We expect big things from General Motors when it comes to electric cars, but it seems we are always disappointed. It has the resources and the talent to be a world leader, yet somehow it continues to offer blue sky blandishments while delivering next to nothing of substance. The Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid was a pretty good car — back in 2013 — but it is now out of production. The Chevy Bolt battery electric car is okay but hardly a world beater.
The General has stubbornly refused to leverage what it learned from creating the Volt/Bolt twins. I am no marketing guru, but I read all the time how economies of scale can lower the cost of developing new technology. The first unit may cost a million dollars, but the millionth unit will cost far less. Yet GM continues to treat the Volt and the Bolt as afterthoughts. Economies of scale? Never heard of ’em.
Have you ever seen an ad for either car? Has GM applied the plug-in hybrid lessons it learned from the Volt to any other cars in its lineup? Sort of. It did create a hybrid Malibu using parts of the Voltec powertrain but without the plug. Now the Volt is out of production, killed off to make room for more pickup trucks and SUVs.
The Bolt has been around for a few years now. Has GM leveraged that technology to bring other new products to market? Nope. Just like the Volt, the Bolt is drifting along, given no marketing support, waiting for oblivion to set in so Mary Barra and her cohorts can wring their hands and say, “See? We told you so. Nobody wants to buy our electric cars!”
Barra blithely promises that GM is hard at work at electrifying its lineup and will have 20 electric models on sale — eventually. In the meantime, the Bolt is being given a new set of clothes and turned into what the marketing types now call an EUV, which presumably stands for Electric Utility Vehicle. Think of it as a Bolt with a new nose, a longer roof, and a larger hatchback.
The new model is said to be due out sometime next year as a 2021 offering and will be built in Michigan. The folks at MSN got a chance to peek under the EUV prototype recently and discovered it has a front-mounted motor, just like the Bolt, so no surprises under the heavy camouflage.
Instead of leadership, GM gives us market legerdemain — old wine in a new bottle — designed to make it seem innovative while serving up healthy portions of same old, same old. On the electric car front, the Heartbeat Of America has no detectable pulse.
There is one bit of good news. GM has announced that over the air update capability for its vehicles is coming — almost a decade after Tesla introduced over-the-air (OTA) technology on its cars. The Cadillac CT5, which starts production later this year, will the first GM product to have OTA capability built in — just 11 years after Tesla started using OTA updates in its cars. (Hat tip to Tesla Motors Club members.) It “enables the adoption of functionality upgrades throughout the lifespan of the vehicle,” the company says. OTA technology will be on most cars in the GM lineup by 2023, we are told.
It is clear that General Motors has no intention of being anything but a follower, cranking out Escalades and Silverados until the Earth and everything on it is dead from an excess of carbon pollution. The people inside the C suite at GM seem to have no idea what is going on in the world outside. Nor do they much care, so long as the quarterly profits continue unabated.
Mary Barra seems like a nice person, a decent person, but she is no leader. Under her guidance, the supertanker named General Motors is gliding blissfully along toward the waterfall ahead. Things are not going to end well for GM.