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Subject: [Poll] Will the Volt car save GM? rss

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Will the Volt recharge GM and US auto industry?
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100523/D9FSAGNG2.html

Seems like a lot of hopes at GM, and in the state of Michigan as a whole, are being pinned on the new Volt hybrid car. What's your take on this?

More about the Volt:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt
http://www.chevrolet.com/pages/open/default/future/volt.do


Poll: Your opinions about the GM Volt
1. Will the Volt save GM?
GM does not need the Volt to be saved. It will be fine
Yes
Maybe
No
No, GM cannot be saved by anything in the long run.
Other
2. What what is your overall opinion of the GM Volt itself?
Great
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible
I don't know
3. Do you plan to own a GM Volt sometime in the next 10 years?
Yes
Maybe
No
      46 answers
Poll created by tesuji

 
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How long does it take to fully charge?
 
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sbszine wrote:
How long does it take to fully charge?

The FAQ on the GM page says 10 hours
http://www.chevrolet.com/pages/open/default/future/volt.do

Intended as a commuting car, I guess. Charge overnight, drive 40 miles to/from work. After 40 miles, the backup gasoline engine powers you for up to 300 miles before refill.
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pity they crushed all those EVs.. tom hanks was right it seems..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1
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GM gets lousy press, but they'd already started doing some things to turn the corner. The updated Malibu and Impala models were selling well and the Cobalt was a hit. They're mistake was maintaining way, way, way too many nameplates and screwing up some of the ones they had (Saturn went from being different than other GM lines to being another knock-off, for example). Since they didn't dump lines, they had to hit bankruptcy to shed debt, renegotiate contracts, and finally shut down or sell the brands that weren't working. Their largest problem was the huge cost to spin-down Oldsmobile (something north of $2 billion) that made them gun-shy about doing it again.

The problem was, their name plates created a perception that GM didn't build quality (and they did have some misfires there). Throw in a down economy and low cash reserves and they were in deep doo-doo.

But if you look at GM's sales for their core brands this year (Chevy and GMC), they're up by something north of 15%. The Volt can't hurt, but it's not make-or-break. It's just GM keeping the hype machine running.
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DeltaAlphaBravo wrote:
..............

Honda/Toyota have a 10 year lead on GM in this market. GM had a perfect catch-up opportunity and they squandered it either because of greed or being stuck in their ways.


if you watch the doco who killed the electric car. you get the feeling toyota produced the prias because of GMs lead..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F

and the feeling that oil companies bought out GM upper management to scuttle the whole thing. BASTARDS i hope the lot of them get the axe....
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There's a lot of conspiracy theories about why GM killed the EV1, but the most direct answer is probably the right one. It cost GM something like $1 billion to produce the car, with a total production run of something like 1,200 cars. That's approximately $833,000 per vehicle. They decided not to sell them but lease them to avoid the fairly massive PR problem that the cost of replacing the battery packs for the car would impose on anyone that bought the things. They also had recall issues that they'd encountered, and the small production run didn't justify a large inventory of parts.

GM had a choice - continue flinging lots and lots of good money on a car that was never going to turn a profit or take them off the road. All this while Toyota, Hyundai, a resurgent Ford, and other manufacturers ate into their sales, reserves, and profit.

Why would they leave 'em on the road? It would have continued to bleed money (and not in small amounts) for a vehicle that was simply never going to be profitable.
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perfalbion wrote:
There's a lot of conspiracy theories about why GM killed the EV1, but the most direct answer is probably the right one. It cost GM something like $1 billion to produce the car, with a total production run of something like 1,200 cars. That's approximately $833,000 per vehicle. They decided not to sell them but lease them to avoid the fairly massive PR problem that the cost of replacing the battery packs for the car would impose on anyone that bought the things. They also had recall issues that they'd encountered, and the small production run didn't justify a large inventory of parts.


gosh who'd have thought developing a new product would be such a drag?.. i think the term to apply here is soft cock..
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antiussentiment wrote:
gosh who'd have thought developing a new product would be such a drag?.. i think the term to apply here is soft cock..


