By on August 23, 2011

Some time ago, I made the unpleasant discovery that Oprah Winfrey publishes a magazine devoted entirely to herself. It’s called “O!” and every month there is a photo of Oprah herself on the cover. It’s almost impossible to imagine the kind of people who would buy such a magazine, but the same could be said about a variety of products from Kenneth Cole’s Indonesian garbage shoes to “Four Loko” alcopops.

The Chevrolet Volt is TTAC’s Oprah. Not only is it overweight and despised by most right-thinking people (in a few senses of the phrase), it appears on our front page more than any other car. We’ve reviewed it at least three times, discussed it endlessly, and even attended an owner’s gathering.

We’ve recently heard that GM wants to be like Apple. Here’s the problem: GM already is like Apple. Not the current Apple, mind you, but the divided, contentious, collapsing (Cr)Apple of the early Eighties. That company had a “Volt” of its own. It was called “Lisa”, and I was there on the day it was unveiled.

The story of the Apple Lisa can be found many places on the Internet, including a Wiki page that has been slowly whipped into shape over the past couple of years. Here’s the precis: In the late Seventies, Apple decided to introduce a successor to it’s wildly successful Apple ][. “Feature creep”, wild enthusiasm, and a desire to leapfrog the competition rather than merely beat it resulted in the introduction of a $9,999 computer that was difficult to understand, slow to operate, and almost hopelessly proprietary in its hardware and software. By the time of its introduction, the Lisa had already been partially abandoned by its development team. A competing project — the “Macintosh” — ended up defining Apple’s future, while the Lisa was doomed to become a technological dead end.

I attended the Lisa premiere at Micro Center in Upper Arlington, Ohio, nearly thirty years ago. I was already a proficient AppleBasic programmer and Apple ][ hardware hack, but I was also a big reader of BYTE magazine and I knew that graphical user interfaces were the wave of the future. The fabled Xerox Star had been the first “PC” to offer a GUI, but no nine-year-old kid in America was ever going to get time on one. The Atari “ST” and Commodore “Amiga” were on the way, each featuring a full-color GUI, but neither would beat the Lisa to market. Therefore, the Lisa was a big deal and I made sure my father bullied my way into the front of the group when the sheet was lifted (literally; it was a computer on a cylindrical display platform, under a sheet) and the Midwest was exposed to the Lisa for the first time.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that a $9,995 computer wasn’t going to set the world on fire, particularly in an era when a new Oldsmobile Cutlass cost less than that, but Apple had become a navel-gazing maze of slightly insane people who had been isolated from the real world by a tidal wave of cash, success, and public acclaim. The Lisa arrived with a bang but barely sold a whimper’s worth of volume.

To begin with, the Lisa didn’t deliver what it promised. The display wasn’t as big as we’d hoped, the resolution wasn’t as good, and performance inside the applications was dog slow. The proprietary floppy disks were hideously expensive and difficult to find. Peripherals were nonexistent. Even if you didn’t care about any of the above and possessed a new car’s worth of cash to drop on a Lisa, your local Apple dealer might not be able to get you one due to production issues.

Does any of this sound familiar? I bet it does — to Volt intenders. The Volt has consistently under-delivered on its promises, from the styling to the open-road fuel mileage. It costs more than anyone outside of GM’s own insane maze thinks is reasonable . The man on the street doesn’t want one and the the Volt true believers couldn’t take delivery thanks to restricted production.

Lisa wasn’t Apple’s only major project of the late Seventies and early Eighties. The Apple ][ was undergoing futher development, first into the Apple //e which had the amazing ability to use lowercase letters and then into the IIgs which was wildly successful in the educational market. The “Macintosh” project was developing a more direct competitor for the standard-priced GUI offerings from Atari and Commodore, and after a rough start (the almost entirely worthless 128kb original Macintosh) it, too, became a success.

At the time, neither of those projects was considered to be quite the “moonshot” that Lisa was, the same way that Ford’s Escape and Fusion Hybrids don’t offer the same “moonshot” capabilities promised for the Volt. Apple likes its moonshots, whether we are talking about the Lisa or the iPhone. There’s something to be said for coming up with the proverbial “paradigm shift”.

GM likes its moonshots, too; the X-cars, the Saturn project, and the Volt were all meant to be more than merely competitive. The problem is that moonshots are a privilege, not a right. Apple “earned” the Lisa by creating the Apple ][, perhaps the most important personal computer of the Seventies, and earning the money and goodwill that came along with it. GM hasn’t earned much lately.

Another issue with “moonshots”; if you take too long, someone else gets to the moon first. The endless delays associated with the Volt allowed Nissan’s less ambitious Leaf to arrive in the marketplace at the same time and effectively whip its ass; meanwhile, a third generation of Prius offers dramatically better efficiency off the battery than the bulky Volt does.

Worst of all, moonshots tend to grow a bit stale. The Saturn SL, which arrived on the market watered-down past the point of recognition, sat through a long lifecycle and an indifferent refresh before disappearing. Honda released three new Civics during that same time, each an incremental improvement over its predecessor. Constant improvement isn’t as sexy as loading up a spacecraft, but it pays real dividends.

If GM really wants to be like Apple, they will do what Apple did to extricate itself from the Lisa fiasco. First, all resources were diverted to other, less ambitious but more effective projects. In this case, one could argue that a Cruze hatchback hybrid which matches the Prius for efficiency and beats it on price and/or interior appointments would be a good way to start. Next, the difficult decision was taken to fold Lisa in with the successful stuff. Lisa received major price cuts, became “Macintosh XL”, and sold five or six times as much volume as the original Lisa as a result. The Volt may need to be brought back in line with other, more successful hybrids, and the price needs to drop regardless of the consequences.

After the “Macintosh XL” variant was obsolete, Apple simply walked away from Lisa. GM’s pretty good at walking away from nameplates, particularly after the bugs are worked out, (*cough* FIERO *cough) so it’s safe to assume not too much encouragement will be necessary here. Dump the Volt, get a world-class Cruze Hybrid out on the streets, sell the rest of the volume at a discount, and call it an expensive lesson learned at taxpayer expense.

Apple went on to have a pretty good ten years with the Macintosh, although by 1994 or so the bloom was off the fruit, so to speak, and it took a major upheaval in both product and organization to fix the wagon. Ironically, what saved Apple in 1998 — the arrival of Jobs and his crazy ideas — were what almost killed the company fifteen years prior. That’s the scariest lesson GM could learn from Apple: that sometimes you can’t learn anything from history, or competitive comparisons, at all.

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71 Comments on “GM’s Apple Moment: Could It Already Be Time To Dump The Volt?...”


  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Brilliant piece of writing, and timely in that Apple has now recently taken the mantle which GM used to have…largest company (market cap-wise) in the world….

    • 0 avatar
      Amazing Volt EREV Facts Guy

      Amazing Volt EREV Facts Guy
      2011/ 2012

      WhitePaper

      The plug in adventure has begun…….Plug it not pump it !!!

      I can not hold myself back any longer. I have met the driving future and it is here now……!!!!

      On the market now in limited supply and possibly sold out is the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Just a 7 launch market rollout to allow for strict quality control and seamless consumer adaptation. The 2011 production run involved a total of 3975 1st Generation Vollt EREV’s.

