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GM CEO Akerson: We're Staying The Course On The Chevy Volt

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GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

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If the Chevy Volt is a sales failure, you'd never know it from the guy who runs General Motors.

At a meeting of Volt owners in San Francisco yesterday, GM's CEO Dan Akerson said unequivocally that the company was standing behind its halo plug-in electric car.

"We are not backing away from this product," he told the assembled Volt owners.

Akerson had earlier said, both during a Congressional hearing and on GM's VoltAge blog, that the Volt was designed as a safe, state-of-the-art car, not a "political punching bag."

"Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features, we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag," Akerson told Congress in January. "Sadly, that is what it's become."

In San Francisco, the CEO met with about 30 Volt owners to answer questions, assure them that the five-week production stoppage was just temporary, and reaffirm the company's commitment to the range-extended electric car.

Volt owner Fred Ehnow attended the lunch and posted his thoughts in the Volt Owners Group on Facebook. Some excerpts (slightly edited for clarity):

GM CEO Dan Akerson speaks to Chevy Volt owners, San Francisco, Mar 2012 (photo: Shad Balch, GM)

GM CEO Dan Akerson speaks to Chevy Volt owners, San Francisco, Mar 2012 (photo: Shad Balch, GM)

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Akerson assured us that the five-week Volt production shutdown was nothing more than a matter of keeping inventories in line with demand.

He pointed out that the best-selling car in the U.S. last year, the Chevrolet Cruze, also had a two-week production shutdown in November, and nobody made a fuss over it.

But because the Volt has been under such heavy scrutiny, the media has pointed to the shutdown as yet another indication that the Volt is doomed.

He said that in the old days, GM would not have shut down production, but rather would have tried to bend the demand curve by incentivizing dealers and offloading Volts to fleet sales.

That's what got them (and other American auto manufacturers) into the troubles they were in several years ago.

Akerson spoke and answered questions for over an hour. I was impressed with how genuine and unguarded he was.

To add a note of Machiavellian reality, it may be worth remembering that CEOs are paid to say the right thing.

There's another scenario in which Akerson publicly supports the Volt...right up until the time when he doesn't.

But we think it's far too early for GM to make that decision. The car's barely been on sale for a year, and one year is a very short time in the life of a vehicle program.

Our best guess: GM continues to hammer away at Volt sales through 2012 and 2013, and launches the 2014 Cadillac ELR luxury coupe--based on Voltec mechanicals--next year.

But will there be a Volt 2.0? That's the big question to us.

And it seems far too early to answer--despite what you read in the media.

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Comments (24)
  1. I think it would be interesting to speculate, that if sales are low, what could be done to improve sales? How about a version with a 20 mile electric range at a better price point? Do we think that would make a difference?
     
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  2. I think personally that it may not be worth developing a 20 mile range evrsion but it all may depend on where GM is with the
     
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  3. Sorry, that was strange... Anyway, it may depend on where GM is now with the Voltec system itself. It should be somewhat improved overall and the Volt 2.0 could make better sense if the EV range increases to 50, for example.

    But time will tell. Contrary to the usual naysayers, sales in Europe start in earnest this year, fleet sales will also be substancial and inventory is still horrible where I live, only 30 miles from the Volt factory. Very little stock in the metro area and all but two of those are in colors I would never buy/lease. Few lease options, either, and those are nowhere near the official $350/month price.

    Kudos to GM for adjusting production to match inventory when necessary. It took a few decades, but...
     
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  4. There are more comments in this thread
  5. Anyone else notice the tail lights in the picture used look white?
     
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  6. Rick, a lot of manufacturers are doing this now. Clear covers, but the bulbs, or LEDs are red. It's the current trend.
     
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  7. The real question is how can the GOP 2012 election goals survive being run over by GMs Volt?

    All republicans need to understand that they are getting killed on this issue, and the sales of the volt are not relevant.

    Every time a conservative talking head makes up another fake fact, or cheers at the “failure” of American innovation , or hails the layoff of America workers, the rest of the country cringes in disgust. This is win – win for the Democrats and they are now on an almost unstoppable roll.

    Akerson know it too...
     
