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Will the Chevy Volt Succeed?

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  • aspesisteveaspesisteve Posts: 833
    the Volt may turn out to be a huge PR gain but financial disaster. I really doubt they will sell enough of them to ever recoup their R&D investment at $40 per vehicle.

    GM is so used to taking single chasis, engine, tranny....and sharing amongst so many different brands in it's line up. How many Volts do you think they would need to sell to offset the R&D that goes into it?

    Just using the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid as an example or the Malibu Hybrid, I'd say the volt isn't going to sell many vehicles.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    aspesisteve says, "Just using the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid as an example or the Malibu Hybrid, I'd say the volt isn't going to sell many vehicles. "

    I don't think that's a good measuring stick at all. The Volt will not just be "another poor hybrid" from GM. It will be sharp looking and (GM hopes) the only car on the road which does what it does.

    The Volt, should it be priced decently below $40K, will be as popular as the Prius in it's heyday.

    My guess is if they can meet demand, it will sell at least 100K the first year. Assuming the price is kept down.

    It they price it above $40K, they have a disaster on their hands. Even if they need to price it at $40K to try to keep the profit at least halfway decent, they might be better off taking it in the seat of the pants and keeping it around $35K to help increase sales volume and get it into the public eye.

    I can already see dealers marking them up five and six grand over MSRP if the demand is strong.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Just using the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid as an example or the Malibu Hybrid, I'd say the volt isn't going to sell many vehicles.

    Was that meant to be a serious analogy?

    The Honda Accord hybrid wasn't a big seller, therefore there should be minimal demand for a Civic hybrid, right?

    At this point it is pure speculation on what the demand for the Volt will be. I think it will be high you think it will be low. In a couple years we'll know the answer.
  • 1stpik1stpik Posts: 495
    We hybrid owners had to hear a lot of this (before gas hit $4):

    "You paid $23,000 for a hybrid?! Are you nuts? You'll never get back that extra money in gas savings. You shoulda just bought a $15,000 car, and kept the other $8,000 to buy gasoline."

    Of course, those folks conveniently overlooked the fact that a $15K car doesn't have the same features or comfort as a $23K car. If it did, everyone would drive $15K cars.

    They also ignored the $2,100 tax credit on hybrids. Plus, it turned out that gasoline DID go to $4, which means that anyone who bought a hybrid before 2007 has already received his "payback," and is now enjoying "profit" every time he fills the gas tank.

    Anyway, the point of this charming anecdote is that I expect the same arguments to plague the Volt when (if) GM releases it.

    "$40,000 for a coupe?! Are you nuts? You should just buy a $30K car, and keep the extra $10K to buy gasoline."

    That'll be fun.
  • gwmortgwmort Posts: 22
    "We hybrid owners had to hear a lot of this "

    Amen to that brother. When I bought my Prius in 2003, I was teaching environmental science, and liked that the car was a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, that it lowered dependence on foreign oil, and yes was an economical, yet comfortable car. All I ever heard was whether the mileage was worth the cost. Back then I could have bought an identical conventional vehicle to the Gen I Prius (a toyota Echo) for about $3,000 (give or take with options). This was made up nearly entirely with the tax break I got the first year, not to mention the monthly savings on fuel, and that was before Katrina and the giant price hikes for fuel.

    I think there will be literal fuel shortages in our near future (3-5 years), and when that happens I'll be driving to work on the nightly charge of my next PHEV while everyone else is waking up and getting in line to wait for one (or their gas ration).
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    A 40 mile range on battery power is worthless. Anyone with a commute under 40 miles doesn't need this - the payback time will never arrive. An easy commute like that can better use any of the many more practical 30+ mpg vehicles. My commute is 107 miles. What good would a Volt be to me? I'll be better off with a VW TDI or diesel from Honda or Subaru when they come out.

    The Volt will be a novelty car for Hollywood types who can afford to be impractical & to make a statement, nothing more.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Morin2 says, "Anyone with a commute under 40 miles doesn't need this"

    Did you intend to say "Anyone with a commute OVER 40 miles doesn't need this" ???

    Because your argument went on to explain that you yourself with a long commute would be a bad candidate for a Volt.

    But remember: even on generator power, the Volt is expected to get around 50 MPG, according to an article I read just this morning in the July/August Atlantic magazine.