I'm not going to get dragged into an endless argument on the EV1. But do you honestly think that car companies spend close to $833,000 per vehicle to develop a single new design? Yeah, R&D costs money, but if it doesn't result in a product that can be produced for a profit there's no sane company that will continue to make it. Not unless they've sufficient income from other sources to offset the costs and reason to believe that they will eventually turn a profit. GM had neither of the latter.
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perfalbion wrote:

I'm not going to get dragged into an endless argument on the EV1. But do you honestly think that car companies spend close to $833,000 per vehicle to develop a single new design? Yeah, R&D costs money, but if it doesn't result in a product that can be produced for a profit there's no sane company that will continue to make it. Not unless they've sufficient income from other sources to offset the costs and reason to believe that they will eventually turn a profit. GM had neither of the latter.


Well, with only a 1200 car run, you never would get better than $833,000 per vehicle would you? Spreading development costs across 1200 cars isn't very honest when compared to other cars. If the car would have been better marketed and more of them built for the waiting lists, then the car would have had that cost eased with economy of scale. ANY car that gets closed down after a 1200 run is going to have bad numbers, admittedly not as bad as all new technology but definitly numbers that can be trotted out as a rationalization for canceling something they (the top brass) never wanted to build in the first place.
 
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TheChin! wrote:
Well, with only a 1200 car run, you never would get better than $833,000 per vehicle would you? Spreading development costs across 1200 cars isn't very honest when compared to other cars.


Sure it is. Ford's R&D budget for 2007 was around $8 billion. But that's against sales of like 262,000 vehicles that year. That's still a very big number per car, but keep in mind that Ford's been working on innovating for better than a decade and it's still better an order of magnitude lower per car than the EV1 R&D costs. And Ford lost money that year (which they expected to do as a part of their restructuring).

The point is - the economics of the EV1 didn't work. Battery technology when it was around had issues with energy density, heat, recharge cycles, etc. They simply could not turn that car into one that could turn a profit. Thus, they pulled the plug. After another decade (EV1 production halted before 2000), things have changed, batteries have improved, and the hybrid market has provided better engineering examples of how to make electric motors work better.

Can you make money on a 1,200 car production run? Sure - Ferrari, Lamborghini, and similar automakers do. But look at the prices of their cars. And they also spend a good amount of money on development.

If GM could have turned the EV1 into a profit-making model in the near future, do you honestly think they would have pulled the plug? With R&D credits and first-to-market advantages they'd have continued production in a heart beat. But the car was ahead of what the technology of the day supported (hell, just look at laptop battery life in 1999 compared to today if you like). It wasn't going to work over a reasonable investment horizon and there weren't sufficient offsets to keep the program alive.
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Thre "Big Three"'s savior....Toyota. The invunerability of Japanese cars has been shattered.
 
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rcbevco wrote:
Thre "Big Three"'s savior....Toyota. The invunerability of Japanese cars has been shattered.


Not so much. Ford had already turned the corner. GM could have turned the corner. Chrysler seemed completely hopeless. Toyota's problems don't hurt, but at least two of the big three had either sorted it out or were in the process of doing so. Don't believe me? Go look at the quality reports and reviews for Ford's product line starting in 2005 or so. Than do the same for the Impala, Malibu, and Cobalt.

Doesn't suck for them when Toyota stumbles, but their lost sales could easily have gone to Hyundai, Kia, or Honda. There's a reason that Ford's sales and GM's core brand sales are growing faster...
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perfalbion wrote:
Sure it is. Ford's R&D budget for 2007 was around $8 billion. But that's against sales of like 262,000 vehicles that year. That's still a very big number per car, but keep in mind that Ford's been working on innovating for better than a decade and it's still better an order of magnitude lower per car than the EV1 R&D costs. And Ford lost money that year (which they expected to do as a part of their restructuring).

