Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Oct 03

If the Gen-2 Volt doesn’t have a 1.0-liter genset, another ‘source’ is a monkey’s uncle

 

On Wednesday from Paris, Automotive News’ GM reporter added to the unofficial statements that the next-gen Volt will get a three-cylinder 1.0-liter turbo, and he was there to see an Opel/Vauxhall Corsa which got it first.

2016-Chevrolet-Volt-Teaser

In a blog post titled “What the new Opel Corsa and next-gen Chevy Volt have in common,” Mike Colias cited sources – plural – saying the 1.0-liter which is part of a new family of small, efficient Ecotec gasoline engines GM recently introduced, will be first seen stateside in the Volt.

“The Volt should be the first U.S. car to get the three-banger when the next generation of the plug-in hybrid goes into production in late 2015, sources have said. It’s likely to go into the redesigned Chevy Spark as well, also scheduled for a late 2015 or early 2016 launch,” wrote Colias.

He went on to conjecture he’d not be surprised to see it in the next redesigned Sonic and even the next Cruze to match similar 1.0-liter entries by Ford.

Opel:Vauxhall_Corsa

Engines that meet goals in the US, European, and even other markets, Colias said, should help CEO Mary Barra meet GM’s strategic goals also released yesterday. (GM’s press release did not once contain the word “electric, plug, Voltec, or hybrid.)

Consolidating engines across global markets also helps GM negotiate better deals requiring a far larger number of units with suppliers, Barra was quoted as saying in 2013 while still global product chief.

In a report I from March on the new Ecotec engines, AN wrote these will range from the small 1.0 to 1.5 and be high tech.

Ecotec

 

The new Ecotec engines with aluminum block and heads will have:

• Double overhead cams with four valves per cylinder.
• Water-cooled exhaust manifolds that enable faster warm-ups and the car’s heater to deliver warm air quicker.
• Variable oil pumps that save energy by delivering only the amount of oil the engine needs based on speed, load and temperature.
• Piston cooling jets to control piston temperatures.
• Variable valve timing, which adjusts the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves and enables the engine to run more efficiently at different speeds.

And, said AN in March as well:

“Depending on the market and the application, some engines will be offered with direct fuel injection and turbocharging, which enables small displacement engines to deliver far more power,” it wrote. “The engines also will be used in plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR.”

Automotive News (Volt to get 1.0), Automotive News (Report on Barra/GM plans)

 

Oct 02

September plug-in sales keep plugging away

 

Chevy Volt sales of 1,394 in September placed it third behind 2,881 Nissan Leafs and an estimated 1,650 Tesla Model S sedans.

The Tesla estimate is by Autodata and Alan Baum usually trims it back by some, but of all plug-in cars sold, four sold in the four digits.

mm_gal_item_c2_10.img_resize.img_stage._3

What else sold over 1,000? BMW i3 at 1,022 which compares to 1,025 in August.

The Volt was not far from half of its 2,511 sales in August but many other plug-ins were down in the 30-day month.

Prius plug-in sales were a dismal 353 versus 818 in August, 1,371 in July, 1,571 in June, 2,692 in May. Talk about falling like a rock.

No word was given whether any Prius shoppers consulted commenting readers of GM-Volt.com before making commitments at their local Toyota dealer in one of the 15 states where it is sold. As it is, at the present decline rate, it should sell maybe under 10 units in October or maybe negative numbers, but somehow we doubt that will be the case.

Other less-severe declines were Leaf sales in August were 3,166, so September’s 2,881 were not far off; ELR sales of 111 in September were down from 196 in August.

Harder hit were Ford Energi products – C-Max was at 677 in September versus 1,050 in August; Fusion was at 640 versus 1,222 in August.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive’s third month of sales saw 65, compared to 51 in August, 41 in July.

And the other BMW plug-in, the i8 was up in September by almost six-and-a-half times its previous month sales.

Considering the i8 only launched in August with nine sold, that was not hard to do – :) – but September’s 58 sold indicates growing interest for the $137,000 PHEV that’s EPA-rated for 76 MPGe, 15 miles AER, and 28 mpg combined on fuel.

In all seriousness, the market has its ups and downs. There were 19 plug-in electric and plug-in hybrid models sold in the U.S. last month and one FCV, the Hyundai Tucson began with 6 units.

