• Sep 28th 2010 at 4:58PM
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2011 Chevrolet Volt – Click above for high-res image gallery

Lyle Dennis. Bill Nye. Jim Woolsey. Brian Wynne. What do these people have in common, besides being featured at one time or another on AutoblogGreen? They are all members of the new Chevrolet Volt Customer Advisory Board that General Motors announced today (disclosure: AutoblogGreen columnist Chelsea Sexton is also on the panel).

So, what will the 15 people who make up the board actually do? Basically, they're getting a Volt before you do and will tell GM what's working and what isn't. More specifically, they will be the first people who get to, "experience the Volt every day under real-world conditions during a three-month vehicle and charging evaluation program starting in late October."

The 15 (see all the names after the jump, and note the number of electric vehicle enthusiasts included) volunteered for the position and Chevy picked people who knew the most about electric vehicles and also happen to live in one of the initial markets where the Volt will be available. Besides getting a three-month test vehicle, board members will get a free 240-volt charging station, "for the duration of the vehicle evaluation program." Sexton is excited about the group, and said in a statement that:
It's great to see Chevrolet tap into both experienced and new electric vehicle enthusiasts for real-world feedback. This is a great opportunity to not only provide meaningful input to the Volt team, but also to raise awareness using a real, available electric vehicle instead of a PowerPoint slide.
[Source: GM]


Chevrolet Starts Market Launch of Volt with Customer Advisory Board

DETROIT – Chevrolet has hand-picked 15 advanced technology enthusiasts and electric vehicle advocates to be the first consumers to experience the Volt every day under real-world conditions during a three-month vehicle and charging evaluation program starting in late October. This exclusive group of expert consumers – referred to as the Chevrolet Volt Customer Advisory Board – is one of the final steps Chevrolet is taking to validate the vehicle, charging and overall customer experience in preparation for the retail launch late this year.

We are eager to learn as much as we can from potential customers about their experience with the Volt," said Tony DiSalle, Chevrolet Volt marketing director. "We want to know their thoughts, impressions, and perceptions. This special group of electric vehicle experts gives us the opportunity to learn even more as we near market launch."

Volt Customer Advisory Board members have volunteered to participate and were selected by Chevrolet based on their resident location, knowledge of advanced automotive technology, and interest and awareness of electric vehicles. Each participant is scheduled to receive a pre-production Volt starting in late October and will keep the car through the end of January 2011. Participants live in Volt retail launch markets including California, Washington D.C., and New York.

Members of the Chevrolet Volt Customer Advisory board include:
  • Robert Becker – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Peter Corsell – Chief Executive Officer of GridPoint
  • Lyle Dennis – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Tom Kuhn – President, Edison Electric Institute
  • Andy Lipkis – President and Founder, TreePeople
  • Bill Nye – Celebrity scientist and electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Eric Rotbard – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Chelsea Sexton – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Colin Summers – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Mark Swain – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Kris Trexler – Electric vehicle enthusiast
  • Bryan Voltaggio – Celebrity chef and owner of Volt restaurant
  • Jim Woolsey – Former Director of Central Intelligence and Renewable Energy and Energy Security Investor
  • Brian Wynne – President, Electric Drive Transportation Association
  • Mike Maria – Electric vehicle enthusiast
Volt Customer Advisory Board members will receive product training, a home electric evaluation and a no cost installation of a 240-volt charging station to be used for the duration of the vehicle evaluation program. Chevrolet will then collect information weekly through OnStar.

The feedback provided by Volt consumer advisors will help Chevrolet refine the ownership, charging and driving experience, including information that can help local utility companies develop codes and standards for electric vehicle owners. Each member will also be assigned a Volt Customer Relations Manager for personal service and attention.

"It's great to see Chevrolet tap into both experienced and new electric vehicle enthusiasts for real-world feedback," said Chelsea Sexton, electric vehicle advocate and Volt Customer Advisory Board member from California. "This is a great opportunity to not only provide meaningful input to the Volt team, but also to raise awareness using a real, available electric vehicle instead of a PowerPoint slide."