The point is - the economics of the EV1 didn't work. Battery technology when it was around had issues with energy density, heat, recharge cycles, etc. They simply could not turn that car into one that could turn a profit. Thus, they pulled the plug. After another decade (EV1 production halted before 2000), things have changed, batteries have improved, and the hybrid market has provided better engineering examples of how to make electric motors work better.

Can you make money on a 1,200 car production run? Sure - Ferrari, Lamborghini, and similar automakers do. But look at the prices of their cars. And they also spend a good amount of money on development.

If GM could have turned the EV1 into a profit-making model in the near future, do you honestly think they would have pulled the plug? With R&D credits and first-to-market advantages they'd have continued production in a heart beat. But the car was ahead of what the technology of the day supported (hell, just look at laptop battery life in 1999 compared to today if you like). It wasn't going to work over a reasonable investment horizon and there weren't sufficient offsets to keep the program alive.


Yes I honestly do think they would pull the plug even if it made a profit. Just like they refused to stick the plug back in when Toyota proved that Hybrid technology was profitable. The GM hybrids are pathetic when compared to Toyota or even Honda's. They are a token gesture. They didn't have the will to do it until their company was on the brink of death and they were practically forced to embrace the future.

The EV1 was not designed to be a competitive electric car, it was designed solely to grudingly meet California's strict standards at the time. With that type of design vision, it was doomed to failure. They did not want to do it and as soon as they could get the law repealed, they shut the project down, regardless of customer satisfaction and demand for the product. They flushed a billion dollars down the toilet for nothing but a punch in the PR nose. Instead of using the EV1 and it's associated R&D to springboard GM into a high-mileage fleet, they let it wither on the vine and returned to their fossil-fuel roots, embracing and lobbying special considerations for SUV's. While they gobbled up short term profits, the world moved on past them and by the time they woke up to what was going on, we were bailing them out because they were too big to fail. They had a brief window of opportunity to be the world leader in non or minimal fossil-fuel usage vehicles and they let it slip away.

As for Ford, they may have a magnitude lower innovation cost, but what really have they innovated in the past decade? 2% increases in gas mileage? Licensing Toyota's hybrid system for the Escape? Factory efficiency? I don't see a plug-in Ford Hybrid revolutionizing the market. I see more of the same with different body styles. Streamlining your business is all well and good and improves your business health, but it still doesn't put them into a position to really compete in the high-fuel-efficiency market which will only continue to grow. I'm sure they will squeeze every last drop out of the standard ICE configuration in little Fiesta clones, but that's just going to put them behind Toyota and Honda. While Ford perfects the Conestoga Wagon, the Henry Ford's of Japan will be quietly perfecting their Model-T's.
 
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Wow. Let's get this straight. You're suggesting:

A company will pull the plug on a profitable line of products for no particular reason.

A car that was only produced to comply with a government demand when the technology wasn't really ready for it should have remained in production even when its costs dramatically exceeded the price one could get for it.

A company that licensed technology rather than re-inventing the wheel while also focusing on improving fuel economy for ICE's and doing independent research while turning a profit is somehow the wrong approach (and you're also pretty much ignoring the Fusion hybrid, by the way, which I believe is entirely Ford's technology).

I don't know what to say in response. If a business doesn't make money, it will cease to exist. You obviously want to see more in the way of hybrids and electrics, and that's great. Problem is that the US consumer doesn't want to buy them in large numbers and they often either fail to even hit payback or take a long, long time to do so for those that do.

We do things that make sense to use economically. Want more hybrids and electrics on the road? The answer isn't to blame companies for producing what we'll buy and they'll make money at. It's to change the purchase decision. Like with gas taxes similar to Europe's (where they also have relatively low hybrid and electric penetration, by the way - diesels outsell those by a huge margin).

