Chevrolet Volt Follies
A collection of my blog postings on the Volt - in chronological order
Wasting Money: The current issue of AutoWeek has a two-page spread (inside front cover and facing page) touting the 'will-it-ever-be-built?' Chevrolet Volt concept car. This was paid for by a corporation which is going broke.
The money would have been better spent improving that cheap interior in the Chevy Cobalt (see my drive report). That might increase non-fleet sales and improve overall profitability of the Chevy brand - a first step towards saving the company. (posted 4/23/07, permalink)
'We Sweat The Details': Anyone else remember this now-abandoned General Motors slogan? I would think that 'sweating the details' or just plain ol' common sense would include looking after your concept cars, so that they're not rusted when you exhibit them to the public. What makes this incident this even worse is that the concept vehicle in question is the Chevrolet Volt, the next Savior of GM.
As someone who has done a lot of trade show and exhibition booth duty in my lifetime, I can tell you that the first rule is to never, never, never show a product which is less than perfect. We always hand-picked production examples and 'detailed' them so that they were like flawless diamonds.
Prospects at shows are eagle-eyed and will spot any flaws as easily as Kramer did on Seinfeld: "What's that red dot on your sweater?" (posted 4/16/08, permalink)
Why There's No Chevy Volt Yet: There's not enough development money. Instead, GM is spending it on Punch & Judy shows. No kidding.
The Rick Wagoner puppet is hitting the Bob Lutz puppet with a very large mallet. Whack! "That's the way to do it!" (posted 8/22/08, permalink)
How I Saved The Volt: As you know, the Chevrolet Volt is in crisis - overhyped, late to market and overpriced. And still waiting for someone to develop a low-cost, lightweight battery.
My wife just bought a big-button calculator at The Dollar Store for a buck. It even came with a battery - a nice compact little disc-shaped one that weighs almost nothing. And it works!
I think General Motors should head for the nearest Dollar Store and buy millions of these calculators. Take out the batteries out and use as many as needed to power the Volt. If it takes 1,000 of them, who cares? They're cheap. Take the plastic cases (which are pretty decent, by the way), grind them up and injection mold some nice interior trim. Then use the LCD readouts for gauges.
See? I've just cut the cost of the Volt from $45,000 to probably $20,000.
Who says America can't compete? (Well, yeah, the calculators are made in China ... but everything would be stripped-out and reassembled into a Volt in the U.S. Using UAW labor. That's got to count for something.)
Note to GM: You don't have to send me a thank you letter. A bonus equal to Bob Lutz's annual paycheck will do nicely. (posted 9/4/2008, permalink)
Dealer Incentives: Photos of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid have been released. Unfortunately, you won't be able to purchase one until the 2011 model year. Maybe. Several people have wondered why the car features large unpleasant matte black sills beneath the side windows. Especially since GM's 1980s window frames always lost part of their black coating on the third trip through a car wash.
Here's the answer: it's for the dealers. Car dealers can sell and install high-profit, meretricious accessory trim to cover it up. Things like padded vinyl (for elderly drivers), polished diamond plate (for rednecks), cane pattern (often applied to the window sills of 1949-52 Buick hardtops and convertibles), fake wood (welcome to 1971), gold anodized aluminum - first seen on the '56 Plymouth Fury (now known as a Gold Package - one that matches the front bowtie emblem) or fake zebra skin (a favorite with early 1950s customizers).
I think I'll have my Volt fitted with faux leopard skin.
In case you've forgotten, here's what the Volt was supposed to look like:
Design Bait And Switch: Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal has written about the dull design of all too many GM cars. Excerpt: "Compared to sleek and svelte imports of the last twenty years, GM's cars (excepting their halo cars) look club-footed and thick-ankled. Not the gal you want to take to the prom. Of course, each GM concept drawing shows a sleek and athletic creature hunkered down over big wheels, and rubber-band-high tires. The car that comes the showroom from that concept drawing, after the bean counters get done with it, is the concept's plain, awkward, sedentary sister."
He continued, "Consider the devolution of the Chevy Volt's design. The original concept was an electric muscle-car styled to out-menace the new Camaro. Alas, it was soon discovered to have the drag coefficient of a parachute. Most muscle-cars do, but they are so hopped up with big-block engines that it doesn't matter. But the Volt, trying to eke out its paltry 40-mile range, couldn't afford to waste energy on broad-chested design machismo. After more than a year of hype, GM replaced the Volt prototype with a Prius knock-off sporting all the sex appeal of Agnes Gooch."
Almost a year ago, I pointed out how much the Chevrolet Volt had changed from the original concept. And it's still not in production, so who knows what the final version will look like. Or when - if ever - it will be available for purchase.