    It will go 40 miles on a charge. Then a small gasoline engine will ignite. The engine’s sole job will be to drive a generator, whose sole job will be to maintain the battery’s charge—not to drive the wheels, which will never see anything but electricity. In generator mode, the car will drive hundreds of miles on a tank of gas, at about 50 miles per gallon. But about three-fourths of Americans commute less than 40 miles a day, so on most days most Volt drivers would use no gas at all.

    It was a VERY informative article that makes me think the Volt has several big problems.

    If you want to understand the Volt a LOT better than you do now, read this story front to back

    The article mentions that the way the Volt is being built and planned is bass-ackwards:

    Many in the industry will tell you there’s a good reason car companies don’t do things this way. Toyota, which is proceeding much more cautiously with its own plug-in car, has made no secret of its belief that neither GM nor anyone else can keep the Volt’s promises. When I called Menahem Anderman, a prominent battery consultant in California, he said the lithium-ion battery will be expensive—far too expensive to make sense as a business proposition as long as gas is $3 or $4 a gallon. (“At $10 a gallon we can have a different discussion.”) Its life is unproven, and unprovable in the short time GM has allotted. To deliver tens of thousands of vehicles in 2010, Anderman said, “they should have had hundreds of them already driving around for two or three years. Hundreds. Not everybody can say it publicly, but everybody in the high-volume industry is saying, ‘What are they thinking about?’” An executive with a GM competitor, after making some of the same points, offered forthrightness in exchange for anonymity: “They’re making a huge mistake.”

    We'll know in about 4 years if GM has another EV-1 fiasco on their hands or if they have a 'Yota-beater on their hands.
  • PFFlyer@EdmundsPFFlyer@Edmunds Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,808
    The Volt project just sounded very ambitious from the start to me, but I guess we'll find out more as that Nov 2010 target date gets closer.

    I'll poke around a bit for the latest so we can talk about it at the chat tonight.

    Tuesday means Mazda chat night! Mazda ownership is not a requirement! :) Just bring yourself and your love of cars and the desire to discuss anything and everything automotive and you're good to go!

    The chat opens at 8:45 pm ET and runs until 10 pm ET. I hope you're able to join us tonight to meet and greet with your fellow CarSpace members!
    See you there!

    PFFlyer@Edmunds

    Moderator - Hatchbacks & Hybrid Vehicles

  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    larsb,
    When I said anyone with a commute under 40 miles does'nt need this, I meant that with current fuel prices, the fuel savings would not justify the high cost of the Volt. If my round-trip commute was under 40 miles, I'd drive my V-8 Silverado. Since I drive 107 miles, the Silverado sits in my barn waiting for the weekend, and I drive a Chev. Prizm as a commuter. If I want to average 50 mpg, I could do it much cheaper with a VW TDI, and come close by gently driving a Yaris, the latter at 1/3 the expected cost of a Volt.

    The electric charge to the Volt is not "free". I actually hope the Volt is DOA because I don't want more electricity demand - leading to more coal-burning power plants & greater pollution than modern gas vehicles would have produced. There may be unintended consequences of this ill-conceived experiment that outweigh the benefits. Obviously, if gas went over $10/gal, the increased elec usage would have to be evaluated.

    The article is good. Unfortunately, its obvious that GM management is completely clueless to what the country needs & wants. These guys don't live in the real world. Maybe they should get hourly jobs and learn some common sense.
  • PFFlyer@EdmundsPFFlyer@Edmunds Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 5,808
    We're going to go through the deregulation of electricity here in PA and rates are going to be going up in a lot of states.

    It's possible that electric rates here are going to jump by 50%. That certainly will take some shine off of the Volt.

    PFFlyer@Edmunds

    Moderator - Hatchbacks & Hybrid Vehicles

  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    Just went & checked our bills. The per KWH didn't go up exactly 50% but there have been some new charges, distribution costs, etc., that result in the overall increase to 50% in the past year. I don't know what the answer is, but its not deregulation.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    It's possible that electric rates here are going to jump by 50%. That certainly will take some shine off of the Volt.

    I'm assuming you mean all EVs, not just the Volt. Afterall GM is not the only major manufacturer with plans to roll out an EV or PHEV within the next few years.
    So if GM is misguided in their efforts so are Nissan/Renault, Ford, Daimler, BMW, Mitsubishi, Toyota, et al.

