• May 15, 2009
Two weeks after late night comedian David Letterman lashed out at the Chevy Volt's 40-mile EV range during an interview with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, General Motors is counter-attacking with former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. Next Wednesday night, Lutz will appear on Letterman's Late Show with the Volt show car. Lutz is generally pretty good at holding his own in interviews, but it will be very interesting to see how he rebukes Letterman on his own turf. The latter generally keeps a pretty tight rein and controls the action, just as he did with Musk. If Lutz is smart, he'll emphasize that he brought the show car instead of one of the Cruze-based mules because those are being intensively tested back in Michigan getting ready for a production launch next year. The Tesla Model S that Musk brought with him is also little more than a show car at this point, and most development has been suspended until Tesla raises more money.

Clarification: When I say most Model S development is on hold, I mean most, not all. When I spoke with CEO Elon Musk in January he acknowledged that spending on Model S had been cut from 30 percent of Tesla's resources to only 10 percent. Before leaving the company, last former SVP Darryl Siry told us that essentially all work other powertrain development had come to halt. Some work is ongoing since they did finish the show car, but the bulk of it depends on raising cash. Meanwhile GM tells us that the Volt program is essentially the only one at the company that has not seen any significant cuts.

[Source: General Motors, Source Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 40 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      @Sam Abuelsamid: "keeps a pretty tight rain and controls the action"

      You could go with reign, or even rein (in the literal sense), but rain just isn't working.

      I'm gunning for Neff's job as Editor-in-Chief.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "You could go with reign,"

        But that would be just as wrong as 'rain'


        "or even rein (in the literal sense)"

        Yes to using 'rein', but not it's not remotely 'literal' (unless Bob Lutz is going to literally put David Letterman on a rein!)


        ", but rain just isn't working."

        Indeed it isn't.
        • 5 Years Ago
        there you go *raining* on their parade... ;P

        I caught that too. hehe
      • 5 Years Ago
      The fact that Dave misunderstands exactly what sets the Volt apart from a purely electric car is demonstrative of a problem GM faces in educating the public about why this is not just a fancy golf cart with a forty mile range.

      I suspect whoever came on the show to represent GM would have had a civil conversation with Dave but Bob is the best personality to do this. He'll play nice but he'll be interesting, he won't take any crap, and he will set the record absolutely straight on the Volt's capabilities and who it will appeal to. And he'll do it in front of an audience that is only dimly aware of what a serial hybrid car even is, beginning the difficult process of educating the public at large.

      As far as price, consider that it would cost at least thirty grand more if the battery pack was big enough to go 300 miles, and you would still have the range anxiety issue of having to make sure you are near a plug when you tap it out. Batteries are NOT cheap enough to give us long range electric vehicles, yet. Considering this, I think GM is onto a fantastically pragmatic solution. If you drive around forty miles a day then you have, for all intents and purposes, a full size purely electric car at probably half the cost of what a long range one would cost. Throw in the fact that you can set out on a cross country drive at any time with NO worries about range and the -value- of that flexibility should become obvious. Commuters who bought gigantic SUV's "just in case" they ever need to tow something have shown that people will gladly pay more for flexibility that they rarely use.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @ Todd -

      I would like to get your home address - I can send you and dollar and maybe you can buy a clue. Even one so obviously biased as you can't believe there are only two mules in existence - that is the height of idiocy!

      There were a large number of the first gen mules that used the Malibu platform and there are many additional based on the Chevy Cruse platform that have been completed and are continuing to be built. It is very clear you have absolutely no clue what it takes to develop a production automobile - it would be impossible to develop without many mules, lots of test systems for various components, dynamometers for individual drivetrain components and the complete drivetrain and on and on.
      I don't work for GM but work for a supplier who has been working with all of their hybrid and battery teams (as well as all of the other bits that make up a production vehicle). I rode in a Cruze based mule (one of about ten just in that one garage/lab area) last week after working together with some of their engineers on integrating additional capabilities into the data acquisition process and it, regardless of what many of the nattering nespots of negativism seem to think, worked pretty sweet - it also went into regen mode seamlessly.

      I for one am sadly ashamed of many people in this country who seem to feel that any other country has superior technological capabilities to this one - you must really suck at your jobs to believe that.

      The engineers I work with at the OEM's and their suppliers are bright, innovative and dedicated and have done and continue to do great things. Heaping disdain upon these people is just plain ludicrous.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't expect Tesla to be around in 5 years. For the avg family the Volt is a much better choice.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have my doubts that the average family would even consider this. They're looking at mini-vans/suvs, where this will probably appeal to a whole different set.

        It's too bad the price is so jacked up. Now we'll have to see if/when VW's twindrive shows up with a similar e-only range and how much of a premium you'll have to pay.
        • 5 Years Ago
        With GM teetering on bankruptcy it might be prudent not to put all your eggs in the 'volt's definitely going to reach production' basket right now. Additionally, It's not technically a plug in hybrid, it's a range extended electric vehicle. I own a pair of hybrids, I think plug in hybrids and range extended electric cars are great ideas, though if posturing and projecting that my valid skepticism is based on some sort of anti "plug in" (which this car is NOT) is what tickles your fancy, more power to you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "They need all the positive press they can get if this vapor is ever to make it to market."

