Bukoff's letter to Mark Reuss questioning Chevy Volt termination
Armen Hareyan's picture

Email I sent to Mark Reuss - By killing the Volt now, you are throwing away the best transition vehicle

Mark Reuss, could You give us a better explanation of why GM is killing the Volt now? asks Allen Bukoff, an automotive researcher and an avid EV enthusiast in this letter sent to Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors. It's a very interesting letter asking valid questions about untimely termination of Chevy Volt when the new generation of EVs are still two years away from showing up.
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I am writing to inquire about the cancellation of the Volt.

GM's decision to focus its future efforts on all-electric vehicles is a bold move that continues to stake out GM's engineering leadership toward the future. My understanding of the consumer market, however, suggests that 1. All-electric vehicles have not yet achieved the level of battery charge/range, charging times/speed, and availability of fast-charging stations that will work for every driver, and 2. It is clear that there is substantial apprehension on the part of most of the public to seriously consider and make the jump to pure EVs at this time.

What the market and consumers still need is a transition or "bridge" vehicle to move them -- with growing confidence -- toward the all-electric future.

Hybrids and PHEVs really don't do it because they perpetuate an engineering and psychological reliance on petroleum and ICE engines -- more of a side street than a direct bridge. The only really worthy transition vehicles are the extended-range electric vehicles -- the brilliant Chevrolet Volt and the quirky BMWi3 Rex-- vehicles that can function as all-electric vehicles, but have the luxury of a backup gas generator if the battery runs out and to make long trips easy, when you don't have to look for or spend time at charging stations.

For the last eight years the Volt has not only moved more people into the GM family, but has served as the best TRANSITION VEHICLE for people to move on to the all electric Bolt EV, LEAF, and Model 3.

I could see suspending development work on the Volt and Volt production AFTER your new lineup of all-electric vehicles is in place and is selling with great momentum. But GM is going to stop Volt sales NOW, at least two years before your new generation of EVs even start to show up?

By killing the Volt now, you are throwing away the best transition vehicle out there at a time when you need to accelerate your efforts to educate, seduce, and lead the public into the all-electric future.

Not making money on the Volt doesn't seem to really explain the Volt's premature termination -- even if true, the brand image value that Volt brings to Chevrolet and GM and the new people it brings into the GM family have enormous value and should be part of the investment you guys are making in staking your leadership role to the all-electric future. Killing the Volt now doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of us out here.

Could you please give us a better explanation or explain why an extended range electric vehicle is no longer needed now?

Allen Bukoff - Manager at AutoThink Research


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Comments

Well a picture of the much improved current Volt would be a good start but for some reason, GM went to the expense to design and engineer these great cars (G2) and then totally abandoned them with a ZERO ad budget and no dealer education/support. Had my ‘17 in for it’s 25k oil change, while waiting the salesman on the floor told me it’s too bad they run on premium, didn’t realize the current Volt runs on regular, the more we talked, the more I realized how little he actually knew about the car. He even admitted he had never driven one! The G2 came out as a ‘16 and the ‘18s were on sale at the time.
I think the biggest reason to cancel the Volt was that it was a low-margin car (the margins getting even lower with ZEV credits), had and extremely costly and convoluted supply chain, and sold really poorly. It's extremely unlikely that an advertising campaign of any sort would have helped the sales as significantly as the cost of that campaign would have hurt the margins. The final nail in the coffin is that, for all of the reasons above, it offered GM and customers less value than an all-electric version would. So the bigger question for GM is what all-electric sedan is replacing the Volt? To me, all would be forgiven if they were to release a Malibu EV with 300 miles of battery range and 150 kW charging.
Pure electric cars that are non-Tesla are a pain to travel long distance because it lacks a lot of fast charging stations. The ultrafast charging stations, including that of Tesla's have a lot of fees, jacking up the price per mile of travel based on total feed paid. Still, no pure electrics can beat the Volt for long distance driving on a cost per mile basis, and can get at least 400 miles per 5 minute load. And yet on commuting, allows 99% of your trip in electricity without any anxiety, be it an extended out of way trip or an emergency. The Volt is the best transition car, and it had made me aware of the wonderful quality that GM can deliver, taking me away from Toyota brand.
The Volt managed to persuade even myself to buy GM. That's something I never thought I'd do. I grew up in a GM family and town and despised GM. I had Fords and talked so much shit about GM. I even had the Calvin "piss on Chevy" decals on several vehicles. So I knew when I bought my Volt that my friends and family would lay into me pretty good, and they did. Lol. However having said all that, and despite the fact that my Volt is easily the best vehicle I've ever owned, I will probably NOT buy another GM vehicle unless they knock it out of the park with another true EREV. Because I am not interested in an all-electric vehicle, at any range or charge speed.
People no matter how expert they are don't really understand what you need in a car, economics, social or psychological! So there will always be a significant portion that would go the Voltec way.
I agree with the points that Mr. Bukoff raises. The ideas of poor sales and profit are weak. It is true that GM weakly supported the Volt with little promotion or education. Initially it wasn't even available in all 50 states. Despite the lack of promotion it still managed between 1st and 3rd place in it's market of PHEVs, and importantly it offered a good alternative for buyers who wanted the benefits of an electric car, but for whom a car like the Leaf or Bolt wouldn't work (like not home/work charging). The Cruze (also being killed off) sales were down, but it still was a big seller overall for GM, and again there is no replacement vehicle announced in this class. I think that the timing of killing the Volt (and Cruze) now was soley to close the Ohio plants. The upcoming GM EVs will certainly be built in China, where there are no unions or pensions to pay. I think that GM should have simply updated the Volt's technology to keep it competitive. A big step would be to update the battery pack to manage 100 miles of EV range, and support fast charging. Of course this would have made it a more attractive competitor to the Bolt, and GM's other future BEV offerings, but it would have stood out even more against the competition like the Honda Clarity PHEV and Prius Prime.