The RAV4 EV will be dropping out however. That deal between Toyota and Tesla has seen the allotment of 2,600 produced, so if you had a mind to get one, better act quick. The Honda Fit EV is also due to soon be canceled.

As for the “Volt vs. Leaf” race we don’t talk about so much these days, there has been some reporting on a new Leaf with much more range and less frog-like styling maybe in 2017, but the pending new Volt has been in the spotlight more. Has that had any chilling effect or is Nissan just marketing the Leaf better, or is it a combination of factors, most likely?

 

Oct 01

Who really knows what Gen-2 Volt will be like?

 

Today is October 1, and you know what that means, right? There’s now just three full calendar months and less than two weeks until we see Volt 2.0 – press days start Jan. 12 in Detroit.

transparent-volt

Yesterday there were points made in comments for and against the need for secrecy vs. transparency vs. something in the middle.

In that discussion it was observed informed followers of this space “have a very good idea what the next gen will be.”

OK, so here’s a double question:

1) Do you think GM will make the big reveal full disclosure and confirm the new Volt for 2016 production or hold back info? If they do hold back, what will that be?

2) Do you think you can really foretell right now what gen two will be in the absence of GM’s official confirmation?

The fantasy wish list includes:

More electric range – how much will it be, if any?

Better mpg in charge sustaining mode – what could this be?

More rear knee room.

Higher-performance option – quicker 0-60, etc.

Room for five – for those of you who need/want it.

Lower price or same price for much more.

Other speculation includes:

Different platform?

Larger battery ?

Different format battery from T-pack to seat five?

Different chemistry battery?

Two versions announced, Volt and Volt Lite?

Other changes?

What did I miss?

NextGenVoltCamo01

I’m sure I did miss some, what with all the pieces including one more I read yesterday saying “GM formerly announced” the new Volt “will” have “about 50-60 miles” electric range.

Oh, it will? It might, but sloppy separation between pure conjecture and reports from purportedly reliable hearsay have produced a state of affairs where uninformed writers do a quick read of someone’s speculative piece, and that’s what you get. Non-facts stated as certainty.

Anyway, let’s see who gets it right. This could have been a poll, but the subjective answers in comments can add nuances.

It has been reported GM may decide to let someone spill some minor beans leading up to NAIAS but we’ll see on that.

Otherwise, the answer to “one of the automotive world’s best-kept secrets” will be revealed January and we’ll see if rumors and speculation were accurate!

Here are the (summarized) questions again:

1) Do you think GM will fully disclose all tech details and confirm Volt 2.0 for 2016 or hold back info?

2) Do you think you can describe in detail what the next Volt will be like? (short of that, if you are not sure, you can say what the new Volt should be – realistically and feasibly attainable).

 

Sep 30

Gen 2 Volt news – there is no news, and this is quite intentional

 

There’s an old saying “no new is good news,” but here we have a case perhaps of no news is news, as in newsworthy?

At least maybe GM thought it would make PR hay while the sun is not shining? Is this a sign of the times? You are a “consumer” and are you easily entertained? It appears this is the hope, but like the Wizard of Oz who said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” GM kindly refrains from answering: What’s the AER? Kilowatt-hours? Genset? Seating capacity? Expected MSRP? When will Voltec spinoffs arrive? Will this be a one-trick pony (excluding ELR) until further notice? …

Instead, it may be hoped you as a consumer today are impressed by how GM is carefully concealing from you everything that you really want to know, and if your attention is properly diverted, you may say “wow.”

NextGenVoltCamo01
 

When the first-generation Chevrolet Volt was developed from 2007-2011, GM prided itself on its “transparency” but yesterday it posted a press release touting how it conceals the development of its successor.

“The styling of the next-generation Chevrolet Volt is one of the automotive world’s best-kept secrets,” said Chevrolet communications in reference to black and white swirl camouflaged test cars. “Keeping customers and media eager to see the successor to the groundbreaking original at bay until the new Volt debuts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January is tricky business.”

But it’s not just the styling that is concealed. Everything is concealed except we know a new Volt is under development and, as noted, it will be revealed after three more months.

Of course many automakers camouflage their cars, but the policy and tone now that GM has moved on from bankruptcy and restructuring contrasts with the words of the Volt’s original media representative spoken at the EDTA conference in Washington, D.C., in 2011.

“Our communications strategy beginning in 2007 was one that was very simple,” said Volt representative Rob Peterson, “For a company that was short on credibility and long on engineering talent, we were going to be as transparent as possible and that’s when the journey for the Volt truly began.”