        Translation:

        "Waaah - I don't like plug-ins because they conflict with my reactionary politics!"

        You think the Volt is "vapor"? Seeing as the car IS going into mass production, you must be using a different definition of "vaporware" than the rest of the world.


        • 5 Years Ago
        See this?:

        http://gm-volt.com/galleries/photo/3220975283/2011-Chevrolet-Volt-Production-Show-Car.html

        That's what's often referred to as a "plug".

        In addition to reviewing the definition of "vaporware", you may also want to look up the differences between Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you think that a GM Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a possibility, you know even less about US politics than you do about the future of the American auto industry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Kumar has a point, the average American family is struggling to pay the bills right now and will not be buying a well beyond average $40,000+ car after subsidies. Which, oddly enough, is the exact reason the prius was sold at a loss during MkI. Not so the average person could afford it, but so it would be palatable enough to create a market, Toyota understanding it is unreasonable to expect the customer to bear the full brunt of a new segment buster.

        Best of luck to GM's spin man, they need all the positive press they can get if this vapor is ever to make it to market.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It will be nice to see someone defending GM for a change. It seems like everyone hates on them just for a laugh, or because everyone else dose it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        duke: so did Italian-Americans, made up the biggest minority group in the army, who went against their home country to help the US (if you know any Italians pride is very important to them, this is a big deal), even though some of them were still treated like crap against that time, you don't hear about the racist actions (like you would against those from the mideast today or Asians during that time), that doesn't stop from stereotypes and jokes against Italians. And even with that, it takes much more harsh treatment then any minorities today cry about to ever hear complaints from them.

        Beautiful cars, women, and amazing food, this post is my salute to the Italians.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's sad when you think about all GM contributed to helping us win WWII. Aircraft, tanks, guns, trucks, etc. An important part of the arsenal of democracy.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So did Johnson and Johnson, so you not see Government putting them on welfare.
      • 5 Years Ago
      why BOB? I dont get it?
      the question is, Is Letterman gonna ask him about his stance on Global Warming?
      that would be for an intresting segment....
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bob,

        The point you MUST get across is that the ICE never powers the wheels adn is only there to recharge the batteries. Many think that when the batteries are low, the engine then drives the wheels, which is why everyone thinks it's a "lawnmower" when the batteries have lost the charge.

        Products have been duds due to public mis-understanding.

        • 5 Years Ago
        "He's just a teleprompter delivery man."

        That's good enough to get into the White House nowadays......
        • 5 Years Ago
        Does anybody even watch letterman any longer? The novelty is long gone and it's obvious he's a putz. Heck, even O'reilly makes him look stupid.

        Considering he was [cough] off the air [cough] during the writer's strike, it's not like he even writes his own material. He's just a teleprompter delivery man.

        • 5 Years Ago
        They got Bob to do it because he will take no crap from Letterman and has no problem checking people back into place. I don't watch Letterman, but i'll be tuning in for this one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hope GM will get some positive press out of this.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I hope Letterman brings up that GM has already been given billions and billions of tax payer cash, while Tesla has asked for, and *not* received, 400 million in Federal funds.

      Telsa - real car, already in production, sales on the books.

      Volt - only two non-production based test mules exist, used so far as 1) A threat ( "Give us billions or we'll sell the Volt to Exxon like we did the EV-1!" ) to get more tax payer cash. 2) as damage control from the corporate jet PR disaster.

      Love to see Maximum Bob squirm on that!
        • 5 Years Ago
        GM's made more street legal electric cars than Tesla has.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I really don't understand why Todd's post has such a poor rating and such a string of negative replies. He makes a valid point with regards to the immaterial nature of the Volt project.

        Granted, the GM bailout and the Tesla funding loan do have a spurious relationship, but I don't understand why it isn't fair to point out that the Volt may never see the light of day. GM is due for a bond payment on June 1st that they will never make, their bankruptcy is being touted by many experts as likely. No offence to any of you, but what makes you more qualified to call against them? Of course, if any of you do have the necessaries and do have some further insight into the GM situation, then I'd love to hear it: Perhaps you're a high ranking executive within GM or even a governmental insider close to the situation?

        If GM does go bankrupt, it won't neccesarily be a smooth process, Chrysler has shown us that. They will emerge (if they do) in a recession with billions of dollars of loans. At this point, will they choose to develop and market something as yet unproven to them? Or will they rely on the Cash Cows that they have in their extant range of somewhat competitive vehicles. My theory is one of two things will happen:

        1. GM will perpetually claim the Volt is in development and then quietly drop it when a convenient time can be identified.

        or

        2. They will sell it as a green Halo car designed only for small volume production and likely at a loss. It wouldn't surprise me if in order to kill it off, GM used some of the tactics employed to such great effect with the EV1/ZEVM.

