By on December 21, 2018

2017 Chevrolet Volt - Image: Chevrolet

The vehicle they provide batteries for has less than three months to live, and this week brought news to 50 workers at General Motors’ Brownstown Battery plant that their positions are even more short-lived. In a filing with the state of Michigan, GM said it will cut 37 hourly and 13 salaried workers at the Detroit-area facility, adding an extra dollop of job losses to the mass culling announced late last month.

If the idea of owning a plug-in hybrid with real electric range tickles your fancy, your time’s running out fast.

GM plans to axe the battery employees in February, Automotive News reports, with the Volt itself leaving this earth the following month. The plant also makes batteries for other GM vehicles, including the doomed mild hybrid Buick LaCrosse. After their departure, Brownstown’s staffing levels should sit at 66.

Also in February, GM plans to lay off nearly 700 employees at the Volt’s home — Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, builder of the LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Cadillac CT6. The LaCrosse follows the Volt to the grave in March, while a roughly equal number of employees will continue producing the Impala and CT6 until June.

Last week, an embattled GM announced some 2,800 workers at its soon-to-be-mothballed assembly plants were eligible for jobs at other plants.

The Volt first appeared in late 2010 as a 2011 model; at the time, the innovative model served as a flagbearer for the “New GM” — a technologically advanced powerhouse with its finger on the pulse of the future. Indeed, the Volt was in many ways the perfect “electric vehicle,” especially in second-generation form. Its 53 miles of all-electric range accomodated most commutes, while the 1.5-liter four-cylinder generator eliminated range anxiety and made road trips a breeze. The automaker even upgraded the model for 2019, adding a power driver’s seat and quicker charging capability.

Despite the presence of the 238-mile, fully electric Chevrolet Bolt, GM felt the Volt could still serve as a nearly gas-free alternative to conventional vehicles. Faster charging would encourage owners to use it as an EV, the automaker said. Alas, cost-cutting got in the way.

Volt sales peaked in 2016 when GM sold 24,738 of them in the United States. 2012 and 2012 figures came close to this high water mark, with sales of 23,461 and 23,094 units, respectively. While the model faltered somewhat over the past two years (the presidential election can be credited for a surge in late-2016 sales from buyers hoping to collect a seemingly endangered EV tax credit), third-quarter 2018 sales numbers beat those from a year earlier.

Given that the feds still offer the credit, it’s looking like last-chance buyers might send the Volt out on a high note.

[Image: General Motors]

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50 Comments on “Chevrolet Volt’s Discontinuation Leaves Battery Plant Employees Out of a Job...”


  • avatar
    NoID

    Discontinuing the Volt doesn’t make sense to me if GM’s grand electrification strategy is to be believed. Isn’t the Volt exactly the kind of vehicle that should be retained in their portfolio?

    • 0 avatar
      GregLocock

      The Volt was the first generation of that type of architecture. As such it would have a lot extra cost built in. Given the low sales it was unlikely to be a profitable line, and whatever cachet it had as hero car has long gone.

      It was an interesting experiment and I’m sure GM learned a lot from it, but as predicted on its wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Chevrolet_Volt/Archive_1
      , it was too heavy, too complex, too expensive, for the perceived benefit.

      Funnily enough it is almost exactly the Powertrain architecture that makes sense for me personally, but I am an edge case, and car companies like GM don’t deliberately build edge case cars.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The sorry job that GM has done marketing the Volt borders on criminal negligence. Barra, Ammann, et al, should be fired, and replacing with people that know what they’re doing.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think the bigger problem here goes beyond marketing – no one’s had success with plug in hybrids. Even Toyota’s Prius plug in has largely flopped.

      Basically, the way these are set up, the market is limited to people with a short commute, lots of money to spend on very limited “electric-only” tech, and a garage to charge in. That’s a pretty narrow selection of buyers. Plus, electrics have become far better. If you have a short commute, a Leaf makes a lot more sense.

      Doesn’t surprise me that the market for plug ins has pretty much dried up.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Yea, on paper PHEVs sound great, but I feel like they combine the worst of hybrids and BEVs. I can’t think of any that are convincing. But I think they were a necessary stepping stone for manufacturers to wrap their heads around electrification.

        Eventually though I can see a world where cars are either regular hybrids or full BEVs.

