a vague slogan about “Electric when you want it. Gas when you need it” without clarifying what this means.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDyZu6zOC6Y and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nQbsrQXA7s&feature=relmfu
    These commercials make Chevy Volt drivers look like beta males who are scared of little children. I don’t understand why companies think it’s good to sell adult products by using obnoxious children who make the intended adult users look like wimps.

    • 0 avatar
      lw

      Agreed on the marketing. They need to kill all the current ads and start over..

      My Idea… Short spos with real owners. Each owner nails a volt benefit that puts a tangible benefit in dirt simple terms.

      An example:

      A regular guy in his driveway talking to his neighbor that just bought a Honda civic.
      “yeah, I looked at the civic and my volt payment is $100 more a month, but I haven’t been to a gas station in 6 months and that feels pretty good, plus my local power plant burns natural gas that comes from our heartland”

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Well, leaving the politics out of it, I hope that the Volt continues to be available for those who want to buy one, right along with all the models of the Prius, the Leaf, the Ford, etc.

      That’s what makes America great. We have a choice in what we buy and if people want to buy a Volt, for whatever reason, it should be available for them.

      As it is now, the Volt is priced way out of reach of the intended demographic, which, incidentally, is the middle class. The same middle class who chooses to buy a Cruze, or similar vehicle in that class, for their every day transportation needs, or the F150 pickup truck and Camry sedan for their utilitarian applications.

      I was surprised to learn that the demographic actually buying the Volt is in the $170K-$200K annual income range, depending on who you believe, and that the Volt is bought as a novelty vehicle in a multiple vehicle household. That puts it up there with Porsche, Ferrari and other exotics. None of those are big sellers either.

      • 0 avatar
        lw

        170k?? Dang.. Someone with that income that buys GM. The volt could be stealing sales from Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Your post is full of reasons to end the subsidies. They’re not what made America great and they’re not allowing people that couldn’t otherwise afford Volts to buy them. They also remove the choice from the rest of us. We pay for Volts whether we want one or not, even without ever riding in one. Without the subsidies, there will also be Volts available to anyone who wants one for a long time, whether the line restarts for the general election or not.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        CJ, and that is exactly why it is so hard to keep the politics out of it because on the one hand you have Obama and his administration trying to get all of us to modify our driving behavior from buying gas to driving an EV.

        And on the other hand you have the reality of the real world that spells out clearly that you can buy a lot of gas for the difference in price between a Volt and a Cruze, especially if you buy a Rental Cruze when they hit the used car market. There’s no shortage of gas as there was in 1973, so buy gas we will, albeit at a higher price. It’s all part of the ever increasing costs of rice and rent.

        The subsidies (and the bail outs) were never a good idea but they happened and with GM there will be more of them, because the precedence has already been set. Even a $10K tax deduction is not going to help anyone who wants to buy a Volt but doesn’t have to pay any income taxes.

        So, the bottom line remains that those who want to buy a Volt and can afford to do so should be able to do so, but without tax payer help. And since that makes the Volt even less attractive, even fewer Volts will be sold under that scenario.

        As long as the Prius and the Leaf remain on the market to compete with the Volt, I think the outlook for Volt sales will remain dire, as they have been all along.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        200K income and your beyond Cadillac, I can’t see anything but the CTS-V even appealing to someone in this bracket.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “200K income and your beyond Cadillac, I can’t see anything but the CTS-V even appealing to someone in this bracket.”

        I have a couple of relatives who is in that bracket. They drive a 2005 Town & Country. There’s a 15 year old Z3 and a 10-year-old compact SUV of some sort in the garage, too, that are rarely driven.

        Just because you make money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. As this person regularly reminds me, putting it in a savings account (or a proper investment) is usually smarter thing to do.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Luke, now that you mention it, I have friends who are in that bracket and they choose to drive an old Toyota Echo as their daily driver, or an old Corolla, and one even drives a 2008 Prius. All of them own a pickup truck as well, and a sedan or SUV for the wife.

        It isn’t because their short on cash. It is because, like so many other people these days, their money is better spent on providing a roof over their head instead of making their transportation their primary expenditure in the form of an EV.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        The $7,500 incentive actually precedes the Obama administration, though it can be laid in the lap of a congress in the complete control of Democrats in the last two years of the Bush administration.

        Hard to blame the carmakers for trying to respond to incentives our government put in place to motivate these technologies, which do have a particularly weak business case in their infancy.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I don’t mind a subsidy because I believe the result of injecting the new tech into the market to be worth it in the long-term.

        However, I strongly disagree with how the subsidy works–the tax rebate is up to $7500, and if you don’t make enough to get the whole amount back, the car costs you more than if you were wealthier. That’s backwards; it would be better to have a rebate that is phased out for higher incomes.

      • 0 avatar

        Almost everyone I know who got the Volt has $10 million in the bank and at least 2-3 premium cars in the garage already, from Aston Martin to Porsche to Bentley and Rolls Royce. These guys tend to be engineers or CEOs of tech companies who love the technology and have studied it in great detail. Price is not the issue. They just want the technology. If it had a $250,000 tag on it and a Mercedes badge, it would sell just as well to these people.

      • 0 avatar
        RoRo

        Funny, I just traded in my 2009 CTS-V on Saturday for a 2012 Volt.

        Just to disclose my “car-guy” credentials, my last three cars were: Heavily modified 2000 Trans Am convertible, bolt-ons 2005 Corvette coupe, and 2009 stock CTS-V.

        If there is one thing I like, it’s fast cars. However, I also like technology and giving the finger to the BP’s of the world.

        Obviously, I have the means to buy the car, however, last month the CTS-V cost me $352 to fill-up. Enough of that craziness.

        So far I’ve driven 100+ miles without burning a drop of gas, and I’m saving money (car payment less than CTS-V, insurance is less and obvious lower cost to fuel).

        Remove the politics from the Volt and look at what the car is and what it does. If it had a Cadillac Wreath and Crest on it would anyone on here be continually critiquing this car? I didn’t think so. The failure of this car is on marketing, not the car itself. Get over it.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Most people deciding between the Volt and the Prius will consider the value for the money.

        I don’t care for either one and gasoline will always remain my fuel of choice, primarily because of the existing infrastructure and the ready availability of gasoline. There is no shortage of gas like there was in 1973. And there won’t be in the future either. It may cost more but it will always be there.

        The amount of money you spent on gas is less than what my wife and I spend on gas every month, so it doesn’t scare me. It is all part of the cost of living for us because my wife makes a 150-mile round-trip to a college where she teaches three times a week.

        We live 26 miles from the nearest town and El Paso, TX, the biggest city in this area, is 100 miles away. We enjoy power outages when we least expect it and use gasoline AC generators to keep the appliances and heat running when that happens.

        The Volt should be available for anyone who wants to buy one, but it should not be subsidized by the tax payers. I know several people who own a Prius and none of them has been interested, or shown any interest, in the Volt.

        So for the Volt to have an impact, the Volt needs a lot more than marketing to sell it. It has to overcome the existing popularity of the Prius which, incidentally, has already sold over a million copies, with more to follow.

        Trading a CTS-V for a Volt makes me wonder why you bought the CTS-V in the first place if Insurance and gas proved to be its undoing.

      • 0 avatar
        RoRo

        @highdesertcat – FYI, I recently moved and my commute tripled. Spending $400+ on gas just to drive to work each month is crazy, so I decided to try something a little different. I can easily afford it, but why? Spending $5,000 per year on fuel is just nuts so I decided to get off of the ride, know what I mean?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Ro-Ro, you gotta buy what works for you.

        The cost of gas is going to go up, slowly over time. I recently came back from a road trip to San Diego and put about 1700 miles round trip on my Tundra 5.7, towing a 24ft ski-boat for one of my brothers.

        In many places along I-10 gas varies from $3.97 for Premium to $4.99. Once in California, that jumps up to $5.00 to $5.45, all the way to Oceanside, CA.

        Yet these prices haven’t stopped most people from driving what they choose to drive. And I saw a lot of CTS-Vs on I-10 along with trucks, trucks, trucks. I saw ZERO Volts. Also lots of Cruzes.

        It may be crazy to have to pay that much, and more, for gas, but it isn’t going to get any better any time soon. It’s the wave of the future. The sign of things to come.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @VA Terrapin: “For whatever reason, GM seems to be embarrassed to mention that the Volt a plug in gas-electric hybrid that can go on electric far longer and at higher speeds than a Prius while offering far greater range than a Leaf thanks to its gas engine.”

      The hype early on suggested that GM’s marketing department was afraid the electric == golf cart.

      Except the people I know who buy green cars (myself included) are specifically NOT looking for muscle cars.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Why wouldn’t GM be afraid of people equating their Volt with something like the golf cart? I’ve met all sorts of Americans who had nothing good to say about anything that was different from some narrowly defined vehicle choice that they’ve bought their entire life. They don’t have room in their lives for a new idea and they have a long list of justifications and preferences to explain those choices.

        I’d say GM is right on the money worrying about some folks drawing a reflexive comparison between GM’s Volt and a golf cart. I see it in cars, international topics, religion, and American politics.

        These are low-information consumers and they are dangerous just like low information voters. They tend to parrot what they hear from one or two favorite information sources as well.

        The scary thing is some of these characters can make a good argument with their low information friends or family and thus shape the country and consumer market we share with them.

        I fear these types of characters far more than people who don’t share my opinions but have invested actual time and thought into their beliefs and choices.

    • 0 avatar
      jonny b

      Agree that the biggest problem with the Volt is the marketing. But to my mind the biggest marketing mistake GM made was slapping a bow-tie on the front. Imagine the Cadillac Volt. It starts at $60K, not $40K. The interior is full of the latest eco-friendly luxury materials (sustainably harvested wood, organic fibers, etc). They sell in roughly the same quantities as a CTS-V and everyone is suitably impressed. GM gets their halo without the stink of failure. Over time they’re able to get the cost of drive train down to ‘Buick’ level and they sell a ton of them in increasingly smog-conscious China.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Good point. I’m interested in the Volt, not because of the bowtie, but because of the innovative drivetrain under the hood.

        It does seem like it would be more appropriate to put a Cadillac or Buick badge on a $40k midsized car.

        On the other hand, I was a kid during the K-car era, and I don’t really see the difference between the American brand-families. The bowtie isn’t a positive or negative to me — it’s just irrelevant on two fronts.

        Still, when a car costs that much, why not slap the fancier label on it? I s’pose that goes for the Corvette, too.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    The Volt was not directly connected to the bailout but I believe it did receive DOE development loans in addition to the $7500 tax credit.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Notice the lack of hype from Ford about the Focus EV, C-Max PHEV etc.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Obummer! You mean ex-AT&T executive and then GM CEO Mr. Ed was right about the “Government Motors” tagline taking a bite out of sales? Then getting magically released.