I've posted more thoughts on the unbearable dullness of car design here. (posted 7/24/09, permalink)
Black Bess: Every time I read something about the oft-promised, over-hyped, yet-to-be-delivered Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, I am reminded of Packard's Black Bess ... (more >>>)
Shocking News: The new Chevy Volt - with prices starting at a Cadillac-like $41,000 - requires Premium gasoline. No word on whether it also requires Premium electricity. (posted 7/28/10, permalink)
Electric Government On Wheels: Edward Niedermeyer of The Truth About Cars wrote an exceptional, insightful article about the Chevrolet Volt for the New York Times. My only quibble was the title; it should have been headlined 'The Truth About The Volt'.
Excerpt: "Quantifying just how much taxpayer money will have been wasted on the hastily developed Volt is no easy feat. Start with the $50 billion bailout (without which none of this would have been necessary), add $240 million in Energy Department grants doled out to GM last summer, $150 million in federal money to the Volt's Korean battery supplier, up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives, and some significant portion of the $14 billion loan GM got in 2008 for "retooling" its plants, and you've got some idea of how much taxpayer cash is built into every Volt."
Mr. Niedermeyer concluded, "If GM were honest, it would market the car as a personal donation for, and vote of confidence in, the auto bailout. Unfortunately, that's not the kind of cross-branding that will make the Volt a runaway success."
As to the Volt's $41,000 base price ... good luck with that. One California Chevrolet dealer has already gone on record that all orders will be subject to an additional $20,000 dealer gouge.
The Washington Examiner referred to the Volt as an Electric Lemon, which sounds like a band from the 1960s.
Greg Gutfeld, who normally drives a manly V8 Facel Vega ("It's got no seatbelts, eats gas and killed Albert Camus. Those were the good old days."), described the Volt as an "EZ bake oven on wheels" and a "sanctimonious sardine can."
"Sure, the "car" is tiny - but there's enough room for the yoga mat, a bag of Craisins and a paper mache sculpture of the tree nymph you did at the Learning Annex (it helped you get over the hypnotherapist who dumped you)."
When he learned that Volt sales would be concentrated in Southern California and popularized by high-profile celebrities, Greg observed that "the only people buying it will be Janeane Garafalo, and/or someone resembling Janeane Garafalo."
On Fox's 'Special Report', Charles Krauthammer said that the only customers for this vehicle will be "very rich people who are going to park it outside their townhouses for an ostentatious show of how virtuous they are, while they drive around in their Cadillac Escalades." Amen. (posted 8/3/10, permalink)
Volt - The Shocking Truth: It seems that the reality of the Chevrolet Volt doesn't match the hype. No 230 mpg rating. The all-electric range is less than promised, too. In gas-only mode, the fuel mileage is mediocre.
Many auto journalists feel jolted, Volted and angry: "We were told the Volt would achieve 230 MPG fuel economy and would always use the electric drivetrain to motivate the wheels - only using the onboard gasoline engine as a "range extender" for charging the batteries. It now turns out that not only were those fuel economy claims misleading, but the gasoline engine is actually used to motivate the wheels."
Scott Oldham at Edmunds.com has twittered that "GM lied to the world" about the Volt.
The shortcomings of the Chevy Volt do not surprise me. I have been a witness to General Motors all-hype-all-the time, over-promise/under-deliver insanity for many years. I'm a jaded cynic and tune out the General's claims and predictions.
GM's "just around the corner" or "tomorrow is here today" technology reminds me of past Tall Tales like the GM Firebird gas turbine concept cars - "in 10 years, we'll all be driving gas turbines", the 'radical' Corvair which was supposed to drive the Volkswagen Beetle "back to Deutschland", the Chevy Vega which was gonna fer-sure have a Wankel engine, the mid-engine Corvette which seem to be promised every decade or so, the multi-rotor Wankel Corvette, etc., etc. Yada yada.
General Motors has a long history of toying with the public the way a cat does a crippled baby bird.
In 2008, Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal wrote of the Volt's design: "After more than a year of hype, GM replaced the Volt prototype with a Prius knock-off sporting all the sex appeal of Agnes Gooch."
The Volt's pricing has now been announced. It's in the $41-45k range, and that doesn't include the faux leopard skin trim option, which would look good on Agness Gooch. Or Peggy Cass, who played her so well.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of price and performance numbers next-year's plug-in Toyota Prius delivers. (posted 10/13/10, permalink)
COTY Cluelessness: The Chevrolet Volt has been selected as Motor Trend Car of the Year for 2011.
Before getting excited, remember that the deplorable Chevrolet Citation was named the Car of the Year in 1980 by MT. The Citation was one of GM's X-body horrors, which seemed to Motor Trend like a great idea at the time, in the same way that everything seems 'profound' after a lot of drinking or serious head trauma.