    If electricity goes up 50% the cost per mile for a Volt sized EV will go from approximately 3 cents to 5 cents. The equivalent of getting 80 mpg with $4/gallon gas. Still pretty attractive. Electricity can be produced 100% domestically. That obviously isn't the case for petroleum no matter how much extra space we open up for drilling. Also there is a limit to how high electricity prices can go. At some point alternatives like solar, wind, tidal, geo-thermal, etc. will become financially viable. I actually hope deregulation significantly increases the price of grid electricity. It will expedite the transition to these renewable, cleaner energy sources.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    There's no logical connection between deregulation and alternative sources of elec generation. To the consumer, it just means higher prices. There is no reason to think it "will expedite the transition to these renewable, cleaner energy sources" - that's just wishful thinking. Its far more likely to result in the expansion of cheaper, dirty, coal-fired generating plants. There is a huge difference between academic theory and practical application.

    As for operating cost per mile for a Volt or other EV, it is only one component of Edmunds TCO. Operating cost per mile is a minor component of TCO. Depreciation and insurance are of far greater importance to total ownership cost than the cost of the fuel - especially for people who drive less than 40 miles a day. My comment about out-of-touch auto execs is more about their focus upon the group of auto users who least need to save gas, rather than those who drive >40K miles/year.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    There's no logical connection between deregulation and alternative sources of elec generation

    There is a logical connection between higher energy prices and adoption of alternative sources. One only needs to look at how much venture capital is flowing into this field.

    If I'm a homeowner who's considering installing a PV system on my roof one of my first questions will be, "what is payoff time "? If electricity is 10 cents per kWh the payoff time might be 20 years. If electricity is 30 cents per kWh the payoff time is less than 7 years. It's illogical to believe this wouldn't have an impact on the homeowners decision.

    From a utility's perspective these alternative sources are not profitable unless electricity rates rise considerably. Right now wind and solar power plants only make financial sense based on the tax credits the utilities receive. While coal might still be the cheapest way to generate electricity the CO2 regulations being imposed by the states and the feds make their future look very questionable. A significant percentage of recently planned coal powerplants have been cancelled.

    My comment about out-of-touch auto execs is more about their focus upon the group of auto users who least need to save gas, rather than those who drive >40K miles/year.

    What percentage of the motorists in the US drive more than 40k miles per year? I have no idea but I'd guess it's pretty small. If auto executives are ignoring this group it probably doesn't have much of an impact on their bottom line. Regardless, a fuel efficient vehicle will save a high mileage driver more money than a driver who doesn't travel as far. The Chevy Volt will accomodate a driver with a 40 mile one-way commute, 80 mile roundtrip if he has access to a re-charging station while at work. As EVs and PHEVs start entering our fleet these re-charging stations will become common place.
  • reddroverrreddroverr Posts: 509
    you make some good points. It is a bit hard to justify the price for the Volt when you bump it up against high mileage diesels. There is a Yaris diesel that gets a tad over 50 mpg according to what I have read. So at probably ~17k give or take, for someone like me who doesn't haul a lot of people around it would be a practical substitute. The VW Polo, though I don't know how tiny it is, gets 60-70 mpg..of course it is a Volkswagon. Assuming that the current disparity between gas and diesel price is nothing but an anomily, these cars make great sense.

    Gas mileage is important, however. Those SUVs aren't dying on the lots because of fashion. They have become impractical for most. If we take 40 miles per day x 365 = 14,600 miles per year. At 20 mpg and $4 gas that pencils out to an annual cost of $2920. that is not insignificant. I forget what the current~ so to speak~ cost per mile for driving all electric is, but a dollar equivelant to a gallon of gas seems to ring a bell. Cut that number by 75% and you have got something,

    I guess I won't be the first on my block to order a Volt. I am cheering for it though.
    I think there are probably enough folks willing to pony up to sell the modest numbers for the first couple years.

    Reasons to entertain a Volt:

    1. Would cut my persoanl use of foreign oil for vehicle by up to 90%. This is important to me, and should be to all americans.

    2. Since my electricity in the PNW is mostly hydro there is little green house gas or other pollutants dispersed. Not that that is of primary importatnce to me.