    Allot of variables when partially launching a revolutionary car when there is already competition. Although not directly competitive, their a handful of alternative vehicles that compete for the non-gasoline crowd along with a new crop of 40+ mpg economy cars with many in the mid-30′s that we only had available recently.

  • avatar
    69 stang

    Finally proof that Obama and his minions cannot force their agenda on the public in every case. He will find a way to sell Volts- if necessary his department heads will require them for more government vehicles. For him to accept that he does not know what is best for us is to admit he is not smarter than the rest of us- and that ain’t gonna happen.

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    It’s accepted, from what I understand, that the layoffs are temporary and employees will be able to return to work next month? Still worrisome, but from this outsider’s perspective, less so than permanent layoffs would have been.

    Any idea how much GM would lose by slowing production in other ways? I understand they’ve already elected not to add a second shift, but is there another way to slow the line or cut an hour per day from the existing shift, say, without suffering greater losses through inefficiency or UAW disputes? It appears as though the Volt is selling steadily, albeit slowly, if GM can only accept and match that pace until the technology becomes cheaper and more widely accepted.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “is there another way to slow the line”

      Yes – sort of. They’re adding two more vehicles to the plant, the new Malibu and the next generation Impala. The only problem will be if the Malibu and Impala are hot sellers (and I think they will be) they could soak up all of the production capacity.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Notwithstanding all the sound arguments made above, I think the Volt’s appearance has to be considered a factor. I’ve seen a few now, and that side window treatment – the black paint below the windows, to make them appear larger in the crudest way possible – is a complete and utter turnoff, much worse than in photos, and this would be true even if driver visibility weren’t compromised by those slit windows (which I assume it is). Is there another EV or hybrid on the market that looks worse? If the people who can afford to buy Volts (i.e., can take best advantage of the tax breaks) had better taste, sales would be even fewer.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      Agree completely –
      Lets face it, the Volt is U-G-L-Y, and when you are spending $40k on a halo, that’s the last thing you want in your garage. I cannot help but wonder how much beter the Volt would be doing if it was styled more like a Fisker…

      • 0 avatar

        When you’re spending $40K? Comparing it to Fisker? The Fisker STARTS at $106,000. Have you been in the back seat of the Fisker, or looked in the trunk? The Volt is a much more practical car. I love the Fisker for all sorts of reasons, but the Volt should sell a lot more than the current Fisker Karma — and it has. Volt has sold approximately 10,000, compared to 1,000 at the most for Fisker Karma to date.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I can think of several current GM bodies that look SO much better that GM could have wrapped around the Volt drivetrain.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        It’s not that whole body that that I don’t like, just some details that could be changed.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I think that the windows are down-sized to lighten the load on the A/C in the summer – but yes, the window trim is a crude way to disguise the fact.
      As a matter of fact, the Volt is full of compromises that put it in a unique niche, where its capabilities could be of great advantage, but they’re no marketing it correctly.

  • avatar
    lw

    Another idea. A volt that runs on CNG… Could be a perfect blend… You rarely fill up so a lack of CNG stations isn’t a problem, plus the cost per mile would drop even further…

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “A volt that runs on CNG”

      Volt sales last month were about equal to about a year’s worth of Civic GX sales.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      Unfortunately the CNG refueling infrastructure in this country is pretty pathetic. Given how abundant CNG is, I’d rather see our government throw subsidies at building consumer CNG infrastructure, rather than subsidizing electric and hybrid cars where the cost of batteries still needs to be significantly reduced to make electric vehicles a viable economic proposition to the average car buyer.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        I’ve noticed the same thing. I can put a CNG pressure-pump in my house (I have a natural gas furnace), so I could run a converted car on CNG around town, but I can’t put one halfway between my house and my kid’s grandparents’ house.

        (My household has two cars. One of the two cars needs to be highwayworthy, the other one can be a local daily-driver. But the car that would be easiest to convert to CNG is also the one that I’d prefer to be the “do everything” car. So the lack of CNG filling stations is holding me up!)

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I don’t think I could disagree with you more. CNG stations are pretty rare to find in a good portion of the country. You might as well go straight EV at that point.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      This is why if they really wanted to make this a game changer – why not use an onboard diesel engine? GM has several small diesels in its stable in Europe. Diesel is still much more efficient fuel to burn than gasoline and even CNG. It would further extend its fuel range and diesel is quite plentiful (much more so than CNG). In fact look at most series hybrids and they use diesel as their generator (think locomotives).

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        jaje- Start with the assumption that GM wanted to design an EV which can meet the daily demand of most Americans, but had to add an onboard ICE as a bandaid for the current and projected near term state of battery development.

        Then consider that GM is internally subsidizing Volt’s price at a magnitude similar to the tax incentive, and consider not only the higher cost of the base diesel engine, but thousands more in exhaust aftertreatment required to comply with U.S. emissions standards and you will understand the factors used choose the engine. In fact, blind sided by the HOV politics, cost and development time were the reasons the Volt engine was not originally certified as a LEV.
        Semantics aside. Volt is first and foremost an electric vehicle, and secondly a hybrid, with its on-board range extending capability.
        While we are dreaming, what about a small gas turbine, as Jaguar created!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Diesel is still much more efficient fuel to burn than gasoline”

        No, it isn’t. All internal combustion engines are highly inefficient — most of their power is lost in the form of heat, and never gets converted into energy that can turn the wheels.

        Diesel fuel contains more BTUs in a gallon than does gasoline. Put another way, a pound/kilo of diesel fits into a tighter space. If we bought fuel by weight, instead of by liquid measures, and measured mileage by mile per pound, instead of mpg, then they would be about the same. MPG is not an efficiency measure.

        Volvo has diesel hybrids in the works, if that’s what you want.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @pch- The Diesel cycle is about 25% more efficient than the Otto cycle. Higher compression enabled by direct gas injection narrows that gap a pinch,but the Diesel thermodynamic cycle is truly much more efficient with the advantage multiplied by the higher btus per gallon in diesel fuel.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “The Diesel cycle is about 25% more efficient than the Otto cycle”

        And you know that’s deceptive, because both percentages are low.

        If a gas engine is about 25% thermal efficient and a diesel has efficiency in the low 30-percent range, then that still means that both engines are highly inefficient.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @pch101- You are absolutely right with your numbers. I did not mean to mislead, only to clarify that there is a significant difference between diesel and gas efficiency. They are indeed woefully inefficient.

        I recall a student project I did at General Motors Institute in the early 70′s. I was excited to play with a turbocharged Vega engine on a dyno, measuring attributes such as heat in the exaust and transferred to the cooling system, as well as torque output. That gave me a hands on understanding of the energy balance, plus it was damn cool to be standing next to an engine under boost. I Wonder if Osha would allow that today! I was quite amazed that the total energy added up nearly perfectly and the work calculated from torque over time did represented about 25% of the btus per gallon of fuel consumed. It hit home that thermodynamic theory can be clearly seen in real world results that match and can be predicted by calculation. Today’s engines have improved somewhat, but the fundamentals are the same.

      • 0 avatar

        Even though diesels are slightly more efficient than gas, I dont think theyd be practical in a hybrid setting. Once a diesel is started from cold, it needs to run for as long as possible to achieve its best mileage and emissions. Starting and stopping, not getting up to operating temperature, especially in cold weather, would kill it.

        There is a place for light-duty diesels…they would be great for cops, cabs, sales/light delivery vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Diesel is the devil fuel in America. It’s sooty and smoggy and only honking-great big trucks can justify it. ;P

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        I picked up an ’07 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the Benz 3.0 CRD turbo diesel. I get low 20′s combined mpg and high 20′s highway. The exhaust system has a particulate filter setup where it injects raw fuel into the filter which burns at 900 degrees burning up any soot and turning it into ash every 750 miles. I also notice the engine takes much longer to “heat” up to operating temperature versus the gas engines I’ve had. Which simply tells me that it creates less waste heat byproduct (in a very non scientific way).

        As for the Volt having a diesel engine – since it is a series hybrid – once the engine turns on it stays on for a long time as it regenerates electricity (no issue with a diesel here). With a parallel hybrid such as a Prius which it is harder on a diesel engine.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        Diesel fuel, sure — but in a reciprocating engine? Why not go directly to a gas turbine, instead? The constant burning is, as I understand it, what makes turbines more fuel-efficient than piston engines. (When did you last hear of a major power plant running on piston engines?)

        Their major drawback is, they run best at constant RPM and have crap acceleration… Well hello there, Match Made In Heaven — in a series hybrid, acceleration and varying RPM (at the wheels) is what you have that big battery for!

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    ‘Then, just two months after Volt sales began trickle in, Obama’s Department of Energy released a still-unrepudiated document, claiming that 505,000 Volts would be sold in the US by 2015 (including 120,000 this year)’

    I’m sure if people could afford these cars (well, you know, if THEY HAD JOBS!?), they would be selling better. Most Americans just can’t justify $40k on a ‘glorified golf cart’ (TM AcuraAndy).

    $40k will, off the top of my head, buy someone…a…
    Suburban/Tahoe, Camaro SS, Challenger SRT8, Mustang Boss 302, Acura MDX, almost TWO Priuii, TWO Civic Sis, and, in certain parts of the United States, a HOUSE.

    Hey GM, i’ve said it once, and i’ll say it again…you just can’t polish a turd. Or a glorified golf cart. One that spontaneously combusts…

    • 0 avatar
      Some Guy

      If people are spending $40,000 on a BMW for the “luxury” of vanity and having a car to show off to their friends, the option of spending $40,000 on a Volt for the “luxury” of slashing the cost of operating their vehicle by 90% seems like a brilliant alternative.

      People keep quoting that the average household income of Volt buyers is $170,000… what’s the average income for people who buy other $40,000 vehicles such as Suburbans, Camaros, and Mustangs?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    One thing to put in perspective: in 2000, the Prius cost $26k in adjusted dollars. It was anything but cheap, about double the cost of a Corolla. And it initially sold in small numbers, because the technology was unfamiliar, folks were wary of something new and untested, and gas was cheap.

    A base Volt today costs (net of tax credits) about $32k (or substantially less with state credits). But its operating costs are less than the Prius’ were. And its premium over the Cruze is 50%?.

    I’m not saying this because I think the volt will follow the Prius’ trajectory, and Ed has laid out the many issues in the political/PR realm. But it is possible that the Volt will find a modest and growing niche in the market, given that it does offer a unique set of capabilities.

    What has hurt the Volt the most, perhaps, is the Right’s negativity to it, getting caught up in its politicization . I once wrongly assumed that the Volt would be successful precisely with that crowd, on the basis of the energy-self-sufficiency argument, as an “I’m-not-sending-my-money-to-terrorist-dictators” alternative to the Camaro or Corvette in the driveway alongside the Tahoe or such. Didn’t quite turn out that way. Predicting political cross-currents is even harder than predicting a new car’s success or failure in a normal marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Well, sort of.