      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      Here is a statement of 2011 production from Doug Wernert-GM Volt Team-July 20 2011.

      ( http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?8451 )

      Hi everyone,

      This is Doug Wernert from the Volt team. Hope I can help clarify:

      Our Detroit-Hamtramck plant builit 3,975 2011 Chevrolet Volts since start of production in November 2010. To date, nearly 3,200 have been sold to customers through Chevrolet dealerships, roughly 550 were delivered to dealers as demo units and about 150 held for internal purposes (marketing and engineering). The remaining 97 units are still available for sale. The 2,745 number you may have read are for the 2011 calendar year, not the model year.

      One note: the Volt’s delivered to utilities throughout the United States are refurbished pre-production units and total sales to fleets were fewer than 200.

      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      The 50 state roll out is building for the 2012 Model year. 60,000+ will begin production soon with 15,000 to be diverted to companies such as GE Inc, your local utilities, government fleets and off shore sales. With a possible doubling of the production volume for 2013.

      Following the owner blogs and postings at gm-volt.com it can now be assured that the 2011 Chevrolet Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle rollout has been near flawless!!!

      I have been studying the concept of an Extended Range Electric Vehicle since the announcement at the 2007 North American auto show of the Chevrolet Volt Concept Car.

      I am infuriated at the amount of false information, flat out attack stories and wrongly informed websites, columnists, newspaper articles, reader replies, salespeople, blogs, news reports a wrong headed Consumers Reports review and whatever I have just read on this blog…..

      So, let me begin like this………………HERE ARE THE FACTS…

      1 ) The 2011/ 2012 Chevrolet Volt is an Electric Car.

      An electric car with a range extending 1.4L gasoline generator. E.R.E.V.-Extended Range Electric Vehicle.

      2 ) Under full electrical charge this sporty, comfortable sedan can travel anywhere from 30 to 50+ miles all electric powered by a 111 kw/ 149 hp Traction Motor combined at times with the second 55 kw/ 74 hp generator in tandem.

      3 ) Full range with a topped off battery and gas tank without recharging or adding a drop of gas is rated 379+ miles !

      4 ) I can drive this car across the country and back without plugging in at all-while generating some of my own electricity to extend the volts range as seen below in Fact #9.

      5 ) Seasonal temperature, driving habits and road conditions may occasionally result in all electric range somewhat lower or higher then 30 to 50+ miles.

      6 ) Reports from some determined owners now brag results in excess of 73 MPC
      ( miles per charge ) have been achieved.

      7 ) Only after driving 30 to 50+miles and the High Voltage Battery has been depleted to around 30% remaining charge does the range extending 1.4 liter naturally aspirated 4 cylinder gas engine fire up, powered from a 9.3 gallon range extending fuel tank. Seamlessly, quietly this little engine cranks a generator that powers the car onward, up to a total of 379 miles non stop.

      8 ) The High Voltage Battery is neither charged or discharged when this occurs.

      9 ) Amazingly enough as you drive this machine the Volt Onboard Systems make every effort to recharge the High Voltage Battery with a process called Regenerative Breaking.

      ********What this technology does is that any time the Volt slows down, coasts or you apply the breaks Regenerative Breaking recaptures the kinetic energy normally lost as heat in conventional hydraulic breaking by calling apon the Traction Motor to act now as an generator and recapture electricity back into the High Voltage Battery.

      The visualization in the Center Stack LCD Screen with the push of the Leaf Button is dynamic to watch as it portrays the Regenerative Breaking that extends the range of the Volts’ Electric Mode at any speed.

      ********Regenerative Breaking occures with the Hydraulic Breaks or without, any time you let up on the accelarator pedal to coast, high speed, low speed or crawl speed….this is outstanding!!

      *******Example
      Imagin this…..BELIEVE THIS FACT…..Thirty mile freeway run in a 2011 Volt with with a partialy charged High Voltage Battery with a 32 mile electric range. Thirty mile trip to demonstrate and show off the Demo 2011 Chevrolet E.R.E.V. Volt. The volt is driven at speeds of 65 to 70 mph. The drive shifter lever is in LOW ! Heavy Regenerative Breaking enroute to site.
      Shut Volt down…pluged into outside building 120 volt outlet and went inside and gave 32 minute presentation.

      While it would seem impossable to drive thirty two miles and then demo the Volt on battery only by driving to my destination in LOW I was able to recapture, generate and recharge on my way there to be able to demo the 2011 Chevrolet Volt with still 14 miles plus of electric driving only !!

      Regenerative Breaking ( INCREDIBLE !!! ) True ability to generate our own range extending distance while driving…….

      10 ) The high voltage battery has been field tested to the extent that GM Tech states that this battery system should last up to 10 years, 150,000 miles. The Chevrolet warranty states that the Voltec powertrain including the High Voltage Battery is warranted 8 years/ 100,000 miles….

      ……And yes, all other normal Chevrolet New Car Warrantys are in full force as well.

      So………Unless you normally plan your next used car purchase 8 years in advance there are no concerns about the battery.

      11 ) The on board Range Extending 1.4L naturally aspirated internal combustion engine
      ( ICE ) when engaged does NOT recharge, charge or extend the range of the High Voltage Battery.

      12 ) Battery Disposal: Recycling of the High Voltage Battery after its usefulness in the Volt should result in a bidding war !! Utilities nationwide will buy these battery packs up and warehouse them-using the 50-60% usability left for off peak grid electricity storage !!

      ( http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.html/content/Pages/news/cn/en/2011/Jul/0722 )

      13 ) My electric utility now becomes my “gas station”. With the provided charging cord I can top off my battery, quickly add additional electric range or more inexpensive driving range by plugging into virtually any 120 volt standard wall plug anywhere any time any place.
      .
      While a full battery charge from empty giving the Volt a C.D. range of 30 to 50+ miles takes some 10 hours nothing says that I can’t hook up any time any place any where adding 4-5 miles range per hour plugged in!!!

      14 ) Yes, my electric utility now becomes my “gas station”. Whether they generate by coal, natural gas, fuel oil, hydro, wind, solar or other means the cost to drive the Volt is much more efficient electric. 2 cents a mile electric verses 9 cents a mile gas !!!

      15 ) A liquid thermal cooling and heating system keeps the battery at a comfortable temperature as it’s being charged and discharged.

      The Chevy Volt is equipped with four fully independent cooling systems or “loops”.

      The power electronics cooling system loop is dedicated to cooling the battery charger and the power inverter module. The battery cooling system cools (or in some cases heats) the 360V high voltage battery. The engine cooling system and heater loop is specific to cooling the gasoline engine and when required, provides heat for the passenger compartment. The electric drive unit cooling system is designed to cool the two motor generator units and electronics within the 4ET50E drive unit trans axle and provides lubrication for the various gears, bearings, and bushings.

      ( http://gm-volt.com/2010/12/09/the-chevrolet-volt-coolingheating-systems-explained/ )

      16 ) Awards:

      Motor Trend-Car Of The Year !
      Quote “The more we think about the Volt, the more convinced we are this vehicle represents a real breakthrough. The genius of the Volt’s power train is that it is actually capable of operating as a pure EV, a series hybrid, or as a parallel hybrid to deliver the best possible efficiency, depending on your duty cycle.

