Could the new electric car get killed before it even hits the streets?

There are hundreds of engineers and technicians at both General Motors and its suppliers working feverishly to try and get the Volt into Chevrolet dealerships by late 2010 or early 2011. The company's senior management all seem to be firmly committed to the project. Everyone I've spoken to at GM seems to believe that the carmaker's long-term survival may hinge on the success of the Volt. But even with so many people behind it, this is in many ways just like any other new car program. There are time-lines and budgets to meet and a market must be shown to exist. Plenty of car programs have been killed when they were a lot further along than this one.

Does that mean that the Volt could still get killed before it lives? Of course it does. Is it likely to get killed? Probably not. A column in Automotive News outlines three of the possible culprits in the potential cancellation of the Volt. Physics is the obvious one, and perhaps least likely to be a factor. The technological challenges in guaranteeing the robustness of the battery pack are tough but appear to be surmountable. The other two are potentially more problematic. OPEC is one. At this point no one can say with any certainty what the price of oil will be in 2010. It could be $300/barrel or it could be $30/barrel. If our political "leaders" had the backbone to set a minimum price for petroleum that would help ensure a demand for efficient vehicles, this could easily be removed as a factor. Fat chance of that happening though. Perhaps the most troubling possibility is the owners of the company. As a public corporation GM has a fiduciary responsibility to earn a profit for its shareholders. If the new vehicle market in the U.S. tanks in the next few years, there is certainly a possibility that GM will not be able to afford the subsidies that will almost certainly be needed to make the Volt an affordable mainstream proposition in its early years of production. If that happens the Volt could either be priced out of the market or euthanised entirely. Any of these three scenarios are possible. All the fans of the Volt certainly hope they don't come to pass.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. req'd]

Share This Photo X