It doesn't seem fair that GM, while struggling to get the car on its feet, should now have to deal with the task of revamping the Volt's reputation. When Design News spoke to battery experts at MIT and the University of California-Berkeley in November, they strongly believed that GM engineers were properly managing lithium-ion's temperature risks.
Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had this to say about the Volt in January, at the conclusion of its fire investigations. "NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-power vehicles." So safety shouldn't be an issue.
But GM execs are apparently starting to wonder about the Volt's future. "I think it will be May or June before we know whether this thing has legs," Girsky has been quoted as saying about the Volt in numerous publications.
While we wait to find out if the Volt "has legs," GM is still facing the cost issue. By putting an expensive 16kWh battery onboard, the giant automaker hasn't left itself a lot of wiggle room to bring the price down. GM could accept that fact and direct its marketing toward those buyers who have that "untraditional sense of luxury," but it's not known how big that market would be for the four-seat Volt.
If that doesn't work, GM will have to convince middle-class buyers in a slow economy to buy a $40,000 Volt instead of a gasoline-burning Chevy Cruze that costs half as much.
That could be a tall order.
For a closer look at the Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
@rickman: Your point about long-term cost of ownership may be valid, but most peoples' cash flow doesn't allow them to make decisions which take five years to pay off. I need to pay my bills from month to month. So money which is available right now is worth much more to me than money which I might have five years from now. (Besides, if the car gets totalled in an accident, or some other unforseen event happens, the long-term savings which the spreadsheet predicts might never materialize).
You may have a point when it comes to leasing. But in any case, I'm not in the market for a fully-loaded Prius, either. I might consider a $19,000 Prius C.
Am I the only person left who still uses a spreadsheet these days? Take a 2012 Volt w/ leather, and Bose. Skip the chrome rims and Nav for now. Take a comparable 2012 Prius (i.e. leather, stereo upgrade, tele-whatever (whatever their onstar equivalent is), and other comparable features. Apply the tax credit. Good? Now assuming typical driving habits, cost them out year by year for gas purchase and electric cost. Amazing what happens in year five right? VOLT IS CHEAPER. Change the price of gas to $4 or $5 and that savings kicks in on year 4 or 3. So if after 3-5 years of ownership the Volt equals or is lower in cost than a Prius, why is the Volt 'priced out of market' and a loaded Prius is not?
Let's take it one step further. Assume you LEASED both cars. Well, in that case the Volt is cheaper day ONE, since the Volt's attractive lease deal puts it ahead of a comparable Prius lease (assuming similar mileage and down payment).
Do the numbers before you try blasting the numbers.
"See if the Volt has legs"??? Is that suppose to portend an early demise for the Volt? Talk about a ding in GM's reputation. Why not get that engineering team back on the design and figure out a way to make the batteries smaller and take cost off the BOM?
I know automotive development cycles are far longer than other products, but isn't agile and iterative engineering what it's all about, especially when you're talking about new technology like EV vehicles. Obviously, you need to strike a balance so you don't have the market sit and wait until you finally get it right. Maybe there's some sort of rebate or upgrade plan for brave early adopters. But it is far too soon to give up on the Volt, PR problem or not.
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the countryís longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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