      The tax credit can only be applied in one tax year, so the $7500 value is only ‘valuable’ to those with taxes that high. After all my deductions, I don’t come close. So the Volt’s buyers are naturally higher-income earners, who don’t actually need to save a dollar on gasoline.

      Performance expectations for the Volt continued to drop before it was launched, and after. TTAC is that the Volt can’t match the Cruze’s highway fuel economy – shame. Worsening the conundrum, the Volt costs so much that commuters don’t drive it enough to justify the expense.

      High gas prices will have a neutral or negative effect on the Volt’s sales, since people will have less disposable income as prices rise.

      The Right’s opposition to the Volt is only in relation to its linkage to the bailout. The Right doesn’t care about ‘green’ cars, per se, except for subsidies. On that count, many ‘green’ cars receive scorn from the Right. To be more precise, the Volt is inextricably joined at the hip with President Obama, and we know how the Right feels about him. Even though the Volt was in development long before Obama showed up, Obama used it as the poster child for ‘cars Americans want to buy’, and for a reason to bail out GM. Chrysler can be thankful they didn’t have such a car.

      Mr. Bush may have supported the bailout also, but the Volt’s ballyhoo lies squarely at the feet of Mr. Obama.

      As a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, I still think the Volt is a technological wonder, but poorly considered. A $42k economy car can’t sell – period. Some proponents try to deny calling it an ‘economy car’, but calling it ‘green’, the 230 MPG poster, and comparisons to the Prius all conspire to make it so, not to mention GM’s advertising campaign.

      GM would have been much, much better off to simply develop a competitor to the Leaf, and call it EV2.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        “The tax credit can only be applied in one tax year, so the $7500 value is only ‘valuable’ to those with taxes that high. After all my deductions, I don’t come close. So the Volt’s buyers are naturally higher-income earners, who don’t actually need to save a dollar on gasoline.”

        As a single renter with no kids, it was exceedingly easy for me to get the full $7.5k.

        BTW, for all of those deductions that had to be made up for with my money, you’re welcome. That goes for the rest of you whiners too.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        If your taxes will not allow you to benefit from the credit then lease it.. the $7500 counts as a downpayment instantly and you can then buy out the lease and finance conventionally.. dealers may not like this too much since they may not get a fee from the finance company due to the early lease payoff. You can do this several times if you want, its only limited to the first 200k Volts.

      • 0 avatar

        The Volt was developed 2006-08, and I too am a life-long member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. The Volt is a great car, and you should just forget about the politics around it, much of which is simply incorrect. See this article for evidence: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11443180/1/no-channel-stuffing-evident-for-chevy-volt.html

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      So far, the Volt’s sales are following the same path as the Prius did when it was launched in Japan. For the first 3 years, Toyota did not bother (dare?) bring the Prius to North America. Were they debugging it? Were the massive subsidies for the Synergy Drive going to cost the Japanese taxpayer too much with a world-wide launch?
      In any event, when the Prius finally landed here, the sales mirrored what the Volt is doing. So, yes, the author is correct in saying that the Volt may not be a flop (yet), but it was the unrealistic sales promises that are hurting its image now more than anything.
      But, of course, if that Iranian crackpot keeps flapping his lips and Israel does what it is supposed to do, you could be looking at $5 or $6 a gallon by Christmas. That was what the Volt was designed for, not $3.75.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      The Volt is a great argument for keeping politics out of business and business out of politics. When the government, and especially one political party, put their thumb on the scale of commerce, everything becomes politicized. See: Argentina.

      The Volt may have been/may become more successful, but it is no longer an argument about cars or commerce, it is an argument about politics. When a business or product climbs into bed with politicians, especially when they only appeal to one party, the end result is a significant portion of the public will dislike the product because of the ideology it is attached to.

      The bailout of GM became politicized, and the Volt itself became a political football. The marketplace should have decided it’s fate, but now we don’t really know if it is failing on it’s own merits or because the Volt has become a political albatross.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      @Paul:

      AS I’VE STATED BEFORE:

      People who are of the median income of Volt buyers ($170k-200k/year) do NOT need people like me who make $35k/year to subsidize their glorified golf cart. My biggest beef with the Volt, Prius, and even ‘clean diesel’ TDI is the fact that the subsidy exists, AND I’M PAYING FOR IT.

      If you can afford it, pay for it in FULL. Otherwise, get off my lawn. :)

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “People who are of the median income of Volt buyers ($170k-200k/year) do NOT need people like me who make $35k/year to subsidize their glorified golf cart.”

        The taxes are being paid by households in the higher income brackets. Compared to them, you pay very little in dollar terms.

        With your tax burden at $35k, you’re costing more than you pay into the system. You produce a net loss to the treasury, although the economy does benefit from your consumption and your labor.

        In any case, the real beneficiary of the subsidy is not the purchaser, but GM. Without the subsidy, GM would have to reduce the price of the car accordingly, so the buyer is ultimately paying about the same thing. The subsidy allows GM’s losses to be smaller than they otherwise would be, as they get to collect a higher invoice price thanks to the tax credit indirectly propping up the wholesale price.

      • 0 avatar
        beechnut

        As a Volt owner I actually I agree with you. But can we also quit giving billions of subsidies to the oil companies. I think that would be fair.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      But the $7500 tax credit comes out of money you OWED the government. With the tax credit now you don’t OWE as much. Isn’t that no different than the vacation homes deductions that some well to do GOP supporters never grumble about? Or any other kind of tax credit.

      Could me in with the tax refund crowd b/c it’s the people who can’t afford the Volt that would benefit the most from its gasoline free potential.

      Would folks would abuse that though – buy one, take the refund and sell the car? Would likely need to be a few lines of fine print which say you need to own the car for a year or two or 10K miles. In which case the tax credit is easier to police.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    an odd fate for a supposedly decent car. Priuses will continue to fly off lots at MSRP….

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    GM could quietly offer an employee discount of $5000 on the Volt and sell about 3,000 just to GM employees and retirees. Expand it to suppliers, cut the discount a bit, and they could sell 10,000. That saves face more than a full-out price cut, which is what it is going to take to sell many more of them. GM can also loan one Volt to each dealer to use as a courtesy car, giving current owners of GM cars a chance to sample the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree, especially the part about lending Volts to dealerships as loaners.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      In fairness to GM, such a discount wouldn’t be ‘quiet’ for long, and would be roundly criticized as chumming the water.

      Worse, discounts by GM only deepen the losses on every one they sell, and weaning future buyers off that trend would be difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      I hate to shatter a myth here. GM retirees, former “gold plated” pension, and benifit plan, went out the door about year before the first Volt rolled off the line.

      They could take 10k off the top of the Volt and it would still be out of my reach.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Thanks Ed, for a well written and balanced editorial. You may be correct to imply that we have indeed entered into the Volt Death Watch. I, for one, am sad, but not surprised, that GM could not produce a car as good as the Prius for the same cost as the Prius.

    I remember there used to be a tax credit for the Prius too. And the Japanese government helped to finance the research and development of Toyota’s hybrid drive system. So, I understand if the Volt required some public investment.

    I have driven and been driven in the Camry hybrid and Prius many times, including the Prius V. I have relatives and friends who own them. They are wonderful cars, especially the V. I have also driven the Volt, both on electric only power and with the gas engine, when the battery was insufficient. The 3600lb Volt running on the 80hp gas motor is way under-powered and is a terrible car. Running on the 149hp electric, it is a totally different and impressive beast. But the Prius, unlike the Volt, always has the same power available and therefore is a superior design.

    The bottom line is that GM just doesn’t have anything to compare with the simplicity, reliability, or capability of the Toyota hybrid drive system. For this reason, the Volt is a failure, and, I am sad to say, deserves to be cancelled. Hopefully, we can see some other technology arise from the effort.

    • 0 avatar
      Some Guy

      What’s so sad about these comment areas is that misinformation is spread so easily. You say that the Volt running on the 80hp gas motor is way underpowered. A traditional hybrid like the Prius could have a problem with an undersized gas engine once the battery is drained. The Volt doesn’t have that problem; once the battery is supposedly “drained”, is still has plenty of “cushion” in reserve to avoid going into Turtle mode. When in mountain mode, the gas generator turns on with plenty of time to get over any mountain pass without slowing down.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        I agree Some Guy, he hasn’t driven the car under anything of what people would call normal circumstances if it was in turtle mode. The Volt’s battery should RARELY be so low that you are alone on the ICE to power it. It will dip into the battery and you still have full power. Then the ICE will trickle charge that portion back while also maintaining power to drive the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        carlos.negros

        I just drove one yesterday, from a dealer lot, whose battery was at zero. Although it cycled between electric and gas during the drive, once we drove into a hilly park area, doing 25 mph, the gas engine kicked in and it struggled to make it up steep hills. The car was in Normal mode. Perhaps this wasn’t a fair test. But, since the Prius does not need to be plugged in at all, I don’t see how the battery would get quite as low if the car was driven daily. If the Volt was used for a long distance trip, without access to recharging, I am not sure if the gas motor would be able to keep the battery charged enough to avoid running on gas especially over long distances, going uphill. Colorado and Oregon come to mind. I expect it would get totally smoked by just about every other car and truck on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        “once we drove into a hilly park area, doing 25 mph, the gas engine kicked in and it struggled to make it up steep hills.”

        careful how you define that “struggled”, did the acceleration actually change or did you just hear the engine wailing away at 4000rpms.. going into “reduced power mode” (and it happens to a Prius or Camry also) requires aggressive driving on mountainous roads, I doubt it happens with just hilly areas.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        If the dealer isn’t maintaining the charge and the battery truly has next to nothing left, then you could run into this situation. But under normal circumstances, this would never happen.

      • 0 avatar

        99% of the people who criticize the Volt have never driven it. In contrast, 93% of the people who own it LOVE it — a higher percentage than any other car surveyed by Consumer Reports.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Does anyone know how much the battery costs GM?

    Maybe if the car would have had drop dead gorgeous styling, and a luxury interior, and branded as a Buick or Cadillac things would have turned out better. How much more would it cost to upgrade the interior a few notches, and restyle the car. People spending this kind of money on an “economy” car, are not the correct demographic for a Chevrolet.

    This car was before its time. Before battery tech had arrived.

    • 0 avatar
      Some Guy

      So it isn’t right for people to spend a lot of money on a Chevrolet? What’s the Corvette then? Perhaps the Corvette should be discontinued because its sales in February were lower than Volt sales?

