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.