GM unveils electric Volt in bid to
Sep 18, 2008 - Reuters
GM unveils electric Volt in bid to recharge sales
Reuters, 16 September 2008 - General Motors Corp unveiled
on Tuesday the production version of its highly anticipated
Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric car that is the
centerpiece of its effort to move away from gas-guzzling
SUVs and recharge sagging sales.
Chief Executive Rick Wagoner introduced the small,
curvy four-seater at the automaker's Detroit headquarters
during an event to celebrate GM's 100th anniversary.
"The Volt symbolizes GM's commitment to the future
-- the kind of technological innovation that our industry
needs to respond to today and tomorrow's energy and
environmental challenges," Wagoner said.
In what has been billed as a race with Toyota Motor
Corp to be the first to market with a plug-in car,
GM has pushed hard to develop the Volt in time for
it to hit showrooms in 2010. Fanfare surrounding the
Volt comes as the No. 1 U.S. automaker has been struggling
with flagging sales of less-efficient sport-utility
vehicles and pickup trucks amid soaring prices at
Those high gasoline prices, the credit crunch and
a slowing economy have dragged U.S. auto sales down
to 15-year lows. GM's sales in particular were down
18.5 percent in the first eight months of the year.
Fuel-saving hybrid electric cars -- like Toyota's
popular Prius model -- have been one of the few bright
spots for the industry in 2008 so far.
GM is cutting billions of dollars in costs and selling
off assets to shore up its finances and weather the
Despite its troubles, however, GM has charged ahead
with the Volt, which is designed to run for 40 miles
(64 kilometers) on a lithium-ion battery pack that
can be recharged at a standard electric outlet. The
car also includes a gas tank for trips longer than
GM says the Volt will cost about 2 cents a mile to
operate on battery power, compared with 12 cents a
mile using gasoline priced at $3.60 a gallon. The
carmaker said the Volt will cost 80 cents a day for
a full charge, or less than the price of a cup of
But before they can get those savings, consumers
will be expected to pay a hefty premium for a Volt,
with recent price estimates ranging between $30,000
GM itself won't say how much it expects to charge
for a Volt, but product chief Bob Lutz said he hopes
the price tag will be "nowhere near" the high end
of that range. He added that the company expects federal
and state tax credits to help defray the cost for
The introduction of thousands of electric vehicles
still depends on advances in lithium-ion battery technology
and the ability to bring down the cost of that key
part. Batteries have a tendency to overheat, but Lutz
said the Volt's new generation of lithium batteries
does not have that problem.
"We have had zero problems with the chemistry of
the batteries," he said.
In its first 12 months of production, GM expects
to manufacture 10,000 Volt cars in a plant in Detroit,
ultimately increasing that to 60,000 a year, Lutz
said. He added that the first Volts should hit GM
showroom floors by November 2010.
By comparison, Toyota sold around 120,000 of its
hybrid Prius brand cars in the first eight months
of this year alone. GM sold around 145,000 Cobalt
small sedans in the same period.
To increase aerodynamics and help achieve the 40-mile
electric range of the Volt, the production model unveiled
on Tuesday is more rounded than the concept version
GM introduced in January 2007.
GM for the first time also showed off the car's interior,
including a digital touch screen that displays both
a fuel gauge and a measure of how much battery power
the car has left.
The Volt's first iteration will also not be a moneymaker
for the company, GM President and Chief Operating
Officer Fritz Henderson said.
"For most of our (Generation) 1 technologies, I don't
know that I have ever seen a situation where we make
money," Henderson said. "I don't necessarily think
this is going to be the exception." (Additional reporting
by Poornima Gupta, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)
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