Even though it could be uncomfortable for some traditionalists, Peterson said, the new policy was necessary.

“Now that is a challenging strategy for the people like Tony Posawatz [former head of Volt line, and also in attendance there] and the development team to have a communications person stand by their side; want to showcase the wins and sometimes the stumbles along the way,” he said, “But it was needed in order for us to actually succeed. Because our transparency is what built the credibility along the journey the past five years.”

Yesterday’s GM press release instead says nearly with glee how GM’s news is there is no news, and this is a very deliberate effort.

“If it were up to me it would be a shoebox driving down the road,” said Lionel Perkins, GM camouflage engineer. “The design team wants us to cover more of the vehicle and the engineering team needs to have enough of the vehicle’s weight and aero exposed so that the tests in the development process are consistent with the product that will come to market.”

General Motors observes it does have the largest battery lab in North America, has tasked a watch team on Tesla, says it will be a major player in the electrification of the automobile, but its interests are best served by secrecy.

SEE ALSO: Will the Volt transcend ‘niche’ status, or will GM keep it ‘just like Corvette’ indefinitely?

And to be sure, the prospect of cannibalizing existing products by promising better cars on the horizon is an ever present dilemma any automaker faces.

As it is, Chevrolet put together a summary on how its new Volt is being camouflaged. It is engineers, not designers, who make these black and white swirled disguises to test pre-production vehicles in their natural environments.

“It’s critical for us to make sure we’re listening to customer wants for the next generation Volt, and the only way to do that is to be out in the wild, while keeping the design under wraps,” said Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah (pictured).

Some of the tricks of the trade:

• Black and white patterns – The color scheme creates a shadow that hides vehicle design elements.
• 3D – Layered camouflage throws off onlookers, but has to be applied without interrupting airflow around the car.
• Swirls – In the old days of car camouflage, the design relied mainly on a grid pattern, but over the years engineers discovered that grids are difficult to realign if a piece is removed to make a change to the car. Swirl patterns better hide such developments.
• Bubble wrap – Camouflage can be made from many different materials including plastics, vinyl and foam. Good, old bubble wrap is a lightweight, easily attachable three-dimensional material used to confuse prying eyes.

“The camouflage package on the next-generation Volt was started six months in advance of early development,” says Chevrolet. “Every vehicle is different and tricks are constantly updated to keep spy photographers and the curious guessing.”

IMG_3457

It would now appear that if there were ever an internal battle of wills at GM over the need for greater disclosure versus secrecy, the policy has veered toward keeping tight wraps on the info – and do they now want to be congratulated for it?

This contrasts with news this month by Mercedes-Benz which announced years in advance it will make plug-in hybrid variants for all its models.

GM had a clear lead with the MPV5 in 2010, but where is that crossover, and has GM said it would make any new Voltecs since?

But the handwriting of less transparency was on the wall at least back to 2010 when the “old GM” was a fresh memory, and the “new GM” was finding its feet.

Dr. Lyle Dennis, founder of GM-Volt.com, was perceptive to pick up on that just before the Volt was launched and documented a shift in GM’s public relations policy as he credited its initial transparency as having given his Volt information site a huge leg up.

But the curtain was drawing tighter, he said, in a post titled “GM May Not be as Transparent About Next Generation Volt,” with an excerpt following:

“We will not be as transparent on the Gen 2 VOLT and VOLTec offerings in the future product plan,” said Volt director Tony Posawatz. ”We will continue to share our learnings as VOLT is launched and rolled out and people need to educated on the virtues of electrified transportation.”

Rob Peterson of Volt communications was a little less sure.

“We’re still trying to get Gen1 to the dealers,” said Peterson. ”We don’t want to confuse the message,” he said by discussing too much the next version of the car.

In due time, though, GM will feed us news.

“We’ll talk about Gen 2 as it becomes appropriate,” he said.

Today the Volt is a halo car that is mainly marketed as a “niche” product to California and at tech events.

GM hopes to change all that with the new car. It is going to great lengths to keep it under wraps, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Chevrolet press release

 

Sep 29

2015 Volt’s 4G LTE service keeps dealership computers connected during Internet blackout

 

People can say what they want about Volt sales, but yesterday one Michigan dealer got a temporary boost to selling it and other kinds of cars using a 2015 Volt’s 4G LTE service to keep its computers connected.

