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On Saturday, November 20, 2010, I posted this diary, in which I opined, in admittedly bold terms, that the Chevy Volt would be a failure.  It looks like I was right.

That's right, sports fans, GM has announced plans to halt production of the car that was once hailed as the savior of the American auto industry.  Except no one wanted it.

Why?  Price is often cited as a major factor.  Who wants to pay over forty large for a compact Chevy sedan?  Certainly not the upscale, well-educated urban dwellers to whom hybrids so naturally appeal.  That demographic has an almost visceral dislike of American cars, and Chevys in particular.  GM squandered their best opportunity to change that with their hamfisted handling of the Saturn brand.  Yet they expected buyers used to high-quality (usually foreign) cars to suddenly trust them again.

The American auto industry is doing well again, but it is doing well because of some excellent traditional cars, not least of which the new Ford Focus and GM's superb new subcompact, the Chevy Sonic.  The tremendous (and inexplicable) popularity of Buicks in China doesn't hurt, either.  The Volt was overreach at best, a multimillion (if not multibillion) dollar boondoggle at worst.  Maybe it still has a future, maybe not.  If nothing else it served as a real-world test platform of the technology, and gave engineers a chance to work out the bugs.  But that's the problem.  Those problems should have been worked out before the vehicle saw the inside of a showroom.  Foreign carmakers like Toyota have hardly been free of their own quality problems, but I don't recall first-generation Prius batteries catching fire.

Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 9:48 AM PT: Heh.  I kind of expected a negative reaction when I posted this.  I'm really not sure why Kossacks seem to love the Volt so much.  Is it the idea of an American car forging new technological paths?  If so, then why no love for Tesla Motors or some of the other electric start-ups?

Look, the fact is that the Volt has been a failure.  It has not sold in anywhere close to the kinds of numbers GM hoped to see.  It has not, in short, been the savior the company imagined.  Instead, their fortunes have turned on cars like the Sonic and the Cruze (which is only just okay, but sells well), not to mention the Chinese appetite for Buicks.  But the bulk of GM's profits in this country continue to come from the sales of overwrought, gas-guzzling SUVs like the GMC Yukon.  As long as that remains the case, they are not likely to be a company with a bright future.

In response to some of the criticisms:  Yes, I am aware that the halt in Volt production is temporary.  But any halt in production is bad news for a car upon which so many hopes were pinned.  Production stoppages under those circumstances are often the death knell for a car model.  And yes, the battery fire issue proved to be relatively minor.  But the point is that it happened at all.  The last thing the Volt needed was bad press on top of bad sales.

Someone asked why I seemed so gleeful at the Volt's failure.  For a couple of reasons.  One is that GM has a long history of foisting substandard junk on the American public and calling it "world class."  The Cadillac Cimarron, the Chevy Lumina, the Chevy Celebrity, the Pontiac Aztec, the Chevy Malibu, etc., etc.  These cars were years, in some cases, decades, behind their import competition.  That they were seriously offered as alternatives is nothing short of laughable.  This is a company that couldn't even engineer a decent four-cylinder internal combustion engine (the Quad 4? Give me a break), and suddenly they wanted us to believe they could deliver a sophisticated hybrid electric drivetrain?  You've got to be able to walk before you can run.

GM continues to be run by the same corporate structure that drove them into bankruptcy in the first place.  They say they've reformed, but I'll believe it when I see it.  They had a chance to do something good with Saturn, but they botched it.  Then, to add insult to injury, they ran Saab into the ground.

So no, I guess you could say I'm not a fan of GM.  I see them as representing all the worst excesses and bloat of corporate America.  Until and unless THAT changes, it is only a matter of time before they will need to be rescued again.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kodos

    by Jon Stafford on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 05:48:03 PM PST

  •  I Still Think Price Was An Issue (12+ / 0-)

    I mean I can get a Jetta TDI that gets 45+ MPG for around $23,000.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 05:50:31 PM PST

  •  GM claims 99 MPG on this vehicle (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, commonmass, Bear

    A natural gas car would do well now.

    Where is GMs?  

    Natural gas is 7-8 times cheaper than gasoline.

  •  Wrong. Not "halt" (34+ / 0-)

    but suspend. There is a difference. The hiatus is for 5 weeks, it is an inventory correction, a not unheard of practice in the auto industry.

    Lets come back to this topic in a few months when the economy is better and the price of gas is still rising.

    The Volt has won a ton of awards and could still turn out to be something special.