        • 0 avatar
          afedaken

          What exactly was worse about the PHEV vs a standard Hybrid? You still have the gas engine, you still have the battery. You just got a slightly longer EV only range, for what amounted to a minor weight penalty in a non-performance vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Cost of ownership is a huge consideration to people who buy cars like this, and the Volt is considerably more expensive than a Prius, with a marginal additional electric capability.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            @afedaken: You have two complete powertrains. If you could lose either one, you could make the remaining one more efficient. But with both, you’ve got a relatively heavy car with less than stellar electric range and less than stellar fuel mileage.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “Cost of ownership is a huge consideration to people who buy cars like this, and the Volt is considerably more expensive than a Prius, with a marginal additional electric capability.”

            Hardly marginal electric capability. Really an ignorant statement. My 2013 Volt is an everyday driver and has gone for months without the gas engine turning on. Charging with nothing more than the 115VAC outlet in my garage I’ve done many 60-70 mile days w/no gas burned. Can’t do that with a Prius. But the real beauty of it, is it drives like a million bucks, not the penalty box that is the Prius.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            “a relatively heavy car with less than stellar electric range and less than stellar fuel mileage.”

            Who knows how long this will take to penetrate the auto chattersphere, but the milage of ev’s and hybrids is affected less by additional weight than regular cars. Because most of the additional energy needed to get them up to speed or up hills, is recaptured while braking.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Carlsonfan: Golly, I’m really glad you like your Volt. I’m glad you can travel 60-70 miles a day without filling up. Mazel tov.

            Not sure why any of that merited calling me ignorant, though.

            Facts remain:
            1) A Prius is ten grand cheaper than a Volt.
            2) A Leaf is the same price as a Volt and travels at least twice as far on a charge.

            1) and 2) might explain why Volts never took off sales wise, which is what I was ignorantly referring to. It also explains why no other plug ins have succeeded either. But what do I know? Clearly you’re ten times smarter than me and the auto buying market.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            Saying “marginal additional electric capability” was ignorant. I agree with the rest of your comments. Even with a fully charged battery I could make a plug in Prius burn gas by the time I reached the end of my block simply by mashing the accelerator to the firewall. My 2013 got me 46-47 miles out of the battery all the time last summer. I suspect a Gen 2 Volt would be close to 60. You call 60 miles of EV range marginal to what the plug in Prius delivers? I don’t.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            If your Volt does 70 miles in electric mode, then that’s the very definition of “marginal,” and puts it right up there with electric all-stars like the Fiat 500e.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            @brandloyalty: “Who knows how long this will take to penetrate the auto chattersphere, but the milage of ev’s and hybrids is affected less by additional weight than regular cars.”

            I get that, but in the case of the Volt, you could add more battery capacity if the car didn’t have to take up space for the genset. Or vice versa, if the car didn’t have to use the ICE to haul around the battery, the ICE fuel mileage could be better. My comment isn’t entirely about weight, although it would have an effect on the ICE operation end of the car.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @sportyaccordy: Agreed.

          The Volt has surprised me in its effectiveness over the years, but I’ve always figured that mainstream buyers wouldn’t warm up to the idea of a dual-fuel vehicle.

          To me, that’s the problem with Cadillac and other high-end mfrs trying to push PHEVs – they’re a hassle because the relatively short range they offer isn’t worth the trouble. The Volt was an exception to this with its longer EV range, but now BEVs have the range to make cars like the Volt less appealing, and a BEV is much simpler to build.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheatridger

          To sportyaccordy- No, PHEVs are like having two cars: a silent electric runabout for every local shopping trips and most commutes, and a long-range cruiser for that sudden jaunt across state lines. Show me an EV driver, and I’ll show you someone who has another, bigger, thirstier vehicle for long trips. Owning that wipes out the csh savings, and using it erases your eco earnings. I’d rather have one car for all purposes.

          A good PHEV like my C-Max idles and drives under light power in EV, even after the Plug-in EV range is gone. It runs its A/C and accessories on high-voltage electricity, silently and smoothly. When you need the power, it’s there (8 sec. 0-60). And regen braking keep the brake pads fresh and long-lasting. The gas engine does what those do best (high power and long range), and the EV side does the rest. Why would I prefer a single-engine car when I can have two?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The original PIP failed because it was the worse implementation by far due to the fact that it was an afterthought being forced on a transmission that just wasn’t intended to run as a full EV. Don’t hit the accelerator to hard or the engine will come on and stay on for a while, even with the battery at 100% The current version was engineered to be able to run in 100% EV mode and sales have improved.

