If you ever wanted a metaphor of what is wrong with the current state of our country – it’s the Chevy Volt.
Originally, it was touted as a car whose gasoline engine would only run in order to keep the electric motors running. In the end, it turned out to be just another hybrid, only with a price-point that could put you behind the wheel of a more proven hybrid such as the Toyota Prius – with just about every single option available.
Even the Chevy site which offers a ‘compare’ option that puts the Volt up side by side with its competitors lacks a key component – gas mileage. Not to mention, looking at the list of competitors that are offered, the only car which comes close in cost to the Volt is the Nissan Leaf. In fact, you could get a ‘competitively equipped’ Lexus Hybrid for $10k less. When I look at the list they’ve provided, it almost encourages me to look elsewhere.
Now I won’t say that the Volt is a bad car – in actuality is a technical achievement for Chevrolet. That said, Toyota accomplished the same 15 years ago and has spent the time since refining the car into an affordable reality for most buyers. That’s easily one of the contributing factors involved in GM going belly up to the extent it needed a government bailout to rescue
its unions it.
Another big problem with the Volt, besides the fact that it lacks the cult following of the Prius, as well as the price point of the Lexus, is that to achieve the fuel efficiency that has been touted since day one – there are restrictions on how you use the car. Take a Prius on a short trip, or a long commute – there’s no question as to the mileage you’ll get. The only way you can get 100mpg from a Volt is if you drive it less than 50 miles per day and fully charge it at night. Travel beyond the limits of its EV only range and your fuel efficiency will drop into the mid 30’s as far as miles per gallon. Still good mileage, but not for a car costing $40k.
What we’ve got here is history repeating itself. During the oil crisis of the 1970s, Japanese automakers and their fuel efficient products absolutely pimp-smacked Detroit and their thirsty V8 driven catalog. Even when fuel prices started to rise dramatically, the most fuel efficient Chevy you could buy was a brand-engineered and re-badged econobox from the Pacific Rim. Given the choice between an Aveo or a Civic – which would you have picked?
Now with Chevy stopping production on the Volt again because it hasn’t reached the sales numbers they expected – who knows what is next for them. Personally, being a shareholder under duress, I think they need to continue refining the car and get the price point down by about 50%. Sure, they’ll take it on the nose, but one thing we know about General Motors is that operating at a loss is nothing new to them. If they decide to make the same decision as when they scrapped the EV1 in 1999 (which came out at the same time as the original Prius) I can guarantee that whether or not they actually pay off the loans stolen from my tax dollars – they’re going to end up right back where they started.
My biggest problem with all of the American manufacturers, besides Ford, is that they’ve got the attention span of a goldfish. Instead of creating the best car possible, they create an OK car and slap different levels of trim and options across multiple brands, then try to save money by eliminating the brands that aren’t selling well (see Plymouth, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, etc…) instead of realizing like the rest of us that IT’S THE CARS, STUPID. They stretch out the life-cycle of their products to minimize cost and maximize profit, all the while not taking the opportunity to innovate.
They give us the Chevy Volt, or make it so their cars can run on Ethanol as well as gasoline while the rest of the worlds manufacturers focus on stronger, lighter materials and more efficient drive-trains. Imagine where Chevrolet could be today if in 1999 instead of putting the most technologically advanced creation they had into the crusher they decided to add the engine from a Chevy Cavalier to it?
There has always been a market for fuel efficient vehicles, and until Chevy starts taking that market seriously – they’re always going to be lagging behind the rest of the world…instead of leading it.