Although they're a big part of the Congressional pitch to get some federal funds, green cars aren't going to make the Detroit 3 profitable on their own any time soon. Take the Chevrolet Volt for example. When GM CEO Rick Wagoner testified that the Volt is being pushed into production for 2011, he added that, "It will not be at that point fully cost competitive." That statement might seem like the understatement of the century to some.
According to this CNN Money piece, GM has actually spent about $750 million to develop the Volt, much of that in battery research. Apparently GM recognizes the need to stay ahead of (or at least alongside) the competition in developing new technology and is willing to take the risk of spending that kind of money even in desperate times. Of course, some of that money will eventually be spread across the range when the Volt's powertrain and battery advances get shared with other GM models. Still, it's unlikely the Volt will add to rather than bring down the bottom line until a second generation model is introduced, which may not be until 2014-2016.