        Fact is PHEV is the fastest growing segment today with regards to the number of available models. Pretty much everyone has come out with one or more in recent years, from BMW to Volvo. So no they aren’t going away anytime soon.

      • 0 avatar
        jh26036

        As a 2017 Volt owner, here are some reasons why I bought it over a Prius.

        1) It is not more expensive. Just like any GM vehicle, they sell for heavy discount before the government incentives. In my case, a $35.5k sticker Volt ended up costing me $16.5k after all discounts, regular dealer discount ($9,000), federal tax credit ($7,500), and MA rebate ($2,500). This is a brand new car I drove off the lot.

        2) The Volt is used as a commuter most of the the time, 25 miles or so a day. I put gas in it 7 times. Why is it a big deal? You akin this thing is no better than a Leaf or Fiat 500e. Neither of those I can take on a road trip or extend my day doing unscheduled errands without planning around an EV range. I need my car to still be a car, useful all the time. You may or may not know this but the EV range is severely reduced once the cold sets in. The Volt, no problem, you’ll just dip into petrol and life goes on. While at it, it still gets a very respectable 40mpg, but yes, Prius will beat it with 50mpg. Range anxiety can be a real problem especially if I have my 8 month old in the back.

        3) The Prius drives…like a Prius. Which is fine for the most part. If you do enjoy driving, a Volt is actually kind of fun. Handles very sprightly and the 0-40 surge is addictive.

        4) You don’t need a garage to plug in a PHEV. You just need a normal socket where you park. This does limit some buyers.

        5) People like to dog on the maintenance of a PHEV, and yes, my first two oil change was covered by GM and now I am on the hook. Seeing my ICE gets used only maybe 1-2k miles a year, oil change will happen on a every other year interval. I will accept that $50 as a penalty to my life to trade for the extra convenience of unlimited driving range.

        So anyways, I think it’s unfair to deem is something as the worst of both world. From the owner’s perspective, I think it is the other way around. I can enjoy the benefits of a EV for the majority of time while the car doesn’t have to be a one trick pony.

        I also think it looks much nicer than any Prius but that’s just my opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          @jh26036: FWIW, I’m actually a fan of the Volt. I see it as training wheels for folks to transition into BEVs, but there are some drawbacks to the car itself. I’ve spoken to many owners over the years and one huge drawback is the size of the rear seating area. Now that we’re empty nesters, this would no longer be a disadvantage for us, but when we still had kids at home, it was a non-starter. I like the hatchback design as many of the owners I spoke to. I really like the idea of being able to commute on electricity and then take longer drives on ICE, too. But, the cars I have are still running fine and I have no burning desire to get into car payments real soon. (If I’m honest, the SO wants a SUV and I don’t, so we’re at loggerheads until one of us makes a compromise…)

          Bad news for GM and the Volt.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        That’s true in your imagination. but here’s my experience: I charge my plugin hybrid overnight on 120v in the driveway. It cost me $29K loaded, after a generous tax incentive. Last Friday, I drove it 240 miles. I always drive it beyond the battery range, but it still returned64 MPG for the first year. That’s 26 MPG better than the hybrid model of the same car, which I also own.

        How would am EV be “far better?”

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      How much should GM spend marketing a vehicle they lose money one with each extra unit they sell? When a good vehicle that fits today’s regulatory climate is not being marketed heavily it means only one thing: it ain’t profitable.

  • avatar
    arj9084

    So….for folks who do own one, how are they going to get replacement batteries as theirs wear out over the next 5-10 years? This has always been the main concern with customized several thousand dollar battery configurations, plug in or just regular hybrid…you’re not gonna get a bunch of options for parts on this piece from rockauto…

    • 0 avatar
      devyanks90

      Replacement batteries aren’t on RockAuto mainly because shipping is a pain. Your local parts store should be able to get you one if needed.

      Dorman has an entire facility in NC for battery rebuilding and their are other, smaller companies as well. Once the Volt battery’s warranty period ends there will be options.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        I fully expect the battery in my Volt to last 12-15 years. When it goes, it will be a cell that has gone bad or some other internal mechanical problem. I guarantee you it won’t be replaced due to range degradation. That battery pack is ridiculously over-engineered.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      How is this any different than owners of say a early Prius? Mfgs don’t keep building 100% new packs long after the last car equipped with that pack leaves the line. The option is rebuilt/reconditioned packs where they either replace all the cells or they combine the best used cells from a number of packs.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Hybrid batteries are outlasting anyone’s expectations.