      The Volt isn’t ahead of its time–it’s for now. There is no battery technology and charging infrastructure at this point to allow an affordable “pure” electric car to allow me a 3-hour drive so I can visit my brother in Seattle. The Volt’s gas backup generator is a simple idea to overcome battery technology that’s in its infancy. If most driving can be done on electric with only occasional use of gas, what’s wrong with that?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        The Corvette is a pure performance car and has a very long lineage. Can’t compare apples to oranges here.

        If the battery only costs 3K, then GM needs to be selling these at a loss and bring the technology to other platforms.

        I was under the impression the battery was super expensive and the cars were costing more to manufacture than they are selling them for. If the “loss” is purely on the cost of engineering, then GM would be extremely short sighted to scrap this program.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        @Some Guy: I like the Volt concept. What I don’t like is the styling and the price.

        However, I could live with the styling if the price was more reasonable.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Maybe someone from GM can chime in here. Although doubtful.

        I would really like to know if they are losing money on the manufacturing side of the equation building a Volt, or if they are losing money on the engineering costs.

        I really really hope they are not so shortsighted to be pricing this thing at its cost in an attempt to recoup engineering costs….. When it could be made up in volume and putting the technology in other platforms.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I was under the impression the battery was super expensive and the cars were costing more to manufacture than they are selling them for.”

        As far as I can tell, GM has never disclosed this. But estimates in the auto and tech press are at around $8,000.

        If the rest of the parts and labor that go into the car cost about $20,000 (that’s just a guess), then an $8,000 battery would be adding about 40% to the cost of production. And that $8,000 cost probably won’t scale much, i.e. increasing production volumes won’t do much to push down the price of the battery.

        Then they have to cover R&D, tooling, marketing, etc. At such low volumes, the per-unit R&D costs will necessarily be high.

        This presents an obstacle: Higher prices must be charged in order to make this work. It is simply not going to be possible to price this like a high-end Cruze.

        That requires cultivating a buying pool that is not very price-sensitive, which is similar to what successful luxury brands have to do. This is not exactly the sort of marketing challenge that plays to GM’s strengths.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      The GM replacement part cost is about $3k. I believe that requires a core part to replace though.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        GM pays about $10k.. by comparison Tesla pays about 1/7th (on an equivalent range basis) because they use laptop cells.. those are made in the millions and thus are very low cost.

        The $3k you mentioned is just to replace one of the modules in the Volt’s batteries, I believe there are a total of 4 modules.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        According to this online parts fiche, you are incorrect:

        http://www.gmpartsdepartment.com/parts/2011/CHEVROLET/VOLT/?siteid=214533&vehicleid=1447713&diagram=ZB7080&diagramCallOut=1

        This says there’s no core, but I believe that part is also only orderable by dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      The battery is 16 kWh. The price is rumored to be close to $500 per kWh. That would imply $8,000 for the battery.

    • 0 avatar
      alluster

      @Dynasty – “I would really like to know if they are losing money on the manufacturing side of the equation building a Volt, or if they are losing money on the engineering costs.”

      I would guess the engineering costs. The volt shares its platform with the Cruze, Verano, Astra, Excelle etc and shares engines with the Sonic and Cruze. Will soon share the assembly lines with Malibu and Impala. The battery from what I read costs around 3 grand. So it is a $16K Cruze with $3K to $6k in battery and exclusive firmware not shared by the Cruze. If my guess is indeed true, then GM should probably eat the engineering costs and price the car accordingly ($27 to $30K range). Considering the Volt was developed by old GM, whose debts incurred to develp the volt have been wiped out, eating the engineering costs wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        There seems to be a lot of wide speculation on the cost of the battery from 3K to 12K.

        On the GM site Dr. Noisewater posted, I saw the battery marked down to $2400. On the diagram, it seems the $2400 is for the entire assembly. Really I don’t know though.

        If the styling were correct, I think this car would fly out the door at 30k. And I think if production ramped up, the factory making the battery would have more incentive to develop a less expensive method of producing the battery. Or GM needs to partner with Tesla for their battery tech….

        Even with the current styling, which is better than the Prius and Leaf (not saying much) the car would be a great seller at 30K.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Leaving aside the politics of the Chevy Volt, the Volt is horribly marketed.”

    I have to agree that the marketing of this car is pretty bad. Everytime I see a commercial for the Volt I cringe. Most people don’t have a clue as to how the Volt works and the commercials aren’t helping. They should be using customer testimonials to help sell this car as well.

    Well written Ed and your points are spot on.

    • 0 avatar
      Some Guy

      Yeah, so true. Ford has been using commercials with “average” people who talk about their Fords and why they like them. They’re boring, but they get the point across.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      It is amazing that commenters are blaming TV commercials for poor Volt sales. This is 2012, not 1972; how many to the early adopter types the Volt is supposed to appeal to are watching TV commercials?

      Between DVR’s and online viewing I virtually never see a TV commercial, and I’m in my 40′s. How many people that are smart enough to earn the $170k+ incomes of average Volt buyers are wasting their time watching TV commercials?

      The early adopter types are well educated and looking at multiple (usually on-line) sources of information prior to purchase, and a little research shows some significant flaws in the design and execution of the Volt. These people are not going to make up their mind (or change their mind) based on paid advertising from the manufacturer.

      One great thing about modern communications is that we can seek out multiple sources of information on products and we are no longer dependent on paid advertising or media generated by paid publicists. If you buy an inferior product today it is pretty much your own fault. Unfortunately for the Volt, the salesmanship that might have worked to launch the Vega will not work today.

      • 0 avatar
        Some Guy

        “It is amazing that commenters are blaming TV commercials for poor Volt sales”

        Or perhaps we should be bombarded with TV ads for the Volt. It worked for Apple.

        In the store: “I’d like to buy an iPhone. I don’t know why exactly.”

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Regardless, the commercials aren’t helping. Whenever I see one, I become less interested in the car. That’s an epic fail in my book.

  • avatar
    peteo

    Why is anyone surprised? The Volt was a Gov’t idea that was marketed all wrong.The bigger problem I see is the Gov’t interfering in more of GM’s product planning in the future since they are big percentage owners they have implied influence.They won’t directly interfere but will put pressure behind the scenes to eliminate guzzler type cars such as the Camaro ss,large SUV’s,or no sales of pick up trucks to consumers that can not prove that need them to haul anything that a hatchback can’t handle etc.Because they will be trying to sell cars appealing only to the Birkenstock wearing, silver pony tail crowd, I predict that GM will be starting the journey back to bankruptcy within 10 to 15 years.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Not wanting to comment directly on the Volt as I’ve probably said enough already, I do have a question -”… G.M. was already committed to the Volt when it entered bankruptcy.”

    Yes, but there was no activity from GM on hybrids, if I recall correctly, until about 2006 or so, because up to that point GM was focusing on its HY Wire hydrogen fuel cell ‘reinvention of the car’ project.

    It seems to me that the original plan in 2002 was for GM to (stop me if you’ve heard this phrase from GM before) “leapfrog” the competition by going directly from the ICE to fuel cell cars and skip the development of any hybrids. In 2002, the plan was to have hydrogen fuelcell cars on the road by 2012.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2003/feb/19/business/fi-hydrogen19/2

    So GM’s hurry to develop the Volt ‘moonshot’ came about because their hydrogen fuel cell ‘moonshot’ failed.
    Am I wrong about this?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “So GM’s hurry to develop the Volt ‘moonshot’ came about because their hydrogen fuel cell ‘moonshot’ failed.
      Am I wrong about this?”

      Yep, you are. GM started working on the Volt in 2006. The fuel cell programs are still underway.

      Lutz claims that the Volt idea was inspired by Tesla. I suspect that he doesn’t want to give credit to Toyota, as he must have noticed that Prius US sales broke 100,000 units in the prior year.

      Around that time, Toyota had also been talking publicly about developing a high-mpg plug-in version of the Prius. (Figures of about 100 mpg were being circulated in the auto press.) And in 2006, GM was the subject of criticism in “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

      I would guess that Lutz wanted to have something that could beat the then-forthcoming high-mileage plug-in Prius. It occurred to him that there was a genuine market for such things, and that GM should be in it instead of being publicly criticized for waging some sort of war on alternative vehicles. None of that had anything to do with fuel cell development, which was not discontinued.

      • 0 avatar
        Lokki

        Pch101….

        Ahem: the fuel cell Hy Wire failed in the sense that it was originally scheduled to be in the markets by 2012….

        This was apparent by 2006 at which point GM changed plans and instead of skipping hybrids to go directly to hydrogen power they decided to make the Volt.

        Now that it’s clearer to you what I waw saying you can tell me how wrong I am about something else.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “the fuel cell Hy Wire failed in the sense that it was originally scheduled to be in the markets by 2012″

        The Volt concept was hatched in 2006, six years before that.

        “This was apparent by 2006 at which point GM changed plans and instead of skipping hybrids to go directly to hydrogen power they decided to make the Volt.”

        GM was making hybrid buses in 2004. It formed the plan to develop its two mode system in 2004.

        By 2006, GM wasn’t skipping hybrids, it was expanding its hybrid efforts. GM did exactly the opposite of what you’re claiming.

        You keep trying to turn this into an either-or/ black-and-white issue. The hybrid, extended-range electric and fuel cell programs are all separate. Working on the Volt did not cause GM to halt development of its fuel cell prototypes. They are taking more than one approach to alternative vehicles, albeit without much success.

        These things don’t have anything to do with each other.

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      Um, a hydrogen fuel cell does not produce rotational motion.
      The fuel cell produces electricity and water, and can be recharged quickly by pumping compressed hydrogen back in to it.

      The vehicle would still need an electric motor (or two) to convert that electricity into rotational motion, plus all the integration systems, regenerative brakes, and all electric accessories (power steering, climate control, probably even an electric vacuum pump to provide brake boost) that the Volt required.

      And talk about expensive, fuel cells are still way above even advanced lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries. They also are sensitive to exterior temperature (similar to current Volt/Leaf/Tesla/Fisker battery packs).

      Once durability and manufacturing costs of fuel cells approach reasonable mass market levels, it could be used to replace both the primary battery pack and the ICE unit in the Volt, but the lessons that GM can learn from the Volt will in large part be applicable to a Fuel Cell vehicle.

      Then there’s that pesky hydrogen refilling infrastructure, which is probably even less mature and widespread than natural gas filling stations.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Lokki- You are right on the money, except for your final conclusion that the fuel cell has failed.
      Current and foreseeable battery technology is on the order of 50 times less efficient than fossil fuels. Fuel cells are really just another, much more energy dense form of battery, which has the added benefit of being quickly “recharged” with hydrogen, emitting nothing but water vapor.
      From an engineering perspective, it is an elegant solution to many concerns.
      On the other hand, if we conceptualize Volt’s battery as a $10,000 fuel tank that holds less than 1 gallon, a fuel cell is two or three times the cost for the additional range and “recharging” speed.
      The fuel cell activity was moved, organizationally within GM Powertrain, from an advanced development activity to a production activity a few years. Great strides have been made and the costs are continually being driven down. You may be interested to know that Volt’s architecture is intentionally compatible with a fuel cell.
      Volt is just the foundation for all sorts of drive and energy storage combinations. Give them a few more years with these great profits…..

