There are few PR teams that could put a good spin on the news coming out of GM as of late — the auto maker is dangerously close to bankruptcy and pleading for a bailout from Washington. But at least GM is smart enough to continue its public support for the Volt, its flagship green car, during these troubled times. In a blog post on Friday, GM’s Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says the electric Volt has moved into “the next phase” of development. Until now the company had been testing the Volt system in older Malibu cars. Now, it will begin testing the Volt gear in its own next-generation vehicles.
Those test vehicles could likely include early versions of the Volt as well as cars like the Chevrolet Cruze, says Lutz, who says he personally took the next-gen Volt system for a 30-mile test drive. He also pledged that GM will still make its goal to get Volts to show rooms by 2010.
The fact that GM continues to pledge support of the Volt during its financial crisis is notable — the company infamously killed its previous electric vehicle EV1 project in one of the worst PR decisions made in corporate America. But now GM actually seems to be relying on the Volt to paint the image of its potential green car future. And that’s a tall order. The New York Times wrote on Saturday that the Volt is now “the centerpiece” of GM’s case before Congress, and is “straining under the weight of an entire company.”
GM is relying on the Volt as a savior despite the fact that the car will cost reportedly over $1 billion to develop, and likely won’t make money for the first few years. It will be very interesting to see how GM’s commitment to the Volt looks over the coming months — will it remake a meaningful portion of its cars in the green car image of the Volt, or will the Volt remain a tiny niche product in the company’s lineup?
If history (the EV1) is a good indicator of GM’s actions, who even knows if the company will continue to remain committed to the deployment of an initially unprofitable car. The Toronto Star reporter and cleantech blogger Tyler Hamilton points out comments that GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz made to bloggers earlier this year:
All of a sudden there is a reduction in primary demand in petroleum plus all these additional new supply sources. Oil drops to $25 a barrel and we’re looking at gas pump prices at $1.25 a gallon. I personally don’t think that’s going to happen, but that would be a dramatic event for the Volt because everybody would say, ‘Ha!, why should I bother?
We’re wondering why GM has as the public face of the Volt an executive who publicly admits he doesn’t believe in the “carbon theory of climate change.” Even on Lutz’s blog post about the Volt on Friday, commenters responded with skepticism to Lutz’s personal opinions on climate change. As we’ve said before, if the car companies are serious about retooling their image and producing more fuel-efficient cars, execs like Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman, have no place in tomorrow’s Detroit.
Image courtesy of GM Fast Lane blog.