This award used to get me somewhat excited until I read a revealing 2003 posting by Peter DeLorenzo, the AutoExtremist, which detailed how this 'award' is "for sale" to the manufacturer that showers Motor Trend with the most ad/promo money.
That shed light a lot of those previous COTY choices to me. (posted 11/17/10, permalink)
Nothing To See Here: The plug-in Chevrolet Volt (based on the small Chevrolet Cruze) was named North American Car of the Year at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. The Volt has previously won several awards in the United States, including Motor Trend Car of the Year.
It's kinda like when Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Lotsa press coverage; politically expedient; no significance. (posted 1/11/11, permalink)
Low Voltage: Mark Tapscott has written, "President Obama wants America to have one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in four years (2015). Based on the latest sales data for the Chevrolet Volt - the government-backed, green automotive Hail Mary from Detroit - Obama's goal isn't going to be met." One million, eh? Good luck with that.
While GM sales overall were up 46% last month, Volt sales fell from 321 units in January to 281 in February, a 12% decrease. The outlook is even worse for Nissan's widely-heralded, all-eletric Leaf. Only 67 were sold in February, compared to 87 in January, for a 23% decline.
For most Americans, the Toyota Prius is a more practical, proven and economical choice. That's why 13,539 of them were sold in the U.S. last month. (posted 3/10/11, permalink)
Whenever I See ... the words 'General Motors' and 'safety findings may have been suppressed' in the same sentence, I think of the Chevrolet Corvair.
This time it's the Chevy Volt. Oooops. (posted 12/8/11, permalink)
Charged Remark: Audi's president of North America, Johan de Nysschen, has derided the Chevy Volt as "a car for idiots."
He contends that no one "is going to pay a $15,000 premium for a car that competes with a (Toyota) Corolla. ... So there are not enough idiots who will buy it."
The Volt, he posits, is simply "for the intellectual elite who want to show what enlightened souls they are." (posted 12/8/11, permalink)
Government Motors At Work: "Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it a total of $3 billion altogether," according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Mark Modica, an Associate Fellow of the National Legal and Policy Center, has claimed that much of the Volt sales are to government and large corporate (i.e. General Electric) fleets.
I have yet to see a single Volt on the road. (Update: I finally saw my first Volt - an unimpressive white one in February 2012 near Palm Desert, CA.) (posted 12/8/11, permalink)
Obama On Wheels: "Everything about the Chevy Volt is a metaphor for the Obama presidency. A product that everyone thought was great until they tried it out, now no-one wants it. It costs way too much. The performance reviews are horrible. It was overpromised and profoundly under-delivered." Priceless. (posted 1/18/12, permalink)
The Revenge Of Black Bess: Despite Americans being forced to shell out an additional $7,500 worth of tax and 'clean-car' incentives for every Volt purchased, in spite of perfectly timed hype from Motor Trend naming the government-subsidized Chevy Volt as 'Car of the Year' before a single Volt was ever sold, the car is bombing in the marketplace.
Chevrolet dealers are outright rejecting shipments of the Chevrolet Volt. Automotive News has reported that while 104 Volts were allocated to 14 New York City area dealerships, dealers only took 31 cars. Other eligible vehicles have a take rate among dealers of over 90%, making the Volt the least popular car among dealers in the NYC region.
Despite GM President Mark Reuss' insistence that "we haven't satisfied demand," Volt sales have been well short of initial target.
It's a desperation-marketing misfile as bad as the Packardbaker, hence the reference to Black Bess. (posted 1/25/12, permalink) 1/25/12
Too Much Voltage: General Motors is shutting down the Chevrolet Volt plant for five weeks because no one is buying the overpriced hybrid. This is the third shutdown of the Volt assembly line since production of the gas-electric hybrid commenced. "GM blamed the lack of sales in January on "exaggerated" media reports and the federal government's investigation into Volt batteries catching fire." Workers are being laid off until production resumes in late April.
"With a 150-day supply of Volts sitting on dealer lots around the country, this shutdown will temporarily lay off 1,300 employees." GM sold 1,023 Chevrolet Volts in February of 2012, but production output was 2,347 units.
It's worth noting that Bob Lutz once said Chevy would sell 60,000-100,000 Volts in the first year of production and that the "whole future of GM depended on the Volt." Later GM revised its first year sales goal to 10,000 cars.
Edward Niedermeyer has written, "GM's relentless hype, combined with Obama's regular rhetorical references to the Volt, fueled the furor. Then, just two months after Volt sales began trickle in, Obama's Department of Energy released a still-unrepudiated document, claiming that 505,000 Volts would be sold in the US by 2015 (including 120,000 this year). By making the Volt's unrealistic sales goals the centerpiece of a plan to put a million plug-in-vehicles on the road, the Obama Administration cemented the Volt's political cross-branding."