  • avatar
    alluster

    The volt, great technology or not, makes no sense from an economical standpoint and has no legs of its own. Lets see…$7500 fed tax credit, plus state tax credits, access to the HOV lanes, free recharge stations, subsidized leases and 0% financing. Maybe GM should give them away and include a check to go with it to move them off the lots. Which is exactly what I think GM should be doing….

    The taxpayers loaned GM $17.4B under Bush admin that was written off in b’psy. In addition the Obama admin threw them a $45B illegal tax credit gift for the next 20 years at the expense of taxpayers. This is not including the losses we are looking at for the value of equity we own in the company.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704462704575590642149103202.html

    How can GM repay some of this $65B back to the taxpayers? By giving a $10,000 rebate for a max of 100,000 units a year. Include the $7500 tax credit the Volt would now cost less than a Cruze LT and GM can easily sell at plant capacity or 100K units a year. The idea is not as crazy, since it will only cost $1B a year and GM would have to do it 65 straight years before they can call it even with the taxpayers, to whom they owe their very existence to.

    The Volt is unprofitable as is, with no hope for economies of scale(lithium will get more expensive with higher demand). The more they sell the more they lose. This is a car GM hoped would get them green creds just like Toyota with the Prius(which BTW loses them money too) and allows them to sell more of other profitable cars/suvs/trucks. By Toyota’s own admission, they need the yen @85 to the dollar level to break even on exports to US and @88 to 90 level to barely make a profit.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @Alluster-
      “The taxpayers loaned GM $17.4B under Bush admin that was written off in b’psy.”
      This is not true. Bush admin loaned GM $6.7Billion which was repaid years ago. You can not include GMAC, which was owned by Cerberus, not GM.

      “…the Obama admin threw them a $45B illegal tax credit…” It was surely not illegal, nor unprecedented, to allow the new company to carryforward those tax credits for old GM losses. Ford is using similar credits now, and GM has burned through a third of the $45B already. This was done as a quid pro quo for new GM to continue funding pensions, a multi-billion dollar obligation they could have shed. The trade off would have been bankruptcy of the PBGC and more cost to taxpayers who backstop PBGC.

      $45 in future tax credits against future earnings is hardly a cost to taxpayers that should be repaid!! If some had had their way, GM would not exist and would never use those credits.

      Your opinion about the costs of li-ion batteries and prospects for cost redustion are not accurate.

      You are right that Volt was not expected to be a profit generator for some years.
      If you want to get your money back, assuming you alone have seen some sort of auto bailout surcharge on your taxes, boost GM, buy GM do everything in your power to boost the stock value. That is all that is left.

      Whether you like it or not, there will be no check in the mail from GM. I Can’t disagree too much with the cronyism involved in some of the provisions of the GM & Chrysler restructurings, though.

    • 0 avatar

      You are right in your criticism of the bailout, but it’s not relevant to the Volt. The Volt was developed BEFORE the bankruptcy and bailout. Volt development lasted from January 2006 to September 2008, when the production car was unveiled. So it was already paid for once the gov’t did the bailout and eventually administered the shameful bankruptcy to favor Obama’s favorite union friends. I’m somewhere far to the right to Rush Limbaugh, but I love the Volt because it has nothing to do with politics.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I have to disagree with the comments about the selling the Volt at a bigger loss to helps sales. I think GM would be equally, if not more, criticized after going through bankruptcy and the car that was a political football would be sold at a bigger loss leading right back to bankruptcy. Had GM just not went through a bankruptcy, I could see this working. Having gone through one, I don’t think there was a chance that this would happen.

    If GM learns somethings about this… it is to keep their mouths shut. Don’t per sales expectations on particular cars and then broadcast them everywhere. Learn how to market vehicles better. Divorce yourself from the gov’t as quickly as possible.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Mark Reuss, President of GMNA has stated that GM is committed to Volt and that production will be suspended only temporarily. He would seem to be a fairly high level advocate. Additionally, this is not the third shut down due to lack of demand, but the first. Volt’s previous shutdowns were for other reasons.

    If price is the big issue, where will Ford be with Focus EV, which is the same price as Volt without extended range capability?

    As for cost of operation for the user whose schedule allows all electric operation: Volt, is much less expensive than Prius. At $4/gallon. A 50 MPG Prius will burn $2.80 worth of gas to travel 35 miles. Volt will travel that distance for $1.53 worth of electricity. In fact, Volt is less expensive to operate than Prius for any owner who drives less than 81 miles per day, assuming $4 gas. It is also a much better driving vehicle.

    Volt’s advantage will increase as the price of fuel rises, and, unlike the other EVs on the market, it has limitless range extending capacity.

    It is far too early to predict Volt’s demise.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      BUT – GM has to get the word out in that very manner.

      Consumer Reports Mileage Figures:

      Prius: Overall Mileage: 44, City/HWY: 32/55, 150-Mile Loop: 53
      Volt: Overall, 61, City/Hwy: 45/76, 150 Mile: 70

      Yes, this is utilizing the Volt’s fully-charged battery for the first part of the test, and the economic difference between 44MPG and 61MPG is admittedly small at today’s prices.

      But, everybody that has driven the Volt has been impressed by what a quiet and smooth drive it is in EV mode, a “luxury” that few cars offer today – yes, you should work to keep it there, as the generator mode breaks the silence…

      If I didn’t plan to buy a house in a couple of years, I’d consider leasing one of these — can’t do both. But, they may be pretty attractive “off lease” 3 years from now.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Here is an analogy:

        My house has a gas furnace from the 1960s. Probably at best 65% efficient. However, it works really well and has very low maintenance costs. It is such simple tech, the only thing to break on it is the thermo couple and fan motor (until the heat exchanger cracks).

        However, there are LOTS of people out there who would love to replace a 50 year old 65% gas furnace with a modern high tech condensing unit that gets upwards of 90% efficiency. But they fail to understand these new units are designed to need yearly servicing, have expensive components that break, and will not last anywhere near 50 years before they meet the crusher.

        People don’t always make rational decisions when it comes to saving fuel.

        What? I can cut my heating costs by 30% by spending $3500 upfront, and spending $200 more a year on maintenance on a furnace that might last 12 years before it will be too expensive to fix that it makes no sense not to spend another $3500 on a new furnace! Sign me up!

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @doctor olds…..I hope your right,and GM doesn’t just toss the towel in yet.

      Though I can’t help but sgree with the “lousy marketing” comments I read here . IMHO General Motors needs a real shake up in that department.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      The Focus EV is not as big of a OEM investment as the Volt is to GM. The Focus EV is mostly a Magna project. The Volt, from my understanding, is GM going ‘all in.’ I remember my friends all being tasked to development at the same time. Comparing the two is (in my opinion) not a intelligent parallel. Focus EV sales were never meant to sustain production at a plant.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    *…this is not the third shut down due to lack of demand, but the first. Volt’s previous shutdowns were for other reasons.*

    A distinction without a difference. Regardless of the reason for the shutdowns, they still have a ton more cars than they can sell.

    *If price is the big issue, where will Ford be with Focus EV, which is the same price as Volt without extended range capability?*

    Probably not committing publicly to building 45,000 a year of them and committing the resources to do that. It will be a halo car built cause all the other cool kids have one.

    *In fact, Volt is less expensive to operate than Prius for any owner who drives less than 81 miles per day, assuming $4 gas*

    That would great if they were the same price to purchase. However the Volt owner can’t live long enough to catch up to the Prius on -overall- costs.

    *unlike the other EVs on the market, it has limitless range extending capacity. *

    Now you’ve suddenly switched to comparing it to the Leaf. However, the Prius you were just talking about a moment ago has “limitless range extending capacity”.

    *It is far too early to predict Volt’s demise.*
    Here you are correct. However after 6 November 2012, the betting starts.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @lokki- Your points are accurate, and the bottom line is that GM has to temporarily curtail Volt production to match current demand.

      My first point was simply that Volt’s operating cost is much lower than the best fuel economy car available at today’s fuel prices, an advantage that will increase with increasing gas costs.

      (It has been reported tha Volt has a lower operating cost than Leaf. I haven’t seen the cost components used in that analyis.)

      My second point regarding “unlimited range” was to point out the attribute that is a very important competitive advantage Volt has over Leaf, Focus EV, or any other pure EV available today.

      I did a personal analysis comparing Volt with my wife’s 2011 Regal, which is averaging 26mpg overall. We have an exceptional lease price of $237/month, which makes the $349 Volt lease look unappealing.

      On the other hand, with a conservative estimate that 10,000 of her 15,000 miles a year would be pure EV, assuming $3.79 fuel, Volt’s real world operating cost advantage would be $93/month over the Regal. That would offset almost all of the lease cost delta. I don’t expect to get such a low lease rate next time and will analyse the then current facts. I expect Volt will be pretty competitive in overall cost.
      Volt’s operating cost depends on an individual’s driving schedule. Imagining the optimum circumstances for Volt with plug-in at work, 70 miles a day in pure EV mode, yields a daily cost of about $3.00. A 50 mpg car would burn $6 worth of $4/gallon gas. That would save the Volt owner $90/month. The Prius would have to lease for $259/month, in this example, to provide lower operating cost. Even then, Volt is a more enjoyable drive, if that is a factor in one’s decision.

      I know this example is extreme, in the context of drive schedule but it illustrates what is possible.

  • avatar
    lw

    Maybe GM has a revenue stream based on the # of volt related blog comments?

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    Maybe they get a payoff every time someone sees the dance on You Tube.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    Thanks for restoring my faith in TTAC, EN. This here really is the truth about the Volt.

    As someone who actually drives one of these things, it’s a wonderful car with a lot of promise. Not at this price point and not until various aspects of the car are improved upon, but the EREV concept is solid.

    I hope GM sticks with this like Toyota did with the Prius. There’s potential with the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “There’s potential with the Volt”.
      Yes, 300 Volts!
      /snark.

      An unfortunate byproduct of physics: in order to make a more compact electric motor, higher voltages are needed for the same power output so that thinner (less copper) wire can be used. (modern insulation makes this feasible).

  • avatar
    406driver

    With all the hype surrounding it this looks like GM’s version of the Edsel

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Excellent article. Honestly, if they had done what they should have with the EV1, and kept it as a low-volume way to develop the world’s best EV, they would now be way ahead of the game.

    The ultimate issue with GM is that only after crashing and burning do they seem to realize that they need to have good small cars and efficient vehicles, if nothing else as a hedge against an unknown future. From what I’ve heard of GM’s culture, it was considered degrading to work on small cars, and environmental concerns were considered a joke. Now who’s laughing? Toyota is the best-hedged automaker when it comes to rising gas prices or future uncertainty.

