GM gives Volt a jolt; could hit roads by 2010
MILFORD, Mich. -- General Motors is moving quickly to get the Chevrolet
Volt out of the laboratory and into the showroom.
Since the Volt's successful January debut as a concept car at the
Detroit auto show, GM has taken major steps to develop a production
version of the plug-in hybrid car.
"We are doing the production engineering on the Chevrolet Volt," says
Larry Burns, GM's vice president for r&d. "It is a formal product
program within our company, just like the Chevrolet Malibu is a product
Last week, Burns listed the steps in the program:
* GM has allocated funds for development.
Engineering work is under way.
* The development team has selected the next-generation Delta
platform for the vehicle.
GM has decided to develop two versions, one with a gasoline
engine and the other with a fuel cell.
Burns declined to estimate the project's cost. But GM Vice Chairman Bob
Lutz predicted this year that the design, engineering and tooling would
cost at least $500 million.
GM wants to build the Volt in the United States, says a source close to
the project. The assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which currently
builds the Chevrolet Cobalt, is said to be the leading contender.
GM has said its next-generation Delta architecture would be the platform
for the next Cobalt or Astra small car.
GM has not confirmed a production date for the Volt. The company
generally needs about 36 months to bring a vehicle to production once
the design is frozen, but it's not clear how soon that point could be
That means the Volt could appear as soon as 2010.
One factor in the Volt's favor: Lutz supports it. He introduced the Volt
at the Detroit show and has said the Volt could be ready in 2010 if
suppliers produce a reliable lithium ion battery.
Lutz says the Volt would start off as a low-volume vehicle. To some
degree, GM can use off-the-shelf hardware developed in other programs.
But those parts have yet to be assembled and tested in a Volt. Nick
Zielinsky, the Volt's chief engineer, says that will happen this year.
A niche vehicle like the Volt isn't likely to generate big profits. But
GM executives think it could help establish GM's green credentials and
would be an effective answer to the Toyota Prius.
GM is determined to build it, says Jim Queen, group vice president of
global engineering. The company is prepared to forgo an initial profit
on the Volt in the hope it could re-establish GM as a technology leader.