  •  Who killed the electric car? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
    Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

    by The Dead Man on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:02:03 PM PST

  •  Production suspended for five weeks (26+ / 0-)

    Your diary makes it sound like the Volt is completely out of production.  It's not.  It's not doing hot in sales, which is why the production suspension (they've got an overstock they need to get rid of) but GM still plans to continue making them, at least in the short term.

    I'll admit, that may not be the case for much longer and the Volt's got issues, but just wanted to make it clear that the Volt is still around, for the moment.

  •  Why hasn't anyone created a true electric (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, MKSinSA, Chi, basquebob, Odysseus

    Car with a single speed diesel regeneration system.
    Like in a quality generator system.  Get maximum performance from your generation, and maximum performance from your electrical system.
    Used more off the shelf parts.


    •  Why isn't the Volt a true electric car? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Macintosh2, Trotskyrepublican

      Not sure what you are talking about.

      The Volt's engine does not drive the car it recharges the batteries.

    •  askyron - it's coming (14+ / 0-)

      I had a meeting this past week with the venture group at BMW and we talked almost exclusively about electric cars. Your idea is exactly what is on the horizon, a three cylinder one speed diesel connected to an electric engine. It is very simple and the mileage is off the charts. However, that concept is several years away. I did get to see, but not drive, the all-electric BMW concept car. There are several hundred of them being test driven in the US right now. The team at BMW, all of whom are driving the car, said it drives like a real BMW. The first generation will be built on the 100 series chassis.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:20:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Volt is far more practical than some comprehend (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        basquebob, We Won, John Kelly

        essentially it is an EV powertrain, with essentially a gasoline powered electrical generator most of the time. The practical advantage over a pure EV presently, is addressing the negligible deployment of any fast electrical charging stations now.

        The Volt is far more practical than the Nissan Leaf which if you go past the 80 mile range of the $30k Nissan Leaf, you are stranded or leave the Leaf / Tesla fully discharged too long, and at some point risk damaging the ?$15k - $40k Lithium Ion battery pack ( possibly irreversibly - google Tesla battery bricking )

        GM did this product right, few folks comprehend what others are saying here, you both get EV "gas mileage" and have the driving range and refueling confidence of an HEV / plugin ( which the Volt is - a plugin, range extended by gas recharging of the battery charge state - for all intents and purposes ).

        The market challenge for the Volt is that the Prius costs less off the dealership lot, and this is something GM might consider how to address. For now, the competition to the Volt is the lower cost, smaller Prius. But the Volt is the best US product of its kind presently, and is a more practical vehicle size for american consumers / families than a cramped Prius.

    •  They have, you're just not going to hear about it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      until the hedge funds figure out a way to gouge you after the purchase.

      One of the worst traits of what we choose to call this "capitalist" system is the fact that Big Money is always in the way. Suppressing innovation and sabotaging progress is vital to their existence.

      Two good films relating to this topic are "Who Killed the Electric Car" and "Tucker: The Man and His Dream".

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

      by Greyhound on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 12:39:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  askyron (0+ / 0-)

      Numerous small companies have brought out true electric cars. The problem is that to scale up production of a street legal vehicle requires billions of dollars. A manufacturer, for example, has to provide vehicles on request for crash testing, a process that could run $100 million or more.
        There is also the problem of recharging on the road.
         A cng plug in hybrid might be just what we need, but so far the Volt is the best there is.

  •  I concur, (0+ / 0-)

    and it has nothing to do with some hidden anti-environmentalist streak inside of me. As a car person, it is my opinion that GM mostly hasn't given a shit about the vehicles they've made for a few decades now.

    Again, this isn't a diatribe against government intervention, but in this particular case it has caused GM to make even shittier cars. It's not so much the government's fault as it is GM's for not giving a shit.

    "A man doesn't save a century, or a civilization, but a militant party wedded to a principle can." - Adlai E. Stevenson

    by Zutroy on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:13:47 PM PST

    •  The Cruze & Sonic seems to be alright (0+ / 0-)

      I agree that the Volt seems to have brought out the worst 'design by committee' tendencies from the general, but I think the post-bailout Cruse & Sonic are both good competitive cars (unlike their predesessors the Cavalier & Aveo)

  •  Biggest mistake by GM (11+ / 0-)

    The VOLT should have been released as a Buick rather than a Chevy. Historically every major new technology has been introduced in GM's higher priced brands and then worked into the Chevrolet line as economies of scale allowed the technology to be offered at a lower price point. The problem with introducing it as a Chevy is that it is the highest priced sedan in the brand, but it looks like a compact car. The technology could have been put into a fancy Buick package and then it would be compared to a different set of cars, rather than compacts. This was a surprising mistake by GM.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:14:38 PM PST

  •  What makes this car better or worse than a Prius? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Any thoughts or facts here?

