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Oracle of Delphi

GM turns to Volt to revitalize its image

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WARREN, Mich. - Even now, as General Motors fights for survival, there is something ambivalent about its prescription for saving itself, a conflict implicit in a bit of symbolism that recently greeted arrivals to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport even before they reached baggage claim.

One of GM's touted new automobiles sat on display in the center of the automaker's airport gift shop. It was not the coming electric car, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, championed by Bob Lutz, the GM executive most identified with the Hail Mary that the vehicle represents for the bankrupt company, which faces the immediate future as a ward of the federal government. It was not one of the relatively new GM hybrids. It was not even a mid-level sedan called the Chevy Malibu, which has received flattering reviews and awards, in part for its better-than-average fuel economy.

It was instead a car that flies in the face of all the worries about the American automotive industry, all the calls to make it more environmentally responsible and therefore more viable: the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS with a V-8 engine, General Motors' version of the fast and powerful model that automobile enthusiasts commonly call a muscle car.

With an estimated 25 miles per gallon on the highway, the 400-plus-horsepower Camaro SS is not a car renowned for being fuel-efficient. It is another Bob Lutz car, a monument to Lutz's and GM's enduring hope that even as the company struggles to escape bankruptcy as a smaller, leaner producer of fuel-efficient vehicles, the glory days can somehow be resurrected.

"Sexy with charisma," is how Lutz recently described the Camaro while in his office on a square-mile expanse known as the GM Technical Center, the nucleus of the company's research and development efforts. It is the kind of Detroit-speak he favors. "Some people don't care for those kinds of descriptions today — it's a different time," says Lutz, who drives a gas-thirsty 2009 Corvette, a dream car of muscle lovers. "But we have new vehicles, too. We have the Volt. We are committed to the electrification of the automobile. We know this is the time."

If you were to believe that Lutz commissioned the Volt because he thinks the environment needs to be saved from carbon dioxide emissions, or that the United States has a moral obligation to lead a greening of the planet, you would be wrong. "If you look at most of the mainstream media, you get the impression that 95 percent of Americans today want a vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt or a [hybrid such as the] Toyota Prius," says Lutz, until recently the former head of GM's global product development and nowadays the company's vice chairman and senior adviser. "And that, by God, the reason General Motors is in trouble, is that we have not offered a vehicle like that. But when you look at the reality, at today's fuel prices, most Americans still want a conventional car."

Why the Volt then? "Because it is an important symbol. We need it. It has a chance to change our image," he says.

As GM's situation has become increasingly dire, and interested parties from President Obama to shareholders have demanded that the company start making more fuel-efficient cars, GM has pointed to the Volt as evidence of its changing ways. But the values that have long shaped this iconic company are deeply held, especially the passion for pushing the envelope of automobile performance and power. In many ways, the Volt, and GM's subtle shift from old design priorities, represent a contradiction of those values.

Meanwhile, some industry observers are unconvinced that the Volt, even if it runs flawlessly, can be the company's savior, and view it as a miscalculated effort to woo back customers by awkwardly trying to demonstrate a new cutting-edge bent.

"I just think GM is focusing on the wrong thing," says Daniel Roos, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies the automobile industry. "The quality of its cars was horrible in the '70s and '80s, but it's much better now. It has world-class vehicles: the Malibu and the Cadillac CTS. They should be [promoting] those and capitalizing on their strengths."

While regarding the Volt as a sign of modest progress within GM, some critics see the car as basically another half-step in a company prone to half-steps. They point to the Volt's internal-combustion gasoline engine — dubbed by GM as a "range extender," meant to supply electricity to the motor after the vehicle has exhausted its 40-mile range on battery power alone — as an indication that the plug-in electric car is not quite what it purports to be.

To these critics, the Volt neatly reflects long-standing problems in GM's corporate culture: a propensity for knee-jerk responses, an inbred caution even in the midst of reform and a lingering preference for comfort over efficiency.

Lutz vociferously rejects such characterizations. Not only does the Volt demonstrate GM's "commitment to changing," he says, but also the car is simply "the first generation of an electric vehicle from GM" that will produce successive generations of enhanced Volts, ultimately leading to a car running entirely on electric power in excess of 150 miles.

Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31146562

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BULL. $h!.

Prius and Insight are far behind the Volt, yet the Volt is criticized by this dip$h! for having a supplemental ICE?

And the Asian makers WISH they had the tiniest bit of proud heritage GM has, as with the Camaro. They have NOTHING.

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MSNBC hates our country as they attck and down play almost anything in our country anymore.

The author fails to point out that GM is selling a system and not a car. He fails to point our this system improve and be much more advanced than the Prius.

I just love how he points points out the Volt has gas engine well the Prius does too and the way it is used it is much more inefficent.

GM in the future will still have to contiune the attcks from the media. As they improve the attacks are going to be harsher. There are faction within and out side our country that are bent on seeing us fail. The are funded by a wide range of countries and people. While GM may have done many things wrong even when they or other powerful companies get it right someone is there to attack them.

THe media and internet is being used to fight us and Americans need to wake up and start to learn the truth on many things. Too few really know much about anything going on in the world and just believe what some agenda setting reporter states.

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BULL. $h!.

And the Asian makers WISH they had the tiniest bit of proud heritage GM has, as with the Camaro. They have NOTHING.

Agreed to a point, I wouldn't say that they have nothing (look at the heritage of the Z car for example).

However, compared to GM, Ford and Chryco...

The Volt, Marketed right, presented right, will do well I think.

GM builds great vehicles that are unique and focused on a particular market. Let's hope they do well when they break into this market.

Edited by 66Stang
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Sorry about my foul language this morning.

To turn a media catchphrase against them: Leave GM alone! They are building a car that people want! What other GM plant in recent memory has been ADDING shifts to keep up with demand?

This "journalist" is a sorry sack of s*it, imho.

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Sorry about my foul language this morning.

To turn a media catchphrase against them: Leave GM alone! They are building a car that people want! What other GM plant in recent memory has been ADDING shifts to keep up with demand?

It's well understood 'blu. The hating of GM in the media needs to stop, I cannot listen to it anymore. They are, contrary to the media spin, building PLENTY of cars that people want (Camaro, Malibu, GMT900, CTS, Lambda, Impala... I could go on). If they weren't they wouldn't have sold as many cars as FORD OR TOYOTA OR HONDA last month.

[/venting]

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BULL. $h!.

Prius and Insight are far behind the Volt, yet the Volt is criticized by this dip$h! for having a supplemental ICE?

And the Asian makers WISH they had the tiniest bit of proud heritage GM has, as with the Camaro. They have NOTHING.

Thank you. I thought exactly the same thing.

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Oh, when gas prices jump sky high again (and they will), the Volt will look pretty good....

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The Prius and Insight are far ahead of the Volt in one significant respect. They're available, right now, today. There is a blue Insight out in front of the Honda store. Is there a blue Volt out in front of the Chevy store? Nope. The Volt may end up being the most anti-climactic intro GM has ever had, even worse than the Camaro, because its been shown in concept form, then in production form and its still 2 years away from being available to the public.

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The Prius and Insight are far ahead of the Volt in one significant respect. They're available, right now, today. There is a blue Insight out in front of the Honda store. Is there a blue Volt out in front of the Chevy store? Nope. The Volt may end up being the most anti-climactic intro GM has ever had, even worse than the Camaro, because its been shown in concept form, then in production form and its still 2 years away from being available to the public.

Good point.

There is an important point in this news story, and in some of the other ones that have come out recently from Lutz. It should now be totally clear that the Volt was never about building the "right" vehicle for the consumer, oil dependence, or even the environment; it was always about doing something PR-wise that appeared to one-up the Prius. It should be no shock then that although the Volt ends up NOT being the "right" car, it is in commercials 4 years ahead of availability.

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The Prius and Insight are far ahead of the Volt in one significant respect. They're available, right now, today. There is a blue Insight out in front of the Honda store. Is there a blue Volt out in front of the Chevy store? Nope. The Volt may end up being the most anti-climactic intro GM has ever had, even worse than the Camaro, because its been shown in concept form, then in production form and its still 2 years away from being available to the public.

Since when is the Camaro anti-climactic? Last time I checked they were flying out of dealerships? (At least around here anyway.)

