GM Defends the Volt, Attacks Smaller Electric Car Start-Ups (Tesla, Fisker, etc)
Frank Weber. Photo: GM
GM Paints Itself as Electric Car Champion
Frank Weber, GM's Global Electric Vehicle Development Executive, wrote a piece titled: "How GM is Making Electric Vehicles Relevant" (cross-posted on GM's Fastlane Blog -- you can read the highlights below). I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments. I'll put some of my reactions to what Mr Weber is saying below.
Volt. Click to see our slideshow. Photo: GM
Here are the choice cuts:
I sensed many of those minds [at the EVS 24] think electric vehicle development is better suited to small, entrepreneurial companies, some with little or no automotive experience.
There seems to be in the minds of many some sort of inherent conflict between being a large, traditional automaker and the ability to develop cars of the future.
I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment, and GM is on a mission to prove it.
First, I gotta say I'm happy that GM seems to have realized that if it's going to have a future, it needs to be a leader in electric vehicles. In the long run, any car maker that isn't at the forefront of that technology probably won't make it.
There are nearly 1 billion vehicles using petroleum on the road today. If we are going to make a difference in reducing our dependence on petroleum, GM and other automakers must offer large volume production solutions. Hand-built vehicles may capture the imagination of some, but we need millions of cars to truly address this global issue.
At GM, we have a level of product research, testing and development as well as a supplier network that is unmatched. When you consider the very real distribution, volume and quality issues some of the smaller start-ups have experienced, it’s hard for me to see how they are better equipped than us to deliver the volumes necessary for real change.
A few things. It's a bit weird to hear GM talk about reducing our "dependence on petroleum" when they were a champion of gas guzzlers for so many years. It's cool that they changed their mind (they didn't have much of a choice), but they have to realize that their huge investments into marketing big SUVs in the past decades, their lobbying of politicians about fuel economy regulations and loopholes, etc, helped make our "dependence on petroleum" worse. Frank Weber might not be one of the people that did it, but still, he represents GM, and if GM had used the "unmatched" resources that Mr. Weber writes about to do some good earlier, before they had their back to the wall, things might be different...
Also, as far as I know the GM Volt won't see huge production numbers for a few years, and so won't exactly be easy to get once on the market. Who knows where Tesla and Fisker (and others like Nissan and Toyota) will be by that time. It's a bit misleading to talk as if the Volt will be available in "large volume production" from the start.