The Volt Customer Advisory Board group serves as an extension of Chevrolet's final Volt validation employee test fleet program already under way. To date more than 200 pre-production Volts have been built at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck production assembly.

The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle with extended-range capability. Chevrolet will offer a lease program on the Volt with a monthly payment as low as $350 for 36 months at Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price with $2,500 due at lease signing, including security deposit based on current conditions, which could vary at time of delivery. The benefit of the $7,500 tax credit is included in the reduced lease payment, with the tax credit going to the lessor. The Volt's MSRP will start at $41,000 ($33,500 net of the full federal tax credit, which ranges from $0-$7,500) including a destination freight charge of $720. Customer deliveries of the Volt are scheduled to begin in launch markets late this year with initial production limited.

The 2011 Volt will be available to Chevrolet customers in California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area. To be among the first to purchase a Volt, customers can visit their nearest participating Chevrolet Volt dealer. A Volt dealer locator is available at http://www.getmyvolt.com. The dealer will begin the order process, which will be followed up by contact from a dedicated Volt advisor who will be available to answer any questions and keep the customer apprised of the progress of their order. For customers needing general Volt information, Chevrolet has a team of Volt advisors available to answer questions at 1-888-VOLT-4-YOU (1-888-865-8496)

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am also a member of the advisory board. When I was asked to join I said that I was interested, but mostly interested if I could write honestly about the car. GM said that was what they were hoping for. I wasn't asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. In fact, I have already released a detail about the car that GM hadn't, one that wasn't reported anywhere else.

      Consumer Reports accepts no advertising in order to present its view as unbiased. For those of you asking for Chelsea Sexton to remain unbiased by sending GM $5k, I would suggest starting a fund. Get the money together and give her a check to send to GM. That would solve it for you, right?

      Personally, GM would have owed me a couple grand in my usual consulting fees for the two days of my time. And for the time I will take to write about the car and discuss it with them. I think that's fair trade for the time with the car and the charger. It's a wash. Any slight bias I have *for* GM is wiped out by my still-lingering anger about them taking away my EV1 Gen2 and crushing it. As I said to the Detroit Free Press, "I am the most skeptical board member and will be writing about every wart I find."

      • 5 Years Ago
      haven't they tested and done enough PR with this car i am interested in the volt but even us green people are getting bored about every new little detail, we just want to see it in the dealerships so we can buy it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey Matt,

      I totally understand, and appreciate you hearing me out. I also took a longer-form stab at my reasoning on the subject over here: http://bit.ly/d0eYTH

      • 3 Years Ago
      I love the customer advisory board idea! Never heard of that before... I wish I could have been a part of that :) Yay for free cars! http://igniteag.com
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am planning on getting a electric car by next year, unfortunately the volt and the toyota are obviously competing in who can build the ugliest car on the planet. Also the launch pattern laid out here by GM proves that the good old boys from Goverment Motors have not learned anything from their recent past and are not planning on doing it in the future.

      it will be interesting to see who they will team up with next time when they will need a technology and research input. After sucking out Saab and Opel they might experience serious trouble to find new victims docile and stupid enough to loosen up their collars.

      They seem to ignore that Tesla, Saab and Fisker are comming out with compet. priced vehicles that look like a million bucks next to the neardy VOLT that to top it of is not even cheap, even if it looks like it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think the Volt and the Leaf look great, in different ways. The Volt has more of the mainstream family sedan from the retro-future look about it, whereas the Leaf has an even more retro-future - even Jetsons - look, that is more likely to appeal to hipsters, enthusiasts, and those wishing to show off (like early Prius adopters).

        My father, whom I use as a "real world" reality check for various things, would agree with you about the Volt and Leaf, but only because they're "too futuristic". He'd prefer the Coda.