      For want of a better technical descriptor, this is world’s first intelligent hybrid. And the investment in the technology that drives this car is also an investment in the long-term future of auto making in America.
      Moonshot. Game-Changer. A car of the future that you can drive today, and every day. So what should we call Chevrolet’s astonishing Volt ? How about, simply, Motor Trend’s 2011 Car of the year.

      Automobile Magazine Car of the Year!

      North American Auto Show Car of the Year!

      Wards 10 Best Engines 2011 !

      Popular Mechanics
      -Automotive Excellence-Breakthrough Technology Award!
      -Editors Choice Award!
      -Top 10 Vehicle Award!

      Car and Driver-10 Best Cars of the Year!

      Popular Science Magazine-Best of What’s New in 2010!.

      2011 Green Car of the Year-Green Car.com!

      2011 Motor Week Best of the Year Award !!

      Cost to Drive C.T.D.

      1 ) The Miles Per Gallon Sticker on the window of the new 2011 Volt states this:

      Drive an average of 45 miles between full charging and you will achieve the equivalent fuel economy-real time fuel economy of 168 miles per gallon…..168 miles per gallon !!!

      2 ) Comparison of Electric Vs Gas Driving.

      A ) According to the Department of Transportation 70% of daily driving is 40 miles a
      day or less.

      B ) Average fuel economy for gas engine cars combined is 20 miles a gallon highway/ city
      combined. Allow 40 miles a day average distance driven…..1,200+ miles a month.

      C ) My local utility, Lansing Board of Water and Light will charge
      $1.20 a day to top of my High Voltage Battery if I need to. Lets assume so…….

      $1.20 a day to drive 30 to 50 miles a day or $36.00 a month !!

      Link: Board of Water and Light Link: http://www.lbwl.com/PEVintro.pdf

      Let’s add 4 gallons or so a month in Charge Sustaining Mode for a total of about $50.00.

      D ) With the cost of a gallon of gas at $4.00 that’s $8.00 per day or $240.00 a month.
      With the cost of a gallon of gas at $3.50 that’s $7.00 per day or $210.00 a month.
      With the cost of a gallon of gas at $3.00 that’s $6.00 per day or $180.00 a month.

      E ) Let us use the $4.00 a gallon figure for now at $240.00 a month gas cost.

      $240.00 Cost of Gas
      -$50.00 Cost of Electric +some gas
      —————-
      $190.00 Cost to Drive Reduction C.T.D.R.

      F ) Chevrolet.com says the 12,000 a year, 36 month US Bank Lease for the standard equipped 2012 Volt will cost $399.00 with $2500.00 down. Yes, 1st and last
      payment is also due up front as well plus tax and use taxes on the payment.

      Ok, fine, pushing it a little………..

      .

      Now, ready ???????

      Total real Cost To Drive per month…

      $400.00 a month lease payment
      -$190.00 reduction in the C.T.D
      ———
      $210.00 a month-net Cost To Drive !!

      Simple Equation…………………………………………

      $400.00 a Month Lease

      X36 Months =$16000

      Save $200.00 a Month on Gas

      X36 Months =$7200.00

      $16000.00 Lease Payments

      – $7200.00 Not Spent On Gas

      =$8800.00 Net Cost to Drive

      The Amazing Chevrolet Volt E.R.E.V !!

      So……………..

      Stop it !! Quit stating,claiming, arguing and ranting that this car is to expensive, costs to much, that the average buyer can’t afford this brilliantly conceived Electric Car !!

      Charging

      1 ) The Volt plugs into ANY standard 110 electrical outlet such as where I plug in my Christmas Tree lights outside, through the bathroom window where I plug in my shaving razor or even that plug outside your office, shop, campground, motel, boat dock…… ya know the one with the metal protective cap…they are everywhere!!!

      Of course I can hang the Charge Cord holder on my garage or carport wall or the side of my house. Attaches firmly like an old land line wall phone. Pull in, roll out and plug in!

      Like your smart phone when you are streaming a lot of video, music or data I can plug my Volt in any time, any place, any where. Even a casual four hour quick charge will give me another 15 to 17+ mile range!!

      Sure I can install a 240 dedicated charger but I do not need to. I repeat…I can charge my Volt any time any place any where…any time.

      2 ) My local electric utility is anxious to be my electrical ” fuel ” provider. My “gas station” in their eyes is every wall socket in my home, garage, carport, bathroom, buddies house, school, office-any standard outlet.

      Located in Lansing, Michigan the local utility is known as the Board of Water and Light. They post this on their web site….

      Operating a plug-in electric vehicle means significantly reducing your carbon footprint with the added benefit of the cost of operating the vehicle. Averaging about $1.20 a day-roughly the same as a household appliance….( $36.00 month !! )

      Board of Water and Light Link

      http://www.lbwl.com/PEVintro.pdf

      Performance

      The 2011/ 2012 Chevrolet is designed to drive as similar to the any other new sedan as possable.

      While driving in the C.D. Mode ( charge depleting mode ) aka battery power the Volt takes off under full torque and feels surprisingly sporty…

      This volt can travel all day long at speeds in excess of 95mph.

      ( YouTube.com ” laps in a volt ” )
      — Laguna Race Track —

      16kwh Lithium Rechargeable Energy Storage System W/ Liquid Thermal management System.

      Electric Drive Voltec With 149 Hp( 111kw ) Motoring Power.

      273 lb. -ft. ( 370 N·m ) pf Motoring Torque. 74 hp ( 55 kW ) Generator Power.

      0-60 in 8.9 Seconds/ All Electric or Gas Range Extending Electric Drive

      Amazing!!!

      The Volt Guy-USA

      Law of Logical Argument: ” Anything is possible if you don’t know what you are talking about ”

      *Greens Law of Debate* *Burks Postulsates*

  • avatar
    GS650G

    As long as a 7500 dollar crutch exists the Volt will continue to be sold. Take away OPM and it dies. I’m still trying to figure out why so much money has to be taken from taxpayers to put well off buyers into that thing.

    And yes if you come up with almost 40K for an electric econobox then you are well off.

    • 0 avatar
      Constitution First

      “…if you come up with almost 40K for an electric econobox then you are well off…”

      …and have little pressing concern about the cost of fuel…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Ironically, what saved Apple in 1998 — the arrival of Jobs and his crazy ideas — were what almost killed the company fifteen years prior. That’s the scariest lesson GM could learn from Apple: that sometimes you can’t learn anything from history, or competitive comparisons, at all.”

    Ha ha ha! Isn’t GM already doing that with Bob Lutz’s return? Watch out, GM could be on to something!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Except Jobs and Lutz are entirely different animals. Jobs sweats the details to make the product very usable while still placing a huge focus on visual appeal; the overall experience is top priority. Lutz just wants it to have curb appeal while ignoring things that run off prospective customers (see: Solstice/Sky vert tops). My 1000miles in an Enclave a few weeks back made this very clear. Great first impression but the details had me cursing the car when I turned it in.

  • avatar
    redav

    I like the analogy of moon shots v. incremental improvement. The big leap may lead to a paradigm shift, but it is just as likely to alienate customers.