    The Volt is a nice moonshot, I hope GM actually bothers to persist in developing the technology and expanding it to other cars in it’s fold as Toyota has done, otherwise they are still at risk from future uncertainties. If they do like they did with the EV1, say, “we tried by it didn’t make money, SEE, we TOLD you this is stupid!”, they will find themselves on the scrapheap again, and maybe the US government won’t be able to save them next time. It’s their future.

    EDIT: GM has a history of developing promising technologies or brands and then throwing it all away. Saturn was very popular at first, and no owner I know of has had anything but good things to say about the plastic panels… But what happened to that? GM also has made two of the world’s most aerodynamic cars, the EV1 and the Opel Calibra – what happened to that? This is the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      I happened to serve on the GM committee formed in 1988 or 1989 to determine the processes and systems necessary for GM to comply with the then upcoming California emissions reporting regulations. I had responsibility for emissions compliance for many years thereafter. EV1 was produced in a former Olds plant in Lansing. This experiences is the foundation of my knowledge of the topic.

      There are some myths around EV1 and a lack of awareness of its reasons for existence. The facts are:
      1- EV1 was created to comply with California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which was to require that two percent of a car makers California sales must be ZEVs. GM was the largest seller in California in the late 80′s, which made this requirement a very heavy burden if we wanted to sell there.
      2- GM put forth a full faith, max technology effort to develop EV1. The only carmaker to do so, btw. It was offered at a huge loss, with the understanging that the other 98% of California sales would have to subsidize EV1. It was essentially a mandated cost of doing business there.
      3- Carmakers, notably including Toyota, Honda, et al, successfully lobbied CARB to allow Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, glorified golf carts, to be counted toward that 2%. This action by government eliminate EV1′s very reason for existence, cutting the legs from under EV1. With the ZEV mandate gone, GM made the business call to cancel the program.

      • 0 avatar
        Adamatari

        That I understand. I’m saying that is the problem – they should have kept very limited production and developed and expanded the technology instead of making that “business call” to throw away the very tech they had developed.

  • avatar
    nadude

    Ed–

    I think I tried to look forward and move on from the past with what I said in this WSJ article this weekend. I only want to have a transparent view and make the right calls with production and demand with the car and all of the technology in it. No one really knows the demand or sales rate –we only know what it did last month but we don’t know gas prices in the future nor do we know exactly the rate of take of electrification in any form in the market. We know Eassist runs about 25-30% for a 20-25% bump in fuel economy. We are in fact committed to driving cost and performance into the concept–and are working hard on it. We also know 93 % or so of the people who are buying love the car. I myself love driving the one I own, and I still am proud of the engineers and people who brought it to market. We need to learn with every cycle we bring to market and we will. Not trying new things and taking risk is a place we never want to revisit. Thanks for listening and here is the link to the WSJ article. We are in fact committed as a company to bring lower cost and matching production with demand. As we announced we will bring more cars into our Volt plant so we have a really flexible mix and can make the car as the market dictates. Regards–mark

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203986604577257681918603106.html?mod=WSJ_Autos_LS_Autos_4

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think some of the hate dumped on the Volt is because it appears to have been a car designed for the government regulators, not for the market, and people don’t like that. General Electric, under Jeffrey Immelt, seems to be a company that has focused most of its business plan around government regulation and subsidies. The Volt seems to be part of the same concept. Seeing the failure of non-market based “energy solutions” based on large taxpayer subsidies, a number of people are getting a little upset.

    I agree that the Volt has been poorly marketed. It is not a car for everyone and should not be marketed as such. Specifically, a person who drives more than 25 miles a day (without the opportunity to recharge) might be better off with a Prius, because of the Prius’s superior fuel economy when running its engine. It might even be worthwhile to calculate the turnover point (in terms of daily mileage), below which the Volt saves you more on fuel than something like a Prius, much less, say, a Fusion hybrid.

    So, the first marketing point might be: “If you drive (e.g.) 40 miles or less every day, the Volt will cost you less to drive than the Prius or any other hybrid sedan.”

    The second marketing point would be: “Unlike an electric car, the Volt will not leave you stuck beside the road if you miscalculate your battery range to get back home.”

    I suspect that, the way most people drive, the Volt very well might save them money over any hybrid.

    And none of these cars (Prius, Volt) are cars that you would want to use to take on a vacation if mountains are in your itinerary and if you plan to load the car to more than 50% of its capacity.

    The $350 lease deal is fairly attractive, because it takes the risk of the depreciation off of the buyer’s pocketbook.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      American carmakers have been designing cars for regulators since the ’70′s.

      The concern for mountain driving may be valid for Prius, but Volt is a much better performing vehicle, even in range extending mode.

      Volt’s primary reason for existence is to change GM’s image,
      with a close second being to validate the technology in real world production and operation as a spring board for future products.

      That is the goal for current advertising.

      Bringing it to a local, dealer level, ask yourself; how much can I afford to spend on advertising the one car I will be getting this quarter. First model year production (which is all sold, btw) amounts to about 3 1/2 Volts per dealer for the year.

      The sales of full size trucks in contrast to the Nissan Leaf, with weaker sales than Volt last month, suggests Americans are now immune to $4 gas.

      What will happen when gas spikes to $5 and above? GM will be prepared to produce Volts to meet demand and can then focus on why it is not just an innovation proposition, but a value proposition as well.

      • 0 avatar
        ktm

        Doctor olds, you are getting quite old with the “Volt outsold the Leaf” meme. Let me know when the Volt is purely electric and never, ever relies on the ICE. Until then, the Volt should be compared to the Prius. The market for a purely electric vehicle is even smaller than that for the Volt.

        If you want to compare the Volt to the Leaf, let’s target the markets where both vehicles were sold (since the Leaf was not available to the entire US until recently). How many of the Volt sales were to fleet as well (and we know that it is destined for fleet sales *cough* GE *cough*)?

        I’ll take your approach and point out that the Leaf is sold worldwide in other markets. The car is manufactured in one (1) plant in Japan that was impacted by the earthquake/tsunami. To date (if Wiki is to be believed), 22,000 Leaf’s have been sold world wide.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        Dr. Olds –

        “The sales of full size trucks in contrast to the Nissan Leaf, with weaker sales than Volt last month, suggests Americans are now immune to $4 gas.”

        The fact that the same Americans are spending less (inflation adjusted) on food to purchase what little gas they need to buy suggests that they’re not immune to $4 gas. Almost nobody buying either car is doing it to save on operating costs (at the expense of up-front ones).

        Let’s face it – The Leaf’s price makes it just right for an automotive toy for someone who makes $170K/yr and has a car they don’t have to plan around. This ensures that last month’s inversion will be a fluke.

        The Volt either needs to either be around $30K as-is, or it needs to look like the original concept car at $42K.

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      “And none of these cars (Prius, Volt) are cars that you would want to use to take on a vacation if mountains are in your itinerary and if you plan to load the car to more than 50% of its capacity.”

      Can’t speak for the Volt, but as a former Prius owner and Colorado resident I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to take a Prius on a vacation in the mountains. My wife and I did it all the time and the car works just fine in mountians although I will admit it takes about 5 minutes longer to do the 250 miles from Denver to Grand Junction in the Prius vs. the Volvo XC70. But the gas savings more than makes up for that. One of the reasons the Prius sells well is that it is simply a great car that also happens to get great mileage.

  • avatar
    analoca

    Interesting to see that the Chevy Volt / Opel Ampera, has been elected today the European Car of the Year 2012…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Name one car that sold 500K copies at an inflation adjusted price of 48K, or even 40K with taxpayers picking up the difference. And then ask if GM can be trusted with such new technology out of the gate when they have such a long history of engineering guffaws from bad transmissions and engines to paint problems and other silly problems a world class manufacturer should not have.

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      That’s the thing about the Volt – the technology really is that good. Certainly the whole scenario calls to mind the Corvair and the Vega.. just have to hope for a better ending this time.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        Corvairs and Vegas were cheap cars to buy.

      • 0 avatar
        moorewr

        The point is not the cost of the car; the point is that both were supposed to be clean breaks for GM – a giant step forward in one bound. That’s the similarity – and the warning – with the Volt.

        People focus on the cost of the Volt, but a) the average price of a new car in the US is $30k, and b) the final price of the Volt is less of a markup over a Cruze than the original Prius was over the Corolla. People forget the Insight and Prius struggled along with slow sales before the gen 2 Prius caught the public’s interest.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        It IS the cost of the car. These things are sold, not issued. And it’s 10 – 18K more than an average car. It’s demographic buyer is pretty well off, and there aren’t millions of them around with the requirement to buy it. The Mitsubishi MEIV is listing for about half and the Leaf beats it by 10K. Toyota is looking at affordable alternatives too.

        Price still matters.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I agree with your point that price matters, but the Leaf is around $5K cheaper, not $10K.

  • avatar

    Outstanding article. I’ve argued the same thing myself repeatedly for many months: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11434371/1/the-official-car-of-the-republican-party.html

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @PaloAltoWorldView
      It is a great article! Thanks for posting.

      Probably why this engineer has become a booster! It is maddening to see the right wing chatterers using the car as they do. It should appeal to them for all the reasons in the article. My only real beef is that it is on the small side for my tastes.

      One niggling point. Volt is the start of a long term play, and was not expected to be profitable in the near term. Wagoner said he wanted to be first to market with an EV, but that was less important than being first with a million. That seems far fetched today, but wait until gas spikes to $5 and above.

  • avatar

    Inventories, even though they’ve increased, remain at an extremely low level (2 Volts per Chevy dealership): http://www.thestreet.com/story/11443180/1/no-channel-stuffing-evident-for-chevy-volt.html

  • avatar
    ejhickey

    Good article . To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, A good car company need to know its limitations.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    I think some people have forgotten the genesis of this car.

    Originally, it was vaporware. FUD intended to make people stop bothering GM about real hybrids.

    Then, gas prices shot up. It turned into “maybe we ought to actually think about building this thing”.

    Then, the government had to bail out GM. At that point it was “Oh, no, we actually HAVE to build this thing”.

    At no point in there was this actually getting the kind of hard-nosed engineering and financial thought that the Prius got from day one. The Prius was a halo car which had a path to becoming profitable – and was never overpromised. The Volt was obviously overpromised from day one, because its original job wasn’t to deliver – but to deny.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Maybe you should read the article.

      “the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build. Unfortunately for this theory, G.M. was already committed to the Volt when it entered bankruptcy.”

      Honestly, the Volt is doing about as well as the original Prius when it came out.

      • 0 avatar
        M1EK

        I did.

        The first Prius (1997-2000) was a much worse car, objectively speaking, than either the current Volt or the 2004-2009 Prius.

