The Chevy Volt: Why there’s no hope for Big Auto

File this item under the “triumph of compromise and the death of innovation” category, dear readers. Here is a car I would be delighted to buy, unveiled in January 2007 — The Chevy Volt concept car:


It’s a car so popular that it was requested for the upcoming Transformers movie by the director. Graceful, aggressive styling made it clear that, where Priuses and their ilk have become the equivalent of a worsted hemp-wool sweaters, this would not be your mom’s Hybrid.

… on the other hand, here’s a car I definitively would NOT buy:

Guess which one will be gracing showrooms of GM Dealers (if any remain) in 2010?

Sad, but true… while there have always been huge gaps between concept car vehicles and their production counterparts, this one is particularly disappointing. General Motors has proved that compromise was the victor during the prototype-to-production engineering for the Volt. It is, to say the least, about as unimpressive as other Hybrid designs like the Prius or the Civic Hybrid. It’s dull, homely, and familial.

I’m not sure who does the market research for Hybrid and Electric vehicles at GM, but they’ve got it wrong. With their stock price tanking, employees fleeing, plants closing, and sales dropping GM and its Chevy brand needed to pull a rabbit from their hats, and the Chevy Volt held out the best hope for shaking up the market with an affordable, cool vehicle with the thin veneer of environmental friendliness. That’s what wealthy, tech-savvy professionals want to drive on their long commutes… those same tech-savvy professionals who live in Blue States and went to see Al Gore’s movie.

The Volt concept vehicle was cool — even practically so. And it hit us where we live — at the corner of “hip” and “conscientious”. So most of us would not have been surprised to see it hit showroom floors pretty-much as-is and if so, it would have been red hot. With its aggressive styling and good looks, the Volt would have shown celebritards that there’s a much flashier way to show the world that you’re green; and with its Prius-esque price the Volt would have allowed the rest of us who wish we could afford (to wait for) a Tesla something reasonable and far less frumpy than the alternatives.

Chevy has shown the Production car now, which will hit the streets in 2011 with a design that is inferior to a Toyota that hit the streets in 2004. In 7 years — seven years!! — Chevy has proven that the best they can come up with is a pale, limp-wristed “metoo”.

Viva la mediocrity! How long before American taxpayers are asked to bail out their ailing auto makers?

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