Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Jan 09

The weekend before the dawn of the second-generation Volt

 

As the last post here before the cover is taken off the second-generation Chevy Volt, having learned more, I can tell you the 2016 Volt is better in several key respects – although really, this much you already knew.

A question that will remain even during and after the initial disclosure is how the vehicle will be received this year by the general public. The media will have a heyday contriving stories, churning up tons of information most people here know about like the back of their hand.

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Some of the past lore involves details some of us are glad is behind the Volt.

Positive details are many as well. One biggie is that the first Volt was ever built by a restructured new GM in the first place – and now it’s carrying forward the new car having listened, it says, to you – the most enthusiastic supporters who’ve bought the first generation car.

For the “fast followers” as the marketing parlance has it for next-wave buyers behind “early adopters,” if there were ever an objection not to buy the first generation of any product – let alone an all-new big ticket item like a car – that objection is gone.

Many new buyers may be willing to entertain the notion that GM has fixed perceived issues, or otherwise evolved the product.

The present Volt already has super high customer satisfaction ratings and it’s been documented how many conquest sales and new faces to GM it’s brought.

But for some time now GM has marketed the car mainly to California where easily 40 percent of the sales come from, and at tech events.

Will it break out of a niche status? Again, GM has hinted the answer could be yes, but wide open is the question of by how much?

While we’ll have plenty of fodder to speculate on this question and more on Monday, its mainstream acceptability factor will not be known with absolute certainty Monday, and will be something that proves out in time.

Meanwhile, I will be interested to see how the media mill handles the new data that is the 2016 Volt revelation. It may dispassionately handle it, maybe spinning it a little off color in cases, and others will likely cover it with greater care and accuracy.

Look here Monday Jan. 12 at 12:01 a.m. eastern time (Sunday Jan. 11 at 9:01 p.m. Pacific time) for a story revealing specifics on efficiency, performance, and more.

Till then, have a nice weekend!

 

Jan 08

Allstate creates ‘mayhem’ allegedly offering a stolen Volt for sale online

 

Would you respond to an ad to buy a stolen Chevy Volt for $200? Apparently a sham ad run by Allstate with a possibly clever social media campaign during the Sugar Bowl game did just that, but of course the car was listed as “sold out” so was it ever offered and did anyone ever get it?

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For Sale: “Wheels. Doors. Seats. This baby appears to have all the major calling cards of an automobile. And it’s pretty new. Like 2014 new. Why deal with the hassles of a used car lot or going on some game show, when you can buy Matt and Shannon’s car from me? A couple clicks and it’s yours!”

The background for this story, courtesy of James who was part of the live experiment as a football spectator and Volt fan, is Allstate Insurance got millions to access the internet during the game between #1 Alabama and #4 Ohio State by posiing its “Mayhem” character as a thief.

Mayhem the thief said on the ad they accessed a fictional couple’s social media page saying they were at the game, so they went and heisted their house and sold the proceeds at pennies on the dollar, including the family car – a thinly disguised Volt.

Apparently they did sell stuff on a website set up for the alleged hot goods sale including a microwave for a couple of dollars and a 60-inch flatscreen for $60.

The de-badged, re-grilled Volt was the “grand finale” and worth only $140 more than the TV apparently.

But, it did not matter because the mayhem sale website leads you to a Twitter account to follow Mr. Mayhem who joyrides the car before selling it.

We’re not making this stuff up. Is this crazy? Smart? Clever? Creating? Or was it a big letdown because the Volt was “sold?”

James said he tried to buy it for $200 with free shipping, but alas, the fictional thief working for the real insurance company – a sponsor of the Sugar Bowl – ”lied.”

Oh well. Maybe next time.

 

Jan 07

Volt 1.0 was mission accomplished, says GM, on the eve of Volt 2.0

 

Never mind the naysayers, the Toyota fanboys, certain politicians, and other miscellaneous people who say otherwise. The Volt was a “moonshot,” GM’s Jon Lauckner said this week, taking the descriptor from Motor Trend’s 2011 Car of the Year article, and it was a success that’s now poised for stage two.

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Whether it it will blast into outer space now, or remain in low earth orbit was not disclosed, but the attitude at GM is upbeat, one would surmise, because its people know what’s coming next.

This was divulged in an interview with GM executives at CES, and The Detroit News reported despite early sales projections not being met, and myriad other issues affecting the Volt’s market acceptance the past four years that most of you know, GM is pleased with what it has accomplished.

“It was our version of a moonshot,” said Lauckner, now GM’s chief technology officer, who convinced Bob Lutz that an EV needed to be range extended.