        Still required far less subsidy from its corresponding government than did the Volt, and it was an honest attempt to eventually get to a salable car, while the Volt started out as an attempt by Maximum Bob to get people to stop bothering him about hybrids, in the same way IBM used to announce products they never intended to build just to kill prospective rivals.

        Of course, GM circa 2006 wasn’t IBM of the 1960s, but Bob still thought they were.

    • 0 avatar

      It was never vaporware. The project was developed starting in 2006 and finally approved by GM’s board shortly after January 2007. It’s amazing technology, which you would know if you put at least a few tens of miles behind the wheel…

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Thank you!

      Apparently I’m not the only one who remembers the commercials GM ran back in ’07 with the concept car and…sob…sob… the children… Being disingenuous with imagery bites you in the rear every time.

  • avatar
    redav

    Great article. It’s pieces like this that bring me to this site.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I think the regular references to the slow startup of Prius sales are misplaced.

    The Prius has already blazed the high-mpg/high-tech trail. It was never priced at double its competitors’ prices, maybe 50% higher. The ‘new adopters’ of such technology already bought the Prius.

    The market the Volt wants – but can’t get – is regular consumers, NOT new adopters. There really aren’t many new adopters left, and the sales are proving this.

    Besides, if you insist on comparisons to Prius sales, the Prius sales ramp was much steeper than the Volt’s.

    I’ll bring up another issue which concerned me from the beginning: The Prius is a single-fuel vehicle; you just operate it like a normal car. The dual-fuel requirement of the Volt is a pain, and requires a very special customer to tolerate it.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Volt is the same price as Focus EV,and not far above Leaf, which it outsold last month, and Volt has the huge advantage of onboard range extension.

      Prius lovers will howl, but Volt leapfrogs way beyond Prius and it is Toyota playing catchup with their me too plug in two years behind.
      Even then, anyone who cares about performance would reject Prius in favor of Volt in a hearbeat.

      • 0 avatar
        kingofgix

        “Prius lovers will howl, but Volt leapfrogs way beyond Prius and it is Toyota playing catchup with their me too plug in two years behind.”

        aahwooo, aahwooo! (Me howling) Actually, I don’t disagree that the Volt is a great concept and from what I know about it, great technology. But as for leapfrogging, the problem with that statement is it depends on how you use your car. The Volt is potentially better functionally IF you have a relatively short commute and/or rarely drive long distances in a given day. And if thats the case, the argument for ultra-low operating costs is largely undermined. The best adopters of high mileage vehicles are people who drive a lot, and the Prius is still probably a better choice for those people.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @kingofx- You are surely right that those who drive a lot of miles everyday would be better served with Prius.
        With an overnight plug-in or 4-5 hours on a dedicated charger, Volt is cheaper to operate than Prius unless you exceed 81 miles in a day with gas at $4 and using my own electric rate at my home. If gas is $5, you would have to drive 91 miles before the Prius was cheaper to operate. And Volt will always beat Prius to 60 by seconds, if you value performance.

        On the other hand after 80-90 miles of a trip, the Prius would save you 2 cents a mile from then on, 20-30 cents a day with a 100 mile commute. Say $10.40 cents in a 600 mile continuous drive if you were driving across country.
        Volt in pure EV mode is half the cost of Prius to operate with $4 gas. A simple 110v plugin during the work day provides 75 miles of EV range per day, adequate for the needs of 90% of us.
        PCH101 may well be right about marketing Volt as a value proposition at this stage, but it looks pretty appealing from an engineering perspective.

      • 0 avatar
        kingofgix

        Doctor olds. I don’t think your original comment that the Volt “leapfrogs way beyond the Prius” is quite ready for prime time. The technology may be an advancement, but technology without cost effectiveness can’t really count as a “leapfrog”. A step forward maybe.

        Not wanting to nit-pick your numbers, but I don’t see evidence that you are accounting for the fact that gas for a Prius costs 5-10% less than gas for a Volt (reg vs. premium). And the economies of cost of operation in the 50+ mpg range definitely fall into the area of diminishing returns. There are scenarios where a Volt will be cheaper to operate, but cheaper enough to make up for the difference in the initial purchase price? I think those situations would be very rare.

        And there are the issues of overall reliability, battery life and battery cost. People used to use those arguments against the Prius, but they have been shown to be largely empty. Prii and their batteries have both proven very reliable. Only time will tell, but odds are a Prius will be more cost effective than a Volt in those areas.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @kingofgix- Thanks for nit picking! I don’t mind at all, since I was in error not to comprehend the higher price of premium fuel in my analysis. I am glad to be “recalibrated”.

        My comment about Volt leapfrogging way beyond Prius is a bit strong, but even the upcoming Prius plug-in can’t reasonably be operated as a pure EV to fulfull most drivers schedules. Volt accomodates over 3/4 with no additional planning, and no stops at a gas station most weeks. In truth, I don’t know whether Prius plugin is trying to catch up with Volt, or merely using the same “loophole” to get the tax break.

      • 0 avatar
        M1EK

        The Volt “leapfrogs” the Prius if and only if ALL of the following conditions are met:

        1. You don’t care about up-front cost at all

        2. You don’t ever want to use the car for anything other than commuting

        3. You trust that the long-term battery life of this lithium-ion battery, with a more depleting cycle than Toyota’s well-proven NiMH battery, will meet the most optimistic of projections despite the car failing on all other optimistic projections originally made

        I can bring home lumber or landscaping stuff from Home Depot with the Prius. I can (and have) fit 5 family members in it and a reasonable amount of bags (and dog) in the trunk for a weekend trip down to the coast.

        And I can commute in it.

        The Volt? I could commute in it. I’d hope for the 8 years I’ve had my ’04 Prius, but honestly I’m not sure.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The Prius was twice the price of a Corolla at the time. The Honda Insight at the time was a pseudo competitor, I don’t recall the pricing of it at the time.

      But it all depends on what you consider competition. But the Prius was definitely more than 50% higher than its competition at the time. You just don’t remember what the vehicle costs to start with. Toyota hasn’t gone to big batteries yet in its plug-in Prius, which is 32k. If anything, I think that is the closest competitor to the Volt. The Volt isn’t twice the price of that. The Volt isn’t twice the price of the Leaf.

  • avatar
    zekestone

    ” Instead, Toyota accepted losses on early sales, and committed itself to building the Prius’s technology and brand over the long term. With this approach, GM could have avoided the Volt’s greatest criticism (its price) and embarrassment (sales shortfalls), and presented the extended-range-electric concept as a long-term investment.”

    There’s another dynamic to what is going on… I call it “The Ghost of the EV1″ effect.

    Basically, GM went from Hero with the EV1, to LESS THAN ZERO by crushing all those EV1s.

    I never owned or drove an EV1… but I would have liked to have had the opportunity to maybe pick one up used at some point… regardless of whether it needed a new battery pack.

    But by crushing all those cars, they were also destroying their corporate image.

    And they’re paying for those past sins now.

    Toyota never had to overcome negative PR in the green car segment because they let RAV4 EV owners keep their cars when they protested.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    You said it yourself: a car that “still defies apples-to-apples efficiency comparisons with other cars” can’t be expected to sell in the optimistic numbers GM hoped for.

    That would be true even if the government never got involved in GM and even if they didn’t go bankrupt.

    Clearly the car is still too new for some people, and too costly for others, save ~1,000 per month.

    But the Volt voyage is FAR from over.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “The basic problem with the Volt isn’t that it’s a bad car that nobody could ever want; it is, in fact, quite an engineering achievement and a rather impressive drive. And if GM had said all along that it would serve as an “anti-Corvette,” selling in low volumes at a high price, nobody could now accuse it of failure. Instead, GM fueled totally unrealistic expectations for Volt, equating it with a symbol of its rebirth even before collapsing into bailout.”

    This is a long quote, but I think a good one, because it nicely frames the disconnect between the car itself, which isn’t that bad, and the expectations for it, which were totally unrealistic and make it LOOK bad. That chart is pretty damning, too.

    If I had a nickel for every comment I’ve read online that boils down to “The Volt is a bad car that nobody could ever want,” I could probably afford one. But the truth is not that simple.

  • avatar
    Les

    The entire concept of an ER-EV just boggles me, but then I think conventional hybrids are a bit daft as well…

    Then it hit me.

    Cars like the Chevy Volt and the Fisker Karma shouldn’t be marketed as Extended-Range Electric Vehicles.. they need to be marketed as Multi-Drive Vehicles.

    Give the user control over the drivetrain and let them manually select, should the whim strike them, between pure ICE and pure EV modes.

    ICE for when you wanna go for long-distance cruises, just treat it like a normal car and don’t worry about finding a charging station or over-taxing that battery that threatens to go poof if it’s overdrawn.

    EV for when you get there and can now tootle around quietly and cleanly and not smog-up the place.

    And plenty of Hybrid settings in between optimized for whatever conditions the Factory and/or end-user can dream up.

    Then, it actually sounds quite appealing to me. ^-^

  • avatar

    PLEASE DON’T LEAVE US AGAIN EDWARDDDDD

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    In 2010 US$, the Vega would cost $31716.62.

    It’s more now. More like $35k.

    Would you pay $30-35k for a VEGA?! I wouldn’t…lol

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “On the other hand after 80-90 miles of a trip, the Prius would save”

    That’s the problem with the Prius. It can only attain that 50 MPG if it’s driven a long way every time you get in it. Those short 3-10 mile trips we all make to the hardware or grocery store daily, it struggles to break the 30 MPG mark. This is where the Volt really kicks it’s butt as far effciency. And unlike the PIP, which you have to drive like the acceleraor pedal is made of fine china to keep the gas engine from kicking on, you can hammer the Volt from stop light to stop light and never burn a drop of fuel. Most fun I ever had getting diapers!….LOL

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      According to the 3 people I know that own Priuses, this isn’t true. Heck, I can easily get 28MPG around town in my GTI, so you couldn’t get me to believe a Prius couldn’t break 30 on the same route.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Indeed. With the third-generation, even driven like an idiot in traffic, we’ve struggled to get it below 38 mpg.

      Driven properly, we’ve seen 86 mpg (US) from it on the highway. But that’s at a 50 mph cruise. Not something people tend to do in America.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Maybe the Volt is selling poorly due to dealers price gouging…

    According to Autotrader, there is a Chevy dealer 33 miles from my zipcode with four Volts in stock. They all range in price from $57K to over 60K.

    And then I see used ones for sale with less than 10000 miles with prices listed more than you can buy a brand new one for not even subtracting the tax credit. No doubt the dealers pocketed the tax credit and figure someone will eventually buy the vehicle.

  • avatar

    “the Volt is a Corvette-style halo car, with similar production and sales levels”

    Really?

    Last year, Volts sales totaled about 7,400.

