Despite its financial woes and bailout pleas, General Motors Corp. says it's
sticking with its plan to build the hybrid-electric Chevy
is the lead program for General Motors," says GM spokesman Rob Peterson. "We're moving forward with it and that's
not going to change."
about the Volt has reached a peak in the past few weeks as GM has revealed more
about its financial status during its Capitol Hill pleas for bailout funding. Newspaper
editorials have questioned whether the Volt could even turn a profit for the
giant automaker and have asked aloud whether such a program is in the giant
automaker's best interest while it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.
GM says, however, it sees the Volt as a new technical foundation for the
company rather than as a single model. The high-profile vehicle, which uses
electric motors to drive its wheels and an internal combustion engine to charge
its batteries, has captured the imagination of auto enthusiasts. It has also
sucked tens of millions of dollars from GM's product development coffers.
"This is just like any other new
technology; there's an exorbitant cost up front," Peterson says. "We consider
this to be a movement toward electric vehicles, and this is the first step in
appearance before the Senate Banking Committee this week, GM CEO Rick Wagoner
reiterated his support for the program, saying, "...we're running all out to get
the Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle to market as soon as possible."
representatives have acknowledged the vehicle will not turn a profit
initially, but have argued they see the Volt as a long-term investment for
the company. "It's important to take the long view on this car," Peterson says.
"Yes, in the early stages it may not be as profitable as we'd like it to be,
but we're in it for the long term. And, as is the case with all new
technologies, it will eventually come down in price."
believe GM plans to build a variety of different car models on top of Volt
powertrain technology. The key, they say, is for GM to first scale up
production of the battery and later to proliferate the Volt drivetrain across
several GM platforms.
bring a new technology to the market, you have a learning curve," says David
Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive
Research (CAR). "It's never going to happen instantly. No battery
manufacturer is going to put up a facility to build a million lithium car
batteries in the first year. Production volume will start out at 20,000, 30,000
or 40,000. They'll learn and they'll incorporate what they learn into the next
generation of batteries. By the third or fourth generation, they'll begin to
boost the scale and get cost-competitive."
believes lithium-ion battery packs will initially cost about $10,000. By the
third or fourth generation, he says, the packs will cost about half that much.
Recently, rumors have placed the
Volt's initial cost in 2010 at about $40,000. GM, however, strongly denied any price has been set. "We haven't commented on a price," Peterson says.
"There are too many variables that have to play out in the market to determine
acknowledged tax incentives could be important in helping launch the Volt
program. The federal government's Troubled
Assets Relief Program (TARP), signed into law on October 3, has put a
$7,500 per vehicle tax incentive in place to assist buyers and encourage them
to adopt battery-electric technology. The incentive would apply directly to the
Volt and possibly to other plug-in hybrids, depending on the level of energy
stored on board.
the talk of bankruptcy, Cole believes GM will forge ahead with the Volt.
"Before the Volt is introduced, (the bankruptcy) issue will be settled," he
says. "If GM is still here in a couple of years, it will be well on its way to
healing, and the Volt will still be there."