By on December 29, 2009

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.

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13 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 180: Leno Welcomes The Volt To The 21st Century...”

  • avatar

      The joke is that Farah thought that a man who owns a turbine powered Motorcycle, a Blastoline Special, a type 37 Bugatti, a Mclaren F-1, a Duesenberg SJ, and who has an electric Ford Focus on his show would be impressed with the Volt.  

    Jay Leno’s garage is the Island of misfit cars, maybe GM should just send a couple Volts there to park beside the Owens Magnetic and move on to something that will make some money. 

  • avatar

    You and I just saw two different videos Mr N.  I detect no “he think(sp) it’s all a bit of a joke.” sentiment from Leno at all. Take a pill, dude, and watch it again without the editorial glasses on.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    To ExtraO’s comment +1

  • avatar

    240 for a fridge?  Jay must keep a hell of a lot of cold beer on hand.

    Farah didn’t look very pleased to hear that he was reinventing the 1916 Owens Magnetic.

    Ed, I don’t believe Jay said, “twenty-nine hundred pounds,” I thought he said, “thirty-nine hundred pounds.”  And Farah merely nodded!  That’s amazingly heavy for a compact car.  Take out the 400(?) pound battery and GM’s got a 3500 pound compact car, which is still amazingly heavy.

  • avatar

    He definitely said 3900 pounds, but if you ask me that is not heavy for this car, since it isn’t a compact, or so I’m told by Leno. Also, don’t forget that it has not one but two propulsion systems, one the battery and electric motor, and then the 1.4l gas unit. I also have to give GM kudos for not styling it like a flying pizza slice (I’m talkin’ to you, Insight and Prius.)

    I like it.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a little shorter than a Prius and holds only 4, rather than 5, passengers.  The Prius weighs 3060 lbs.  I’m thinking 3900 lbs is heavy for this car.

      Now, of that extra 800 lbs, 400 lbs is the battery – but the Prius has one, too, of 150 lbs or so.  So, we can dismiss 250 lbs as being “extra” battery but where does that other 550 lbs come from, in this shorter package?

      Now, Farah merely nodeed a bit when Jay said 3900 lbs and maybe we shouldn’t read too much into that.  It could be that Farah didn’t hear precisely what Jay said and/or had other things on his mind.  I’m sure Farah had a little laundry list of Volt advantages he wanted to cover and perhaps he decided it wasn’t worth interrupting Jay about weight at the time.

      And is weight itself a marketing issue?  Probably not; I’ll be most people can’t tell you the weight of their vehicles to within +/- 100 pounds.  However, weight does lead to performance issues.  In a regen-equipped vehicle, it’s not quite as important in, say, city driving, but it will make a  difference and GM should be careful about it.

      But weight management doesn’t seem to be one of GM’s strengths and, in spite of the cost, GM doesn’t appear to be spending extra to use alimunum, whereas the Prius is partly aluminum.  Given that they did invest in aluminum parts for the GMT-900 hybrids, this is a curious omission.

  • avatar

    I thought the segment was pretty fair, considering that Leno is usually pitching for the home team. One thing I like about Leno is that he asks the questions I would ask, i.e. driving the car with all of the accessories on and in extreme cold weather situations. Additionally, I too am something of an old car nut, and I like Jay’s comparisons to cars that have come before. It shows a little perspective beyond the here and now and demonstrates his in-depth knowledge on the subject. More than you get from other contemporary ‘authorities’ both in print and on the web.
    Good job, Mr. Leno. And thanks for asking my questions for me.

  • avatar

    It only seats FOUR passengers?   Seriously?   I guess if you have 3 kids, don’t buy one.   Get a Prius.   Who designed this?    Even a Yaris seats 5.   Nothing like eliminating part of your potential market with a poor design decision at the outset.
    The only other four passenger cars I can think of are convertibles and some high end German luxury vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      You ever tried putting three kids with car seats in a Prius? Ain’t gonna happen, might as well be situated for two. Most compact cars are like this even my Astra.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I thought Leno was pretty fair to the interviewee, and did quite well at pointing out the main elements of the Volt. The stuff about how electrics used to be womens’ cars was new to me, so all in all I liked this video pretty well.
    Leno isn’t as entertaining as Clarkson et al, but on the other hand he’s a lot better with the facts than the Top Gear guys are. Just remembering how James May promoted hydrogen as an alternative to the likes of Tesla makes me cringe. That kind of stupid failure wouldn’t happen to Leno. Let’s give the shmuck some credit for being a genuine car guy.

  • avatar

    Once again, Chevy’s marketing of this car leaves a gaping hole – not explaining whether the “regen” braking actually charges the batteries. IOW, when the battery is depleted, and the car is running on the ICE (especially in hilly terrain, or stop-and-go driving), judicious use of regen could eventually recharge the pack to some extent (with a suitable “buffer zone”), possibly allowing a switch back to full battery operation. To not take advantage of this “free” energy would be colossal failure of the promise of this car, especially for tech-savvy drivers who would take advantage of this capability to save even more fuel.
    C’mon Chevy, explain yourself. This capability would put this car on my list, lack of it would kill this car for me – I’d wait for a Leaf.

  • avatar

    Maybe I’m kind of paranoid, but I just don’t like the idea of gasoline, electicity, and a gigantic lithium battery in the same vehicle. Really bad things happen when lithium ion batteries catch fire.

  • avatar

    I watched it a couple of times and thought it was positive for GM. It’s always brave to open up to someone with critical thinking skills (like a comedian). I notice however the petrol engine was not engaged – maybe they’re still working on it.
    I guess it also means the interior is finalised.
    Leno talking about the adoption of electric cars by women, Mazda racing Miatas and wrist watches was interesting too.

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