    3. Price for fuel should more stable than gasolone, because my power supply is mostly hydro. Oil is under the constant shadow of price spikes due to foreign geopolitical forces.

    4. Supply disruptions are entirely possible. That 40 mile range, would be much preferred to sitting in gas lines or going imobile.

    But to simplify a point... even if the 40 EV range results in a savings of a gallon a day, that is about a grand a year. Five thousand over five years. We don't really now what the depreciation and the like will be for the Volt...if it proves out and the others follow, then that shouldn't be a major factor..choose one that doesn't depreciate. Further if you can plug in at work and your drive is 80 round trip, you can double your savings...ideally, $10k in 5 years.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    I agree with you about examining the payoff times for a homeowner considering a PV system for his roof. Your example is a good one. The difference is that I am trying to apply the same process of analysis to these short-range electrics like the Volt and cannot see the payoff for such short drives. The range is 40 miles, so we're talking 20 miles each way - that's a short commute. We're talking about 10-12K miles/year. The cost of fuel is less important when driving so few miles, so why would anyone in that situation want a Volt, except as a novelty? It may fit a "want" more than a "need" although that's always helped to sell impractical cars. The targeted audience is wrong - why not target the actual need? Targeting the market that doesn't need the fuel savings of the Volt would be like installing your PV system on the north side of your house.

    While the % of drivers who drive many miles like me may be low on a % basis nationwide, I live in a commuter county with few local jobs and no public transportation. Almost everyone who lives here must drive at least 50 miles (each way) to work. My 107 miles total is about average here. With these drivers, reducing commuting costs is of much greater importance and I think they will consider some practical vehicle solution in greater numbers than those who really don't need to save a little fuel. How high would gas prices have to go to reach payoff time for someone who drives only 10K miles? Far more than someone driving >30 or 40K miles, very common here.

    I don't work for GM, so I do not and will not have access to a charging station at work. Many (most?) employers can barely provide parking after how many decades of commuting? To think they will provide charging stations is very wishful thinking.

    I think the ability of the auto companies to meet the needs of consumers can be seen by their (lack of) profitability. If the execs salaries were tied to the performance of their companies, they might have had a greater incentive to produce practical vehicles that people would buy. My criticism is not limited to corporations. Poorly conceived regulations have kept fuel efficient vehicles, common elsewhere, out of US markets.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    volt prototype

    It looks like GM will have a fully functional prototype on the road within a couple weeks.

    I've read about this Vehicle to Grid (V2G) plan where the utilities can draw electricity from plugged in EVs and PHEVs. I personally don't think it has much promise. The auto manufacturers are rightfully concerned about whether these new battery packs will be able to last the 10 years/150,000 miles that they will be warrantied for. The last thing they will want is for these warrantied vehicles to have their battery packs cycled when they aren't even being driven.

    Another plan that I've read about, which I think makes more sense, is for the utilities to agree to buy battery packs that can no longer hold 80% of their original charge. This could significantly offset the cost of the battery pack to the EV/PHEV buyer. It would also provide the utility with the same load leveling capability. Basically a win-win situation.
  • reddroverrreddroverr Posts: 509
    hi tpe,

    I guess there is no real way to test these batteries, other than the passing of time. Maybe they will be like the mars rovers that kept going far longer than expected ..like eveready bunnies. :)

    I haven't given much thought to those aspects you bring up. The warranty is a problem of course. I don't think a regulator to limit the amount that could be drained from the battery would be much of a problem, if sell back to grid happens in any significant way.

    Your article says $30-40k for the price. I hope they at least deck it out nicely for that price. Now that it looks like some other vehicles will be around that will get 50-60 or more mpg for $10k+ cheaper, the Volt loses some of its advantage. Hopefully, this is just a beginning and price and performance will continue to improve...much like the second gen prius improved over the first. I guess I'll be biding my time.

    I saw an interview with charlie maxwell, the respected oil analyst. He seem to think oil prices will be back down for a couple years before taking off again. We will all probably get complacent again, if he is correct.
  • The Volt is providing GM with some ample 'green PR' during the Olympics.

    It's alot of hype for something that is two years from hitting the show room floor.

    Love the idea, but the execution at GM is more hype than reality when it comes to fuel efficiency. The way their commercials speak you'd think they're way out in front leading the way in green technology.
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