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June 02, 2009

Comments

Jim Leemann

Joel, as much as "Greener Mobility" (Cute) might make you feel good, it is going to take a lot more than "green" vehicles to pull GM out of the ditch.

Rasmussen's May 31st poll on whether one favored the GM bailout or not revealed that 67% did not favor the bailout and only 21% did. GM has a huge marketing challenge in front of them trying to figure out how to convince the vast majority of American taxpayers to buy their products when many feel they have already bought GM and didn't get anything for it, other than more debt.

As far as the Chevy Volt is concerned, I recently saw an article on the Volt wherein the cost of the vehicle is estimated to be between $35,000 and $40,000 because the windshield wipers and stereo system drain too much of the battery. I am not sure if the statement online is correct that GM Exec Bob Lutz said they cannot make a profit if the Volt is priced at $40,000. If this is true, who is going to pay more than $40,000 for a Chevy? Let's get real here. You can buy a Lexus RX 400h right now for under $45,000 and drive in a lot more comfort than a Chevy. BTW, any incentives (I have seen suggested amounts as high as $3,800) given to Volt customers just means we Taxpayers pay GM again and still do not receive any benefit.

There is no question about it, GM is in a very tough situation. Maybe the "New GM" will discover how to become more agile, but if history is any indicator of the future, I just do not see GM being around for much longer - too much competition and too much legacy.

Phil Colley with GM

Jim:
I'd be curious to know where you read the you mention re: the cost of the Volt. The price will be determined closer to launch and has nothing to do w/ the windshield wipers' or stereo's drain on the battery.

Actually, the Bose Energy Efficient sound system we're using in the Volt is 30 percent smaller, 40 percent lighter, and uses 50 percent less energy than conventional Bose sound systems - which under the right conditions can equate to removing 50 pounds of mass from the Volt.

And as with any new, transformational technology such as personal computers, iPods and plasma TVs, initial costs will be higher until we reach a critical mass to help drive down costs.

Plus, the Volt will qualify for a $7,500 Federal Tax credit, which was created to help encourage the adoption of this new technology into the market.

I do agree we are in a tough situation, but chapter 11 will help us rebuild our company for the future - and the Volt is a big part of that future.

Marc Gunther

Joel and Phil, I hope you are right that GM will become green in every sense of the word. I'm skeptical, if only because the company is being pulled in so many directions--by the government, the union, shareholders--and faces so many problems, notably the fact that its current cars aren't very good and bankruptcy will inevitably tarnish the brand. The best thing I've read about GM lately (aside from Alex Taylor's great cover story last year in FORTUNE) was this David Brooks column.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/opinion/02brooks.html

He's not optimistic about GM's future.

Jim Leemann

Phil,

As far as the price of the Volt, it is all over the internet. Just Google "Chevy Volt Cost" and you will find numerous sites talking about the cost of the Volt. For example:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/02/wipers-stereo-p/

Even your executive Bob Lutz has talked about the price online. Quote from Lutz found at http://www.wired.com/cars/futuretransport/news/2008/01/lutz_volt_qa:

Lutz said, “You'd like to have it at about $30,000 for the customer, but what I'm hearing from the team is we're not going to get there. They say we might get there on the second generation, and they say if they had a lot more time they might be able to cost-optimize it. I don't want to wait for cost optimization. I'd rather come out in 2010, and if it costs closer to 40 than 30, well, that's too bad.”

"...well, that's too bad." Who is Lutz trying to kid here? In case he hasn't noticed, we are in a massive recession, people are extending the life of their current vehicles through maintenance and disposable income is going into savings at a higher pace then it has in years. It will be interesting to see just how many Volt's GM will actually sell in 2010, especially at $35 to $40K, even with a tax break.

Regarding the wipers and stereo reference:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/02/chevrolet_gm_volt_price_goes_up_wipers_stereo.php

Yet another reference, also note all the references at the bottom of this page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt

Phil, you know as well as I do, people today research the hell out of a product on the internet before they go into a showroom. They look at a lot more than the glitzy company product websites. As I said in my previous post, your marketing group has one heck of a challenge in front of them convincing American Taxpayers to buy GM products.

Don't get me wrong, I applaud GM's desire to enter the "green" car business game. The question is why did it take you guys so long to enter it, especially when your profitable years were huge selling pickup trucks and Escalades. The Insight is on version 2.0 and the Prius (#1 car sold in Japan this month) is on version 3.0. The Chevy Volt version 2.0 won't be on the road until probably 2012, if then, right?