“It showed just the innovation prowess of our company and of the creativity, and beyond that, the ability to deliver something, the ability to deliver that innovation and deliver it in a way that’s not a science project,” added Pam Fletcher, GM’s executive chief engineer of electrified vehicles, in a recent interview with the Detroit News. “This is a car that’s on the road that carries the same warranty as every other car we’ve ever produced.”

Fletcher said the Volt in 2010 had two goals – 40 miles all-electric range and 300 miles in charge sustaining mode.

Of course the first cars were rated 35 miles AER, then in 2013 it grew to 38, and 40 could be attained. Before they retire the gen one Volt, it can be said they upped it to an unofficial, not re-certified 40 with the 2015′s 17.1-kwh pack. Anyway, it has been close enough, and GM is expected to exceed its initial parameters and then some with the 2016 to be revealed Monday.

Image by kdawg.

Image by kdawg.

To be sure, these are exciting times if we care about the Volt. Is this like an extended holiday season or what?

How it will be positioned and marketed in actual fact has yet to be further defined however, but we know about its track record.

The first Volt was sold to customers 79 percent of which are college educated, with household incomes averaged around $122,000. Over 70 percent are new to GM.

Beyond myriad other high-end cars, the most popular car to trade in is the Toyota Prius. Apparently many Prius fans were converted, even if some yet are not. Ahem.

“How do you put value on those 70 percent conquest customers [those who previously drove other brands] and how do we value the customer enthusiasm we have around this car?” Fletcher asked. “All of that stacks on top of the accounting, finances. The value to the company is tremendous on so many fronts.”

But the Volt also faces a still-weak legacy in the eyes of the general public, as well as $2 more-or-less gasoline.

It also faces GM’s known satisfaction now documented that the Volt paid dividends as a niche halo product, if not a mass-market car.

GM will be doing a webcast itomorrow to tip off journalists all about the new Volt, but they are all sworn to secrecy – the info is embargoed.

That means many folks will be writing and polishing stories to go live on the 12th when GM lets the world see how much it has outdone itself.

The Volt already is the highest e-range plug-in gas-electric car. The next-best Ford Energis go 19 miles by EPA reckoning.

The new car may also have room for five passengers, and we’ll see about that price strategy, although it’s not clear if that will be divulged next week – most likely it won’t be.

Then after next week, we’ll have to wait more months until the 2016 is released.

The Detroit News

 

Jan 06

GM sells 1,490 Chevy Volts in December – 18,805 for the year

 

The Chevrolet Volt finished out 2014 with 18,805 sales for the year and 1,490 sales for December.

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This was a year-over-year decline of 18.6 percent compared to all of 2013’s sales of 23,094 and the Volt was down compared to December 2013’s sales of 2,392 by 37.7 percent in a month GM reported “blockbuster” results up 19 percent for the brand.

By contrast, the Leaf finished the year with a plug-in car sales record of 30,200 units sold for 2014 – up markedly over 22,610 sold for 2013. This is the first time any plug-in sold over 30,000 in the U.S. in one single calendar year.

The Leaf’s December sales were 3,102 which was up 22.7 percent over December 2013 sales of 2,529.

Since their launch, the U.S. sales tally for Volt is 73,357 and Leaf is 72,322 – a 1,035 unit gap before the Leaf ties the Volt which means it may pass Volt in January or at latest February at the present pace.

Can anyone say “come on gen 2 Volt?” And, how will that marketing be? CES was such a big deal they did the teaser reveal Sunday night there, and this fits with what GM told us last year that the Volt was a focal point for California and tech events like CES.

General Motors Volt marketing head Tim Mahoney stands back as the Volt is briefly revealed.

General Motors’ Volt marketing head Tim Mahoney stands back as the Volt is briefly revealed.

GM says people can comprehend or appreciate the car there, but has had a hard time getting the message across.

There are still people in America today who have never heard of the Volt.

Nissan meanwhile is advertising in numerous markets although it refuses to divulge all the specific markets in which it is spreading the word of how cheap it can be to go gas free.

Notable also is it could appear that somehow Nissan is getting a pass in that its product is just as old as the Volt but Nissan has managed to grow the business with sales records all last year and this.

Chevrolet December 2014 sales.

Chevrolet December 2014 sales.

GM meanwhile has long-since pulled the rug out from Volt except as mentioned in California and tech events and so what else can be said?

Driven by EVangelist Carlos Ghosn who has committed billions and his reputation on the line for electrification, Nissan is apparently relying more on salesmanship, marketing, and pricing to push an equally aging product.

If Ghosn or someone equally motivated – and not content to call it a “niche” – were put in charge of pushing the Volt program for GM, could GM have done better? Or are the Volt’s sales the absolute best that it could have done?