    Many companies seem to miss that just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s better. Sure, there are plenty of people who will buy something for no other reason than it’s new. But I believe the majority of people aren’t like that–they want something that they are comfortable with, something they can command easily. Routine is a powerful thing.

    Incremental, evolutionary changes allow people to become familiar & comfortable with new systems. When they become accustomed to the new, then you have your paradigm shift–they won’t want to go back. The funny part is that they (and sometimes the manufacturer) won’t even realize the change has occurred.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice piece all around. One big difference — and something folks should think about the next time some big corporate honcho comes around hat in hand — is that GM, like every other Detroit label automaker, is up to its ass in politics. Nobody in Washington, DC gave a fig about whether Apple dropped the Lisa or not. (As a IIGS owner, I was pretty pissed that Apple dropped that platform for the non backwards-compatible Mac. But, though I live in Washington, I don’t count for anything.)

    But the enviros will hue and cry loudly if GM drops the Volt and does a me,too hybrid (putting aside the substantial IP issues associated with developing a parallel hybrid after Toyota and Ford). Instead, in the time-honored tradition of Detriot, GM will come to Washington seeking some sort of favors/subsidies for the Volt’s “revolutionary technology” beyond those that already exist.

    In fairness to GM, however, the Volt does fill an unoccupied niche — a semi electric car without all of the range and recharge issues of a full electric like the Leaf. Even though I am an urban resident, I would never buy the Leaf . . . at any price. It has too many limitations. OTOH, the Volt would make a lot of sense for my lifestyle (many short trips) . . . but not at $30,000 a copy.

    I have no idea what it would take to wring $10,000 of retail cost out of the Volt . . . but that’s what needs to be done.

    Having spent some time in the prior generation Prius, I find it an unpleasant car to ride in: cheap interior and noisy. So, I doubt that I would find the plug-in Prius attractive, even though it would be more optimal for the way I use a car than the “regular” Prius (though not as optimal as the Volt).

    • 0 avatar
      jmatt

      >>> I have no idea what it would take to wring $10,000 of retail cost out of the Volt . . .

      Losing the UAW would be a good start. And since it receives a $7,000 taxpayer subsidy, the figure is more like $17,000.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Do you refer to your car as the “car”, or as the “BMW”, the “Mercedes”, the “Miata”, or the “Prius”? Do you refer to what you drive as what it is, or by the brand? Did you buy a car, or did you buy a “Lexus”, or a “Corvette”, or a “Leaf”?

    If you refer to the items around you by their brand names, then you are telling others that it is more important to you to be a part of a brand, then it is to be you. What is important to people is mentioned by their brand names.

    So, Volt drivers are driving Volts, not cars. Apple Lisa owners didn’t have a computer, they had an Apple Lisa. Prius drivers don’t drive a car, they drive a Prius. Jeep Wrangler drivers refer to their cars as Jeeps, not cars.

    Once the idea of a brand goes dead, it is dead. If you base a brand on a narrow definition, the brand has a short shelf life unless the market evolves into that definition. What companies try to do with their brands is dictate the direction of the market they are selling to. When that market dies, so does their brands if they didn’t broaden it outside the market.

    The Apple Lisa wasn’t about computers. It was about Apple putting a claim into the direction of computing. The Volt isn’t about a car. It is about GM putting a claim into the direction of driving. Oprah magazine isn’t about magazines. It is about Oprah putting a claim into what you want to read.

    Often these brands are ego centric, not team centric. Since they are statement makers within their markets, they are revolutionary, not evolutionary. Customers aren’t buying the evolution of a market, they are buying into an individual company’s revolution of a market. The folks who bought a Corvair or a Saturn, were making a statement about more than just where they needed to go.

    That said, the Volt is toast. It did not cause a revolution. It did not create a new direction for the auto market. The egos behind the Volt have been thoroughly discredited by bankruptsy and bailout. Who believes in the Volt? Very few actually.

  • avatar
    brettc

    The bottom line is that significant price cuts move product. Even if the product is maybe not the best to begin with. Look at the HP Touchpad event that occurred this past weekend. Myself (and many other people) bought one for $99 because it wasn’t a bad price even if HP never updates WebOS for it. But no one was buying them at $500 because they weren’t worth it. Why buy a crappier competitor when you can just get an iPad for the same price? But the $100 price point changed all that.

    I think the Volt is similar. Some people will pay full price, but once they have their car, I can see GM having to heavily discount it to move them. Or else just make a Hybrid Cruze and call it the Volt. And sell it for about what the Prius sells for. GM went nuts with the Volt. The technology isn’t proven in the real world and there’s no reliability history with the car. So the early adopters could be in for some fun times ahead. And we all know how well GM has treated customers in the past when a chronic defect is found.

  • avatar
    red60r

    I had a Lisa II (aka MacXL) at my office. It was originally configured to run U**X from an external hard disc and it ran circles around the early IBM PC’s. It could do on-screen graphics (only 1-bit monochrome, of course) and compile FORTRAN programs. When the hard drive failed (stupidly mounted vertical so it quickly ate its bearings), costs prohibited replacement but the CPU lived on as a Mac. With expansion to a huge 2 MB of RAM it could be left running after startup with the whole OS and all software in memory and two 3.5″ floppy drives available (foreshadowing by more than 20 years today’s SSD’s). Our PC-centric management couldn’t quite live with the concept that a weird one-box computer could keep chugging along without crashing for days at a time. Of course, Apple’s current OS is U**X-based. What goes around…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Last week, before our trip to St. Louis, I checked out a Volt at my Chevy dealer while the Impala was being serviced. Although the battery needed charging, the Volt’s dash and what seemed like the entire interior lit up like a xmas tree when I pushed what I assumed was the “start” button. Speaking of “moon shots”, I immediately thought of Apollo 13 in wondering how many amps all those fancy interior lights and gimmicks used, and like the engineers at NASA desperately trying to get the crippled spacecraft home, how much of that stuff could be turned off to save available on-board power!

    Sorry guys, but bright flashing lights and fancy graphics don’t excite me, as I have been around for quite awhile, and am just a down-to-earth guy who isn’t dazzled by fancy footwork, or baffled by BS.

    Having said that, though, I would like to think GM may be onto something that just needs a bit more…of something…

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I’m all for dumping cars like the Volt once the US no longer imports oil. Anyone who thinks we can get there with fuel effcient ICE cars alone is kidding themselves. Bring on the 2nd gen Volt!

  • avatar

    What a perfect analogy and well-written piece. The funny thing is that the hoopla over the Volt has stolen the show from the Cruze, which may be GM’s best attempt at a small car ever. The Cruze offers value, excellent mileage, a decent interior and styling which sets it apart from its Japanese competitors. Only within GM’s “insane maze” would they be pushing the Volt as anything but an R&D effort to parallel Honda’s FCM.

    • 0 avatar

      The Volt may have stolen some of the publicity from the Cruze, but it hasn’t hurt the Cruze’s sales, which are doing pretty well.

      I’ve heard that some Chevy dealers are reluctant to sell the one or two Volts that they’ve been allocated (GM planned to make ~12,000 Volts the first year, Chevy still has thousands of stores, do the math) because the Volt is actually functioning for them as a halo car, bringing people into the showroom.

