Next-gen Volt will cost 'thousands' less
Mark Reuss: “I believe, and we at GM believe, that the public will accept and embrace electric vehicles. Some people already have.”
Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
DETROIT -- General Motors can take "thousands of dollars" out of the next-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, GM North America President Mark Reuss said.
"The next generation will be even better," Reuss, 49, said during his keynote address at the Automotive News World Congress. He later declined to say when the redesigned Volt would arrive.
Reuss acknowledged the hurdles to broader adoption of electric vehicles and plug-ins, including high prices. But he said GM engineers are applying what they have learned from the Volt's real-world use to lower costs on the next-generation car.
"What we've learned on the duty cycle of the battery," he said, including "how they use it, the temperatures they use it in -- all that data is now at our fingertips."
Engineers are zeroing in on reducing the cost of the Volt's electric motors and its $8,000 battery pack. But Reuss said that a more important step in slashing the price of the Volt and other plug-in hybrids and EVs is to tailor the platform. Today the Volt is built on the same platform as the Chevy Cruze and other cars that weren't designed to be EVs.
"Waiting for battery breakthroughs is probably not what the industry needs to do," Reuss said at the Detroit auto show, prior to his World Congress speech. He said automakers need to get "hyper-serious" about building platforms specifically for electric powertrains.
"Unless you have a dedicated car, you're going to be carrying batteries or powertrains in it that you don't need," he said. "That's where the costs come out faster and more efficiently than waiting for battery breakthroughs."
While he said that a "purpose-built" Volt is the best way to reduce costs, he wouldn't say whether the next-gen car would be built on a modified platform.
GM is seeking to further amortize the more than $1 billion it spent on the Volt's development by extending the technology to other vehicles, including the Cadillac ELR sports coupe it unveiled at the auto show.
Reuss also staunchly defended the prospects for EVs and plug-in hybrids, insisting that the market is at the start of "a massive transformation," and that consumers are moving toward broader acceptance.
"The electric vehicle is not dead," he said. "I believe, and we at GM believe, that the public will accept and embrace electric vehicles. Some people already have."
Sales of EVs and plug-ins have grown rapidly but still represent only a tiny slice of the U.S. market, despite forecasts a few years ago that sales would soar because of high fuel prices. Sales nearly tripled last year -- but only to 52,172, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Volt sales last year also tripled, to 23,461. Inexpensive leases and stair-step incentives for dealers helped drive sales higher.
You can reach Mike Colias at firstname.lastname@example.org.