Other plug in sales of note: i3 – 1,013; i8 – 158; ELR – 118; Spark EV – 131; Fiat 500E – 115; C-Max Energi – 659; Focus Electric – 53; Fusion Energi – 789; Accord PHEV – 63; Fit EV – 32; Soul EV – 110; Mitsu i-MiEV – 12; Panamera S-E-Hybrid – 31; Model S – approx. 1,600; Smart fortwo – 351; PiP – 492; RAV4 EV – 37; e-Golf – 237.

Hyundai sold 12 Tucson FCVs and Honda sold one FCX Clarity.

 

Jan 04

GM teases actual 2016 Volt at Consumer Electronics Show

 

Well, you have your little teaser videos of the Volt like the one with it driving on snow and ice, and then you have … real photos and never mind any NDA.

A wealth of blurry, brightened-up quick pics began surfacing of the car, but this may be all we see before Detroit.

Do you like what you see?

New_Volt

Images are beginning to surface late Sunday night of the next-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt which was revealed at a private function the night before the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – and ahead of its official unveiling in Detroit next week.

The photos being tweeted at approximately 10:40 p.m. eastern time are coming ahead of the North American International Auto Show and we grabbed these, and would hope for more clearer shots to follow.

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General Motors also showed the Volt to a private group of Volt supporters in Los Angeles last month but these people were made to sign nondisclosure agreements and forbidden to photo the whole car.

The new Volt appears quite recognizable as a Volt. It is known to have a 1.5-liter generator that runs on regular, is more efficient in charge sustaining mode, and the battery offers more range.

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So far we’ve seen no inside-the-car shots, specs or more information on the new Volt beyond the poorly lit photos from tweets. We’ll have more info if it comes, but the official tweet said no more info until NAIAS, so we’re not counting on it, but you never know.

After the quick tease of the actual car, GM pulled it back under cover.

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All images courtesy #NextGenVolt.

 

Jan 02

Forbes asks whether 2016 Volt will remain a limited market niche product

 

Does anyone here know what GM’s aspirations are for the next-generation Volt?

Does GM have big plans, or is the plan to keep it relegated to a “niche” product sold in California, the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and a few other markets?

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These are some of the implicit questions arising from a Forbes interview with Green Car Reports editor John Voelcker who answered with straight facts based on known sales figures, how the Volt is being marketed, and what GM has said so far.

The Forbes piece titled “2016 Chevy Volt: The Mainstream Plug-In Hybrid Deferred” says it all with the title – GM has said nothing more than the Volt will be a sort of green poster child and continue to carry the flag where it has unless its marketing can do more.

Of course the actual organic market reception for the Volt – i.e., whether it looks like a good value and new people buy it like Mark Reuss has twice said will happen – remains also to be seen.

The Forbes article cites statements from April by Dora Norwicki and in August by Chevrolet Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mahoney that the Volt is a niche product.

Forbes might also have consulted a January interview with Volt media rep Michelle Malcho in Detroit predating both those GM disclosures when she called Volt a “niche style of product” not marketed outside California and tech fairs, but in any case the message is clear.

Past, present, future

 
When the Volt was developed, there was talk that Bob Lutz was provoked by the Tesla Roadster and Jon Lauckner convinced him to make it an EREV. There was talk that the car would leapfrog the Prius.
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“Basically, it was born out of my frustration at the deification of Toyota, because of the Prius. All the senior executives of Toyota were about to be officially anointed as saints,” said Lutz to SFGate in November 2011, adding he was irked by praise Toyota received. “’They don’t have the same profit motive we do, and they really care about the environment, and this is the car of tomorrow, and dumb old Detroit obviously couldn’t have done this.’ I was gagging on this stuff, because it was all so patently untrue.”

More recently, we have the statements that gave rise to the Forbes piece this week which cited the man responsible now for marketing the 2016 Volt, Mahoney.

“It’s an impressive product in its design, performance and technology,” he said. “It’s a real halo for the brand. It’s done a tremendous amount to conquest new buyers, and they have [high] incomes like Corvette buyers. Customer satisfaction is through the roof.

“But the reality is that there’s a finite market for Volt, and it’s geographical. California is the epicenter; it’s not about selling Volt in Oklahoma. And we’ve gotten smarter about deploying resources for the vehicle.

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“There’s a Northeast and West Coast market for Volt, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mahoney continued. “That’s the beauty of having a broad portfolio of products. But it’s not a mass-market” vehicle.”

GM is now teasing the Volt, promising it is better where Volt owners asked GM to make it better. We will get to see how well they did in a couple weeks.

Notable is to date there have been no Voltec spinoffs. We know they applied for a trademark for CrossVolt, did develop an MPV5 concept in 2010 and that is suggestive, but no announcements beyond this one car have been made.

