The Chevrolet Volt electric car, now in its third model year, has survived the bankruptcy and government-led restructuring of General Motors, politically motivated attacks on electric cars, a battery-safety investigation by the NHTSA, and some breathtakingly inept marketing efforts.
But many leaders of the team that created the Volt have moved on or out, and the latest to leave is vehicle line director Tony Posawatz, who retires from GM effective Sunday.
After the departure of lead engineer Frank Weber (who now runs BMW's plug-in vehicle programs), Posawatz was the most public member of the Volt product team--and always available to answers questions and educate consumers, media, and the rest of GM.
He brought enthusiasm, unflagging energy, and a genuine joie de vivre to the challenges of explaining the Volt, sketching the context for GM's first-ever plug-in vehicle sold to the public, and shepherding the car through final development, into the market, and onto the lots of dealers who often struggled with the new and pricey extended-range electric car.
Posawatz joined General Motors in 1980, continuing an unbroken string of family members at the company stretching back to 1957.
GM sent him to business school--he was the first member of his family to graduate from college at all--and he worked in a wide variety of jobs, from assembly-plant production foreman to financial management on car programs.
Before the Volt program, Posawatz was product chief on a very different vehicle: the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche, the innovative (and very large and thirsty) four-door pickup truck with a mid-gate that extended the bed into the back of the cab when needed.
Both the 2010 Chevy Volt and the 2002 Avalanche truck won Car and Truck of the Year awards from Motor Trend magazine, which remains a much-prized distinction in Detroit.
2012 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
In a note to colleagues last week, Posawatz wrote, "I can't think of a bettter way to end my career at GM than by safely landing the 'moonshot' better known as the Chevrolet Volt. We may have finally "electrified the nation" and found a way to break the addiction to oil."
Posawatz said he will spend time with his family this summer and then begin planning his next steps.
Currently, he told Green Car Reports, he is unwinding near the ocean, reading, writing, thinking, and enjoying the activity and time with family.
He also noted that he hopes to make a final appearance at General Motors for "an epic farewell gathering" next month.
"I have no firm plans currently," he wrote, "but certainly many ideas." And he said he hopes to remain engaged in "developing the electrified transportation ecosystem and helping teams realize product innovations and business success."
We cover relatively few auto-industry personnel changes here at Green Car Reports, since car-company employees move often and executives increasingly move among companies too.
But we will miss Tony Posawatz, who spent more time with more skeptical journalists to explain the Chevrolet Volt than anyone at GM outside the long-suffering communications staff.
GM's loss may be another company's gain.
We wish Tony well, and look forward to learning where he surfaces next.
His note ended with a quote from famed Renaissance artist and engineer Michaelangelo:
"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."