It's all over the place today. The presidential report on GM (pdf) notes that
GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, “green” powertrain development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable.And a lot of people, newspapers and analysts are concluding the Volt will not save GM.
Did anyone think that's what the Volt was for? Was it even a question?
Ford introduced the Ford Escape (/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute) Hybrid back in 2004. They are only now going to start making a profit on their hybrid vehicles with the introduction of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids. That's about five years of selling, plus the time they spent researching the hybrid engine.
Toyota and Honda have had their hybrids in production for a decade, and Honda had to retire two of their models to get to this point where they can challenge the Prius with their new Insight.
Did anyone really think GM was going to turn the Volt into an instant moneymaker?
The Volt, as of now, is about GM redeeming their image. The Volt is about saying, yes, the Prius is nice and it sure would have been nice to have made the decision to get into the hybrid market 10 years ago. We may have messed up by retiring our electric car.
But now that we've decided to enter, we're not going to just build a Prius (see the new Insight). We're going to build something we think is both different and better.
This is a reputation problem GM is trying to fix. It's not about making money on the Volt itself, but an effort to make the whole company look better. That should (if it works) help the whole business.
And in five to ten years, hopefully GM will start making money on the project itself, just like Ford, Honda and Toyota have done.
While the Volt could be painted as Quixotic, did anyone really think it was about saving the company?
Our benefit will be an emphasis on fuel saving technology, and a lot of research into electric and battery vehicles. It could also benefit fuel cell research and create jobs in manufacturing and research.