December 1, 2010 – My Anti Review of the Chevy Volt

Featured Trades: (CHEVY VOLT REVIEW), (NSANY), (GM)


2) My Anti Review of the Chevy Volt. In 2011, we will we be deluged by an onslaught of advertising praising the virtues of the electric car, as models like the Nissan Leaf (NSANY) and the Chevy Volt (GM) hit the market. If last week's San Francisco Auto Show at the downtown Moscone Center was any guide, the faceoff between the two vehicles is all over but the crying.

After spending three hours test driving the Leaf and grilling Nissan's engineers on specs (click here for my piece), I strolled over to the General Motors display on the other site of the hall. There I found the Volt up on a pedestal guarded by two silicone enhanced hotties, who, while attractive, where clueless about the capabilities of the car. Perhaps they were strategically placed there to distract viewers from the design lines of the Volt, which I found utterly uninspiring. It's as if the car was designed by a committee of old ladies. The new Corvette Stingray, now that was inspiring.

When I asked them to open the hood, I was told it was disabled to prevent access to the public. The engine has been cleverly renamed the generator, even though it is still an engine. The car can drive 40 miles on an electric charge, when a 1.4 liter, 89 horsepower gas engine takes over, taking it a total of 350 miles. I'm told that 'range anxiety' was a big factor in GM's planning, which they learned the hard way from their painful and costly EV-1 disaster in the nineties. That project was killed off when oil plunged to $8 a barrel, and the world wanted to own Suburbans.

The 435 pound lithium ion battery is two thirds the weight of the Leaf's, with half the output, recharges from 240 volts in half the Leaf's eight hours, and carries the same eight year warranty. Could they start the engine up so I could check the noise level? No, the fumes would fill the hall in minutes, which was ironic, since I had just come from tearing up the grand ballroom in the exhaust free Leaf.

You get all of this for a non subsidized price of $42,000, some $10,000 more than the vastly superior Leaf. GM is doing a token launch along with the Leaf in December, but the vehicle won't be available in real numbers until early 2012. That's when Toyota brings out its plug-in Prius, with twice the performance with a flawless ten year track record for a third less money. By then, Nissan will own the market. Talk about a day late and a dollar short. Haven't we seen this movie before?

If you were wondering why I was boycotting the GM IPO, this was a big reason. Despite all of the promises by an earnest new management, GM is still pumping out lemons. I have a feeling that the big buyer of this car will be the US government, as it is still a major shareholder in the company. For decades after the 1979 Chrysler bail out, my government ride was always in one of their vehicles. You'd be better off buying another Suburban.

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