      BTW, the same counterintuitive argument can be made for the Chevy SSR. Everyone thinks it was a huge flop because it never even sold the projected production of ~12,000 to 15,000 a year, but at the time Chevy had about 4,000 stores. That’s barely enough to have one in the showroom, one demo and one for sale. According to ASC, which was the SSR’s primary vendor (so they had an interest in keeping the SSR alive) they commissioned a market research survey that showed the SSR was a factor in selling about 70,000 full size BOF trucks and SUVs. GM made a lot more money selling those trucks and SUVs than they lost on the SSR.

      I said it in the article about the Volt owners’ gathering. So far the data is inconclusive. Now that production is ramping up and sales of the Volt have extended beyond the launch markets to the entire country, lets see what happens. I think a good deal of the reason for the low Volt sales figures has been the exceptionally slow roll out. That deliberation has been a part of the Volt story from the beginning with a much longer than the usual time these days between announcement of a concept vehicle and actual production. GM may have been too cautious. If the Volt doesn’t sell at least 2/3 the anticipated volume of 60,000 units in ’12 it will be a bust. FWIW, I can’t recall seeing a Volt commercial on TV lately. I’m not sure just how much traditional marketing of the Volt that GM is doing.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        I took delivery on what I believe is the last Volt allocated in Austin. I had test-driven a demo at one dealership but then they told me that their Volt was sold, and the other Volt listed online was at another of their dealerships (same dealer ‘family’, yet they could not do a vehicle transfer? they really do hold onto them). From what I was told, each of that family’s dealers was allocated 4 Volts (down from 8 when they were a ‘test market’ dealer), so if GM is spreading them that thin, it’s no wonder their sales numbers are so shitty.. Truck all the Volts that ain’t selling in Fargo or Omaha out to Austin, SoCal, NorCal, Portland, Seattle, NYC if you want to see sales numbers..

        BTW, incidentally, the Volt is a great car. Diesel-like torque from 0RPM, great passing speed, and it is absolutely the pinnacle of Alpha Geek cars out there. It’s like a giant gadget. If I want speed or ‘thrills’, I’ll hop on my motorcycle, and fast cars are for those who can’t afford a car _and_ a bike or who don’t have the coordination, balance, dexterity, patience and vigilance to ride a bike confidently and safely.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    We’ve recently heard that GM wants to be like Apple.

    Except it doesn’t. It wants to emulate Apple’s branding, not its business model.

    I’m as critical of GM (and for that matter, of every other car company that has earned the criticism) as the next guy. Personally, I think that using Apple as a role model for branding is a bad idea for GM. But is it really necessary to continually put words into GM’s mouth for the purposes of building a straw man?

    Do you refer to what you drive as what it is, or by the brand? Did you buy a car, or did you buy a “Lexus”, or a “Corvette”, or a “Leaf”?

    Lexus is a brand.

    Corvette and Leaf are nameplates. Nameplates are not meant to be brands.

    The problem with nameplates such as the Corvette is that they don’t transfer much distinction to, or have much in common with, the brands that they carry, which in this case is Chevrolet. A halo can’t be a halo when the brand attached to the halo is ignored.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Regarding the Lisa, I think that only half the story has been told. Yes, the Lisa was a commercial failure. But it was a stunning vision of what was possible. The very fact that surplus Lisas were re-purposed as MacXLs shows that much of the Mac’s success came directly from the work done on the Lisa.

    I find it ironic that on a forum where GM has long been criticized (and rightly so) for not following through on its “moonshot” products/projects that it be suggested that the Volt be dropped, adding to that string of failures. It’s long past time for the angry anti-GM bailout sentiment to stop getting in the way of seeing what might be possible with continued effort.

    And, finally, the phrase “right-thinking” is one of those that doesn’t belong on a site with the word “truth” in it’s name. It reminds me of Pravda.

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Bunkie,

      At the risk of flying my inner geek flag… the Mac and Lisa were developed in separate “silos” to use today’s phrasing. Without the Lisa’s existence, the Mac would have looked just the same. Every reliable document, book, and article on the period supports this.

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        Jack, at the risk of you try to woo my wife, take a look at what the Mac’s origional designer was trying to make before Job et al took over his project and added the GUI and Mouse.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_Cat

        More info here: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=The_Father_of_The_Macintosh.txt

  • avatar
    Birddog

    I would think that “Lisa” would relate more to the GM EV1 and Newton to Volt. That would go along with the “Old” GM vs. “New” GM structure.. At the very least Volt is (hopefully) going to lead GM to developing more advanced alternative vehicles like Newton did to iPod.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    One of the dumbest articles I’ve ever read.

    “I made the unpleasant discovery that Oprah Winfrey publishes a magazine devoted entirely to herself. It’s called “O!” and every month there is a photo of Oprah herself on the cover. It’s almost impossible to imagine the kind of people who would buy such a magazine.”

    If you’re writing about marketing, have at least a slight clue about marketing. The kind of people who buy “O” are exactly the kind of people who buy cars and for largely the same reason, marketing! Branding! Advertising! Duh! Oprah initially did not routinely have herself on the cover until it was observed that when she was, more magazines were sold. Poof! She’s on the cover, every *other* issue.

    Cars/computers are hugely different at least in the modern era. The computer market of 1985 was much more like the car market in 1910 than today; the path forward was far from clear and dozens/hundreds of companies maneuvered to be involved in that path. The Lisa failed largely because 95% of the new ideas at the time had to fail: not primarily from being bad, but from being superfluous.

    Apple is now far less about the product and far more about the brand. If one looks at its followers, the experience is religious and proveably so. Apple = religious = good. Volt = religious = bad? The OP and follow-on-ers argue from opposite perspectives. GM = bad, so no move they make can possibly work. It’s wise to remember that the Marlboro Man was once the most recognized commercial brand figure on the planet. Brand associations come and go.

    One things for sure though, auto writers ragging on the Volt now, will, if it fails, wax nostalgic about it 20 years from now (and declare GM stupid). Exhibit A: EV-1.

  • avatar
    spinjack

    It still remains to be seen whether the Volt is a game changer or not. It hasn’t been out long enough to have a real impact and competitor haven’t had tome to respond (assuming they will respond).

    True to GM form, the Volt is a great idea poorly executed. That doesn’t mean the concept is without merit.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The Volt will never be a big seller, like the Prius was. I know, two different methods of propulsion; one a true Hybrid deriving power from an electric motor and gas engine through a power coupling junction, while the other is more akin to a GE Electric Locomotive with a big battery.

      The Volt will continue to have its fans, but it will never be profitable and there will never be enough buyers for the Volt to break even. Such is the situation with a nationalized automaker owned by a reluctant “we, the people.”

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        I’m pretty sure I read something recently about the Volt being a parallel system closer to the Toyota than GM is admitting. And besides, hard to judge anything from version 1.0, when I test drove a first gen Prius many years ago, I was sure those cars would never catch on.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        From the retail stand point the biggest problem with the Prius is the shortage of lower-cost trims in the range below $30K.

        The gas engine in the Volt only charges the battery and does not directly power the drive wheels the way the Prius does.

