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GM Charging into Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Plans calls for fleet of self-driving Volts at Tech Center.

by on Oct.02, 2015

Some time next year, GM will have a fleet of self-driving Chevy Volts whizzing around its tech center campus north of Detroit.

Move over Google! The tech giant that uses its California campus as a testing ground for its autonomous vehicle now has company in those types of efforts as General Motors plans to do the same at its Tech Center campus in Michigan.

The automaker plans to roll out a fleet of autonomous 2017 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids on the site starting next year. Employees will use the vehicles to get around the 326-acre campus in Warren, Michigan, just north of Detroit.

Product, Product, Product!

“It really demonstrates a different mindset than what you might expect from the auto industry, really a Silicon Valley mindset,” she told investors and analysts Thursday at GM’s Global Business Conference. “We’re going to step things up. We’re going to experiment, we’re going to get customer input, we’re going to do it in a cost-effective way. If it works, we’re going to scale it.” (more…)

GM Ending Current Volt Production in May

Maker clearing out old models to make way for new ones.

by on Apr.09, 2015

The new Chevrolet Volt is designed to spend even more time operating in electric mode. Photo credit: Len Katz.

Due sluggish sales and a new model on the horizon, General Motors plans to end production of the Chevrolet Volt extended range EV at its plant in Detroit in May.

The car is being replaced by a newer 2016 model later this year and the maker needs to clear out the inventory of the current iteration sitting on dealer lots.

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“Halting Chevrolet Volt production in anticipation of the all-new 2016 model year is a smart move for GM, and allows for less inventory and incentives on the outgoing model,” said Akshay Anand, analyst at Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. “Hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle sales have been declining for some time now, with gas prices well below the summer prices of 2014. (more…)

GM Smacked with New Lawsuit Alleging 29 Deaths

Maker’s crashworthiness honor offset by new suit.

by on Jul.30, 2014

A new lawsuit against GM claims the compensation fund designed Kenneth Feinberg doesn't go far enough.

General Motors’ ignition switch recall has triggered a new lawsuit in which the plaintiffs are claiming that 29 people have died and 627 were injured in accidents in which the defective part was a factor.

The lawsuit, Abney vs. General Motors, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is emerging as the venue for cases against GM. The quasi-official number of deaths blamed on the defective ignition switch now stands at 13, according to figures from GM and the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration.

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The suit also attacks GM’s efforts to settle out of court with injured motorists through a procedure established by New York attorney Kenneth Feinberg. It covers claims that would not be eligible for the program, according to Robert Hilliard, the lawyer who filed the suit. The ineligible claims, according to Hillard, include accidents involving cars not among the 2.6 million vehicles initially recalled for switch issues and accidents in which the car’s airbags deployed. (more…)

Are Volt Sales Unplugged?

Maker needs to charge up demand to meet target.

by on Oct.04, 2011

The Chevy Volt was named North American Car of the Year last January, beating out the Nissan Leaf - and setting in motion a distinct rivalry.

With only one quarter left, sales of the much-balleyhooed Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid are running well short of expectations and lagging the battery cars chief rival, the Nissan Leaf, by a margin that widens every month.

Has the Volt come unplugged or will Chevy be able to make up lost ground with a massive build-up of momentum in the final three months of the year – as company officials insist?

With less than 4,000 sold so far this year and a goal of moving 10,000 Volts for all of 2011, General Motors will need to nearly triple September sales if it’s to hit that target.

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“It’s a little surprising” how low the numbers have been, according to Joe Phillippi, automotive analyst with AutoTrends Consulting, especially in line with the steady growth in demand for the Leaf – which is itself going to need a big bump to hit its own 20,000-unit goal for 2011.

Through the end of September, Nissan sold 7,199 of its pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, with sales last month of 1,031.  Volt sales totaled just 723 in September, with year-to-date volume at 3,895.

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Demand Already Strong, GM Looking To Ramp Up Chevy Volt Production

Maker adding 1,000 jobs in battery car development.

by on Nov.30, 2010

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt officially goes into production.

Even as it confirms plans to add another 1,000 jobs to boost its battery car program, General Motors said it is contemplating whether to expand production of the new Chevrolet Volt.

GM CEO Dan Akerson, while stopping short of saying the Volt will be a runaway hit, says he has asked for a study of whether it’s feasible to ramp up production of a vehicle that was supposed to undergo a slow and cautious roll-out reflecting both uncertain demand and the challenge of producing an entirely new type of powertrain technology.

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For 2011, GM originally targeted production of just 10,000 Chevy Volts, with the figure to climb to 45,000 in 2011. But speaking at the official launch of production at the GM assembly plant in Detroit, Tuesday morning, Akerson said, “My sense is there is going to be a lot of demand for this vehicle.”

(Akerson spoke publicly for the first time after GM’s November 18 IPO, a stock offering he described as “successful beyond expectations.” Click Here for that story.)

The so-called “Poletown” assembly plant is currently operating on only one shift so GM has at least the plant capacity to bump up Volt production. Battery-pack production could be a potential bottleneck, however, if demand for the Volt takes off.

(more…)

Just How Clean Is The Chevrolet Volt?

California regulators raise some concerns about emissions.

by on Oct.25, 2010

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt takes a hit in California's emissions tests.

Just how green is the Chevrolet Volt?  Not nearly as much as you might think – at least according to the results of a new test by the California Air Resources Board.

The agency has ruled that General Motors’ new plug-in hybrid falls short of not only conventional hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight but even the new diesel-powered Jetta TDI in a key test.  As a result, Volt not only doesn’t get a coveted PZEV (for Partial Zero-Emission Vehicle) rating but misses the next-best SULEV category and slips into the rankings as a ULEV vehicle.