        I wonder how the Model S look will go over. Just another contemporary mid-high luxury sedan, like the Buick Regal? Or another science fiction refugee?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Bill Nye and Chelsea Sexton seemed to be have an unnatural bias toward Chevy and the Volt and I never could figure out why. If you follow their public talks the bias is obvious. Since they're working for GM it's understandable. Now don't get me wrong, these are great people and I highly respect them. But I'm not at all comfortable with them getting themselves tied so closely to a particular company.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hey John-

        I am most definitely not working *for* GM- and Yanquetino is right that I've been interacting with many of the automakers, and driven several of the plug-ins coming in the next few years- Volt, Leaf, smart ed, iMiEV, Transit Connect, PHEV Prius, etc. It's true that I end up talking about a few companies and programs more than others, and that GM is prominent among them (along with Tesla, then Nissan). In part it's a function of people's curiosity and the questions I get- these are the nearest-term and most visible vehicles right now. But it's also a function of familiarity and access- I can't report the experience of driving a car I've never driven, or (other than commenting on publicly available info) about a company I've not talked to much. And for better or worse, I've had more engagement with some companies than others- and GM's been the most willing of all over the last few years. I can absolutely see how that would end up looking like I'm aligning with them over the others, but it's not the case. I'd love to drive the Focus and talk to Ford about their plans...but they're not planning to do any of that til next year. Fisker is notoriously tight-lipped, and Coda talks more with media than with stakeholders (while I write a little, I'm much more in the latter category than the former). And so on...but my door is open to any of them, and they know it.

        Personally, I want all of the early EV programs to succeed, and tend to root for them. I'm an advocate for this technology, and that inherently makes me biased. However, I also call it like I see it with all of them too, even when it's unpopular (and supporting GM seems to be as unpopular in many forums as questioning Toyota.) Sometimes I do it privately, other times publicly- but I'm not exactly known for toeing a party line or keeping my mouth shut. But I think it's important to give these companies credit for the good things they're doing in addition to calling out what they're not doing; writing off one company or another leaves them with absolutely no incentive to do better.

        I won't pretend to be completely objective about GM; I have a long history (both good and less so) with the company, and still have friends there. I'd like to see them do well again, but I also really believe they need to earn it. I think the Volt is a good car, and that the team and many of the execs are utterly sincere about wanting it to succeed. I also know from experience that neither of those things will be enough, and have my concerns- more about marketing and consumer experience (including everything from dealer/infrastructure process to policy/incentives) than the vehicle itself. And while I may end up making no difference whatsoever, it seems to be that the best way to affect those things in a positive way is to participate.
        • 4 Years Ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        Methinks you are a bit too quick to judge, john. Nye and Sexton are not "working for GM," nor are they necessarily "biased" toward the Volt. They are, more accurately, biased toward EVs, and trying to provide useful feedback to OEMs, consumers, utilities, and government officials alike.

        Surely you must have read their very favorable reviews of the Nissan Leaf, and in fact they both have put down deposits on that "rival" EV. Sexton was also loaned an iMiEV for a week, and wrote a fine report on the experience; is she thus "biased" toward Mitsubishi? Since her husband works for Tesla, is she "biased" toward the Roadster? Nye leased a Mini E for a year; is he therefore "biased" toward BMW?

        If the Nissan execs are smart, they'll ask Nye and Sexton to also evaluate a Leaf for three months; as should Tesla, Th!nk, Coda, Ford, Toyota, Fiat, Mitsubishi, VW, et.al. I'm sure they would volunteer the service in a heartbeat --to benefit ALL of us who support the transitions to EVs. Let's not bite the hands that feed us.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I read somewhere (maybe on this blog) that when Bill Nye was asked recently whether he would be buying a Nissan Leaf, he replied that he would rather wait for a US-made EV. The implication being that he would not be buying a Nissan Leaf because it's made by a Japanese corporation. So I'm surprised to see him change his mind. Unless the reports were wrong.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks Chelsea. Really appreciate your reply. I was just calling it the way it looked to me, but apparently a lot of people don't see it the way I did. I'm glad you understood what I was saying and didn't take it the wrong way. It was just bothering me the way various plug-in proponents were aligning themselves with particular corporations and then tending to belittle or disparage the competition which is also working on the same side, for example after that Tesla exec joined Coda he started to talk more positively about Coda and find faults with Tesla and Nissan Leaf. The president of Plug-in America recently became a dealer for Nissan Leaf - which being the only true EV entering mass production at this time is understandable but it's still a potential worry. Conflicts of interest. Allegiances to corporate interests. Entanglements. I just don't want to see the biggest supporters of the electric transportation revolution to get caught in difficult situations because of getting too intermingled with a given corporation and thereby lose the opportunity to represent our broad goals. So when I read about that statement supposedly by Bill Nye, and then read that he and you are advising Chevy on the Volt, I thought oh no now they're selling out. Very glad to know that's not the case. Again many thanks to you and also Bill Nye, Chris Paine, Alexandra Paul, Ed Begley Jr., Robert Llewellyn - and so many others - for all you do for the cause.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They seemed to be far less nervous about the ev1, and i thought the standard ol' PR line here was that they were super confident in it because it'd been through a bazillion tests..