        In going uphill in the San Francisco area after nearly exhausting the battery on the freeway, the Volt engine was wailing away merrily charging the battery while we were moving at 5mph in stop and go traffic. The Volt is more like an electric locomotive using only electricity to drive the wheels, through a battery.

        Then again, I didn’t dissect the drive train, nor do I want to.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @highdesertcat- I had a similar impression of a weird disconnect between engine rpm and vehicle speed under load in range extending mode.
        Volt is too expensive to be a big seller right now, but we can’t predict what the demand will be until production is ramped up next year. They only planned to built a few per dealer in the first model year, though more than Prius in its first year. The price has already dropped while competitor Leaf was raised a couple of grand. The Cadillac application will likely be profitable in the near term and GM will also gain volume with Ampera in Europe.
        Volt was not intended to be a big volume or profit generator for GM.Its purpose is to change GM’s image by demonstrating world leading technological innovation capability and is accomplishing that goal by winning many awards.

        Volt’s greatest strategic value is as an enabler for all sorts of advanced powertrain technologies. Whether fuel cells, more advanced batteries,or some unknown other technology, automobiles will be electrified. Bill Ford says 25% of their fleet will be electric in the near future. With China and India projected to have auto fleets of 400 million each, there is really no other choice.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    No mention of Cadillac’s Volt, the ELR, which is a real thing now? Unlike the Mac XL, however, it will surely cost more than the Chevy.

    I don’t consider EREVs a technological dead end like the Lisa was. The Nissan Leaf is the newest, most practical application of a technology as old as the horseless carriage. But as Alex Dykes showed, making it work in the real world of long commutes (and the spontaneity of life) is a stressful enterprise.

    The Volt is an EV with no more range anxiety than any other normal gas-powered car. But it has its flaws too; its biggest being price and availability. But dead end it is not; the tech will get cheaper, and there is lots of room for refinement.

    The Volt’s unfinished interior needs a thorough going-over, while every effort must be made to increase its gas-only efficiency and decrease its curb weight. All this must be done while bringing down the price.

    The current Volt is a work-in-progress, marketed as another GM moonshot. While most early adopters who actually able to buy a Volt may be pleased as punch, it’s likely they would have been pleased with anything, as long as they were the first to adopt it.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      But it has its flaws too; its biggest being price and availability.

      Over time, I suspect that the primary flaw will be with the battery life. A vehicle that is that heavily dependent on the battery for its primary source power will place more demands on it than would a conventional hybrid, and I have my doubts that the batteries are up to the task.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Very interesting article. I have had Macs for 20 years, starting with family hand-me-downs (1988 Mac SE, 1991 Mac IIsi) and moving on to used but still capable units (new ones were too pricey) from the “modern” era of Macs capable of running OS X: 1999 G3 blue-and-white tower, 2001 G4 Digital Audio 733 MHz tower, and 2007 Intel mini.

    One point not mentioned is that Steve Jobs’ return led not only to technical changes but to huge advances in styling – specifically the 1998 first-generation G3 iMac and the aforementioned new G3 tower design of 1999. No more beige computers! – and lovely shapes as well. This has to have made a difference in the public’s perceptions of Apple products at the time, irrespective of technical advances (such as the introduction of USB ports and elimination of floppy drives) on these models.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack – maybe your analogy isn’t quite what you were looking for. The Macintosh was not a competing product for the Lisa – it was invented by an Apple engineer who wanted a cheaper and lighter Lisa made from existing Lisa components. Thus there would never have been a Mac without the Lisa and thus the R&D for the Lisa was well spent. Maybe you can look at the Volt the same way.

    Also, this could have also been said for the original Prius. It was expensive, ugly and no fun to drive in an era when gas was cheaper and Toyota made a loss on every single unit. Yet no one would say it was a bad investment for Toyota as without that technology they would be in a very perilous position now.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that investment in new technology is generally a good idea – even if you don’t get it perfect the first time around. It’s not without its risks but not investing enough is a guaranteed path to failure.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      As I mentioned to Bunkie, there’s no support for the idea that the Mac depended on the Lisa. Apple wasn’t responsible for the 68K and the Lisa team wanted the Mac dead from Day One.

      If you know differently — if you were there — I’d like to hear about it. Speaking as a contemporaneous Apple user and programmer who has read a virtual metric ton of documentation about the period, I can’t support your interpretation based on what I know.

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        Much of the hardware and operating system software of the early Macs was “borrowed” from the Lisa project. Many of the engineers were borrowed too. Often, the engineers do a much better job the second time around because they can avoid previous pitfalls. I’m sure the marketing department learned a lot from the Lisa and had a much better targeted message for the Mac.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        Jack – Jeff Raskin started his Macintosh project earlier than the Lisa but it was a green screen PC with an 8-bit CPU – nothing like the Mac that was launched in 84. Bill Atkinson (who worked on the Lisa) introduced Jeff to what they were doing and the project changed into “Lisa Light” as they adopted the same M68000 CPU, the GUI and whole look and feel of the Lisa but at a lower price point. The Lisa was a moonshot – pure research if you like – based on the vision of what Jobs saw at Xerox – and the Mac was the culmination of the lessons learned along the way.

        Some research money is always wasted – that’s the nature of the game – but companies that have no grand vision and are afraid to invest in it are doomed to be second or third tier players. The Volt will never be a commercial success but it may well be the technological basis of GM powertrains for the next two decades.

      • 0 avatar
        TheSlowLane

        Shortly after the Mac came out the company I worked for had a project developing some software for it. One day I was talking with one of the team members and wondered why they had a Lisa. It turned out it was Apple’s Mac development platform. At the time the only compiler for a Mac ran on the Lisa. Apple sold a Lisa (not a Macintosh XL; it didn’t emulate a Mac) with a single 3.5″ floppy, external hard drive that set on top of the Lisa and a Pascal (I think) compiler that produced Mac executables for some ridiculous price, I think it was about $25K. I always thought it was funny that the reason to own a Lisa was to develop Mac software.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “and despised by most right-thinking people (in a few senses of the phrase)”

    I don’t think so.

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    Wow, I never thought I’d see my beloved Commodore Amiga mentioned in an article on TTAC! (Computers are my other passion.)

    Makes me wonder if GM is more like Commodore than Apple. Commodore was known for penny pinching decisions that make their computers less good than they should have been. They survived on sales of their best-selling Commodore 64, but crashed and burned during the 90s with the Amiga. Too much penny pinching and too little foresight destroyed the best computing platform of the 80s.

    The Amiga is like the AMC Eagle. Ahead of its time, but not very well executed. Today compact SUVs are big sellers, but AMC isn’t selling any.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      33, still see a lot of AMC Eagles and Jeep Pioneers in my area.

      Recently donated my old Amiga 68000 and all software to a charity auction where it sold in under three minutes for $250 to a fan.

      Also donated four C64, two C128, four TI99/4A and a Speak&Spell. They all sold, but not as fast as the Amiga. LOL!

      Guess that dates me.

      • 0 avatar
        thirty-three

        I got rid of my C64 a long time ago. I sold it to buy more Amiga stuff. It’s time to get rid of the Amiga stuff though, I need room for car stuff.