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and hybrids still sell what, 2% of cars sold in the US?

who wouldn't love to have one, but they rarely make financial sense.

and if you do commit to a hybrid, at least there are good looking ones out there. fusion hybrid, altima, volt.

notice how the prius and insight were not included in that description.

what does it matter anyways? when all our cars get 40mpg, the price of gas will triple, so the oil companies get even richer, and the government will start taxes your miles driven from the black box they have planted in your car, not from gas tax.

hybrids are a gateway to greater social control if their development is not left to free market.

Edited by regfootball
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The Prius and Insight are far ahead of the Volt in one significant respect. They're available, right now, today. There is a blue Insight out in front of the Honda store. Is there a blue Volt out in front of the Chevy store? Nope. The Volt may end up being the most anti-climactic intro GM has ever had, even worse than the Camaro, because its been shown in concept form, then in production form and its still 2 years away from being available to the public.

I just read that article which is a pretty long read but I didn't see it even mention the Insight. It didn't say the Prius is superior to Volt either, what is indisputable is the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry already reported GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on on green powertrains.

The Prius does cost less than 2/3's what the Volt is expected to and unlike the Volt it isn't paid for by the American taxpayer along with its $7,500 tax credit. The Prius has a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg which by GM's own estimate means the average Prius commuter doesn't even need a full gallon of gas to get to work. And of course once the Volt passes 40 miles it's sucking gas just like the Prius. Even if the average price of gas is $6.00 the Prius needs $4.80 to cover 40 miles and then the Volt at best is on equal footing with it.

The Prius plug-in should be arriving around the same time as the Volt which gives the Prius buyer the option of paying extra for the plug-in or just sticking to the standard model. Exactly what makes the Volt so superior? Looking at GM's own estimates of 10,000 units/year compared to 600,000 units/year for the Prius, the buyer isn't buying it. But then again it doesn't matter since the federal government will spend whatever amount GM asks. What's funny though is how many of the Volt's biggest supporters aren't interested in buying the Volt, it turns out they are really just GM's biggest supporters.

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Prius and Insight are far behind the Volt, yet the Volt is criticized by this dip$h! for having a supplemental ICE?

Of course, the reality is Prius and Insight are in production, while the Volt is still a long way off..thus, they are far ahead. GM can only wish the Volt had the cred and sales of the Prius.

Then again, I'm not too interested in the Volt..the Camaro, CTS, and G8 are the GM products I'm interested in..

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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Since when is the Camaro anti-climactic? Last time I checked they were flying out of dealerships? (At least around here anyway.)

Since the 5th gen concept was released a decade ago and they're just now finding their way into showrooms. And as for them flying off lots, my dealer has had 3, 2 of them have been sitting there for 3 weeks, unsold.

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One reason the Volt is far superior to Prius and Insight is it will be manufactured here. If a person is truly interested in being "green", that is, and not just a bandwagoner hypocrite. Didn't you guys read the amazing findings in a study of pollution spewed by container ships? Hilarious for all the misguided fools who think they're doing something for the earth by buying a Japanese hybrid.

If GM is to succeed going forward, any person with much of a thought process knows they have to cater to a wide cross section of buyers. The Camaro is a beautiful car in every sense of the word, and the Volt is a technogeek's dream in an attractive wrapper.

I agree with Bob Lutz on just about every point he makes, and GM will be even poorer once he is gone from there.

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Here's a related issue for you all to debate, as you know the US market... are the Volt, Prius, Insight, etc., the 'penis extenders' for the green crowd? I mean... hybrids add weight and complexity for benefits thay most likely could come from using modern turbodiesels with particle filters... so the hybrid fashion has to be a mix of perception regarding diesels and that 'penis extender' effect.

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Didn't you guys read the amazing findings in a study of pollution spewed by container ships?

this non-scientific study conducted by some British newspaper?

http://www.autoblog.com/2009/06/02/report-...s-equal-that-o/

3rd gen prius does have solar panels to power its AC though.

the solar panels power a fan to vent the interior when its parked under the sun.

