GM Insists On Causing Car Envy

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
gm insists on causing car envy

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

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

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

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

PUMA begat EN-V, or “envy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2 of 22 comments
  • Philadlj Philadlj on Dec 06, 2010

    Even in its early concept stage, this is the dumbest vehicle GM has proposed in a long time. So much weight and complication can be avoided altogether if you just attach two friggin' wheels to the front of the damn thing. Just as nobody bought the Segway in numbers anywhere near expected because it's an inherently unstable, over-engineered, overpriced vehicle, no one will buy this either for the same reason, only add the fact that when it does fall over (and it will fall over) it'll cause a lot more damage to itself and others. Even a balanced vehicle of this size won't sell if it isn't efficient and competitively-priced (the Smart is neither, and so suffers). Not to mention drivers won't exactly line up to buy a vehicle that people will laugh at as they drive by. A more fitting name for it would be INDIGNI-T.

  • Mark MacInnis Mark MacInnis on Dec 06, 2010

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

  • KOKing Something that doesn't get discussed much in modern car specs is wheelbase aside from long vs short. Seems like from the Malaise era back, it seemed like a BIG DEAL if your Intermediate model's wheelbase was encroaching on your competition's full size, and it was a big no-no to have a higher trim level on a shorter wheelbase.
  • Undead Zed Pretty good write-up. I for one wouldn't mind seeing more two-wheeled content here, but given this is TTAC and not The Truth About Bikes, I doubt we'll get much.
  • RHD "Nevertheless, it was dead simple to connect, belts out 1000A..."Actually, a battery, or a booster pack, provides the current that is drawn. It doesn't force its maximum capacity into the starter motor. A 650 Cold Cranking Amp battery won't start a Ford Escort any better than a 325 CCA battery."Belting out 1000A" would fry the components in the circuit in short order.
  • SPPPP The little boosters work way better than you would expect. I am a little nervous about carrying one more lithium battery around in the car (because of fire risk). But I have used the booster more than once on trips, and it has done the job. Also, it seems to hold charge for a very long time - months at least - when you don't use it. (I guess I could start packing it for trips, but leaving it out of the car on normal days, to minimize the fire risk.)
  • Bader Hi I want the driver side lights including the bazl and signal