WASHINGTON – Despite the current controversy among some U.S. Congressional members over the safety of the Chevrolet Volt, the extended-range electric vehicle is here to stay, General Motors North America President Mark Reuss tells WardsAuto at the capital’s auto show.
Indeed, a global team of 15 to 20 engineers has been at work developing a second-generation Volt since the current model was launched, he reveals.
“The business case for the Volt remains the same,” Reuss says. “Making more or less (units) won’t change the differential. We knew it wasn’t going to be a high-volume car.”
However, he does not believe the Volt’s slow sales will consign it to the same fate as GM’s first electric car, the infamous EV-1, which was an unbranded model sold through Saturn dealerships and eventually withdrawn from the market. “Not while I’m here,” Reuss says.
“We’re not going to abandon Volt technology. The Volt is technologically light years beyond the EV-1.”
He does admit Chevrolet will sell fewer Volts in January than the preceding month because of the recent negative publicity over the EREV’s battery fire resulting from a crash test by federal regulators. He also does not deny that some dealers are refusing additional Volt deliveries.
“I’m very proud of the way we handled Volt customers,” Reuss says. Volt buyers were informed of the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.’s investigation and have been offered the opportunity to replace their cars should they have concerns. GM is making a safety fix to the vehicle.
Reuss says he personally leases a Volt for $380 per month. “I used three or four gallons (11-15L) of fuel driving 6,000 miles (9,656 km) in a year,” he says. “For the right people, the financial situation is phenomenal. It’s also the most-sophisticated car in the world.”
But GM hasn’t been successful in getting enough motorists to understand the Volt, Reuss says. Chevrolet needs to get more people into the car and help them understand the technology.
“If we’re a company that executes things like this without conviction, we’re not the company I think we are,” he says. “The Volt is a success – absolutely.
“The Volt has gotten people to think differently about GM and Chevrolet, about the future of GM and the auto industry. It demonstrates what we’re really capable of doing.”
Hitting a sales target is not the point. “I’m very patient,” Reuss says, noting GM has invested billions in the Volt. At the same time, he rejects the notion the EREV was developed with government bailout funds. “This car doesn’t have any taxpayer money in it.
“If you think that we’re wavering on something like this, we’re not,” Reuss says. “The Volt is not going away.”