        As for Tesla, dismissing it as not being "a real car company" is surely a witless suggestion. Yes they may sell in low volumes but, they are a selling to a small segment of a niche market. Furthermore, they are using a "price skimming" strategy in a weak global market. With this in mind I can't see a reason for such negativity or to doubt that Tesla is achieving it's own objectives, despite ostensibly low production volumes.

        Having Letterman and Musk share the same set was a horror I never wish to relive. However, are they really worse than a man who does not believe in Global Warming, talking about an electric car which, may never exist no matter how good it is in principle.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ D4ez

        Todd is demonstrably wrong, which is why he is receiving negative rankings.

        "Volt - only two non-production based test mules exist..."
        Over 30 Volt mules have been built.

        http://www.autobloggreen.com/tag/chevy+volt+mule/

        Todd's opinion of how the Volt mules have been employed, "1) A threat ( "Give us billions or we'll sell the Volt to Exxon like we did the EV-1!" ) to get more tax payer cash. 2) as damage control from the corporate jet PR disaster." is certainly subjective, but also demonstrably wrong.

        Chevy has never threatened to sell the Volt to anyone. Chevy exhibited the Volt mules long before the jet brouhaha, not just as a response.


        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah they have a real car that they haven't even made 1000 of them of yet. How long has the Tesla Roadster been out now?
        • 5 Years Ago
        GM sells more cars each day than Tesla will sell in the next year. Please dont act like Tesla is a real car company. It took GM about 100 years to ask for a gov loan. It took Tesla about 2 years. They are a joke.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Off topic, but I notice Leno's and Letterman's political views are different.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hopefully Letterman asks him why anyone would pay $40K+ for a car that after 40 miles is no different (or worse) than a Prius?? While Toyota, Honda and Nissan will be selling (in total) hundreds of thousands of hybrids and EVs, GM will be lucky to crack 10K in Volts...Its a joke except when GM comes back for more taxpayer money in 2 years...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Toyota infringed on a few American patents when they developed the Prius:

        "The chip, which was devised by Paice LLC of McLean, Virginia, accepts torque information from both the petrol engine and electric motor, allowing both to run in synergy."

        http://www.caradvice.com.au/12609/prius-patent-appeal-rejected/

        "Sept. 12, 2005--Solomon Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB:SOLM) announced today that it has filed an action against Toyota Motor Corporation in federal district court in Tampa, Florida for infringement of Solomon's Electric Wheel(R) patent. Solomon alleges that the hybrid transmission drive in the Toyota Prius and Highlander infringes a number of claims contained in its U.S. Patent No. 5,067,932."

        http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20050912006022&newsLang=en

        "Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD) will share in a $30-million settlement of a patent infringement suit in federal district court in Michigan arising from assertions that the use of nickel metal hydride batteries in the Toyota Prius fell within the scope of claims of a patent of its subsidiary, Ovonic Battery Co."

        http://ipbiz.blogspot.com/2004/07/settlement-of-infringement-suit.html

        • 5 Years Ago
        You obviously arent that bright. Nissan sells ONE hybrid and its only available in 8 states. Their first in house hybrids wont go on sale until next year and it will be in limited numbers. Honda has two hybrid models and combined they cant come close to Prius sales. The Prius cannot travel 40 miles without using gas. It cant drive without gas unless you are going less than 10-20mph or downhill.

        The Volt has not been priced and the $40k price is conjecture at this point. You have not seen any official release from GM stating the price would be $40k. Even if that were the case the car would be eligible for a $7500 tax credit.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Backing up shethj, it's worth noting the nissan hybrid isn't nissans at all, it's based on tech leased from toyota.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "(A) car that after 40 miles is no different (or worse) than a Prius??"

        That's like saying besides 0-60, top speed, and a couple of cylinders, an Enzo's no different than a Gremlin. The whole point is that it IS different for the first 40 miles - a number that is nearly four times the average person's daily commute (one way). If you don't live in the sticks (and most of America doesn't - and won't - anymore), you'll rarely buy gas again.

        I wish people were just honest about their hybrid hate: you either thought the South Park episode was real, ascribe to a talk-radio political agenda, or hate them smug city-slickers with their edumacations and electric cars. At least then people could just dismiss you out of hand without being compelled to correct your gross misrepresentations and inaccuracies.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Todd
      1:13PM (5/15/2009)
      I hope Letterman brings up that GM has already been given billions and billions of tax payer cash, while Tesla has asked for, and *not* received, 400 million in Federal funds.

      ------

      Hey numbnuts crawl back into your riceball.

      Clearly you cannot translate English words such as "given" and "loan"

      The few American's on this propaganda blog know GM during WW-II GAVE billions of dollars for the war effort and never asked for a dime back.

      You should be more worried that TOY ota just lost 7 billion. sold 40,000 cars less then GM and that is not counting all the money they ARE given by japland plus all the freebie in land, taxes and duty fee savings GIVEN to them here in the USA.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Sure it's a loan until they declare bankruptcy.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Is the previous vid even online anywhere...anymore ?
    • Load More Comments