        I had a TI-99/4a too, it was my first computer. I guess we’re both old timers :)

  • avatar
    axual

    It’s beyond me why GM had to design an entirely new vehicle for this, or why they designed a rather “look at me I am a volt” body.

    Why not just make it look like a Malibu? We can land men on the moon in 1969, but GM with its cadre of highly paid designers can’t fit the innards of a Volt into to a current vehicle model.

    The Volt engine and drivetrain should be designed to fit existing models … now that would be innovative.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Farago was fond of saying “Branding isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” In GM’s case, replace the word ‘branding’ with ‘corporate culture’, and there is GM’s keys to the future. Unfortunately, this change requires a leader. GM has many managers, but I’ve not heard of one leader.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    A very interesting piece doing a comparison-contrast on the products offered by the two companies.

    But that’s not all the Apple brand stands for.

    The other half of the Apple experience (today) is on the retail/shopping side. Visit an Apple Store and you will stand amazed at the efficiency, information, and customer-turn. It’s easy for the customer, fast for the sales staff, everything as choreographed as a Disney ride.

    Once upon a time, GM was headed toward that level of retail environment. But, like other things abandoned by GM just as they’re starting to take hold (cough*Saturn*cough), it seems the General will have to start from scratch.

  • avatar
    SP

    I don’t really get the Volt hate.

    It works. It gets you around with a really cheap incremental cost. Can’t argue with that.

    The main problem is that the startup cost is huge. Now that is a problem.

    So, to me, it only makes real sense for road warriors, like traveling salesmen or frozen organ couriers, at this point.

    If they can get the cost down, then it will be a really useful machine for a great many people.

    The thing that most irks me about it is the huge subsidy given at the expense of my tax dollars. Especially because the tax money is given to people who already are better off than me, since they can afford to buy a $33,000 car (after tax refund).

    Other than the subsidy issue, I have nothing to scream about.

    (Although the interior is too cute by far. Imperial Stormtrooper chic?)

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The thing that most irks me about it is the huge subsidy given at the expense of my tax dollars. Especially because the tax money is given to people who already are better off than me, since they can afford to buy a $33,000 car (after tax refund).

      The subsidy is going to the seller, not really to the buyer.

      The buyer is paying an above-market price (even including the subsidy) for a car in its size class. In exchange, the manufacturer gets to make more sales and at higher prices, which it can use to recover its costs.

      The subsidy makes it easier for the manufacturer to take a risk, as the subsidy allows it to sell more cars. There isn’t that much reason for car makers to take many chances if normal market prices are almost guaranteed to produce a loss.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @pch101- good summary- and the incentives are available for any manufacturer’s first 200,000 units of the desired technological innovation. I think there were incentives for the first Priuses as well. Do you know if that is correct?

    • 0 avatar
      kowsnofskia

      How is it even that great for “road warriors”? The ONLY people it’s even remotely good for are those who have a commute totalling 30 miles a day (or whatever the limits of the batteries are). After that it becomes an overpriced and underwhelming lump that can’t remotely compete with a Prius in terms of efficiency.

      That said, I’m glad GM delivered this technology and I greatly look forward to what they can do with it in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @kowsnofskia- Optimum benefit would come from a 35 mile each way commute, with a simple 110v outlet for an 8 hour workday recharge for the trip home. Your employer might not even mind giving you the $1.50/day worth of electricity! Similarly on the weekends, you easily could achieve 70 miles a day with a 4 hour 240V recharge somewhere in the middle.
        No doubt this is an ideal scenario, but it would allow over 25,000 miles a year without using a single drop of gasoline. The electricity would cost you about $3/day. Prius would cost you nearly twice as much,$5.60/day @50MPG and $4/gallon.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      given to people who already are better off than me, since they can afford to buy a $33,000 car (after tax refund).

      Not everyone qualifies for the rebate. If you look at GM’s Volt web site it says “$0 to $7500 rebate consult your tax professional”. So, depending on their income, they may get nothing for a rebate and will end up paying full MSRP.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I’m not seeing as much similarity between the Volt and the Lisa. Here are some fundamental differences:

    * The Lisa worked like no other commercially available computer. The Volt is specifically designed (and marketed) as driving exactly like any normal car.

    * The Lisa allowed you to do things you couldn’t do on personal computers of the time. (This is especially true a few years later with the Laserwriter, which *did* sell well for $7500 to $10k.) The Volt does nothing new. I think of the Volt as just a 2-wheel-drive version of the 109 year old Porsche. Or a 1950s locomotive scaled down to a car chassis. Or a Prius hacker’s project with larger battery and charging.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Well based on the article. GM just come out with its “lisa”. A “moonshot” type car, a pioneer. It’s just the beginning. We’ll still have to see how GM can do with it in the future. If someday we’ll be able to buy car such as Volts for the price of a Cruze (where it ought to be) and the technology has become matured and is commonly available and accepted, then GM has successfully emulated Apple and its Lisa. If the Volt ended up like the EV-1, however… WHich is more likely? I know, as they’re fond to say “Past performance did not guarantee future performance”, but those who did not learn from history is bound to repeat it as well.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    Some people are forgetting a lot of history here.

    1. The Volt didn’t get created originally to actually sell – it was designed as FUD to stop people bugging them for a real hybrid.

    2. When gas prices shot up a few years ago, GM thought “Oh crap, we might actually have to build this thing”.

    3. When the government took over, they thought “Oh crap, now we DEFINITELY have to build this thing”.

    4. It’s not an EREV. It’s a plug-in hybrid. The original claims were lies that have yet to be retracted, to my taste at least, but they have been proven false by many independent sources – the gas engine runs under some scenarios when the battery is quite full, and does even, if I remember correctly, provide motive power to a certain extent.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Volt is an electric car that can be driven up to 100 mph on battery power alone. It can function as a pure electric for most owners with an overnight charge, and the vast majority of American’s daily commutes with a simple 110V plug in during the work day. Most significantly, it is a great driving car, quiet, well isolated with much better acceleration than Prius, for example. The transition from battery electric to extended range series hybrid electric while driving 80 mph is virtually imperceptible.
      Volt is an electric car. The range extending capability makes up for the current state of battery technology, allowing the car to be driven coast to coast, if desired, averaging 40 MPG in range extending mode.
      It is a very desirable package except for the high price, with 35 miles at about $1.50 worth of electricity achieving lower operating costs than anything except the Leaf, for those who drive less than 40 miles a day. While Leaf’s price has been increased, Volt’s price has already come down a bit and will be a lot lower in the future.
      Volt is a technological tour de force and production capacity will be ramped up sharply next year to accomodate high demand.

      This is the truth about Volt.

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        You sure about that 100 mph on electric alone figure? I read somewhere that the electric motor alone couldn’t push it above 70, and that the ICE had to be used in parallel mode for highway speeds.

