Way back when the Chevy Volt was taking center stage in GM’s case for bailout (as in give us one, or you won’t get the Volt), the Obama Administration’s task force on autos was not amused. “While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable,” was just one of the knocks the pols gave the then-mule-stage Volt. And even though the Nissan Leaf has since proven that the Volt is also “much more expensive than its pure-electric peers” the White House’s official car guys have changed their tune.
Tag: Volt Birth Watch
This week saw the Volt’s price point issues return to the public eye, as GM’s Chairman and CEO made it clear that he takes the government’s $7,500 tax credit for granted. But Whitacre’s dissembling revealed once again GM’s fundamental problem with the Volt: getting people past the sticker shock. Though GM’s short-term viability doesn’t hinge on the Volt selling like gangbusters, it’s clear that the Volt’s initial success or lack thereof will be a crucial factor in GM’s ability to hold a successful IPO and extricate itself from government ownership. Which, according to The Big Money‘s Matt DeBord, is one of the reasons the government should expand the Volt’s credit of $10k. Another reason: the Volt’s competition is too good!
with the base Prius selling for just over $20,000 and the base Honda Insight hybrid for under $20,000, the feds may have to start thinking about how to enable innovative electric and gas-electric plug-ins to survive. The EPA mandate to raise fleet fuel-economy standards to average of 35.5 mpg by 2016 looms, and a component of that target should be EVs and plug-ins. Otherwise, carmakers may abandon the tech, leaving it stillborn to cynically massage their fleet numbers by importing small cars from foreign operations to North America—cars they know Americans will only grudgingly purchase and that may force the government to chuck the 35.5 requirement.
Subtitle two: we don’t believe a word of it. The report comes from an exclusive interview of GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre at the Volt fanboy site gm-volt.com. GM-volt’s Lyle Dennis asked Whitacre if GM would lose money on every Volt it sells, a fact that GM executives have never tried to substantively deny. Until now. Whitacre’s answer:
“We’re not in business to lose money,” he said. “We did enough of that already.”
The Volt “is going to sell in the low 30s,” said Whitacre. “We’ll get a margin on that.”
Oh really? Because it sure seems that GM plans on selling the Volt for $39,500-$45,500, and that the “low 30s” number is dependent on a tax credit. As for Whitacre’s claim that the Volt will make profit, the lack of time-constraints on his prediction is all you need to know. With enough sales and over enough time, almost anything will create profit, especially if the government is distorting the battery market for you. Meanwhile, GM still has to overcome $40k sticker shock (sorry, but you can’t exactly advertise post-tax break prices) and at least a few years of loss on the Volt. But if the gm-volt comments section proves anything, it’s that you can never go wrong misleading the fanboys.
Getting a car like the Volt on Jay Leno’s Garage seems like a no-brainer. America’s patron celebrity of car obsession has the gearhead credentials to help explain the Volt’s positive attributes, and the enthusiasm to draw a very different crowd than the usual Volt fanboy sites. And yet from the first, the Volt’s visit to automotive Valhalla seems to have chief engineer Andrew Farah in permanent flinch mode. Leno is never overtly hostile (alá Letterman), but from his comparison of the Volt to a 1916 Owens Magnetic, to his assessment that the Volt is “not a tiny car,” you can’t help feeling that he thinks it’s all a bit of a joke. It’s a four-seater. Literally. They’re shooting for a 2,900 lb weight goal. Your mileage may vary. The hood is held up with a stick. What is the deal with that? Like any comedian, Leno’s only as good as his material. Luckily, the yawning chasm between the modest reality of the Volt and its relentless hype is fertile ground indeed.