    The Prius sells pretty well.

    •  Haven't compared and contrasted (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But price is a big point for me.

      I can get a good used Prius for under $16k. I know because I did it last year.

      I can't get a good used Volt yet. Hopefully that situation changes in a few years.

    •  The volt is an ingenious piece of US engineering (8+ / 0-)

      It is not a hybrid like a Prius.  It is a fully electric car, just like the Nisson Leaf.  Of course what people are paranoid about when it comes to a fully electric car is the range.  What happens if I outrun the range and end up stranded somewhere?  The Volt, has the perfect solution.  It is essentially packing its own little portable gas generator.  Run past the range of the batteries and the gas generator will kick in and top them off.  It is always an electric car.  But as long as you keep some gas in the generator's tank, the batteries will never run down.  You can always make it back to plug it into your outlet and end up driving for pennies a mile.  

      •  It Sure Is. And Once The Price Starts (6+ / 0-)

        to come down I swear they are going to sell a ton of them.

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:50:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Couldn't agree more (5+ / 0-)

        I really hate when I run out of electrical range in my Volt.   I always try to drive 100% electric.    However, the switchover is totally seamless, except that the perfect silence is interrupted with the sound of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine).

        I pay $.10 / kW.   The Volt draws around 13 kW and goes around 40 miles on average for me per charge (if it is warm I can get almost 50 if I keep my speed down).   So I can drive 40 miles for $1.30.   This cost me 3.25 cents / mile.   A 30 mpg car costs 11.67 cents per mile with gas at $3.50.   This makes the Volt 3.5 times cheaper to drive than an 30 mpg car,  $4 gallon gas it goes up to 4 times.   $5 gallon it is over 5 times cheaper.

      •  Best idea for a transition to electric cars (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Going with an all electric engine and then adding the generator that runs on gasoline to create electricity to extend range is a wonderful idea. You get the full benefit of a plug in electric car and you don't have to wait until remote charging is widely available and battery technology radically improves in capacity, cost and recharge time. A really brilliant idea given the reality of our energy infrastructure and how long it will take to change. I would buy one if I could afford one. If they stick to the design and bring cost down over time I think they have the breakthrough design and will own the heart of the post hybrid market.

        Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

        by Bob Guyer on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 09:04:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is the DeSean Jackson of car diaries. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    valerie wonder

    You can call it "class warfare" -- we call it "common sense"

    by kenlac on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:38:02 PM PST

  •  The only real problem with the Volt is the price. (9+ / 0-)

    The price comes from having such a large battery.  If the cost of making big batteries ever comes down, we will see more cars like the Volt.

    The fire danger was distorted by the media.  One Volt was in a crash test, and after 2 weeks it caught fire.  The company has developed an improved procedure for handling the batteries after a crash.  Gas powered cars need a procedure for their very inflammable gas tanks after a crash.

    The knowledge gained from producing the Volt will be very useful in the long run.  Some people who do not believe that now might change their minds when the day comes that gas is $10 a gallon.  I don't know when that day will come, but there is only a finite amount of oil in the ground, so it will come.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 06:39:33 PM PST

  •  GM continues to have an Executive problem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobBlueMass, Bob Guyer

    There are two problems with GM. One is the corporate executive and the other is the top level union management.
    The top level GM Executives have no vision and are about as flexable as a two by four.

    Unfortunately GM has manipulated the availability of the Volt in a confused special interest driven manner and this behavior has ultimately become a huge damper on sales. It is my understanding that when the price of oil started to climb earlier this year GM started backing off of their commitment of Volt deliveries to their dealers. This in turn caused dealers to process orders for only the most expensive (fully outfitted with options) Volts. Prices for these models in some cases topped $65,000. This situation is the reason Volt sales plunged.

    Recently GM announced in response to the low price of natural gas, that they are introducing a couple of new engines designed to use natural gas. One of these engines will be included in their standard truck line by the end of this year. GM's vison for the huge surplus of domestic natural gas is to produce vehicles that will have the ability to fill up their tanks at home tapping off of the same home system which normally provides natural gas to heat the house and the hot water supply for the home. This is a very timely vision to take advantage of the domestic natural gas surplus, but like all things GM there is no follow through in terms of how this grand idea might actually be implemented.

    Natural gas powered vehicles are all over the place already in the U.S. The buses of our public transportation system run on natural gas. There are a number of government vehicles that run on natural gas, so its not really a big deal to convert engines over to burn natural gas. The only real problem is the tank in cars that can safely store natural gas, but even this is just a basic design problem which has already been solved. GM should be taking an active role in trying to coordinate the domestic development of natural gas use for passenger and truck vehicles. One place that they could start is with the existing local suppliers of propane gas. GM could work out a deal between the American suppliers of natural gas to create financial investment program for local propane dealers to expand to handle supplying natural gas for motor vehicles.