Don't blame companies for doing what makes them money. They aren't social or environmental experiments. You want change like you're suggesting, it's up to an external force to change the demand curve, not the companies. If they try pushing a market that isn't buying, they won't exist.
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I'll clarify:

A company will pull the plug on a potentially long-term profitable line of products for short-term profits regardless of the impact on it's long term future.

The car might not have been needed to be left in production as is, but the R&D could have been used to evolve the car every year, just like ICE configurations have. You find it reasonable to turn your back on a billion spent and move on? You think that a company will not do that because it cuts their nose to spite their face? Obviously they do.

I'm not saying that what Ford is doing is bad, but it doesn't set them or the U.S. up as leaders, merely as followers. I was arguing against using them as a comparison for innovation investment. It's always cheaper to follow, but you don't become a market leader by following.

I agree with you one hundred percent that a fuel tax or something like it is needed.

One of our main differences here is that you believe that a company makes good decisions on profits, while I believe they will make decisions that ruin long term profits to make short term profits. The people who make the bad decisions are only looking a model year or two into the future. They have numbers to meet or they lose their job. As such, they make decisions to make those numbers and hope to deal with the later model years when they get to them, if they still work there. What real profit growth and corporate success relies on is a long term vision with the wherewithal to see it through. The corporate culture in the U.S. had a lot of inertia built into it that subverts that type of philosophy. Hence GM shooting themselves in the foot with the EV1 project.
 
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TheChin! wrote:
A company will pull the plug on a potentially long-term profitable line of products for short-term profits regardless of the impact on it's long term future.


Not if they're smart, they won't. I'll grant that some US companies have been amazingly short-sighted in this area in the past, but I don't think the EV1 is a good example. Car makers couldn't afford to do this if they wanted to remain in business, for example. The recovery costs for improvements in engine design, drive trains, suspension, etc. are simply too long.
 
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perfalbion wrote:
rcbevco wrote:
Thre "Big Three"'s savior....Toyota. The invunerability of Japanese cars has been shattered.


Not so much. Ford had already turned the corner. GM could have turned the corner. Chrysler seemed completely hopeless. Toyota's problems don't hurt, but at least two of the big three had either sorted it out or were in the process of doing so. Don't believe me? Go look at the quality reports and reviews for Ford's product line starting in 2005 or so. Than do the same for the Impala, Malibu, and Cobalt.

Doesn't suck for them when Toyota stumbles, but their lost sales could easily have gone to Hyundai, Kia, or Honda. There's a reason that Ford's sales and GM's core brand sales are growing faster...


True, but the psychology of the average uninformed American SFB was that all American cars were inferior. Toyota (and Detroit) proved that this mindset was as faulty as brakes on a Prius.
 
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rcbevco wrote:
True, but the psychology of the average uninformed American SFB was that all American cars were inferior. Toyota (and Detroit) proved that this mindset was as faulty as brakes on a Prius.


This is not true. Ford has been right up there with Japanese automakers (including Toyota) for years now. GM was also catching up. That's based on info from Consumer Reports, JD Powers, and similar organizations. Perceptions for Ford in the market have been great since around '04, GM (for specific models) since around '05-6. Chrysler continued to suck it up, but you're painting with way too broad a brush.

The psychology of the American consumer had already changed. If it hadn't, the sales of the companies in question would have started changing (either for the brand overall or specific models) before Toyota's stumble.
 
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perfalbion wrote:
The psychology of the American consumer had already changed. If it hadn't, the sales of the companies in question would have started changing (either for the brand overall or specific models) before Toyota's stumble.


Hmmm, I wondered how Toyota unseated GM as the largest manufacturer of cars in the world.... Consumer Reports! (until the 1970's GM had 40% market share. Then Japan came along and made better quality, more fuel efficient cars.)

Ford and GM have weathered the worst (1980's) and came out stronger and better on the other end. I think Americans instinctively WANT to buy US cars (I know, Honda in Kentucky yadda yadda). I've lived in Michigan my whole life, 28 years near Detroit. I've seen the last 30 years of automobile history up close and personal. The "Japanses cars are better" mentality isn't as bad as it was, but it is still there or maybe it was there. Back in the 1990 and up to today it isn't uncommon to see more Japanes cars in OEM manufacturers parking lots than American cars.

