I followed the Volt main blog and tech site for us non-GM people right after the auto show. The car was cool and had tons of potential. GM made some mistakes with the car to be sure, it should have been a diesel engine to improve fuel consumption, instead of modifying an existing engine they should have designed one from scratch, etc. The biggest issue is, and everyone before it launched on the blog site knew this, the car was going to sell for a loss and it was going to be 5-10 years before the Volt, at $42k MSRP, was going to be profitable. GM was going to take a bath on the car and hope other car sales would offset the loss. Back in 08-09 this was fairly common knowledge among us who followed the Volt.
Many stated how a company just bailed out and OWNED (via stock) by the federal government (kings of debt spending) was allowed to sell cars for a loss. This could lead to many bad things, and some how shown up now. So, the point is, a multitude of followers cried out that this car should be a Buick or a Caddy and sold to at least break even. Only the well off could ever afford this car anyway. THAT is the failure. GM choose to sell it at a loss when it could have choosen to break even or make money. THAT is the issue that people should be ticked off at. GM knew they would be bailed out by the FED (most likely) and that allowed them to do what they did, something any normal company never would have done. It is a failure of GM and our political 'leadership' (very loosely applied to anyone in DC).
I have no issue with the engineering or design outside of some minor points. The big issue is how the car was marketed, and the threat of failure was completely removed by the bailout and now the certainity of future 'too big to fail' bailouts by spinelss politiicans in DC.
Pound of Gold for Price of Lead: This is a false analogy. You are confusing cost of production with worth or value. Clearly, the Volt does not have $40,000 of value regardless of its actual production cost. (Sales prove that unequivocably) It's value (if you don't count the emotional value) is about $20,000. I'm not going to tell someone how they should spend their money, so if they feel good by buying a Volt, that's fine with me. But I do have issue when the government uses our tax dollars to underwrite the purchase.
If there is an automotive technology we need on the showroom floors right now, it's dual fuel vehicles using petrol and CNG. That way we can use clean, inexpensive, domestic natural gas for our daily around town use of our vehicles and if we need to drive further than the CNG supply will last, switch over to gasoline. These vehicles are already available overseas, why not here? Your refueling station would be in your garage with a high pressure pump and you just pay your local utility for the gas. We can even use separate metering of the gas to pay a 'road tax' to keep the greedy politicians happy.
Electric vehicles will occupy a niche market for quite some time. They simply do not compute on an economic basis for the majority of people.
It seems that GM's historical lack of planning and poor business decisions continue to plague car sales. GM's late entry into the electric hybrid market along with low and/or poorly focused R&D investment has left them with an overpriced, under tested and non-competitive offering, the Chevy Volt. Like many Americans I was hopeful that the launch of the Chevy Volt would be a turning point for GM – showing consumers and the market that the old GM mentality that almost bankrupted the company (actually did bankrupt) was changing. Instead GM launched the Volt, years late, with an initial battery recall (most probably a known issues at the time of market release – a market strategy used by GM in the past), a high price tag, and high manufacturing costs. When will GM learn that consumers don't expect to pay (price tag and poor quality) for GM's poorly run R&D effort by purchasing cars (technology) that isn't ready for mass production?
"Electric car will not work at this time and not in near future as well. There is simply not enough energy density in today's batteries. Only electric car that are feasible are golf cart type that can be used for short commute around the town and need to be recharged any time you park somewhere and can be rented anywhere using credit card."
"All these electric cars will fail: Chevrolet Volt, Nisan Leaf, Fisker, Tesla, they will never make profit."
Look around you, there ARE electric cars around us, and they seem to be working just fine. There are many good points in your post, I myself drive a Diesel VW and think it is a better ROI (for me) than a hybrid, but I want to be able to make the choice among many technologies. Emerging technologies take time to mature into efficient and profitable products. No doubt, the Volt was a very bold and risky move on GM's part, time will tell if their TIMING was off on doing it when they did, but I have NO DOUBT that electrics will continue to be an ever increasing part of our transportation mix. Will it ever achieve mainstream vehicle status? I don't know, but it doesn't need to in order to be valid choice for a significant number of motorists needs. As to your last line (see above), it must be comforting to have such a certain view of the future.
I currently drive a hybrid SUV that gets 26 mpg. It can tow 3800 lbs. and easily and comfortably transports five with plenty of room for stuff. Based on its cost relative to the non-hybrid model, the fuel savings pay for themselves right about 50,000 miles which is approximately where my lease ends. The way I see it, I paid engineers, technicians, and workers instead of oil owners that have declared themselves our enemy. And...reduced emissions to boot. You might call that a 'statement using the badges on your car' but I call it common sense.
Electric car will not work at this time and not in near future as well. There is simply not enough energy density in today's batteries. Only electric car that are feasible are golf cart type that can be used for short commute around the town and need to be recharged any time you park somewhere and can be rented anywhere using credit card.
Future of mass transportation is high speed trains, not gasoline or Diesel cars, and small electric cars around the town. Just copy France and Germany. Electric cars are simply not ready yet, probably will never be.
Hybrid and electric cars are expensive nonsense; better mileage is being achieved by small simpler cheaper Diesel cars, just check Volkswagen Diesels.
All this electric and hybrid car noise is made by greedy corporations that do not want to sell small diesel cars but make more money selling extremely complex and expensive electric and hybrid cars. Electric cars are slower by every mile they make, at the end of battery charge these cars just crawl. Unfortunately, media is simply brainwashing the consumers.
Recently group of English magazine "Car" journalist traveled on I-10 from Jacksonville FL to Los Angeles including city driving along the route using European 101 HP Golf Diesel. They averaged 71 MPG which is not possible with any of these hybrid nonsense cars.
Until some other type of fuel becomes widely available (nothing is in sight and probably won't be for decades) car manufacturing should go Diesel and reduce power to 30-70 HP which would be sufficient for 70 MPH on highways and with fuel economy better than any current hybrid. Yes, car would be sluggish so what: hybrids are slow as well and there are speed limits everywhere except on some German highways.
Oil should be saved by eliminating heavy trucks from roads and using trains and ships as much as possible. Transatlantic travel should go atomic: Large atomic powered ships should be built with capacity of 20-30 thousand passengers. Today, fast ship powered by atomic reactor can make trip from New York to London or France in 60 hours. In addition, it will be way cheaper and more comfortable than any airplane. One can walk and work using computers.
But then comes trucking lobbyist, airplane industry lobbyist and who knows how many other lobbyists and contribute to senators re-election and this is the end of story regarding smart energy policy and many other policies benefiting society, not corporations. This is happening in so called free market economy: This is the same economy that does not allow prescription drugs import. It is called monopoly.
At this time oil is not replaceable by anything, simply no other mobile energy source has enough energy density. Small Diesel powered cars are good temporary solution until much better batteries are developed (if ever developed) or Hydrogen manufacturing process is made much cheaper.
Wind and solar energy is stationary energy and can not be used for transportation purposes other than trains using electrical energy. Someone should tell this fact to "green" guys.
All these electric cars will fail: Chevrolet Volt, Nisan Leaf, Fisker, Tesla, they will never make profit.
All cars exist to sell to people who want to buy one, but obviously not many perople want to buy a Volt at the price it has. As for it being a R&D project, it is just a small version of a diesel/electric train that has been around for 80 years, not much R&D needed for that frankly. Selling a car that you are losing money on, sounds like a lot of government influence on that one, they are not good at math either. When GM is bankrupt again, I'd prefer that nobody give them any of my money again. I asume that all of you pro-Volters out there are driving one of these?, you sure make them sound like the greatest thing around.
"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.
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?
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.
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