Here's a related issue for you all to debate, as you know the US market... are the Volt, Prius, Insight, etc., the 'penis extenders' for the green crowd? I mean... hybrids add weight and complexity for benefits thay most likely could come from using modern turbodiesels with particle filters... so the hybrid fashion has to be a mix of perception regarding diesels and that 'penis extender' effect.

like this modern turbodiesel?

http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive...rs/4284188.html

the new midsize Prius weighs 3000lbs and in two to four years will switch over to a lighter lithium-ion battery pack. There are other technologies like direct injection and Valvematic that can significantly increase efficiency for the gasoline motor. The hybrids are only going to get far more efficient while diesels will be fighting emission regulations the EPA and CARB will begin passing shortly. Diesel will be a completely dead technology in the US as far as passenger cars are concerned in less than 5 years, significantly less mileage and a higher price, doesn't sound like a winner.

Edited by toyoguy
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It is all in the concept.

The Volt presents a system that will be much more lifestyle freindly No need to change your driving habits to gain an advantage. We have yet to see a tenth of what the Volt will grow into as the technolgy becomes avaiable. They will be able to reflash and upgrade these cars with updates and battery technology is on the edge of exploding. No pun intended!

The Pruis is at the near limit of where can go. Not to mention Toyota knows GM has a better system but is invest so much in their present technology they have been on a PR campain against the Volt from the start.

This is a race that will not be won on the first lap. As with any new technology there is a growth period and then it reaches the affordable period. Look at big screen TV's Projection screen was first but look at what we have now.

The Key here is GM to sell the system and keep advancing it to make it more affordable and more efficent. GM seems to be already doing this and n ot just expecting to let the first gen rot on the vine.

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It is all in the concept.

The Volt presents a system that will be much more lifestyle freindly No need to change your driving habits to gain an advantage. We have yet to see a tenth of what the Volt will grow into as the technolgy becomes avaiable. They will be able to reflash and upgrade these cars with updates and battery technology is on the edge of exploding. No pun intended!

The Pruis is at the near limit of where can go. Not to mention Toyota knows GM has a better system but is invest so much in their present technology they have been on a PR campain against the Volt from the start.

This is a race that will not be won on the first lap. As with any new technology there is a growth period and then it reaches the affordable period. Look at big screen TV's Projection screen was first but look at what we have now.

The Key here is GM to sell the system and keep advancing it to make it more affordable and more efficent. GM seems to be already doing this and n ot just expecting to let the first gen rot on the vine.

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I just read that article which is a pretty long read but I didn't see it even mention the Insight. It didn't say the Prius is superior to Volt either, what is indisputable is the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry already reported GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on on green powertrains.

The Prius does cost less than 2/3's what the Volt is expected to and unlike the Volt it isn't paid for by the American taxpayer along with its $7,500 tax credit. The Prius has a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg which by GM's own estimate means the average Prius commuter doesn't even need a full gallon of gas to get to work. And of course once the Volt passes 40 miles it's sucking gas just like the Prius. Even if the average price of gas is $6.00 the Prius needs $4.80 to cover 40 miles and then the Volt at best is on equal footing with it.

The Prius plug-in should be arriving around the same time as the Volt which gives the Prius buyer the option of paying extra for the plug-in or just sticking to the standard model. Exactly what makes the Volt so superior? Looking at GM's own estimates of 10,000 units/year compared to 600,000 units/year for the Prius, the buyer isn't buying it. But then again it doesn't matter since the federal government will spend whatever amount GM asks. What's funny though is how many of the Volt's biggest supporters aren't interested in buying the Volt, it turns out they are really just GM's biggest supporters.

and the volt wasn't paid for by the japanese govt either, like the prius was

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Interesting... The Jetta does not have a start-stop system, IIRC. That would make for part of that difference in city driving mileage. Diesel and gas relative prices play an important role too as here in Europe, traditionally, diesel is taxed less making it cheaper than gas... maybe the economics of this are quite different in Europe and the US.

and the volt wasn't paid for by the japanese govt either, like the prius was
Are you sure US Government money is not being used to fund it? I wouldn't be that sure regarding the funding needs of the Volt program not being included in GM's funding needs under the restructuring program submitted to the Government and to the Bankruptcy Court. Edited by ZL-1
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i said JAPANESE GOVERNMENT

My bad, I took it out of context.

Edited by ZL-1
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