    Lastly, the unions need to be more aggressive in having a say in the future of GM and they need to push to put some of their people on GM's board. Creative ideas from the auto workers would go a long way to enhance the fortunes of GM in the future.  

  •  The 'inexplicable' popularity of Buicks in China.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko because they have traditionally been the car of choice for Communist Party officials. People tend to get out of the way when they see a Buick coming, as the assumption is the driver might 'be somebody'.

    draw a window on the wall to remind you of the silkrain that makes things grow - Yoko Ono

    by quinn on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 07:52:57 PM PST

    •  Actually not. (0+ / 0-)

      The success of Buick in China was mainly due to sales of Minivans and mid-size sedans as company cars.

      Certainly quite a few are purchased by the government, but not enough to keep a factory running and provide the market growth of the brand in China.

      Now Chevrolet has a very healthy market position and, yes, the government likes them too particularly as Police cruisers for highway use (verses the more common VW Santana).

      Actually, Audi is the preferred car for high government officials, but from last year the CN government is severely curtailing procurement of cars by government agencies as it got out of control.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:19:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But it does explain the choice of Buick (0+ / 0-)

      As a brand. When GM was negotiating the original deal, they proposed Chevrolet but the CN government insisted on Buick, which they perceived to be a higher quality, higher status brand.

      This was probably a wise choice since, at the time, individuals were not allowed to purchase cars and Buick was a better fit for company and government fleets.

      Once the market opened and expanded, GM successfully introduced Chevrolet as a more economical, family brand.

      GM is a great success story in China, they have continually grown market share and have been profitable for years.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 03:40:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Its the price. (3+ / 0-)

    I've recently driven both a Volt and a Chevy Cruze knowing that both are built off the same platform,

    Both are great cars with high quality interiors and great sound dampening.

    However, list for Cruze is 19K - 23K and list for Volt is 39K (minus 7.5K tax break)

    For most, the price differential is too much.

  •  Everything about this post is wrong (10+ / 0-)

    GM has only suspended production of the Volt, not cancelled production.

    Volts do not spontaneously catch fire. The "catching fire" story came about from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test. A Volt was subjected to a crash test and then set aside for several weeks. In a follow-up exam, the crashed Volt was turned upside down, at which time coolant from a ruptured line leaked onto the batteries and started a fire.

    The author of this post really should check his facts. And why report the supposed "failure" of the Volt with such unbridled glee?

  •  It is apparent that you don't follow (4+ / 0-)

    the auto industry closely. Yes, Volt sales are lower than projected. But the temporary halt in Volt assembly is a very common event for any car when there is an over supply.

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 08:45:01 PM PST

  •  Maybe they should make it bigger and more fancy. (0+ / 0-)

    It's not going to get cheap enough to save money by buying it. An electric  SUV save more gas than an electric sub compact, if it was replacing a gas vehicle of the same type.

     Ever see that South Park episode about the Toyota  "Pious" that leads to "smug" pollution?

  •  don't agree with the diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, xaxnar

    I own a number of cars. One of them is a Volt, and it's great car.

    Another is a classic 60s Chevrolet car, which is my first, never had any problems.  

    The Chevy Volt has a lot of potential.

  •  Having tried the volt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I found it too compact and the back seat was uncomfortable.  Looked at the Prius, Civic, and Sonata hybrids as well, but they didn't feel quite right either.  I ended up with a Ford Fusion Hybrid.  I love it and it just "fit" me.  What can I say, my car is an extension of my space and me, and if I can't be comfortable, why pay for it?  Only wish I could mod it to run more on battery around town, but we have way too many hills; maybe someone could find a way to add a battery and reprogram the system.  Well, either that or move to the flatlands......

  •  I would buy a Volt just to piss off the right wing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    assholes on Fake News and elsewhere who are trying to kill it with their incessant propaganda.... if I had a lot of money.  Thom Hartmann did a show with a good segment on this recently.  The Fake News team was really disgusting in their ignorance and stupidity... as per usual... actually much worse than usual... hard to imagine, I know.

    I am currently getting 40+ mpg with an '03 Hyundai by doing a lot of coasting and low rpm driving like an old man : )


  •  Battery fire was trivial. (0+ / 0-)

    A battery catching fire after a crash test is no big deal. That can happen on a conventional car. And gasoline isn't exactly fireproof.
      The issue with Volt was price. At 15-20,000 I would have bought one.

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