Saturday, March 3, 2012

Volt Manufacturing Hiatus

So last night the NY Times reported that the Volt assembly line will take a hiatus for 5 weeks because, well, lets be blunt, the cars aren't selling as well as expected. My reaction is exasperation on many levels.

  • GM has had garbage for advertisement on these cars. They don't explain what the car is at all. They don't mention the upscale features, so some people think it's an economy car and are shocked by the premium car price tag. But it *is* indeed a premium car, and is priced pretty well for such a car, especially when offset by the lower cost to fuel and operate it. If GM set expectations in its advertising so folks understood this is a Lexus/Buick-level car, then the sticker shock could be avoided. GM doesn't mention the lower maintenance costs, the ability to drive across country, the way the fuel economy rating is pretty much the worst you will get instead of the best, as in other cars... the list goes on and on of the stuff people aren't hearing about. Having the BMW Active-E in the family now is an eye-opener. There is no retail price on it, as the car is not for sale, but there is an implied retail figure and people are definitely *not* surprised at how high it is in the slightest. But the"Chevy" is always a shock to those same people. Guess why! GM has to counteract that.
  • The fire incident, no matter how silly or unwarranted, hurt the car's image. And the likes of Fox News will do their best to keep it in people's minds. So GM needs to *indirectly* address that by talking up how safe the car really is. Talk about the number of airbags, its crash rating, its satisfied drivers... anything to counteract the incredibly persistent memory people have for bad news.
  • The car is a *horrendous* political football. Fox News likes to condemn it regularly. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) can't keep his nose out of it. Wing nuts say it's "Gubmint Motors" trying to ram something bad down our good citizen's throats...  it's ridiculous. Where is the story about the guy who drove across country doing an average of 75 MPH through deserts, hills and valleys, with no problems and great gas mileage? GM could host some kind of endurance or long-range touring event and get Matt Lauer to interview General Motors CEO Dan Akerson about the results of such an event. Come on, this isn't brain surgery. Forum after forum that I am on has people who have never even seen the car, let alone driven one, talking about how bad it is and how it will never succeed... the negativity from uninformed and highly vocal people is withering.
  • The car was designed while W was in office and before the financial meltdown. It has nothing to do with today's economy and is nothing but a well engineered alternative fuel vehicle. It's been thoroughly developed and tested *before* delivery to buyers/lessors. (Unlike a certain German car... the Active-E... that also resides in this household now.)
  • As good as it is, the car is not perfect. The 40-ish mile battery range is fine for every day and most of the time I don't need any more. Obviously, when I do, there is the generator. I'm very satisfied with the car's range and capability. But the truth is that just an extra 10 miles would make me feel even more satisfied on some psychological level, and would allow me to maybe use the "sport" mode more often if I felt like it. It's silly, but it's there. And the design, while highly effective and seamless, is becoming very slightly dated already, if only from an aspect of how people think about such cars. All that aside, the car is amazing in just how transparent the technology is. You can just get in the car and drive - anywhere - without giving the mechanics and electronics much thought. You just drive like any other car. As opposed to something like the Active-E, which is intentionally designed to be different in how it is operated. 
I sure hope things turn around soon. I think it's pretty obvious that electric cars with batteries, and perhaps a range extender of some kind like a gasoline engine or a hydrogen stack will be needed for the future. And I think that once people start hearing the truth about how good such vehicles are, the faster the change will happen. But GM needs to start doing some serious advertising and get their head out of their nether parts.


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