        I have yet to hear of brand new ones of any sort being unavailable from the manufacturer. But they are fabulously expensive.

        More hybrid batteries are available from wrecks than need to be replaced. Look them up on Ebay and consider how the prices reflect supply and demand.

        There are businesses that will rebuild packs, and provide warranties.

        Typically few cells need to be replaced to restore a pack to new performance.

        The mileage my ’09 hybrid gets is as good as it has ever been, suggesting zero battery degradation.

        Replacing hybrid batteries is a non-issue.

  • avatar
    Mojo_Mike

    So if its several years down the road and you own a Volt and the battery dies, it seems like you would be SOL far as getting a factory replacement. Can’t imagine there would be much of a aftermarket making replacement batteries for a niche vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      That was going to happen whether the Volt was discontinued or not. The aftermarket will certainly exist as all they do it replace cells in the pack not build 100% new packs.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      By law, they have to stock the parts for 7 years after end of manufacture. The new ones have a federally mandated 8 year warranty, so they’re good for a while yet. Like others have noted, there are aftermarket replacement parts, so it’s not real likely that the car will need to be scrapped.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      This makes as much sense as suggesting there is no solution if the engine or transmission of an older car needs repair or replacement.

  • avatar
    MBella

    This sounds like another short sided move. If they’re ramping up production of EVs wouldn’t you want to retool this plant to build those batteries? They will likely have to open another plant or reopen this one in the future. They’re going to have to train new employees. Maybe they plan on a battery plant in Mexico or China. It’s becoming hard to consider a GM vehicle again. When they used to employee my neighbors, friends and their families, the argument could be made to get one as long as it’s competitive. Without that, why wouldn’t I buy from a Japanese or Korean brand? I was considering a C7 Corvette for when my truck is payed off, but now I just don’t see why I would bother. It’s become pretty obvious they have no intention of supporting workers in their own market.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      And GM should pay those workers to do nothing until they need the capacity again?

      • 0 avatar
        afedaken

        That depends purely on whether it will cost them more to hire the talent later, vs paying to keep it now. Establishing “tribal knowledge” is often useful to an organization. But new hires get paid far less than retained talent.

        However, IMO it’s really all a sideshow. GM isn’t really looking to transform itself into an EV or technology company. They’re looking simply to shift sales to their more profitable and popular products, while eliminating legacy labor costs. Electrification is just a useful excuse they can feed folks so they get less flack than Ford did for abandoning these market segments.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        No, but there will be a time when you have gone through and angered the talented workforce in your area. The good employees usually have options, and will go somewhere else. A Mercedes dealership I used to work for can’t get any talented employees. Their most senior technician right now was fired twice and required the Sheriff’s department to escort him and his tools from the building. He also has a suspended driver’s license because of several DUIs. The last I heard, they had to hire him back a third time. A dealership that is a franchise of my current employer is owned by one of the big dealer groups. They have lost most of their talent and keep bleeding. Pretty soon it’s going to be nothing but washbay kids. Word spreads quickly, and if you don’t take care of your employees your pool of possible new hires dries up quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      JD-Shifty

      don’t be a dunce. what about all the engineering staff and white collar workers GM employs in the US?

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Oh, it’s even worse than that. GM is building batteries and fuel cells for the Honda Clarity, Japan’s knock-off of the Volt, while it buys the batteries for its own Bolt EV from LG Chem. A head-scratcher for sure.

  • avatar
    orioncanam

    What Queen Mary wants, she gets.
    Roger Smith 2.0.

  • avatar
    pdog_phatpat

    Merry Christmas plant workers….and thanks for the bailout suckers!

    What a disgrace, indeed.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    It’s a shame they killed the Volt but honestly having lived with my 2013 for 3 years it has convinced me that I should go full EV next. I’ll always have 2 vehicles due to my towing requirements. That makes an EV pretty much a no-brainer as I’ll always have the gas tow-vehicle as a back-up. Considering how little the gas engine runs in the Volt, with it’s 40 mile range that would probably equate to less than once a year.