    In 2010, Chevrolet sold 22,194 Corvettes – about three times as many.

    So being “a Corvette-style halo car, with similar production and sales levels” would be a threefold improvement.

    What’s more, a Vette wouldn’t take four weeks to make the trip from Detroit to Florida, as GM’s own director of batteries and electric vehicles admitted a Volt would take, what with recharging time and all.

  • avatar
    Jonathan Silber

    Sooner than later, GM will meet demand of the market for the Volt by ceasing further production of it.

    The car that “America had to build” is not the car America wants to buy.

  • avatar
    Southerner

    As to the Palo Alto World View: If those of your acquaintance who bought Volts did so instead of a car from the list of near super-cars you listed, all I can say is wow, just wow. My instant reaction to your post was to call steaming, stinking BS on your anecdote. However, after brief reflection, I realized that such a story fit perfectly with the well earned reputation of San Francisco Bay area dwellers.

  • avatar
    Les

    My first impression of the Volt is, that it’s useless, it’s crap, it’s a symbol of failure in a company that is made of failure.

    That’s no real fault of the car itself, or of it’s technology, it’s a perfect storm of both GM’s deservedly poor reputation and their poor marketing of the Volt.

    Technologically, the Volt represents a new and innovative approach to hybrid power-train design for passenger cars. That’s not what GM is trying to sell us though, what they are trying to sell us is a ‘Range-Extended Electric Vehicle’.

    ‘Range-Extended Electric’, combined with GM’s rep, that gets me thinking, “Hello, we’re GM, and we are Cheep-Cheep-CheepCheepCheep. Search your feelings and you’ll know this to be true.. from the cheep and chincy materials we decorate the inside of our ‘premium’ marks, our Corvettes and Cadillacs; to our ‘cheep and cheerful’ car lines we’ve out-sourced to the one Korean car-maker that couldn’t get it’s Sh- together. Now, we bring the Volt! An Electric Car from a company so cheep we couldn’t be bothered developing proper long-range batteries for it like Nissan did with the leaf and just stuffed a standard motor in there to run a generator.. because we’re Cheep.”

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      Um, the Leaf is a non-starter with most buyers because of its range. I’m sure you know this.

      No EV has the legs needed for the mainstream American market. To the extent that EVs are the answer (a debatable point!) plug-in hybrids and plug-in electric-to-the-wheels cars are the right answer.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        “Um, the Leaf is a non-starter with most buyers because of its range. I’m sure you know this.”

        The Leaf still has far longer legs on it’s battery than the Volt has on it’s battery. The fact that the Volt has inferior battery range because “Oh, it has Range-Extension” sounds like a cop-out.

        If they’d given the Volt batteries on-par with the Leaf AND the Range-Extension that would’ve made the Volt seem much more impressive. That’s my point, it’s not about practical merits that are bringing the car down, it’s about image and impressions.

        “No EV has the legs needed for the mainstream American market. To the extent that EVs are the answer (a debatable point!) plug-in hybrids and plug-in electric-to-the-wheels cars are the right answer.”

        No argument there, which is why the Volt’s marketing as an EV first and foremost with a tacked-on engine is so frustrating to me. To me it just Screams that this car isn’t intended for people who are interested in the technology and versatility this drivetrain shows so much potential for, it’s for yuppies who think taking their reusable shopping bags to Whole Foods makes them ‘Eco-Warriors’.

      • 0 avatar
        moorewr

        GM had two contradictory marketing problems to solve – one, to assure people they would never be stranded like a pure EV, and two, to explain that this really wasn’t just another take on the Prius.

        If they had just marketed it as an American Prius they would have sold the technology and its advantages short, left no explanation for the difference in cost, and would have had no space in the market, since up until the Sonata Hybrid, no other hybrid could make in impression against the zombie mob of Prius drivers.

        EDIT: the naysayers, IMHO, hate the car for reasons that have nothing to do with car (or with reality!), and nothing would satisfy them.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Of course there’s more to this car than ‘An American Prius’, It’s something new. That’s where marketing fell short. Yes there are strong Naysayers with political motivations who won’t be swayed by anything, but they have influence among others who aren’t so ideologically pure and who don’t see anything compelling in the Volt’s marketing.

        If you don’t have a previous emotional investment in the Volt or it’s technolgy, or even have a bit of bias already against it, then it’s marketing as ‘an EV first’ just makes it sound like the ICE parts of it’s drive-train were tacked-on like an afterthought or as a ‘cheat’ and not an integrated portion of an innovative new drivetrain.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I know several people in my area who own a Prius. Their preference is the direct-drive gas engine in the Prius over the gasoline-generator of the Volt.

        I play cards with several of these old codgers every Wednesday night and we’re all car nuts, since our youth. Some got their enthusiasm for cars on the East Coast, and some on the West Coast. All of them own one or more other cars besides the Prius, while all of them own at least one pickup truck.

        The Volt should be available to all who want to buy one but it should not be subsidized by the tax payers. Unless the Volt can offer significantly more than the Prius has for the past ten years, sales of the Volt will remain dismal, at best.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @highdesertcat- Volt’s recharge electricity costs about half the fuel cost of a 50MPG Prius to operate in pure electric mode, with gas at $4/gallon. Do you consider that a significant advantage? That difference will more than offset Volt’s price premium, while fulfilling the needs for most retirees. Prius doesn’t get cheaper to operate until one drives about 80 miles a day and only then if it can’t be recharged during the day with a simple 110V outlet. Those who drive a hundred miles a day without opportunity for a recharge would be better off with a Prius. Volt will run circles around a Prius too. Your friends ought to see for themselves, if they really like cars. There is nothing like a test drive to know how the car drives.
        I am torn regarding the tax incentives our government has released to spur the development of alternative drive technologies. Don’t like the politics, but understand that it would be even more difficult to launch these very costly new technologies without incentives. Prius also has had government tax incentives.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      The word you wanted is cheap, as in low cost. Cheep is the sound a young bird makes.

      Volt is an EV first, with range extension second. There are several Volt owners who comment regularly here confirming that they are using very little gas.
      Volt’s battery size was carefully chosen to provide Electric operation most of the time for most people without adding even more cost and weight that would come with a larger battery. No doubt, battery technology is woefully inefficient compared to fossil fuels’ energy density, whether in Volt, Leaf, Tesla…
      Volt pays for itself compared to the average midsize car achieving 26MPG even if 1/3 of the miles are in range extending mode.
      .

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        “The word you wanted is cheap, as in low cost. Cheep is the sound a young bird makes.”

        My mistake. ^_^

        “Volt is an EV first, with range extension second.”

        Which in my opinion is a fantastic marketing faux-pas.

        “There are several Volt owners who comment regularly here confirming that they are using very little gas.”

        Yea, I know.

        And?

        “Volt’s battery size was carefully chosen to provide Electric operation most of the time for most people without adding even more cost and weight that would come with a larger battery”

        That’s what you’re saying.

        What I’m hearing is, “Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeap.” ^_^

        “No doubt, battery technology is woefully inefficient compared to fossil fuels’ energy density, whether in Volt, Leaf, Tesla…
        Volt pays for itself compared to the average midsize car achieving 26MPG even if 1/3 of the miles are in range extending mode.”

        That’s all well and good and all, but you’re still missing the point. This isn’t about why the true believers in the Volt love their cars, this is about why the nay-sayers keep nay-saying and can’t learn to love the Volt. Much of which I think belongs on the shoulders of GM’s marketing department.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “this is about why the nay-sayers keep nay-saying and can’t learn to love the Volt”

        It really isn’t.

        To be more specific, it’s exactly the opposite. If GM has any brains, then it should ignore the late adopters. Completely. No tech company ever scored a hit by focusing a new technology launch on late adopters and laggards.

        Instead of giving a loaner Volt to the late adopters/whiners on Fox News, GM should have delivered it to some influential geek tech blogger, the head of an environmental group or a semi-important executive of a tech company.

        Late adopters are, by definition, late. A company that sells Wonder Bread would be foolish to ignore them, but a tech company with a new and costly product should entirely and utterly blow them off.

        GM may be a lumbering dinosaur, but the wing within it that is charged with selling the Volt must behave like an IT startup. Let Fox bitch about the Volt all it wants — what they think about it matters not one whit. It’s the nerd who is fascinated by the idea of technology for the sake of it and the environmentalist who doesn’t just associate fuel economy with cost savings who need to be targeted.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    @Les- A primary Volt marketing purpose is to change GM’s image, with “greens”, in particular. That is why it is an EV first.

    The range extension capability is truly a crutch for today’s best battery technology, a carefully considered design feature, not an afterthought.

    It would be wonderful if the best batteries didn’t weigh 50 pounds to store energy equivalent to about 1 pound of fossil fuel, but they do.

    Volt is a real world vehicle with real world tradeoffs, and it assuredly is not “cheap”.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Of course, only about 15% of the energy in the fossil fuel gets to the wheels, while 80+% of the energy in the battery does.

      The gap is much smaller than the simple 50X number implies. GM and other automakers would be foolish not to get real-world experience with the technology to avoid getting bypassed in the next 10 or 15 years.

  • avatar
    alluster

    All along the Volt has been over hyped and fixated on as some kind of huge make or break test for GM. Sorry, its not. The Cruze, new Malibu, the ATS, next gen Impala and Sonic are the real tests for GM and how they perform in the next few years, how much retail market penetration they get, their transaction prices compared to their predecessors, and the reputation they build is more important than how a $40K car performs in segment with less than 3% market share. Is the Volt a sales flop, yes. Does it really matter, No.

    Despite such poor sales, according to hybrid cars.com, the volt owns more than 61% of the plug-in segment in February. It also handily outsold long timers like the Civic hybrid, Insight, CRZ, Lexus RX, Escape and Fusion Hybrids, some of them costing less than half. So why doesn’t the automotive media beat the life out of Honda, 10 years after launching hybrids and being a hybrid pioneer, for selling less than 1000 units a model, two under $19K and one under $24K.

    Toyota will own the Hybrid segment for the foreseeable future and nothing is gong to change it. Its important for GM to get their leg in early and constantly work towards efficiency improvements in case the market explodes. With improvements in battery tech, GM would be able to double the range for the same cost/battery size or maintain the same range with half the battery cells. I never really cared much about the Volt’s “success” or “failure” because either would be completely arbitrary. What is important is that they get a jump on electrification because that is the wave of the future. Once the assembly line is shared with the Malibu and Impala, they can more easily control production without layoffs. Until then they are better off building 4000 a month and shutting the plant down the next instead of building 2000 a month.

    Correct me if i am wrong, but i believe Price is the only factor holding the Volt back, which is better problem than range anxiety, fear of adopting newtech, changing driving & refueling habits, quality or fire risk. Price is the easiest to fix with improving battery tech. One way or the other “Voltech” is here to stay.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States