All I'm postulating is... with the recent f-ups by Toyota the average uninformed buyer will look more seriously and GM and Ford cars then they did even a few years ago. "Good" news for GM & Ford.

Now if the Ford's could only do the same turn around with the Lions....soblue
 
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I did the ABS development for the EV1. It had a lot of problems and probably would never have turned a profit. It was a fun toy, though. Battery technology wasn't there (and arguably still isn't) to meet Americans' expectations for personal mobility.

California screwed GM hard. They passed a law stating car companies could not sell cars in California unless they offered an electric/non-gas alternative. GM was the only car company that met the law (at great expense), the rest called their bluff and California repealed it. Had CA left the law in place, there might still be EV1's and other car companies' offerings as well.

The Volt will also not meet most Americans' perception of need, but is closer.

Edit: added a necessary not
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rcbevco wrote:
Hmmm, I wondered how Toyota unseated GM as the largest manufacturer of cars in the world.... Consumer Reports! (until the 1970's GM had 40% market share. Then Japan came along and made better quality, more fuel efficient cars.)


'cuz GM (and the rest of the US automakers) pretty much stopped doing any innovation, interesting design, or QA for most of the '80s and early '90s. If it hadn't been for minivans and SUVs (both US innovations to the market), the bankruptcies would have hit much earlier.

Which is the point - yeah, CR drove people towards the Camry, the Accord, and other models over US models. But when the US companies started focusing on new models and actually competing in terms of quality, that shift rapidly started to change back. And it started changing before the recession smacked everyone around. The market moved because the car makers moved in a way they cared about.
 
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perfalbion wrote:
rcbevco wrote:
Hmmm, I wondered how Toyota unseated GM as the largest manufacturer of cars in the world.... Consumer Reports! (until the 1970's GM had 40% market share. Then Japan came along and made better quality, more fuel efficient cars.)


'cuz GM (and the rest of the US automakers) pretty much stopped doing any innovation, interesting design, or QA for most of the '80s and early '90s. If it hadn't been for minivans and SUVs (both US innovations to the market), the bankruptcies would have hit much earlier.

Which is the point - yeah, CR drove people towards the Camry, the Accord, and other models over US models. But when the US companies started focusing on new models and actually competing in terms of quality, that shift rapidly started to change back. And it started changing before the recession smacked everyone around. The market moved because the car makers moved in a way they cared about.

I've got the April 2010 Consumer Reports, the "auto edition." The US companies aren't there yet.

Overall, the US car companies still lag the Japanese in CR quality ratings. Although select, individual US models aren't bad.

Assuming you trust the CR quality rating system to be fair and objective.
 
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CR Brand Perception post.

Ford's #2 by perception. And if you read the comments on CR (I used to subscribe, but let it lapse) up to December of last year, it said something like "Ford has improved overall quality to match or exceed that of competing brands" and then gave them one of the top two overall scores for quality for every brand.

Can you post a link to what you're referring to? You've got me curious.

However, it's worth noting that Ford's (and GM) have also come up dramatically in quality rankings. It used to be "nice car, but..." Now there's less of that about.
 
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I have the print issue, so I don't have a link for you. It's the April 2010 issue of Consumer Reports, their annual auto issue.

There are lots of charts, etc. in the issue. But one of them is a graph "Reliability by manufacturer" which it says shows "the major automakers rank based on their average predicted-reliability scores. Those scores are the overall reliability as a percentage better or worse than the average of all cars." Here they are, from higher to lowest on that chart:

Honda
Toyota
Mitsubishi
Hyundai
Porsche
Subaru
Nissan
Mazda
Ford
Volvo (mean is average)
Volkswagen
Mercedes-Benz
BMW
GM
Chrysler

 
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