If the first car off the line cost $1B, then the 2nd car only cost $ 0.5 B (that's 50% increase in productivity!) With these kind of stat's you can really drive any point home (sorry ;).
A good article, but what it was missing is the production cost side of the argument. What does it cost in material and labor (+ overhead) to manufacture each car. R&D is amortized over the whole company because, as it was noted, the technology is then available for other product lines (and also for tax reasons). GM's retirement liabilities are far more costly than R&D.
Are these cars being sold at less than the cost of production? If not, GM will be fine.
Cars like the Volt are a PR item, they don't get made to make money, and historically they don't have a long lifesapn because the economics invaribly catch up to it. Someone starts asking, "why are we doing this?" When the CEO is the President, he gets what he wants, for a little while. The Volt is just too costly to be a game changer, and it only changes the game when it can be used as strickly an electric car, so it sufferes from the same issue of practicality. Basically for what my truck cost and the milage it gets, I can drive it for at least 10 years and break even with what it would have cost for a volt that I could only drive on the electric. The Volt is nothing but an expensive toy, like having a boat or a sunny day sports car, affordable only to those that have more money than sense.
I think the mpg measurement is not a valuable measurement. To be accurate it should be an energy usage measurement. The electricity was probably generated by burning coal, so the efficiency of the coal burning, conversion and transmission should be considered in the equation.
What makes you think that being a U.S. taxpayer gives you the right to say that? Go to www.DOE.gov and school yourself what the actual benefits of jumping in this band wagon are prior to arrogantly claiming credit. Understand the politics.
As a U.S. taxpayer i say: Thank you GM for risking reputation, capital, and everything you had to jump into this band wagon and lead a revolution. Yes the time is not right but then the time is never right for innovation yet someone needs to step in and take a chance. Even though some aid was given from the U.S. government i doubt that was anything other than Seed money in the form of tax breaks. And i am perfectly OK with the way the USA decides to advance help innovation along so that we as a nation continuously better ourselves.
The Volt doesn't necessarily exist for the purpose of being the lowest-net-cost form of transportation on earth. Like other products in a free market (including boats and sunny day sports cars), it exists to sell to people who want to buy one. The trick for GM is to find enough people who want to buy a Volt at a price at which - over a reasonable time for amortization - GM can make a profit, or at least not lose an unreasonable amount of money on a product which is as much an R&D exercise for GM as it is a cash-generating product line.
And of course, if GM ever should decide that the losses are too much, and give up the effort, they know they will all be burned in effigy as the people who "Killed the Volt".
Buying an electric car is fine, if that works for you. The problem with the electric car is the same it has always been, it is either impractical, or expensive, or usually both at the same time. If you only drive limited milage every day, and your personal transport is all you do, then an electric could make sense, if it was cheap enough. Heck for that you can drive a golf cart, ride a bike or scooter, allow time to walk. The electric usually stops being practical when it is someone's only car. The electric, or even hybrids for that matter, stop making sense also from a personal finance standpoint. Normally the extra cost you will pay to use less gas will never even out with just buying a comparable gas only car. So in the end, the only reason for buying an electric or hybrid is because you either just like spending more money, or you are trying to make some kind of social/environmental statement using the badges on your car.
You need a bit of education yourself when you look at how many billions the tax payer was stuck with for GM. Sure, some of that was just the president paying off the UAW ... but the free market worked for a long time and still does work in some industries. The gov't is always the best way to make sure capital does not get allocated the most productively. Necessity used to be the mother of invention ... now it is taxPayers and political whim.
First, Charles, the article was a great read- both balanced and nuanced. The final answer is still "out there" and we don't know what it is yet, probably won't know for another 5-10 years. So it's too early to say the program is a failure, and it's also too early to say that skeptics are shills for the oil companies and Mideast sheiks. Politics of the GM bailout aside, Chrysler did receive a helping hand from the US decades ago and it seems to have worked, more or less. Maybe one day we'll say the GM assist was an overall positive. Again, the answer is still "out there"; it takes a long time for all the facts to emerge and be properly weighted in historical perspective.
I personally wish I found the Volt more attractive and that GM had priced it more competitively. Most of my driving is short range, limited in both distance and frequency. That makes me a good candidate for one of these cars, except that the cost-per-trip of casual use is through the roof for me. Also they look boring to me- was that the best exterior design they could think of?
"To be accurate it should be an energy usage measurement."
I think that, to be accurate, we need to analyze costs per mile. I don't care if a vehicle costs $0.01/mile in "fuel" if maintenance (say, an expensive battery pack replacement) costs $1.00/mile. These are not real number, but you get the idea. The whole operational costs of the vehicle needs to be considered. Ownership costs, too. A $60000 vehicle that gets 40mpg will not be cheaper over its lifespan than one that's $20000, and gets 30mpg. In a cost-only comparson, depreciation will kill the $60000 vehicle.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.