      • 0 avatar
        M1EK

        40 MPG is a lie; and 100 MPH on battery alone is highly misleading – reviewers have not been able to replicate that.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        @LectroByte- What you read is incorrect. Volt’s ONLY means of propulsion is the electric motor, period. The onboard gas engine’s ONLY purpose is to recharge the battery at the rate that the electric drive is discharging it, period. Volt is an electric car with the capability of operating as a series hybrid in range extending mode. Th

        I have personally driven a Volt over 80 mph with plenty more on tap. I was impressed with the car as a “car”, not just as an “electric car”, though it is cozy for large people. It has great driveaway and midrange acceleration. I did not drive faster because it was a friend’s company car. The car has a calibrated top speed limit of 103 MPH and the electric motor has the power to achieve it. Motor Trend published a 0-100, pure EV acceration time here:http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/alternative/1010_2011_chevrolet_volt_test/viewall.html

        @M1EK- Volt’s EPA highway estimate is 40 MPG and combined is 37 MPG. Cars typically do as well or better than their highway estimates in highway driving.Some magazines have reported over 40 MPG in extended range on the highway and some have reported mid 30’s. It depends on speeds and acceleration rates.

  • avatar
    eldard

    The Dolt is just an overpriced golf cart. At least the Tesla is an overpriced gold cart on ‘roids. Both deserve to die, though.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Jack, you got it exactly backwards.

    The last thing GM needs to do is walk away from another EV project.

    Whether “right thinking” people like it or not, EVs are probably going to be in a lot of manufacturers lineups. It makes no sense for GM to walk away from this, and then have to assemble another design team to come up with an EV from scratch a few years from now.

    As Michael Karesh said recently, walking away from a nameplate can have bad consequences. Given that GM will probably want an EV (or more to the point, something that can be operated in pure EV mode, sometimes) in the lineup, it makes sense to keep the model name, and keep improving on the concept.

    Keep the Volt. Keep working on it. Incrementally improve it. GM has a good basic idea in it’s range extending generator. The Volt can be a pure EV (for about 35 miles) but it can also be someone’s only car, because you could, if you ever needed, drive from Ohio to California in it.

    If I could afford a Volt, I’d infinitely prefer it to the Leaf. Even though I do not suffer range anxiety (knowing how far I actually drive and that I will not have any sudden urge to go to Kansas this evening) I still like the idea that it is impossible for me to be stranded. (Unless I run out of gas, which virtually every owner of an ICE car has done at least once).

  • avatar
    dwight

    The Volt takes care of the gas guzzling problem of general commutes to work or around town, where you can drive for about an hour in traffic without using any – or very little – fuel. In that scenario, the Volt (and any plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle) works. And perhaps, pays off over the long haul. The very long haul. But are we buying these cars to save money on gas or to help better the environment?

  • avatar
    bobbleheadguru

    GM does not have a product or even pricing problem (when factoring in the Government Tax Refund, the cost is under $34K… less than $4K more than the average MSRP of a car today).

    It has a messaging problem. There are 2 messages it has not gotten out yet:

    1. Its lease deal is amazing and largely unknown. I am getting a Volt lease for about $5/month more than my “pedestrian” 2008 Impala when factoring in fuel savings. Here is all of the math:

    http://bobbleheadguru.com

    2. For 44 of 50 states, it has not even launched the car yet. However, the skeptics seems to be giddy with excitement about “sales failure”. Was a latest Harry Potter a failure because on premiere night only 2000 people saw it (it was only shown in one theater)?

    Demand still exceeds supply. The easiest way to see this is to try to find one at a discount… there are none. I am waiting 4 months for one.

  • avatar
    mallthus

    So, this makes some sense. Then again, to do things the Apple way, GM needs 15 20 more years than they have, so they’ll have to skip some things.

    So, here’s the short story.

    Volt launched. (Done.)
    Launch smaller cheaper EV (exclusive) as Chevrolet. (Mac 128k)
    Reskin Volt as a Cadillac and launch. (AKA Macintosh XL)
    Volt Mk II launches. (Mac+)
    Whole lineup of RE-EV. (Mac II line)
    2nd Bankruptcy or Similar. (Power Computing, SuperMac, MaxxBoxx, DayStar)
    GM Buys Tesla and/or BYD. (Apple buys Power Computing & NexT)
    Launch of Volt MkIII technology with new name. (PowerPC Macs)
    GM launches EN-V to yawns. (iPod is launched)
    GM rolls out massively successful EN-V Mk II with customization. (iTunes and 2nd gen iPods)
    Volt Mk IV launches with multi-fuel micro-turbine and becomes wildly popular with women and college students (iMac)
    GM denies rumors about all new EV with 400 mile range. (iPod Nano)
    GM launches new EV with 200 mile range (iPod Touch)
    GM launches Volt Mk V with Flux Capacitor (iPhone)
    GM launches Volt Mk V with Flux Capacitor & better stereo (iPhone 4)

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    What are you going to power these stupid little cars with?
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/getting-ready-for-a-wave-of-coal-plant-shutdowns/2011/08/19/gIQAzkZ0PJ_blog.html

  • avatar
    speedemon

    I’m not a big fan of GM or government hand outs but I really do not understand why articles like this are so prevalent. There is so much misinformation being spread, it’s just plain irresponsible. We have driven our Leaf over 4,500 miles for less than $100 of electricity (2.2 cents a mile), that’s like getting a 90% discount at the pump! That kind of savings stands to transform our economy and blows away any hybrid in savings over the life of the car. We have discovered something we didn’t expect, that a 100 mile range is more than adequate for the majority of our metro driving, which is what the Leaf is designed for. Because the Leaf does not have a gas generator like the Volt, it currently is limited to metro driving (until the DC quick charging network is in place). We use the Leaf for about 80-90% of our driving and rely on a our gas car for the long distance trips, and plugging it in takes seconds so “filling up” more often is not a big deal at all. If we were going to be limited to one car, we would have seriously considered the Volt. It’s got a EV range of 40 miles, which turns out to be the magic number for most Americans daily driving needs. I suspect the majority of Volt owners would hardly ever buy gas. We are saving roughly $2K a year driving the Leaf and I would expect the typical Volt owner would see the same savings… that’s about $30K in savings over the life of a typical gas car, assuming gas doesn’t get more expensive, which it will. The Volt is designed to fill a different niche than the Leaf. It’s designed ideally for those who need to rely on one car for both metro driving and occasional long distance travel. I do believe that once it’s out on the roads in substantial numbers a lot of very different responses will come in to articles like this one. Given the level of subsidy to Big oil, I have no problem with the short term measly tax credit going to EV’s compared to the 50 billion a year of tax dollars going to military operations that secure our oil interests. This technology is advancing quickly with the first 300 mile range luxury EV coming out next year and the cost per kW of new breeds of li-ion battereis is rapidly coming down, not to mention these vehicles can outperform the average gas car in terms of pick up, making them fun to drive. Freedom from foreign oil is possible with this technology, and without hardly increasing our electricity production due to the fact that every night utility companies throw out enough excess electricity to meet the vast majority of consumption that EV’s will need for many years to come. Capturing the vast amount of wasted electricity at night will make our grid much more efficient, the missing link to a truly smart grid. I look forward to the day when the $1.2 billion that is spent on foreign oil and is going to middle eastern regimes who do not mean us well, is kept right here within our country. You EV haters can keep plugging your ears and ranting and raving, but the time for change is now and the sooner you come on board the less foolish you will seem once people catch on to “The Truth About Electric Cars”.

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