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August 8, 2010
Have you driven a Chevy Volt...lately?
Have you driven a Chevy Volt
The headline is a play an early ‘80s Ford car ad campaign. Have you driven a Ford. . .lately? was the tag line and it's instructive when considering Chevrolet's new Volt, the car that'll make GM a "leader" in green vehicle technology and create green blue collar jobs. The answer to Have you driven a Chevy Volt . . .lately? is most likely to be no.
I really love cars, and it pains me to criticize a vehicle, since my premise is all cars are good, some are better than others. Plus I know people at GM who love cars and worked diligently on this car, even if they thought it an answer to a question no one asked. While the Volt looks like smart product planning and business management to the Obama regime - people who don't know or care about cars - unfortunately, it fails on several levels.
Start with a $41,000 list price and with the $7500 Federal tax credit it drops to $33,500. I would even speculate that California, with a $20 billion deficit, could even be willing to spend money it doesn't have by kicking in a state hybrid vehicle credit to shave the price slightly. Regardless, tax credits mean more of what we don't need: government spending.
The President, and anointed government czars think the Volt is a good idea that consumers will clamor for, at least 10,000 of them. During his Michigan GM factory visit, the President looked so - what's the word - manly as he hopped behind the wheel to drive a Volt all of two car lengths off the prototype assembly line. I sure wouldn't buy a car he endorsed, because he wouldn't know a good vehicle even if it goosed him.
Consider the collision insurance unknown. I haven't seen any ratings, but a car with a big battery that might be damaged in a collision, will be expensive to replace or repair. That means potentially high premiums, unless the Federal government enacts a Volt insurance premium cap.
Another problem lies in the current automotive market. There's huge supply of new and used compact, fuel efficient vehicles for sale. So it's not like the Volt is only one of a few high-mileage brands available. Volt has to compete against Honda, Toyota, Suzuki, Ford Escort, Chevrolet Aveo, not to mention Hyundai and Kia.
Performance is also an important vehicle characteristic. I am not concerned about 0-60 times, but rather the car's battery, with a claimed 40 mile range before the gasoline engine takes over to drive the generator for electric propulsion. This claim to green power nirvana means if you have a 40 or fewer mile commute, you can escape Big Oil's clutches because, you won't need gas. Just don't forget to charge it every night.
The critical issue is under what driving conditions that 40 mile range claim is made. Is it a 20 or 30 mph average speed? Is that on flat highways, or does it include hills? Would it cover that distance at a steady 65 mph cruise?
Environment influences vehicle performance. How far would a Volt go on battery power alone, after sitting outside all night in minus 20 degree temperature. Then, the driver hops in at 5:30 am, when it's still dark out, and drives off, with the lights on, heater and defroster working and listening to radio. And, because there's no traffic, he merges onto the freeway and speeds up to 65 mph.
Driving reality further diminishes the Volt's value compared to my humble 2001 Ford Focus station wagon. It seats five, and with the rear seat folded down, can carry a lot of stuff. On a bad stop and go city traffic day, mileage is 23 mpg. But on the highway, during a recent solo cross country trip, cruising at 80 mph, with the A/C on, my Focus averaged only 32.9 mpg. Consider too, with its $4500 purchase price, the car is paid for. Money not spent by not buying or leasing a Volt would buy a lot of gasoline, pay down credit card debt or go into savings.
So my answer to Have you driven a Chevy Volt. . .lately? is firmly not in my lifetime. And I suspect, that you'll never see the First Family driving one on a vacation trip to Chicago.
And if I may borrow Greg Gutfeld's Big Hollywood blog signature close, if you disagree with me you are no doubt a racist, homophobic, child porn loving Global Warming believer or one of their useful idiots.