Short Circuit is such a catchy nickname for the Volt
Volt test fleet gives GM options
Posted: March 1, 2010
General Motors hasn't yet determined how early versions of the Chevrolet
Volt will be used to get customer feedback, a top company executive told
the Free Press.
Before official production begins in November, GM will build a special
fleet to test the vehicles in a variety of conditions and work out any
"We might be using those to get additional customer input," Tom
Stephens, GM vice chairman of global product development, told the Free
Press during an interview in Orlando last month.
But, he said, a final decision has not been made about allowing
consumers to drive vehicles in the captured test fleet.
"We're actually building more vehicles in that fleet than we would
otherwise build. The potential exists that we could get additional
people evaluating those types of vehicles or working with us to evaluate
those types of vehicles," he said. "I would say the decision still needs
to be made (on) if we're going to put the vehicles in some of the other
hands or not."
Stephens indicated that his attention is focused on ensuring that the
official Volt launch goes smoothly.
"I'm much more worried about making sure that we have a totally
bulletproof launch at the start of regular production," he said. "I
think it is so critical for this vehicle to come out and be a smash hit,
and I think it's got all of the makings of being able to do that."
The Volt will be able to go 40 miles on a single electrical charge, GM
says. After that point, an onboard generator powered by gasoline will
produce electricity to power the vehicle.
Since showing the Volt as a concept vehicle at the 2007 Detroit auto
show, the company has been under pressure to come out with the vehicle.
The late 2010 launch deadline is quick for a vehicle that depends upon
technology that's still being developed.
GM isn't planning a huge rollout. The company has said that California,
Detroit and Washington, D.C., will be some of the initial, limited
markets in which the Volt is sold.
Bob Lutz, a GM vice chairman, said in December that he expects that GM
will build up to 10,000 vehicles in the first year. "The reason we are
going to ramp it up slowly is because this is uncharted terrain for all
of us," he said at the time.
In January, GM opened a new battery assembly facility in Brownstown
Township to build battery packs for the Volt. The company is preparing
to begin building early versions of the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck
Industry analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics said the major pinch point
for bringing out the Volt is battery development.
"Without a battery, you don't have a car, and the battery is a
complicated device to build that necessitates new manufacturing," he
said. "The reason they only had a limited number of cars in November
anyway was battery-based."
In January, Ed Whitacre, GM chairman and CEO, indicated that he was
pushing for the vehicle to come out prior to the November launch.
"I wish it were on the market today. We're going to push as hard as we
can to get this vehicle out there. It's a complicated process," he said
at the time.
The Free Press reported that GM was looking at putting a limited number
of cars in customers' hands, perhaps as soon as September, in part to
get early consumer feedback.