GM was once castigated as the company that “killed the electric car.” The Volt helped redeem it from that perception.

It also now faces CAFE and CARB mandates and as we’ve seen with even the Germans developing electrified cars they probably don’t have excessive passion for, GM is at work on electrification.

Is GM doing it because it is passionate about the electrification of the automobile? Undoubtedly some are at the company, but what is the view at the helm?

Do you believe GM is doing all it can? Has its marketers managed this present generation product with superb grace and even gusto, or not so much?

Will they going forward with the 2016? Again, perhaps some of it may depend on how good gen 2 is, but we know gen 1 was better than some have represented it, and the marketing rug was pulled out from under it after GM took its politicized licks during 2011, 2012, and seemingly tucked its tail.

Forbes Voelcker interview

 
Forbes contributor Brooke Crothers asked GCR’s Voelcker his view on Volt pricing.

“Marketing is one of a handful of issues that will affect the success of the 2016 Volt,” said Voelcker. “Another is price: Can Chevy price a base-level Volt at $29,995, which gets it into the consideration set of far more people than its current $34,995?”

Forbes then asked Voelcker whether GM’s regional strategy is the best way to go.

Voelcker acknowledged Mahoney’s statements are correct. The Volt is selling only in limited markets.

“But as Mahoney notes, there are precious few Volts sold in North Dakota or Alaska or Oklahoma,” said Voelcker. “Chevy is just going where buyers are likely to be most receptive, to maximize the ROI on its marketing investment.”

“We’re really going to excite the whole current Volt owner group but also we’re going to get customers we never got before here, with a car that’s really something special,” says Reuss.

“We’re really going to excite the whole current Volt owner group but also we’re going to get customers we never got
before here, with a car that’s really something special,” says Reuss.

Forbes then asked “what makes a vehicle mainstream?”

The answer depends on how one defines mass market, said Voelcker acknowledging GM sells far higher volumes of Silverado/Sierra pickup trucks, Cruzes, while the Spark sold only 34,000 and Suburban only 51,000.

These latter levels, said Voelcker, would be reasonable to expect from the Volt in 2016 or 2017. (Through November this year, Volt is at 17,315 sales and Leaf is at 27,098 – expect December sales likely in the teens for Volt and over 2,000 for Leaf.)

“I think the question will be whether Chevy wants to hang on to the best-selling-plug-in-car-in-the-U.S. title — which definitely carries bragging rights — that the Volt holds the lead in cumulative sales since December 2010.

“It’s likely to be eclipsed in total U.S. sales since then by the Nissan Leaf, which is nearing 3,000 units a month, but I’m expecting Chevy to make an aggressive effort to reclaim the title in the second half of next year when the new Volt comes out. Whether 2015 will see more Volts or Leafs sold remains very much in debate, and should be an interesting battle to watch.”

And lastly Voelcker was asked what’s the best way to sell the Volt?

Voelcker responded about the Volt’s high level of owner support and customer satisfaction.

“Once you drive one, you ‘get it’ and start to consider the car far more seriously. Owners will help it do that,” said Voelecker. “How Mahoney plans to use the owners is [to be determined], but if he can do it smartly, GM will have a leg up — unless or until Nissan starts to do the same for Leaf owners, who are still very positive on the car but relatively less so than Volt owners.”

Questions remain

 
Has the Chevy Volt in GM’s eyes long-since transitioned from once-upon-a-time potential Prius beater to sacred cow the automaker is now committed to, as well as a necessary product working toward meeting mandates?

Will GM’s marketers be enabled to go for far more gusto or will we see a protracted case of the Volt and the Leaf trading places? The Leaf will be next to be redesigned in 2016, and if it gets north of 160-180 or more miles range, that would raise the status for a car presently beating the present Volt’s sales but which may whither to a degree as new Volt orders begin.

Price, engineering, and performance have much to do with the new Volt’s market reception, as do perceptions – from the public evaluating the new Volt and from GM whose job it is to market, support, and sell the car.

After all this, where is the Volt heading? It’s already being predicted that the answer may be underwhelming for those hoping GM’s new car will break out from what it’s been sales-wise.

Is this GM’s game to lose? Or has it already thrown in the towel for those who remember talk of a mass-adoption strategy.

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Beyond that, why in four years haven’t we seen or heard of any Voltec spinoffs? What is GM’s alternative energy strategy given its present product assortment – mild hybrids, no full hybrids, one electric compliance car, a diesel Cruze, the Volt and ELR?

GM’s profits come from bread-and-butter cars, SUVs and trucks. Does it need the Volt to ever be a bread-and-butter car or do Mahoney’s comments say the answer is no, and GM is fine with that?

Has GM designed the Volt to surprise us all? What’s the plan?

Forbes