If GM truly believes the Volt is GM's future as you have stated, GM made a strategic blunder in my opinion by not entering this "green" car market years ago, but I suppose those Escalade profits were just too enticing. Nothing wrong with making a profit, but not paying attention to the market for whatever reason can be devastating.

Ouch, $7,500 federal tax incentive. Worse than I thought. This $7,500 isn't coming out GM's pocket, it coming out of the USA Taxpayers wallets whether they buy a Volt or not. That’s the rub my friend.

Let's discuss mileage, 2010 Volt is rated at 40 mpg and the 2010 Prius is 70 mpg. No comparison.

Go to: http://blogs.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1019562_driven-the-70-mpg-2010-toyota-prius.

Let's discuss price, 2010 Volt $35,000 to $40,000, whereas 2010 Prius $22,000 and the 2010 Insight $19,800.

Go to: http://www.allcarselectric.com/blog/1020169_hybrid-pricewars-begin-toyota-prices-2010-prius-at-21000

Here is a question for you, how much is it going to cost a Volt owner to plug in and charge his or her Volt essentially every night it is sitting parked in the garage based on today's cost for electricity and tomorrow's cost post-"Cap-n-Trade"?

As far as today’s cost, here is what I calculated based on utility rates and current regular unleaded gasoline prices in Arizona (where I live). I thought this was interesting exercise, at least I enjoyed it, hope you do. Wonder why GM hasn’t advertised recharging and refueling costs? Maybe you have and I just could not find it.

Here we go, according to the Electric Power Monthly data for February 2009 from the Energy Information Office of the U.S. government, Table 5.6.A. “Average Retail Price of Electricity to Ultimate Customers by End-Use Sector, by State, February 2009 and 2008” the cost for residential electricity in Arizona for February 2009 was $0.0982/kWh. According to your Chevy Volt Specs website it will take between 6 and 6.5 hours to fully recharge the Volt’s Lithium-ion battery. For this exercise, assuming worse case, the Volt owner would recharge during off-peak hours and the battery would require a full charge each night.

Based on these assumptions, I calculate it will cost the Volt owner between $0.5892 and $0.6383 per charge per night in Arizona. Therefore, the costs for electricity to charge the Volt battery will be approximately $19.42/month.

The Volt has a 12-gallon fuel tank; I am assuming regular unleaded gasoline will be an acceptable grade of gasoline. This being the case with regular unleaded gasoline going for $2.428/gallon (average for Arizona); a tank of gasoline will cost $29.14. Obviously, I have no idea how often a Volt owner will be refueling the gasoline tank, but for this exercise let’s say twice per month (half as often as a non-hybrid vehicle). So that brings the cost for gasoline to $58.27 per month. If my calculations are correct, the total cost for recharging the battery and refueling the gasoline tank will be $77.69/month.

Now for comparison, I drive a non-hybrid 2001 SUV and my 2008 monthly gasoline cost was $126.21/month. Stated a little differently, if I owned a Volt in 2008, I would have saved $582.24/year in fueling costs to drive my Volt. Keep in mind; this is pre-“Cap-n-Trade” estimates.

This certainly is not an insignificant number, but wait, how many years would it take me to break even owning a Volt versus say owning a Prius using fuel cost savings compared to my current vehicle? If the 2010 Volt costs me $40,000 - $7,500 = $32,500 and the 2010 Prius costs me $22,000 that’s a difference of $10,500. Therefore, it would take me 18 years in fuel savings to break even versus keeping my current vehicle. If the Volt cost $35,000 - $7,500 = $27,500, it would take 9.5 years. Obviously, this isn’t the reason people buy “green” cars, but from an economic standpoint, “green” cars do not make sense.

BTW, based on the effects very cold temperatures have on batteries, will the Volt come with some means for keeping the battery warm while being charged in zero to sub-zero temperatures? Also, will a person living in zero to sub-zero climates be able to drive to work and leave the Volt in an open-air parking lot and be able to start the car when it is time to go home?

I think I have made my point Phil. Believe me, I wish you and GM the best of luck, but GM has proven over and over again that it is not as agile as its competitors. The Volt is a weak "me to" version of hybrid electric cars in this market. With the advent of the Aptera, the Coda and numerous others, this hybrid market space is getting real crowded, real quick.

Good luck…

Leaky Brain

This car is AWESOME! I want one so bad, who wouldn't?! Wish the price tag wasn't so steep though, and I think that 40k is for base. :( Oh well I'll be sure too look out for a used, my Prius is just fine for now! :)

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