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  8. It never ceases to amaze me how people can make anything political. How are Republicans getting killed on this issue? Most republicans I know do not cheer at the "failure" of American innovation. I for one hope the Volts sales take off. America is stronger if our innovation leads the way and we give less money to the oil princes in the middle east.
     
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  9. You said that, "MOST republicans I know do not cheer at the "failure" of America." Why would any republican cheer at the failure of America? The ones who cheer at the failure of America, are they the ones who is trying to plunge us into a third-world economy and continue with Bush's agenda of death, destruction, poverty and war to everyone except the 1%?
     
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  10. Mark, while every one so ideologically tied to left or right partisanship rents arenas and tries to make each other extinct, those of us actually open to good ideas should be looking at ways to stop sending so many dollars for oil to countries that hate us...ideas like the Volt can help.
     
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  11. The Volt speaks for it's self once you drive it. It's a car to be wanted by those who approach with an open mind.

    The Volt's exhilarating technology shows that one day no one will want a gas car.
     
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  12. I chuckle at the reports of the Volt being a failure. What about that other Chevy flop--the Corvette? It's been around for almost 60 years, and GM only sold a little over 13,000 units in 2011. The Corvette is pricey, too, but it sure has its fans.
     
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  13. The Corvette is not a flop. It is a limited production high end sports car. You cannot compare production quantities with a mass market consumer car like a Cruze or even a Camaro.
     
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  14. Maybe with gas prices continuing to rise new car buyers will take a second look at the Volt leaving what they've heard behind and find that it's a nice car that barely uses gas. I've looked at the Volt in person, and I don't see any problem with the Volt, it's a good looking high tech car that can impact your monthly expenses in a good way, it's as simple as that.
     
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  15. Maybe they will not take a second look at the Volt since the Leaf will impact your monthly expenses in even a better way by not using a single drop of gas or oil and while you are driving it is zero polluting. I think I would take a second look at the Leaf instead of the Volt.
     
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  16. Yes the Leaf is cool, I was commenting on the Volt because the story is about the Volt.
     
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  17. I actually think they should drop the price $10,000 on the first 100,000 units. By my reckoning, that's about 5% of their expected profits over the next 2 years. In return, they get to push the learning curve hard and drive the cost down as they planned. I recognize this isn't free, but if they believe (like many of us), that cars like this are the future, they need to take steps to make the future now.

    Incidentally, if $5000 will do it, that's fine -- half the cost. Either way, it's clear that price/ROI for Volt owners is a real issue and that with the changes coming to battery prices, eventually they won't have that issue. Rather than listening to the politics, they need to do what Toyota did and subsidize for a little while.
     
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  18. The Volt is already subsidized by $7,500 and possibly $10,000 in the near future. Are you saying drop the price another $10,000? Bringing the cost down to about $20,000.
    If so then I would agree - sales would skyrocket, but I don't see that in the cards.
    How about a warrenty program like Hyundai's instead. $30,000 with 10yr/100,000 mile power train warrenty and 5 yr 60,000 bumper to bumper.
     
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  19. A while back, Akerson challenged the Volt engineers to find a way to cut costs by $10k, a very ambitious goal, but I hope that they have at least partially succeeded. I know everyone expects Gen 2 to have these cost reductions, but they are needed now. Also from a marketing perspective, incremental reductions in price now would be better than a huge reduction in 2 years. Hopefully, Chevrolet can take advantage of this 5 week shut down to implement some of these price reductions.
     
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  20. Discounting the current government rebates and the GE Fleet Deal........
    "He said that in the old days, GM would not have shut down production, but rather would have tried to bend the demand curve by incentivizing dealers and offloading Volts to fleet sales.

    That's what got them (and other American auto manufacturers) into the troubles they were in several years ago."
     
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  21. The problem is GM does not get it FORD and TOYOTA does. Why would you build a car that goes from 35 miles on electic to 32 mpg when it goes to gas. Go to hybrid after electric. Prius our getting 55-63 mpg. In town 48-52 mpg highway. GM does not get it.
     
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  22. Comment disabled by moderators.

     
  23. "There's another scenario in which Akerson publicly supports the Volt...right up until the time when he doesn't."

    That is correct; that is how the game is played. Never trust an "executive", ever.

    They have no honor.
     
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