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Chevrolet Volt Line Rolling in Michigan

The first pre-production Volt comes off the line Detroit.

by on Apr.05, 2010

The quality challenges are enormous as GM confronts an all-new vehicle, with all-new components and all-new processes.

What manufacturing engineers call the validation phase of the assembly line process for the Chevrolet Volt passed a milestone last week when the first pre-production Volt rolled off the line.

Assembly workers at the Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant, will build more pre-production Volt sedans  in the coming months. These vehicles will be examined by GM and supplier engineers as the plant prepares to build retail models later this year.

Also under scrutiny will be how well workers can perform their tasks, and whether there are potential quality or human factors issues that need to be worked out before retail models are built.

The pre-production versions of the Volt will not be sold at dealerships, but will be used to assure all steps in the production system will meet the quality targets set by the Volt engineering team.

The Volt, since it is largely a new design vehicle, with virtually all new processes and components, would present a quality challenge for any maker. Early Volt models will be closely scrutinized by industry observers as an indicator of GM manufacturing ability, and as symbol of GM’s ability to come back from its bankruptcy.

Conventional Japanese manufacturing techniques, widely acknowledged as resulting in the highest quality vehicles in the world, typically rejects as many changes as are required to build a Volt. It is almost unheard of for Honda or Toyota, for example to build all-new, all-new, as in new vehicle and new processes.

GM is now slowly embracing the methods, after rejecting them for decades as its quality and market share declined. However, the nature of the Volt as a breakthrough vehicle precludes their use.

“We have a very experienced workforce at this plant and through all of their preparation and training workers here have been given the privilege to take GM into the future with this car,” said Detroit-Hamtramck plant manager Teri Quigley.

The Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle is designed to provide 40 miles of pure electric driving before an engine-generator kicks in to sustain the battery charge and extend  the range to about 300 additional miles. It is expected to sell for $40,000 before taxpayer subsidies of $7,500.

Nissan Leaf Debuts in U.S. at $32,780 in December

Large Federal taxpayer subsidies reduce price to $25,280.

by on Mar.30, 2010

A question remains as to whether this is the beginning of a mass market for EVs?

Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) today announced that the 2011 Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, starts at $32,780 MSRP before a $7,500 federal tax credit, plus taxes, title and license fees. A Leaf lease starts at $349 per month.

The pure electric vehicle needs a charging dock, which Nissan says will cost another $2,200 on average, and require eight hours to fully recharge Leaf’s 48 lithium ion battery modules.

There are also other potential subsidies for the small car – 175 inches in length – with what is claimed to be a 100-mile range. There is $5,000 statewide tax rebate in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon; and carpool-lane access in some states, including California. The charging dock and installation are eligible for a 50% federal tax credit up to $2,000.

Leaf will be at Nissan dealers in select markets this December, and roll-out nationwide in 2011. Nissan will begin taking consumer reservations for the Nissan Leaf on April 20 for a refundable $99 fee.

Leaf is powered by laminated lithium-ion batteries, which provide a power output of more than 90 kW with 24 kW hours of capacity – roughly $24,000 worth of batteries at current prices. Its electric motor delivers 80 kW/280 Nm.

Nissan hopes this pricing will make its EVs more than the limited volume technical curiosities that EVs are today. However, the small car faces stiff competition from larger and technically advanced hybrid vehicles, such as Toyota Prius and Honda Insight,  as well as simpler economy cars in the $10,000 to $17,000 range, including Nissan’s own Versa and Sentra models.

“Imagine the possibility of never needing to go to a gas station again, or of paying less than $3 for 100 miles behind the wheel, said Brian Carolin, senior vice president, Sales and Marketing, NNA.