NewHeroMay15

 

The computers were down for Buff Whelan Chevrolet in Sterling Heights – Michigan’s largest Chevy dealer, and third-ranked nationwide – and the situation was stopping business. Something needed to be done to get reconnected.

Then Matthew Oleszczuk realized some of the cars in the showroom had GM’s new 4G LTE service which creates a mobile hot spot for up to seven devices.

Oleszczuk put a 2015 Volt into accessory mode and left it hooked to a charging station to keep the battery from depleting.

It took 30 minutes to get set up, and then several sales peoples desktop computers were running off the Volt-supplied connection, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

cq5dam

“The staff members were laughing because the signal strength topped the dealership’s internal network,” wrote the report.

Following that, a Malibu was started (presumably outside) and seven more desktops went live with the Internet.

Being salespeople, they also saw the opportunity to turn around and tout the feature of the new cars to customers in the store.

“One lady asked why the Volt was on, and we told her that our landline was down and the 4G connection was keeping our network going,” Oleszczuk said. “She thought that was pretty impressive.”

No word was given by the report whether they later sold the Volt that was pressed into service once the Internet came back up, or whether they left it connected since it did better than the dealer’s standard Internet service.

CrainsDetroitBusiness

 

Sep 26

GM film was looking to autonomous vehicles in 1956

 

Do you think you know the future — 5 years from now, 10, 15, 20?

Recently GM dusted off a film from its archives and posted it digitally to its media site after CEO Mary Barra spoke on topics it focused upon. Her point was to show how forward thinking GM was, and is, and point taken, but much could be said about the video.

Personally I was fascinated by the culture and as much as I could glean from an obviously scripted presentation. I’ll add a video of the car itself in addition to two others.

1956_GM_Firebird_II
 

The autonomous automotive future may be coming, but it’s been a long time coming as shown by a 9-minute 1956 General Motors feature film that gives a glimpse of a peak period for American optimism.

GM put together the post-World War II musical “GM – Key To The Future” to showcase its gas turbine Firebird II intended to drive in hands-free “safety lanes” as an answer to traffic congestion plaguing drivers 58 years ago.

It was shown at the 1956 GM Motorama and that was also the year President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act creating the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways – A.K.A. the U.S. Interstate Highway system.

As we hear projections today yet dependent on myriad variables coming into place, in 1956 they imagined 20 years into the future in 1976 things could look much different.

Following is a recent video explaining it, and the actual film is at the bottom of this post:


 

The film shows technology and human will were vying to make it happen, but “Key To The Future” was not an actual expectation from 1956, as Mary Barra told the 21st annual Congress of the Intelligent Transport Society on Sept. 7.

Part of its inspiration had come from GM’s 1952 “Better Highways” essay contest promising the winner a $25,000 prize – close to $250,000 in spending power today. This was offered to the person who came up with the best solution “’to plan and pay for the safe and adequate highways we need,’” said Barra. “Simply stated, the Firebird II was intelligent… and connected… even if some of its technology was considered science fiction.”


The Firebird II featured a regenerative gas turbine, all-wheel independent suspension with automatic load-leveling, power disc brakes, alternator, magnetic ignition key, electric gear selection, and individually-controlled air conditioning.

The Firebird II featured a regenerative gas turbine, all-wheel independent suspension with automatic load-leveling, power disc brakes, alternator, magnetic ignition key, electric gear selection, and individually-controlled air conditioning.


 

Beyond that, the film is illustrative of much, including that American society has changed markedly over the past six decades.

The car they are using is essentially a jet on wheels with, like the Chevy Volt, four seats. It had a titanium skin and was the second of three Firebird concepts GM created with turbine engines and predates the Jetsons cartoon series of the 1960s.

Chevrolet Electric Networked-Vehicle (EN-V) 2.0.

Chevrolet Electric Networked-Vehicle (EN-V) 2.0.

Today we frequently hear news of technological pieces of an autonomous vehicle puzzle moving into position by not just GM, but all automakers.

The idea has been cooking for a long time, and was planted into the cerebral cortex of society’s collective unconscious no less than 11 years after World War II when many looked toward a brighter future.

The Interstates are now old news, automobiles with turbine engines running on kerosene never made it, but we’re still on the road to the future. What that really looks like, we don’t know, we’re not the first to think we might, but on we go …

 
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