      hm :p
        • 4 Years Ago
        Every car goes through a zillion tests, especially one with breakthrough new tech. The difference is that for the Volt, GM is electing to be unusually open at every single stage of the process.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Aka spinning the hype machine.

        But that's the thing, early on they were like 'oh boy! it's fantastique!' and heaped praise on it. Now we're seeing backpedaling.. for example, your beloved ethanol compatibility seems to be deleted.. it's got less range. The 40 mile range seems to be in question. It got uglier. The projected fuel economy on the gas engine is reduced. The price of the car is higher than many thought it would be.

        Very anticlimatic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No. They are volunteers that were hand-selected based on their expertise.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Paid" only in that they'll get free use of the car and charger for 3 months. Still, that's kinda nice!
      • 4 Years Ago
      "...i look forward to the sales figures when the dollar votes are cast by consumers (who are and will always be right)."

      So, you're saying the SUV really is the right answer? Because they sell in huge numbers.

      I personally like a free market where producers produce what the consumers want to consume. However, there are many, many instances where consumers prefer products that are less than beneficial: McDonald's, reality TV, cigarettes, etc.

      The popularity of an item doesn't make it "right". There are enough differences between the Volt and the Nissan Leaf that they will each surely attract buyers interested in the specific merits each vehicle provides.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I understand your point of view, Wardialer- and no question GM is and will get some PR value out of this. All of us in the group are somehow pre-disposed to like EVs, so yes, I expect the general feedback to be more good than bad. But it is the fact that we get to give feedback and to whatever small degree make the car and/or the program better that is attracting many of us to the project. And after years of only being able to show EVs on a powerpoint slide in presentations, I'm looking forward to being able to at least locally show an actual vehicle that will be available rather than one that is no longer produced (RAV) or well out of most people's price range (Tesla).

      As for integrity...no doubt some do and will see us as having sold out, or being shills for being willing to drive these cars and talk about them. But I find it interesting that the only company around which I get these accusations is GM. Mitsubishi was the first company to give me a car for more than a few hours- true, it was a week, not three months, but should I have reimbursed them a rental fee? Should the several hundred people that Nissan flew to Japan to drive the Leaf have refused or paid their own way? For that matter, should I have paid Nissan for my 30-min test drive in Santa Monica? The only way for us to provide the very information that people come to sites like these wanting is to have experience with the vehicles and dialogue with the people and companies involved- and to be clear, I continually try to engage with most of the major OEMs and several of the minors, and do, to varying degrees. I agree that there are absolute lines and gray areas here, and I think a lot about if and how I'm stepping over them- and it's possible that I don't always choose correctly. I also intentionally don't represent myself as a journalist or totally unbiased. I aim at balanced, but my history and experience in this space and with GM --and others- naturally leaves me with certain biases. It's part of why what few posts I do tend to be more opinion than straight car reviews, unless I can do something fresh about that car (as with the Nissan piece). That same history also gives me a perspective that I think is unique, and that I hope others occasionally find interesting or useful. But this seems to me an issue of disclosure- and anyone is free to take what I say with whatever salt they deem appropriate, or dismiss it entirely.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have a great deal of respect for Lyle, and Jim Woolsey has been incredibly prescient with regards to energy, and Chelsea has experience in this field that exceeds that of anyone that posts on this site, I believe. GM has made a pretty good selection of customer advisers, which probably means that they will build too few of them and that the Volt's CS mileage will resemble that of a Hummer's in the EPA city cycle....
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