GM sold a mere 7,671 Volts in its first year, many to government agencies.
On a historic note, I would point out that, in the 1958 model year - during a very bad economic recession - over 63,000 examples of the newly-introduced Edsel automobile were sold. And yet conventional history deemed it a 'failure'. What will future automotive historians say about the Volt? (posted 3/5/12, permalink)
It Also Melted The Federal Reserve: General Motors has announced that it will replace about 9,500 charging cables on 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Volts after numerous reports that the electrical plugs were melting.
A GM spokesman said that this is to "offer a more consistent charging experience." Which is a lot like Montgomery Burns calling a lethal radiation dose "a few too many sunshine units."
"The issue has been very limited, with only a few cords actually ending up melted. The 120-volt charger comes packaged with the car, but it is not meant to be the primary charging cord."
GM "initially blamed wiring problems in the electrical outlets."
Barack Obama, a well-known Volt enthusiast, chimed in and said that it was "all Bush's fault." Barry O. posited that George W. probably has been running all around the country plugging hair dryers into the same circuit as the Volt just to make the car "look bad."
Later Obama also blamed the Keystone XL Pipeline, Republicans in Congress and "the Chinese."
Years from now, when perspective has been established and history is written, the overpriced, overhyped lemon known as the Chevrolet Volt will be seen as a metaphor for the entire Obama presidency. (posted 3/26/12, permalink)
Expensive Charges: Seton Motley has offered a damning summary of the Chevrolet Volt: "The Chevy Cruze is basically a Volt without the dead-weight, flammable 400-lb. electric battery. Which makes it $17,000, rather than the Volt’s $41,000.
Chevy in June sold 18,983 Cruzes - more than ten times the number of Volts." 1,760 Volts were sold in June, with 8,817 units moved in the first six months of 2012. Inventory for the Volt, as of June 1st, is at 90 days supply - up from 71 days on May 1st.
Motley wrote, "According to multiple GM executives there is little or no profit being made on each Volt built at a present cost of around $40,000. Furthermore, the $700 million of development that went into the car has to be recouped."
Add $240 million in Energy Department grants bestowed on General Motors last summer, plus "$150 million in federal money to the Volt's Korean battery supplier, up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives and some significant portion of the $14 billion loan GM got in 2008 for 'retooling' its plants, and you've got some idea of how much taxpayer cash is built into every Volt." Over $250,000 per vehicle sold apparently.
It has been alleged that the U.S. government is the largest single customer for the Volt. Mr. Motley quipped, "So it makes perfect sense that GM would spend millions of dollars advertising it, does it not? No ideological or campaign intent there, eh President Obama?"
A Chevrolet Volt sold makes no money for General Motors "but costs We the Taxpayers a $7,500 bribe - I mean "incentive." Oh - and President Obama wants to jack that bribe to $10,000 per.
I guess it's good news after all that Volt sales remain so anemic."
"And with GM's new 60-day return policy, it looks like you can buy a Volt and cash the $7,500 bribe check. Then return the Volt - and keep the $7,500 bribe cash." This is how the government "looks after" your money. (posted 7/25/12, permalink)
"'Tis But A Flesh Wound." General Motors is planning to stop production for about four weeks in September and October at the factory that makes Chevrolet Volt. Sales of the plug-in hybrid sedan haven't met Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson's projections this year. "Through July, GM sold 10,666 Volts in the U.S. Akerson had aimed for sales of 60,000 globally, of which 45,000 would be delivered in the U.S."
Monty Python's Black Knight quote seemed fitting because I spotted a Black Volt heading south toward Vancouver on Monday. (posted 8/29/12, permalink)
Charge It And Save! General Motors is artificially boosting sales of the Chevrolet Volt by offering $10,000 off, as well as sweet lease deals.
As any aging salesman, who has moved metal like the 1957 Hudsons, leftover '60 Edsels, '83 Cadillac Cimarrons or 2000 Daewoo Leganzas, can tell you: If you put enough money on the hood, you can sell practically anything with wheels.
The difference with the Volt is that one person's tax money is being used to help someone else buy an overpriced car. That's not right and is another indicator of the failure of the General Motors bailout. Taxpayers remain on the hook for at least $27 billion. (posted 10/2/12, permalink)
Low Voltage: After the federal government spent billions of dollars on federal tax credits and subsidies to promote all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, they accounted for less than half of one percent of the 11.7 million light vehicles purchased in the U.S. during the last nine months.
General Motors was supposed to produce and sell 120,000 Chevrolet Volts in 2013 to keep pace with the president's goal. However, despite a $7,500 federal tax credit and a price drop in August, GM only managed to sell 16,760 Volts during the first three quarters of this year.
And I bet a lot of those sales were to government agencies. (posted 10/21/13, permalink)
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