GM’s bankruptcy filing doesn’t spell an end to the company but actually a new beginning. The Chevy Volt remains a critical element of GM’s future and therefore the program will not be affected in any way by the filing.
Jon Lauckner is GM’s VP of product development and along with Bob Lutz, co-inventor of the Chevy Volt.
“We’re closing one chapter and opening a new chapter,” he said. “This is really a defining moment for us. Its new future for the company. It going to let us solve problems that have been with us for many many years and really its a once in a lifetime opportunity to reinvent the company for the next 100 years.”
“We in product development really need to stay focused on the future,” said Lauckner. “We are moving valuable assets into the new GM, we’re going to have a more focused product portfolio, a smaller, nimbler, faster moving company; and that’s all part of the reinvention of GM. Over the next 60 to 90 days all of that will take place and we’ll emerge a faster leaner enterprise.”
“We are still open for business,” he said. “We are out there to make sure that we satisfy customers and that we are backing all of our vehicles with warranty coverage and that we are working on our future portfolio.”
I asked the following questions of Mr. Lauckner.
Are you confident if everything goes to plan and made lean that GM will be able to be profitable even at 10 million SAAR?
Yes, because the viability plan has GM downsized to the point where we can break even at an industry volume of 10 million units, more or less where we are running today. That means as the economy recovers in the US, and industry volumes increase, that really sets the stage for us to generate significant profitability and cash flow. When you look at how the company is going to be resized and refocused we really have a tremendous opportunity to generate the kind of profitability the old company wouldn’t have been able to generate.
How will bankruptcy and government intervention affect the Volt program or will it in any way?
It won’t in any way impact the Volt program.
Production volume plans wont be affected?
Anything material that we’ve had as the plan for the Volt will not be changed. This does not change anything that we’ve set up in terms of the Volt.
The government questioned the Volt’s profitability at one point, does the government now support it fully?
I don’t know if it makes sense for me to speak for the government. The point is that everybody understands the Volt shows the way forward. You go back to the original introduction of the car in 2007 and you look at what’s taken place since then and every one agrees that the the question of electrification of the automobile is not a question of if, it has changed to a question of when.
It makes no sense for us to take a fundamentally different approach on the Volt as compared to where we were before today.
In 5 to 10 years what percentage of GM’s total portfolio will be Voltec vehicles?
That’s almost impossible for me to forecast with any certainty. We’re out there with the Volt and we are working on other potential applications of the Voltec propulsion system, and those studies continue. We’ll just have to see how the whole story develops. Its more fundamental than talking about what the Volt is going to do by itself, but more how the whole environment develops over the next few years.
Are you hopeful Voltec could become quickly a large segment of vehilce sales?
We see it as a very key technology going forward, and while we are in the late stages of the development of the generation one Volt, we are already looking into generation two that would have technology that might allow us to have better performance and lower cost.
This is something that we’re going to continue to work on. We know that no doubt as good as the Volt is in employing the very latest and greatest technology that’s out there, things will move forward in the next few years and there will be future developments that we will incorporate into the next generation of the car.
What is the time line of generation 2?
It depends on what you want to characterize as generation 2. There is the car and the technology and they may not line up. We have the propulsion system and it may make sense to make some interim improvements in some of the elements of the propulsion system within a year or two after start of production. And then longer term you talk about the lifecycle of the car itself. I don’t think you can make the evolutionary improvements that may take place in the propulsion system and just roll that up to the car level.
We have to take a look at it and we haven’t got all the work done, and we know we have to make cost reductions and that will involve changes and then of course you have the next generation of the complete car that we typically have on longer lifecycles than 1 to 2 years.
Will GM leapfrog to Volt and skip the small sedan hybrid?
We haven’t excluded any sort of hybrid propulsion systems from our thinking process in terms of what we might do in the future.
What about a pure EV without the generator?
We haven’t announced anything like that.
Is the Cadillac Converj greenlighted?
No the status of the Converj hasn’t changed.