It doesn't really matter whether GM sells the first Chevrolet Volt electric cars at a loss or not.
The company announced yesterday that it plans to hire 1,000 new engineers over the next two years to focus exclusively on developing and expanding its work in electric-drive vehicles, everything from additional vehicles that use the Volt's Voltec series hybrid system to components for its upcoming eAssist mild-hybrid system.
GM's CEO Dan Akerson made the announcement during ceremonies at the Detroit-Hamtramck plan that officially launched production of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
First 2011 Chevrolet Volt built on production tooling at Detroit Hamtramck plant, March 31, 2010
The jobs will be filled between now and 2012, he said, many likely going to current Michigan residents. Most will be located at the GM Technical Center in Warren, 15 miles north of Detroit.
They will cover a much broader range of tasks than just working on the Volt and its successors.
GM needs to expand its efforts in basic research and development, infrastructure improvement, and development and engineering of the battery packs, electric motors, power electronics, chargers, and other components of electric-drive vehicles.
Dan Akerson, GM CEO as of September 1, 2010
Buoyed not only by strong demand for the ground-breaking range-extended electric Volt, but also by more than four years of lab work, test results, and growing experience with lithium-ion batteries, GM sees the various types of electric-drive technology as one way it can radically raise fuel efficiency and improve its overall gas mileage.
Regulators in not only North America but also Europe and Asia are now planning even more stringent limits on carbon emissions or fuel economy (two faces of the same coin) for vehicles built after 2016.
Having some portion of GM's fleet plug in to the electricity grid to run electrically, as well as hybrids that recapture otherwise wasted energy and use it to power the car, is a necessary step toward meeting those regulatory demands.
The GM announcement came the same day that Chrysler said it planned to hire 1,000 engineers of its own, though not specifically for electric vehicles.