But observers caution that the 2011 Chevy Volt may be taking hits because of its own efficiencies, ironically.  And California regulators may take steps to modify their rules so vehicles like Volt, designed to run primarily in electric mode, get the technical benefit of the doubt.

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The eagerly-awaited Volt has faced its fair share of controversy lately.  Earlier this month, a debate began swirling over what the Chevy battery car actually should be called.  Since the debut of the original Volt concept, GM had argued that it was an “extended-range electric vehicles,” since the car’s wheels, according to the maker, would only ever be driven by its two electric motors.

(more…)

First Drive: 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Is it a hybrid or electric vehicle? Does it really matter?

by on Oct.19, 2010

Call it a plug-in hybrid or extended-range electric vehicle, either way, a thumbs up for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

The formal launch of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, earlier this month, was ill-timed to occur the same day a controversy began to brew over the vehicle’s underlying technology.  Is Chevy’s long-awaited 4-seater a plug-in hybrid or, as General Motors prefers, an “extended-range electric vehicle”?  Then again, does that even matter?

As TheDetroitBureau.com set out to get its first, two-day drive of the Chevy Volt we certainly wanted to get a better understanding of the complex propulsion system GM engineers have come up with, but the real question is whether the vehicle lives up to its lofty expectations – and justifies a rather steep price premium when compared to more conventional, if otherwise similar vehicles, such as Chevy’s own new Cruze.

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Charged Up!

The simple answer to that first question is that Volt is, technically, a hybrid, but one designed to operate exclusively on battery power the vast majority of the time.  And for those green-minded buyers who might have relatively short commutes but occasionally need more range than a pure battery car could provide, the Volt is, in fact, a compelling product.

But, like the offering it’s most often being compared to, Nissan’s pure battery-electric vehicle, the 2011 Leaf, Volt does have some limitations and caveats we’ll try to address.

Chevy originally promised 40 miles battery range but now rate's Volt at 25 to 50 miles.

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Just How DOES GM’s Volt Work?

Product Development chief weighs in and raises new questions.

by on Oct.13, 2010

Plugging in the new Chevy Volt.

The controversy about just how the Chevrolet Volt works may only get more cloudy after an interview with General Motors’ product development czar.

During a lengthy discussion, GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens discussed the new patent the maker has received for the new power-flow system on the Chevrolet Volt.  But while he acknowledged the maker’s decision to be silent until the patent was approved may have led to the current flap over precisely how the new Chevy battery car operates – Stephens only complicated questions about the technology.

And he again raises the question whether Volt should be described as a relatively conventional plug-in hybrid or, as GM prefers, an extended-range electric vehicle.

The system, under development for the last three years is designed to ensure that Volt’s wheels are driven only by electric power through a pair of what are called traction motors, said the executive.

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The patent, which was issued last month, Stephens explained, is “specifically for the car’s unique power-flow system used in the Volt,” which, he insisted, “is what we’ve said it is all along – an extended-range electric vehicle.”
Stephens, however, admitted GM has kept quiet about the unique system, while the patent was pending, in order to protect its competitive advantage. “If I started to discuss this in 2007 but it won’t be available until 2010, why would I talk about” specifics, he said.

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California Gives Volt HOV Lane Access After All

But GM’s new plug-in will have to wait until 2012.

by on Sep.02, 2010

Chevy Volt owners will eventually get this valuable sticker -- but not immediately after the law changes.

Initially denied the coveted pass to California’s time-saving carpool lanes, the Chevrolet Volt will get a break – but not until 2012.

California has decided to pull the value decals that give access to the HOV lanes from conventional hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, providing that perk, instead, to the new battery-electric vehicles that will soon hit market in increasing numbers.  But as TheDetroitBureau.com first reported, the revised rules notably excluded the Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle, or E-REV, because while driven in gasoline mode it didn’t quite make the tough P-ZEV emission standard.

(Click Here for the original July 28, 2010 report.)

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But rules being made to be broken, especially in California, all these changes are changing again.

Under the revised bill Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed, the 85,000 traditional hybrids that were given HOV stickers will continue to have access for an extra six months – through the end of June 2011.

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California Regulators Just Say “No” to Chevrolet Volt HOV Access and a $5,000 Tax Credit

Senior GM exec sees no sales "impact." Volt to qualify in 2012?

by on Jul.28, 2010

The Chevrolet Volt is moving from prototype to production, but it won't have access to commuter lanes along the way.

Is it a show of favoritism or simply the strict interpretation of the rules?  Either way, buyers of the new Chevrolet Volt will not get the coveted sticker that gives them access to the California’s fast-moving commuter lanes, nor will they qualify for a potential $5,000 state-funded rebate.

But those who opt for another new battery car, the 2011 Nissan Leaf, will qualify for both, according to the California Air Resources Board.  Considering both vehicles will soon go to market with lease rates of $350 a month, it raises the possibility that CARB will, in effect, be lending support to Nissan at Chevy’s expense.

While a senior General Motors official is clearly disappointed, he stresses that some tweaks to the Volt emission system should allow it to qualify for the HOV – or High-Occupancy Vehicle – lane pass and tax break by 2012, a little more than a year after the first Volt rolls into dealer showrooms. (See Single Occupant Honda CNG and Fuel Cell Vehicles Granted California High Occupancy Vehicle Access)

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In the meantime, insists Volt’s program chief Tony Posawatz, “The car won’t have trouble selling,” especially during the first year, he tells TheDetroitBureau.com, when availability of what is technically known as an extended-range electric vehicle, or E-REV, will be limited to just 10,000 vehicles.

(more…)