Autoblog's John McElroy: Bring Back the EV-1
Calling John McElroy a Detroit cheerleader is like calling Bruce Dern's character in Black Sunday a party pooper. That said, the journalist is not without his fans, nor a platform. Big Mac writes a weekly column for Autoblog, and regularly lobs underhand pitches at Motown royalty on his Autoline Detroit TV program. So why did Detroit Freep Press scribe Mark Phelan devote precious ink to McElroy's fantasy of reviving GM's battery-powered EV-1? I thought GM Car Czar Maximum Bob Lutz put that the idea to bed on June 30, when he called the concept " fucking nuts" [paraphrasing]. "Things have changed," McElroy tells an entirely credulous Phelan. "At $4 a gallon, it's a completely different market. People would beat a path to GM's door." Yes, "The automaker should dust off the blueprints, stick an assembly line in some underutilized assembly plant — no shortage of those — and hire somebody to take orders." Corroboration comes from no less than the director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Phelan knocks down the idea– gently. "The Volt will have a small electric generator to recharge its battery if needed, but the underlying technology GM developed for the car also lends itself to all-electric vehicles. Some of those 'EV2s' are already under discussion. As GM contends, the EV1 may not come back, but its children will flourish." Go team go!
As I said on an earlier thread, GM has a better design they could dust off: the original Saturn SC/SLs - far better quality than the Cobalt/Aveo; far better mileage too; and at least theoretically capable of profitability. GM might have 5% of the company involved directly or indirectly with the Volt at most. What are the other 95% doing? Still making SUVs? How about getting them on some small cars that might keep the company alive in the meantime?
As for the Saturn SC, please note that it weighs 2400 pounds. Lots of cars that weigh that much get excellent mileage. It doesn't take rocket science to make a car that gets 30 or 40 MPG. It just takes small size and light weight, two things that will never happen for the average consumer when there are safety issues (real and/or perceived) involving vehicles weighing 2x or 3x as much and with bumpers aimed at a cars windows. If you wanted to purchase a $40k vehicle that held two people, had other vehicle bumpers aimed at the windows (due to small size), was 1/2 the weight of most other things on the road, and had a super aerodynamic shape, an EV-1 sure isn't what I would want. In that size/weight/shape/price range there have got to be any number of 40 MPG to 60 MPG possibilities with loads of other benefits. How about a basic Lotus Elise with taller gearing and less souped-up engine (gearing+engine would be just to get the mileage up).
It's funny, then, that the Aveo and Cobalt are so crappy, if it's so easy. I know there's a lot of emotional capital in the position that Saturn Ruined GM!!!(!), but it's not true - Saturn made the only good cars GM made for 20-30 years. For a brief time, they even competed with the Civic/Corolla.
The Aveo and Cobalt are crappy because GM management does not believe it can make any money on small cars and because they feel that way, they are right. Regarding Saturn, it could have been a huge contender right now if it stuck to it's original mission of cheap and easy to buy.