  • avatar
    JoDa

    Wait Mary! Where’s muh electrificayshun?

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I’ll admit: if the Bolt EV had the reasonably comfy seats and attractive styling of the Volt, I would have bought a Bolt…so I get the technology-has-moved-on argument now that it’s rapidly becoming almost affordable to put an enormous battery in a car. But there are plenty of people who have reasons to be skeptical of an EV: maybe there is poor recharging infrastructure where they live, or maybe the weather gets extremely cold (bad for EV range), or maybe they just don’t want to deal with finding and waiting at a fast-charge station on a holiday trip. The Volt gets these on-the-fencers to take the leap because there’s literally nothing to lose; on a road trip it’s a gas car, and for weekly errands and commuting it’s an electric car.

    One can debate whether the Volt is a PHEV like a Ford Energi or an EREV like a BMW i3 REx; let’s say it’s both. No other PHEV interests me because no other PHEV but the Volt is a true electric car capable of running without fuel assist even at full throttle and making it through a typical day’s driving without using gas. And no other EREV interests me because no other EREV but the Volt is a true gas car capable of full performance and long range on gas.

    In our CUV-crazed age, Chevy screwed up the form factor decision. The Volt’s sporty roofline made the back seat useless for adults (and compromised driver visibility so badly that I wouldn’t drive one without at least Driver Confidence Package 1). If they had put this powertrain in an Equinox, I believe it would have been highly successful. Would have been easier for them to get the price they needed for it too.

    • 0 avatar
      Scott

      This to me was the problem, wrong form factor. They should be putting the drivetrain into the equinox (or even the Trax/ Encore) rather than getting rid of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      “If they had put this powertrain in an Equinox, I believe it would have been highly successful.”

      Who’s to say they won’t use it, or at least a derivative of this powertrain in the Equinox or similar vehicle?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    @geozinger: “if the car didn’t have to use the ICE to haul around the battery, the ICE fuel mileage could be better. My comment isn’t entirely about weight, although it would have an effect on the ICE operation end of the car.”

    Regeneration does not go away just because a hybrid is using the gas engine.

    I think we need to look at this again.

    What hurts mileage?

    Frontal area. For given equivalent cars, this will be the same.

    Rolling resistance. A heavier car will have very slightly more rolling resistance from the tires and bearings.

    Lifting extra weight up hills. This hurts an ice-only car because the additional energy is lost.

    Getting extra weight up to speed. This hurts an ice-only car because the additional energy is lost.

    It may seem that a hybrid does not recapture as much energy as was used to get it up to speed or up a hill. But that energy does not disappear. The laws of physics say so. It may have shown up as needing less application of the throttle to get down a less steep descent. It may have meant coming off the throttle sooner which approaching a stop.

    My hybrid gets the same apparent mileage regardless of the load. Theoretically it should be very slightly less due to friction and the factors mentioned below.Substitute a couple of passengers for another ice, and the mileage should stay the same.

    Four caveats:

    Hybrids can only regenerate a certain rate. Exceed that rate and the normal brakes engage. Which wastes energy and is a little more likely to happen the heavier the load.

    Hybrids switch from regeneration to the normal brakes just before they come to a full stop. The heavier the load, the more energy this will waste.

    Front wheel based hybrids engage the rear brakes a little during braking that is otherwise done with regeneration. This is for stability. Additional weight will waste a little more energy because of this setup.

    There will also be larger conversion losses, as additional weight means greater amounts of energy are put through the system.

    These four factors will not hurt mileage much, because they apply only to the additional weight, which is not much relative to the gross weight of the vehicle plus contents.

    I can’t help it that because of thorough education that additional weight hurts mileage on cars, people cannot grasp this is basically not true for hybrids and electric cars. The same dynamic is what makes electric buses and trucks feasible. In urban use, they will recapture most of the energy needed to move heavier loads, when slowing or stopping.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      An Ice car does recapture some of the engergy used to increase altitude. Much less fuel is needed to go down the hill at a given speed vs the amount needed for the same speed on a level road. Many modern cars also have deceleration fuel cut off which means the engine can use zero fuel while coasting, in the right conditions. Of course the engine is still pumping away creating drag. In a good hybrid if speed control is needed on that down hill you can put power back into the battery to power the vehicle later.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    GM’s affirmative action CEO has really worked out well. I offer my services to dismantle the company for half her salary.


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